Today in a first year seminar investigating what the future will be like, we dealt with AI – artificial intelligence. There are a host of interesting issues that arise – can a machine actually become a life form? Will we someday give way to a new, superior machine race? What does it mean to be conscious?
One fact really stood out to me though: AI of the sort that can learn, adapt and make decisions on its own (e.g., not just follow a rote program) requires emotion. The reason is that without emotion, decision making is impossible. People who have had injuries where they lose their emotional capacity can’t even make an appointment, they have no way to choose a date and time from a host of alternatives.
Emotion gives us the capacity to value something, to prioritize, to make things meaningful. This has a profound implication for an enlightenment culture that puts reason and rationality first. We are supposed to make decisions rationally, not being “misled” by emotion. We use reason to build ethical systems and political ideologies. Yet in reality, it’s always the heart that is necessary for a decision of any sort.
But where do emotions come from? Except for instincts, which are biologically programmed, they seem to come from experience – suggestions from ones environment that cue certain emotional responses. What you think about politics, religion and ethics is based on what you feel rather than the result of a logical analysis. In fact, we probably use reason mostly to rationalize believing what we feel – that avoids cognitive dissonance.
What does this mean for academia? When we talk about issues in class, people are told to be logical, use evidence and reason. Saying “this doesn’t feel right” seems like a cop out. But really, the feeling is the guide, reason is its servant.
To me this leads to an indictment of our culture. On the one hand, the industrialized West is the most advanced, enlightened, liberated culture in the history of the planet. We are moving forward with technologies that once seemed out of reach, we have expanded material wealth to more of the population than ever, our market based economy promotes innovation and initiative. Conceptions of human rights and liberty are more advanced in the West than anywhere on the planet.
On the other hand, colonialism was a force that destroyed whole cultures and left a void in its wake, too often filled with corruption and conflicts in states that exist in name only. The ideologies of capitalism and communism justified inhumane treatment of people. Luckily capitalism’s emphasis on liberty meant that the British were free to be horrified by the conditions and over the course of a century gradually change the laws so that 6 year olds didn’t have to work 14 hour days six days a week, and the life expectancy of factory workers could get above the early 20’s. Communism had a longer and more onerous impact.
We also have had little regard for the environment, have in our past WWI, WWII, the holocaust, the development of nuclear weapons and interventions in conflicts that usually lead nowhere good. No culture has been more violent and destructive, even though hopefully we’ve put most of that behind us.
My theory: the benefits brought about by reason and rational thought were not properly tempered by sentiment and emotion because the latter were mistrusted — even “feminine.” One could abstract and objectify others, using reason to rationalize inhumane behavior. When a young German was sent by his father (a wealthy factory owner) to find out why the British factories in Manchester were doing so well, he was shocked.
Living conditions were horrid (10 or so to a room, no indoor plumbing, filth, humans treated worse than animals). He reacted emotionally – disgusted, and was driven to use his wealth to help another come up with a reason based reason to oppose the British factory owner’s reason. “They’re free to leave, I just offer them a job at a set pay and they accept it, that’s liberty.”
Friedrich Engel’s friend Karl Marx succeeded in building an enlightenment style reason-based theory of communism. Again, the human experience was abstracted, and the theory was later used to justify seeing the human experience as important only in so far as it supported the ideological goals of the state.
In that, reason is a remarkable tool. It can be used to create, support and rationalize anything from Communist totalitarianism, libertarian England’s inhumane working conditions during the industrial revolution, to why I decided to have my kids go to bed at ten. But in reality, the core values we hold are from the heart, not the head.
When a conservative and a liberal (in US terms) look at the political world, they make decisions about where they stand from the gut – what feels right. Each can use reason to build a very sophisticated interpretation of reality that makes their own perspective seem obviously true. If they really want to avoid cognitive dissonance, their ideology takes on the role of a kind of secular religion.
Perhaps the next step for poets and thinkers should be to bring sentiment back in, to a place it rightly belongs, tempering reason and showing its limits.
This also is important for individuals. If we follow our gut, we’ll react to events based on what experience has primed our emotions to do. Since we want to avoid cognitive dissonance, if our choices are bad, we’ll use reason to simply rationalize them. We’ll go through life a prisoner of how past experience has programmed us to react. Yet if we recognize that we fool ourselves with our rationalizations; that our beliefs and reactions are driven by sentiment built on past experience, we can change.
That requires introspection, an ability to be self-critical, to accept the possibility long held views may need to be changed, and to be reflective. Live without introspection and life is just a series of reactions, highs, lows, but almost on autopilot. Live with introspection and we can better understand ourselves, and why we feel as we do – because our feelings give us our values. With introspection, reason and sentiment can be in service of each other.
The situation is almost surreal. A small group of Republicans want to shut down government to try to stop government funding of Planned Parenthood. Not that Planned Parenthood had done anything illegal, but this is part of the on going anti-abortion crusade, this time fed by videos showing officials of the organization un-emotional over the sale of tissue from aborted fetuses for on going medical experiments. There is nothing wrong with that practice either – better that than just throw it away – but for the zealots that was enough.
Never mind that if that funding was cut – 40% of Planned Parenthood’s budget comes from federal funds, mostly Medicaid – there would probably be a large increase in abortions since so many poor benefit from the contraception services the organization provides – a much more important part of their operation than abortions. Never mind as well that the President would veto the action, and a shut down would probably hurt the 2016 Republicans as much as the 1995 shutdown hurt the GOP in 1996. Zealots rarely give in to rational thought.
Both House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell recognized that their moral duty was to govern, and not risk the horrid effects of a shutdown over this quixotic fight. While McConnell has most of the Senate on his side (only a whiney Ted Cruz strongly disagrees), Boehner faced a full uprising from House Conservatives, about three or four dozen who want to fight this jihad rather than compromise and govern.
And these members, as well as many conservative media sources like Rush Limbaugh and redstate.com, routinely attack Boehner with a vengeance, denigrating him and calling him a lackey to Obama, all because he recognized the limits of divided government. These people, so frothy in their fervor, don’t understand that they are not only a minority in the GOP, but a detriment to a party that hopes to regain the White House in 2016. The Democrats have no strong Presidential candidates on the horizon, this could be a big GOP year if they don’t blow it.
Boehner had enough.
He has been fighting this fight for four years, since he became speaker (he joined the House in 1990). He has survived despite vilification from the right wing, in large part because most Republicans respect him and know he has conservative values. He choose to leave at a time no one expected, but which seems appropriate.
We don’t yet know when he made the decision. I wonder if, listening to the Pontiff talk about the need to govern and compromise, he realized he needed to extricate himself from a caucus in complete disarray. Maybe he decided that this was an appropriate ending point for his career – he has wanted a Papal address to Congress for years, starting back when John Paul II was Pope – the visit of the head of a Catholic Church that means much to him.
Boehner was crucified by his caucus because he wanted to do the right thing – make compromises and govern, recognizing that the Democrats weren’t an enemy to be annihilated, but a necessary part of a democracy that runs well only when there are diverse perspectives which are listened to and respected. With inbred blogs and media pushing emotional themes and making compromise look like surrender, he was humiliated every day for trying to do the job of Speaker of the House properly.
He deserved better. He took a lot of bullets for the GOP, he made compromises that were necessary. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the news of Boehner’s departure “seismic” and it seems a clear indicator of the dysfunction within the majority party. He will no doubt push the hated compromise through, doing his duty to the democracy he serves and avoiding a catastrophic government shutdown. Already firebrand Cruz is attacking him, even as other Republicans praise his service, and former Presidential candidate John McCain expresses sorrow over his departure.
The Republicans, already wounded by the bizarre media behavior of people like Trump and Carson, have just over a year to get their act together and show Americans they are a responsible conservative party, not a group of loons wanting to shut down the government over one organization’s funding. With Clinton’s woes, they should be in a much better position then they are. It’s time for the majority of Republicans to take back their party from the extremists. That would be best for the GOP, and best for the country.
At about this time twenty years ago I started teaching far from where I had ever lived before. Except a year in Bologna Italy and two years in Washington DC, I had grown up and gone to college in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and then lived for ten years earning my Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities. I taught my first class in 1989 at Minnesota, and one semester taught a course there and at both St. Olaf and Carleton College in nearby Northfield. The year before I came to UMF I taught the year at St. Olaf as a sabbatical replacement.
As I walk through campus it strikes me how different things are, even while much looks the same. I got my employee ID (which I should probably replace since the picture is 20 years old) at a small shack that no longer stands. A church that sat next to campus has now become home to the Psychology department. An old house that served a variety of functions, with special student apartments below them was replaced by a state of the art education building. The fitness center that everyone was so proud of in 1995 now is something people hope to replace – though the programming and inside facilities have improved greatly.
The old Honors house was replaced by a new state of the art dormitory, with a new house purchased across the street for the Honors program. A $5 million dollar performing art center was built, serving the university and greater community. Buildings were upgraded and refined. But UMF retains the feel of community that I fell in love with my first year here.
Probably the most fascinating aspect of the last twenty years is the pace of change – it’s been amazing to watch the information revolution plow forward. In 1995 I was dismayed that research papers had to be done mostly with sources like Time and Newsweek, as the library had very little political science. Inter-library loan existed, but was difficult to navigate. More than once I reserved a university van to haul students to Orono so they could research in a “real” library. That was the disadvantage of being a small rural university without a lot of money – the students didn’t have the resources they did elsewhere.
All that has changed! This week I took my first year seminar students to the library to learn how to use the state of the art library website. From their dorm room they can order books from anywhere in the world. Books anywhere in the U Maine system arrive in two days. More impressively is access to data bases that go far beyond what most undergraduates utilize even at those places with research libraries. Suddenly the disadvantage of being here is gone, students don’t even have to go to the library; they find sources, the website puts it in citation format, they can download articles, and have a world of academic information at their finger tips. Add to that what you can find on the web – statistics, tools to analyze and graphically represent statistics, etc. – and the challenge is for students not to be overwhelmed by the wealth of information and analytical tools.
After I moved here I bought some furniture and a home computer. I had a desk top provided by the university in my office – a Pentium 100, hardwired to the internet. At home I spent nearly $2000 to get a Pentium 75 that had a modem so I could call in to connect with the university system via phone. Since about 2002 the university has provided laptops, meaning we no longer need a separate home computer. And of course, now the whole campus is wifi, even outdoors.
In 1995 some faculty members and even students still resisted using e-mail. We were flooded with memos and papers; now it’s all via e-mail. The computer centered buzzed with students finishing and printing out papers, or surfing the net. Now most have their own computers. It’s been years since I’ve required hard copy of papers – now they are submitted electronically on an educational site called “Blackboard,” where I also grade and comment. No more gradebook, Blackboard handles everything, including a forum for class discussions.
When I wanted to show a film, I’d have to request a TV with a VCR be brought to the room. Now every room is “smart,” set up for multi-media presentations. Powerpoint wasn’t yet in use by students in 1995, and many faculty members discouraged it in favor of traditional methods. Now, it and other presentation software get used and our job is to help students learn how to use them effectively.
I could go on and on. In 1995 I’d trudge to the library every week to read Der Spiegel to keep up with events in Germany. Now my Apple Watch gets alerts from Der Spiegel. And this doesn’t even touch how much the internet has changed everything – now it’s common if a question comes up in class to have a student look up the answer. Information on just about anything is available on demand.
The big story that fall was the trial of OJ Simpson. My “Politics of Post-Communist Societies” class talked me into taking them to the snack bar to watch the results of the trial. The snack bar was full as the verdict was read – I recall being amused at how angry some of the students got! We weren’t yet talking much about the failure to stop the Rwandan genocide the year before. Now that case is integrated into my World Politics course, and the OJ is all but forgotten.
Those days the fear was that on line universities would overtake ‘brick and mortar’ college life. They found their niche, but the niche had limits. Boris Yeltsin was President of Russia, Saddam Hussein was getting impatient with weapons inspectors being in Iraq over four years after the 1991 Gulf War ended, and I was enjoying the music of break out artist Alanis Morrissette. Bill Clinton was President, but a raucous House of Representatives led by Newt Gingrich was on the verge of shutting down the government to try to get Clinton to meet their demands. At this point, Clinton looked like he might only serve one term as President.
As Bob Seger put it…”20 years now, where’d they go, twenty years, I don’t know…I sit and wonder sometimes, where they’ve gone…” Though I have every intent to still be teaching here twenty years from now!
Across the international community there is relief that the long ordeal with Iran and it’s nuclear program has finally yielded a deal to reduce tensions in the region. It is a very good deal.
Though you might not know it by reading the American media, the deal has significant support in the Israeli security community and will give us a lot of information about Iran’s program we otherwise had no access too. Last year hardliner Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said Iran was a year from having the bomb – now he claims this deal means Iran will have the bomb in ten years. By his own account, the soonest Iran could get a nuclear weapon has been pushed back a decade!
Moreover, the opposition is built on a premise which: a) essentially dismisses the idea of any deal, even if they claim they want a “better” deal; and b) is almost absurd on it’s face. That premise is that Iran has the elimination of Israel as a real policy goal, and would risk the destruction of the Islamic Republic to do so. After all, Israel has hundreds of nuclear weapons, at best Iran could develop a handful.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has a 36 year track record. It supports terrorist groups, opposes Israel, and uses heated rhetoric, but the Iranians have been utterly pragmatic and rational in pursuit of their interests. They support Hezbollah in part to assure Israel doesn’t attack them – they want Israel to know they can counter punch. The idea they are crazy or suicidal is denied by a track record lasting over three decades. Iran does want to have the status of being a respected regional power. Take away that premise of the Iranians being crazy or suicidal, and the deal is very impressive.
Iran started actively playing cat and mouse with the US on its nuclear research around the time President Bush put them in the camp of the “axis of evil.” In those heady days, the Bush White House believed that once Iraq was converted to a US ally, the US could undermine the Iranian regime and perhaps invade. Things didn’t go as planned!
Iran’s policy was quite rational. They wanted to assure the US didn’t invade or attack their infrastructure, so they supported Iraqi Shi’ites, who always had more in common with the Iranians than the Americans. The posturing on nuclear energy allowed them to stoke up their population with anti-American nationalism, helping undercut the always present and relatively strong reform movement. They paid no cost and as the US got bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, they realized American threats were impotent.
The one possible way to pressure Iran was international sanctions. But President Bush’s unpopularity at home and abroad made building a truly effective international sanctions regime impossible. So Iran continued to play the game, reaping domestic benefits and paying no cost. Moreover, pursuit of nuclear energy did make sense for them to maximize oil profits and produce cheap energy.
Enter Barack Obama. Respected by leaders across the world, Obama was able to build the kind of sanctions regime that actually could hurt Iran, even bringing China and Russia into the fold. Suddenly, the cat and mouse game was turning against the interests of the Iranians. By 2014 they were facing economic collapse, and the Iranian public wanted this long term crisis to end. That helped elect a reform minded candidate to the Presidency in 2013.
The CIA has always doubted that Iran really wants nuclear weapons. The game was in their interests, but a regional arms race would not be. Here the opponents of the deal say we should have kept up the pressure until Iran DID collapse, and then somehow engineer regime change. There are two problems with that: a) an Iran in collapse would suddenly become much more dangerous, like a wounded animal; and b) countries like China, Russia and many in the EU feared Iranian economic collapse more than a deal. The sanctions regime would have fallen apart if the US was seen as standing in the way of a reasonable deal.
The timing was perfect; Iran was forced to the negotiating table, they accepted a deal that would have been anathema to them before. In exchange the sanctions regime was lifted, and their economy rejuvenated.
If the deal’s opponents had prevailed and the US maintained sanctions and opposition to the agreement, that would only isolate the US from the rest of the world. We learned a decade ago that in an era of globalization we need our allies. Some say the US could threaten companies to try to force multinational corporations not to do business with Iran. Some think we could pass a law punishing foreign companies who work with Iran and do business with the US. No way could something like that be passed, and even if it could it would risk a trade war. So the US gains nothing, and in fact loses influence in how the deal is enforced if it were to not go along with it (and that remains true should a Republican win the White House in 2016).
Now the key is to do everything possible to make sure the agreement is followed, and do nothing to undermine the reform efforts in Iran. Don’t expect an “Iranian spring” against the regime; rather, the government will do as its done in the past, moderate its policies and avoid getting the public too angry – again, very pragmatic. It would also be wrong to give more support to the reform movement; they don’t want it. That would be used against them as they’d be painted as an American proxy. The Iranians have to reform on their own. Indeed, that’s what hardline opponents of the deal in Iran fear the most.
This successful diplomacy should be a step towards more effective regional opposition to ISIS, a path to stability in Iraq, and to start to undo the damage done in the first decade of this century. It should be celebrated – not as a panacea bringing peace to the region, but as one step in the direction of improving things. As one person used to remind me: small steps! This is an important one.
My first year seminar this year is a new one, called “Brave New World: In Search of the Future.” The theme of the course is to figure out what the world will be like a hundred years from now.
I’m excited to jump into this course, which has two texts (one optimistic, one more pessimistic) but requires the students themselves to investigate different ideas and visions of what the future will bring. But we’ll start by reading the book Brave New World, which was Aldous Huxley’s vision of the future published in 1932. So the first part of the semester we’ll look at the past – what kind of world surrounded Huxley that impacted his vision?
Science had been rocked by quantum mechanics and relativity. The eugenics craze had everyone thinking humans were perfectible. Racism was second nature; Americans were not as far from Nazis in how they looked at the world as we’d like to think – indeed the aviation hero Charles Lindbergh was quite enamored with the National Socialists. Communism had already taken Russia, and Hitler was on the rise in Germany. The world had entered the Great Depression. That was the context that inspired Huxley’s book, and we’ll discuss what he saw, and whether it was accurate, and why he had that particular vision.
Then we pivot to the present, and start to think of the future. The optimistic book is Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku. It’s really less about physics than technology and how the current technological revolution will keep changing our lives. In general he sees real problems (e.g., global warming will alter the face of the planet) but that we’ll have the ingenuity to deal with problems and keep moving forward.
The pessimistic read is “Dodging extinction,” by Anthony Barnosky, and will deal with some of the concerns by paleontologists that the changes we’re making to our ecosystem may endanger our survival as a species.
Both views – and many others – are legitimate. There are the optimists who poo-poo “gloom and doomers” and insist all is hunky dory and we’ll solve any problem that arises. Others are convinced the end is near. In reality, nobody knows. It is possible that technology will solve the problems of global warming, it’s possible things will get very bad very fast. Anyone who says they are sure is a fool.
That’s the beauty of the course – we are dealing with a question for which there is no clear answer. There is, in fact, persuasive evidence for diverse conclusions. The challenge is to get people to look beyond their bias. People who for political reasons are biased against seeing global warming as real often simply shut themselves out from the evidence. They ridicule it, cherry pick alternatives, but do not actually acknowledge the wealth of data that exists that says human caused global warming is real. That’s a typical human attribute – to ignore what we don’t want to believe.
Of course, there is a lot of evidence that the impact of global warming won’t be as bad as some of the predictions, or that humans will adapt. Those who are convinced global warming is the number one problem we face tend to dismiss that evidence as well. Everyone has to admit there is a massive amount of uncertainty, meaning that there is a lot of room for alternate claims.
And of course there are a myriad of other issues: the rise of artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, exploring outer space, the meaning of life, whether the planet is going to buckle from over population and resource use or if technology is going to solve such problems.
Perhaps the most interesting issue involves what it means to be human. We’re living in a very materialist era, where economic growth and material accomplishment define human value. But is that right approach? Psychologists have already disproven the old “homo economus” version of humanity (the idea that we are in pursuit of self-interest as rational actors maximizing expected utility), but what are we? How will the future affect what we think about life, being human and what values we hold?
This should be a fun course!
For a vocal minority, immigration is the biggest problem facing this country. They believe we are being “invaded” by hordes of lazy, shiftless foreigners who want to destroy America from within. That is all pure delusion, but politics and fear often evade rational thought. Indeed, some of the most vocal anti-immigrant voices have never had any negative contact with immigrants. Often they are just annoyed that Lowes has Spanish signage or they have to choose a language on their ATM.
The Europeans have similar vocal minorities, convinced that there is a huge danger from those “others” who are strange, different, smell funny and will undermine the core identity and values of society. In Europe this shows itself through strong right wing nationalist parties that can get up to about 20% of the vote (that seems a ceiling for this paranoid world view). In the US we have a two party system, so they have no natural political outlet.
For Republicans this creates a quandry. In 2007 the anti-immigrant crowd rose to defeat a proposal by President Bush to reform immigration and give people here illegally a path to citizenship. Bush’s approach was well thought out, and had political benefits for the GOP. Many Latinos are socially conservative and Republicans felt they had an advantage to win them over to their party – no mean feat given that this is the fastest growing voting demographic. They still may have that advantage in the long run, but for now the extremists are causing Republicans headaches.
For Republicans running in deeply conservative states or in the primaries there is a lot to gain by having a harsh anti-immigrant stance. It stokes the emotions of the nativists, and people vote more on emotion than reason. With the primaries dominated by activists and hard core political junkies, the anti-immigrant vote is magnified and has given Donald Trump command of the GOP field for now.
Once you get to the general election this spells danger. First, there are almost 30 million Latinos eligible to vote in the US, about 12% of the population. That may not sound like much, but it’s the fastest growing voter demographic. This means that even if all illegals were deported you’d still have the ATM’s asking what language to use – even with no new immigrants, this is the fastest growing group of Americans.
In recent elections Latino turnout has been about 50%, though rising. It is conceivable that a strong anti-immigrant stance will increase anger and push the voter turnout up, something that could not only swing the general election but potentially many Congressional districts and Senate races.
Beyond that, in a country strapped with debt and a variety of problems, the cost of a Trump like “deport them all” solution is mind boggling – probably at least $200 billion.
Now, the total undocumented immigrant population is 11 million, 6.5 million of those Mexican. That number is lower than it was about eight years ago, as enforcement along with fewer job opportunities meant many people returned and fewer arrived. Indeed, the number seems to have stabilized. So the idea that they are pouring across the border in some kind of invasion is simply dead wrong.
There is no way this country will pay $200 billion to solve a problem that is already being solved. Moreover some of the solutions – end birthright citizenship (problematic for a number of reasons, and almost uncertainly unconstitutional), building a massive wall, deporting everyone and their families – would require a massively powerful government intrusion on peoples’ lives. Some people are fine with that since they believe foreigners will be the victims, but government power has a way of expanding.
So here’s the dilemma – It’s unlikely Democratic voters will be swayed to vote Republican by the anti-immigrant rhetoric. That’s red meat to the right wing crowd. It’s very likely independents and even moderate Republicans will be turned off by such extremism and vote Democratic, and that Latinos and Democrats in general will be energized to fight against this neo-fascist rhetoric. Moreover, given social media and the ubiquitous use of sound bites and film, candidates won’t be able to pivot away to a more reasonable position come general election time as they did in the past.
How will Republicans handle it? Some are playing it smartly. John Kasich, for instance, refuses to engage in that kind of rhetoric, as do a number of others. If they can weather the Trumpstorm and end up the nominee, they’ll be able to pivot rather easily. Jeb Bush, while stumbling a bit on the term “anchor baby,” has an Mexican immigrant wife and spent time living in Mexico – he might have the easiest sell. But he has to get through the primaries.
If it does come down to, say, Bush vs. Clinton, will the extremists fall into line? Vote for Bush because they find Hillary so distasteful? Or will they take on the “they’re all the same” kind of rhetoric of the extremists and sit it out? Will nominating a moderate be enough, or will have Trump and Co. damaged the Republican brand in its appeal especially to Latinos? What will the down-ballot impact be?
There are two results I see as most likely: 1) The GOP nominates someone like Bush, he effectively pivots, and runs a strong campaign; and 2) The GOP nominates someone who has engaged in the harsh rhetoric, and it leads to a Republican fiasco in 2016 – perhaps including the loss of both the House and Senate. Democrats may hope for the latter, but the former seems more likely. After all, despite all the harsh rhetoric from the right wing against McCain and Romney, they ended up with the GOP nomination.
Still, if President Bush had prevailed in 2007, the Republicans would be in a much stronger position.
(Note: this is part 13 of a series called “Quantum Life,” in which I post the contents of a strange ‘guide book’ I found for a game called “Quantum Life.” It is in English, which the book calls a “Quantum Life language,” unable to capture all the complexities of the world as it really is. Most importantly, “true reality” according to the book is outside space-time, something our language cannot express. I’m not sure where this book came from – this finishes the section on suffering).
Physical Suffering in Quantum Life, P II – Suffering “by chance”
Players in Quantum Life seek in general to learn by experience, with the true nature of reality hidden. Hence the need to remove memories, cut off connection with the whole (the unity of all), and position players in space-time, which makes it seem that the individual is moving one step at a time through “life.”
However, the environment in which the game is played does come from the inner connection with the whole, even if recognition of this is blocked. It gets expressed in the aesthetics of the game – nature, beauty, color and the richness of the world as experienced. Indeed, creative energy from the unity of all provides the backdrop of the lessons of the game. Perhaps the most powerful of these is chance and so-called “acts of God.”
Perhaps the best way to explain how this works is to look at one event in one of the probable lines of the game. In many time lines, November 1, 1755 was a tremendously horrible day for the city of Lisbon, Portugal. An unexpected earthquake killed 84,246 people (the total varies among the various time lines – the number here reflects the time line in which this handbook is currently located).
It should be noted that players enter the game with a sense of what the game has in store for them; tragedies and chance encounters are often planned out – though once in the game choices can alter the best laid plans. In this case, those living in Lisbon knew they would be part of a horrific event. Players were drawn there in part for the drama – to experience what it is like to perish in a major earthquake, with the inner knowledge that it’s just a game. For others this played a part in personal lessons, and others choose it as part of a larger cultural or “group” symbol.
It may seem odd to think of a tragedy as a symbol, but this one was. When it hit, the Empress of the Austrian Empire, Maria Theresa, was in labor, ready to give birth on November 2nd to her daughter Marie Antoinette. Her daughter would in time be married to the future King of France, and later executed by guillotine at the time of the French revolution. That revolution would mark a dramatic change in the culture of that particular time line, touching all lives on the planet.
The earthquake symbolized the power of that change. Yet it played a greater role. French enlightenment thinkers Jean Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire each saw it is symbolic of the nature of reality. For Rousseau, who believed in a God which expressed itself in nature, it was a sign that it was unnatural to live in cities. Rousseau was born with a strong sense of the inner unity – it was not cut off as much as in most – and interpreted it as being from a deity that was perfect and loving. That deity would not cause suffering; so the people were to blame.
Voltaire, who had chosen a series of personal tragedies designed to put him in cynical frame of mind at the time of the quake, was horrified. He visited Lisbon and saw the suffering, and could not believe that any loving God would allow this. He wrote the book Candide which concluded that while God must have created the world, there was no sign that God cares for its creation. God doesn’t need love from humans, humans need love from humans. This would become secular humanism and part of the then growing enlightenment.
From that time on, a massive shift started for the entire planet, leading to major events and transformations. It represents the beginning of an extremely exciting and dramatic phase of the game.
What does this show? First, tragedies and “acts of God” are not random, nor are they bad. Only in that moment do they seem horrific, and that’s part of the experience. They are always symbolic, and reflect the energy from the unity of all expressed within the quantum life environment. Only when separated from their context does it appear these are random tragedies. Mass murders and genocides are also symbolic, and part of larger ideas being played out by groups of players. Always, these are symbolic expressions that sophisticated players can understand if they see them as such.
The same is true with death and disease. All players leave Quantum Life at some point, there is nothing inherently better by playing longer in one given life time. Someone can have value in a life ending at age 14 that goes beyond what another player might experience in 80 years. A person who dies naturally at 97 may have died as a small child in an accident the life “before.” Every death has symbolic meaning in how and when it happens, and wide spread events like epidemics also have broader cultural symbolic value.
Players know deep down when this is occurring and the pain and suffering is less than that discussed in part 1, where the cause comes from player choices rather than deep symbolism emerging from the unity of all as it gets expressed in the game environment. Again, the language of space-time makes this very difficult to translate, but no player is truly disconnected, and thus inevitably energy from the unity of all gets expressed creatively in the game.
The physical suffering is real, but a necessary part of the experience. Some players in fact become addicted to dramatic and painful deaths that others need to help them move on. Immersion back into the unity of all after a life ends quickly leads the players to recognize the power of what they experienced and learn. Almost always, they eagerly choose to play again.
-end of transcribing for today-
Earlier posts in the quantum life series:
Quantum Life – August 3, 2010
How to Play Quantum Life – August 4, 2010
Why Play Quantum Life – August 5, 2010
The Soul in Quantum Life – August 20, 2010
Getting Started with Quantum Life – October 1, 2010
Quantum Life: Birth and Pre-Birth – November 22, 2010
Quantum Life: Childhood – July 20, 2012
Quantum Life: Obstacles – July 29, 2012
Quantum Life: Empaths and Extensions – August 8, 2012
Evil in Quantum Life – October 8, 2012
Mates in Quantum Life – May 9, 2013
Physical Suffering in Quantum Life, P I – May 14, 2013