Simulation, Souls, or Skinner box

Lately I’ve been thinking about the disturbing, yet also comforting, world we live in. It’s dangerous and hostile and unforgiving. The idea that we are nothing but a product of an amoral, evolutionary process – an accident – is too disturbing. Most people believe we are either sinner and saints (souls) or simulations. I disagree.

I’ve been thinking about the ways that others have thought about it. I can reduce the thinking to three concepts.

This world is either one of a simulation, souls, or a Skinner box. In other words – we (humans) came here by way of a machine designed by an intelligence greater than ours (alien from outer space). Or, we came by way of a creation by the divine, commonly known as a god force. And then there is the alternative, evolution, which makes us animal and subject to biological incentive–rewards and punishments. That which I’m calling the Skinner box.

By now if you follow the way I think about things, you’ll know I like pictures and graphs, as well as mathematical modes of thought, to help my processing of complex issues. Below is a representation I drew of the three concepts, or spheres of influence.

Three theories of reality: Animal, Divine, or Machine
Simulation, Souls, or Skinner Box

I’ll briefly discuss the three concepts.

Sinners and Saints, or souls

This is the divine, creationist explanation of how we came to be. It’s also the oldest I’m guessing. Some philosophers label this archaic. Previously I wrote about some of them and you can refresh your memory here.

I also begin Election 2016, the first chapter, with a discussion about this: “Gods, Heroes, and Men”. This explanation predates all communication modalities save speech and story telling, or fables and myths. I suspect it was men sitting around a fire at night trying to figure out what in the world is going on. Asking “why” questions and coming up with answers based upon the world that they knew – that of the “Flat Earth”.

That world was made up of earth (rocks and water), wind, sky, stars, fire, animals, and other people–tribes. It was dangerous and hostile and unforgiving. War and empires were likely common, and conflicts demand resolution. So charismatic and powerful men took charge, represented in the  fourth circle of the northeast sphere.

The Unconscious and Skinner’s Box

In the southern sphere, psychology comes into play represented by awareness of the unconscious mind and Skinner’s box. Again, men of great power, or self-actualized, dominate. Men like Charles Darwin, Freud and Jung, and finally Burrhus Frederick (B.F.) Skinner and his famous box – which allowed for the study of animal behavior with regards to biological rewards and punishment, or “reinforcement contingencies”. Also known as Behaviorism.

The Modern World

The southern sphere, the Biosphere, is the modern world we live in. It’s the world of science and nations, laws and trade. However, the northeastern sphere’s influences are still in the game. The same problems and conflicts still need resolution. But, we’ve come up with, created, powerful machines to help. Now these machines can do almost everything people can do. In many ways – do it better. The latest of which is the smart phone. The Phone actually puts all the known information of the world, literally in the palm of your hand! And but so also comes with unknown and unintended consequences that no one has yet to figure out. Thus those pesky first problems persist, and may yet prove to be intractable and exacerbated by those very creations invented to solve them.

There just might be an old story, a fable, a proverb that tells us that. (see Thinking of drinking, part II and the Independent Thinking series.) Here is an interesting article examining the possibility that the Phone and social media just might be nothing but an infinite Skinner box. Who knew?

I, being a student of psychology and an independent thinker, did figure this effect out a long time ago – in fact during the days of Myspace. And being somewhat disagreeable resisted the impulse to “like” most people and things. I’m still of that nature. In other words, be mindful that if I don’t “like” you or your post, picture, whatever – it’s not you, it’s me.

The Simulation

The simulation, is what some people now think we are living in. That we’re not animals, nor creations of a divine being, but machines created by an intelligence far greater than ours. It has to be, so says Elon Musk.

I represent this in the northwest sphere. I think it’s hogwash, but, who knows?

Postmodernism

I think the idea that we’re living in a game, or the Singularity is a pipe dream. Literally the outgrowth of the ingestion of psychoactive drugs, or of overactive imaginations. Probably what’s going on is some really smart, and some not-so-smart, people are trying to come up with solutions to age old problems.

Those problems being basic biological needs interacting with, and in conflict with, other people, places, and things. And that some (those charismatic, smart, powerful men) have been so good at problem solving that we (all of humankind) have overpopulated this Flat Earth.

The Sperm and the Egg

Well, in the center of the world we live in as I’ve shown, is the sperm and the egg. All three spheres start there. As far as I know, everyone came to be by that process. Now I could be wrong, that’s possible. And certainly most people think I am. Most people believe we are either sinner and saints (souls) or simulations. The idea that we are nothing but a product of an amoral, evolutionary process – an accident – is too disturbing.

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