There is no doubt in my mind that I am a very intelligent person. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find that I’m somewhere around the genius level, if I were given the correct test to measure such a thing. For all that, I don’t think I’m very smart.
If intelligence were horsepower, and smart were torque, I would be a car with a lot of horsepower, but without a lot of power to actually get rolling. In other words, I have the potential but not the means.
But just as a car can be modified to increase the horsepower and torque, so can my brain. Or anyone’s brain providing there isn’t some kind of damage.
When I had the opportunity to be around a group of people I always indulged in theoretical speak. When the movie, The Matrix, came out there was a lot of talk about how the characters were inside a virtual world. I had already had this idea before that movie came out and had given it quite a bit of thought, so I argued in favor of there being the possibility of being inside a computer system.
In my story the main character locked himself in a mountain cell in Tibet and spent all his time meditating on the spirit world. Eventually he broke down the physical world and woke up on a space ship. The Earth had collapsed and a colony ship was traveling to a new planet to colonize it. Since the trip would last a very long time, and to keep people sane, they were kept alive but their minds were active in a world created by a computer. The big problem was that nothing was created after the year that the ship left, so at a certain point the program would be reset and everything would start over again. People could be shifted about so that if you were poor in one life, in the next you would be wealthy. I explained away things like “deja vu” as things that actually happened, but in a different life time. It also solved the idea of karma.
To me, I don’t see any problems with everything around us being artificial, created for us. Other people did. For most of it I rationalized it as being created on the fly. If a few scientists worked it out that there should be a quantum particle named “paradox” that should be have in a certain way, then the computer system would change it’s rules around to allow a sub-atomic particle that behaved the way that “paradox” was theorized to behave.
The kicker is that we’d be programmed to rationalize it out. If you threw a ball and, after ten feet, it took a 90-degree turn downwards, you’d be able to work out the physics of why that happened and it would make sense.
After an evening of such musings, and others, I stated that I thought God had taken away my ability to do mathematics because I would be too dangerous. The truth is, I decided to not be good at math. I can’t point out an exact time, but I think it was when I was taking geometry in high school. Perhaps even earlier than that. I don’t know why I decided I was not going to be good at math, either. Right now, I don’t see why I couldn’t be if I didn’t make an effort to figure it out.
Maybe it’s just laziness. Maybe that’s why I have as many problems as I do. If I took the effort to expend some energy, perhaps my life would be better overall.
But I do like to think, and theorize. In the interests of creating plot devices I have figured out how a person could be invisible. How magic might work. How we could live inside of a computer. I don’t know that they would work, but it all seems reasonable to me.
I don’t like to think in terms of “can’t.” I will think in terms of “why not?” Why couldn’t there have been life on Mars before we evolved? Why couldn’t there have been actual gods walking the Earth in the times of the ancient Greeks and Egyptians?
We’ll come up with answers, too. Some are non-nonsensical and some seem pretty well thought out. But we’re limited. We’re limited by who we are and what we are. We’re good at figuring things out and creating rules and laws to help us figure things out, but we rarely ever know. We think we know. We’re pretty sure we know. But for many things we will never truly know.
We will never know how a star forms, or how our planet was formed, or what happened to the water on Mars. We may be able to look, and analyze, and make a really good guess – but that’s all it is, a guess. We don’t have the lifespan, or the ability to see in the past. We can take data and make assumptions. And what works in out little corner of the universe may not work somewhere else, but we’ll never know that, either.
If you told me you were a huge fan of Stephen King and that you had a book shelf in your room then I could reason out that you have a Stephen King book on your bookshelf. It’s a perfectly good rationale. But I could be wrong. And I would never know for sure unless I went to your house, your room, and looked at your bookshelf. That’s the only way that I could ever know for sure that you had a Stephen King book on your bookshelf in your room. If I never have the opportunity to go to your house, then the best I can ever have is a really good guess.
And that’s what we face as a race.