Some definitions

tue24apr2007—17w114d31%— 19h52m00s—0utc

Here some definitions — some funny, but all out of sadness. «Whimsical» to be (mostly) understood in the not so standard sense of “subject to our whims” — of course.

Reality: that which is not whimsical.

Technology: that which makes Reality whimsical.

Technologist: that who believes Reality can and should be whimsical.

Hacker: a Technology maker.

Body: that which is whimsical and its manifold possibilities.

Health: the body’s actual whimsicality.

Culture: the exploration of Body.

Art: Culture making.

Artist: a Culture maker.

Knowledge: Of Reality — of what else?

Science: Knowledge making.

Scientist: a Knowledge maker.

Good: the creation or exploration of Body.

Evil: the destruction of Body.

Virtual Reality: whimsical Reality; Technology’s ultimate success.

Religion: the belief that Reality is self-servingly whimsical.

Some inspirations and context:

1. Eliezer Yudkowsky’s great essay, The Simple Truth:

Frankly, I’m not entirely sure myself where this ‘reality’ business comes from. I can’t create my own reality in the lab, so I must not understand it yet. But occasionally I believe strongly that something is going to happen, and then something else happens instead. I need a name for whatever-it-is that determines my experimental results, so I call it ‘reality’. This ‘reality’ is somehow separate from even my very best hypotheses. Even when I have a simple hypothesis, strongly supported by all the evidence I know, sometimes I’m still surprised. So I need different names for the thingies that determine my predictions and the thingy that determines my experimental results. I call the former thingies ‘belief’, and the latter thingy ‘reality’.

2. Jaron Lanier’s don’t-fricking-kid-me-you’ve-got-to-read-this essay Riding the giant worm to Saturn: post-symbolic communication in virtual reality ELZR:

The physical world unfortunately has another property which is, that it is hard to do things in it [ — its unwhimsicality, that is]. This is something we first learn in very early childhood. We discover, much to our intense humiliation, that not only are we forced to live inside the physical world, we are made of it and we are almost powerless in it. We are not born as Superman, able to fly around and pick up a building and turn it upside-down as much as little children may try to act like that. We are actually extremely limited. We can’t get to our parents easily, we can’t get to our food easily, we need help. The earlier back into my childhood I remember, the more I remember an internal feeling of an infinite possibility for sensation and perception and form and the frustration of reconciling this with the physical world outside which was very very fixed, very dull, and very frustrating — really something like a prison. As we grow up, we sort of overcome the frustration of the physical world and call ourselves adults. We discover in early childhood what programmers in the United States would call a “hack” that we use to cope with the difficulty of doing things in the physical world. That hack is called “symbols.” A symbol is basically a way of using the parts of one’s body that one can move as fast as one thinks and feels to refer to the rest of the universe that one can only change more slowly, if at all. These are one’s hands and mouth and tongue and to a lesser extent, the rest of one’s body. By the way, my definition of “the body” is: it is the part of the world that you can use as a tool of communication, it is the part that you can change. It’s possible to interpret one’s activities, one’s quick activities as references to all the other things that one can’t do quickly. So, for instance, I move my mouth and say the sentence, “I am going to ride a giant worm to the rings of Saturn,” and you can understand what I mean. But in order for me to actually genetically engineer a giant worm that could survive in a vacuum, get it out to the rings of Saturn, and have it not fall though them, and so forth, would call for considerable effort. It might take a century or more. So, the use of symbols is essentially an efficiency trick that allows us to share things that would otherwise be inaccessible because of our powerlessness in the physical world.

3. Jorge Wagensberg’s delightful Spanish book, Si la naturaleza es la respuesta, ¿Cúal era la pregunta?, from which I stole the tone and the form of loosely sequential aphorisms.

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