An elaborate analogy to computers

Saturday, August 21, 2010

4:30 AM. All right, guys, here I am again. What’s on your minds this early morning?

To proceed upon the journey to re-envision the ring-and-thread analogy.

Yes, go ahead, I’m very interested. It’s striking to receive material that is so clear and obvious when, prior to receiving it, I had no idea what would come, as is the position I’m in this morning again. But although striking, it’s a position I have become very familiar with.

We don’t need to continue on the subject of genetics and heredity, once the point has been grasped. Genetics is a set of physical limitations. Others exist. You may remember that some while ago we said that often enough we had to make do, in the shaping of a person, because the best combination nevertheless included some traits we wished weren’t there. In other words, in any given situation one takes the best possible combination. Not meaning that the combination is the best there could be [i.e. the best conceivable], but meaning it is the best among those available. Genetic heritage is one constraint, and surely as you mix categories (genetics and biography and our description of people-groups) you will see that they illustrate each other, as truth generally shines through in different contexts. Genius results, often enough, when very different genetic backgrounds are mixed. Talent often enough is produced by successive generations of similar backgrounds continuing to interact. The former: William Butler Yeats. The latter, the musical family of Bachs.

But just as genetic heritage is one set of constraints, or one set of possibilities made manifest, so it is not the only one. One’s physical heredity is the container into which one pours one’s own contents, what one might call one’s spiritual heredity.

What we think of as past lives.

What you somewhat loosely think of as past lives, yes – for usually the concept and practice rests upon the assumption of individuality somewhere. At base, you are the irreducible atom, only well disguised, and therefore “you” are moving from life to life like discarding and picking up costumes, or changing roles from one place to another. As we have said, once you take into account the differences in heredity lifetime to lifetime, this view appears to be a little shallow, for it assumes that the traveling soul is reality and its various manifestations in life are less real. This is the view that sees life on earth as meaningless distraction, lives as illusion, the physical world as maya.

Perhaps we should go into that view in greater depth. But perhaps it isn’t necessary or productive. Buddhism isn’t wrong in seeing the physical life as less meaningful than it appears – but it isn’t absolutely right either, for the soul’s journeys are more than distractions and illusion. Reality is not just an endless school for the education of ignorant beings.

I have this argument every so often. So many people talk of the earth-school, and they see our task as living to learn lessons. My friend Charles seems to think, with Shaw and Colin Wilson and others, that life is spirit, or consciousness, inserting itself into unconscious matter, we observing and participating in the process.

We have been encouraging you away from that belief as we earlier encouraged you away from the belief that life is meaningless, or that life is any given definition of life. “Words are a prison. God is free” expresses the un-capture-able nature of life, negative though its conclusions must necessarily be in those circumstances.

A problem with any attempt– including this one – to make sense of life is that the situation appears different depending on what aspect of it one examines. Every answer any sincere seeker has ever obtained is true to a degree, and within a given set of circumstances, or, one might say, from a certain point of view. You will remember that when we were asked for effective exercises to improve one’s spirituality, we gave as one such exercise the practicing changing points of view. That was recommended with the idea of helping you see differently. As we said at the time, it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the matter of spirituality, yet it may help bring one to the attitude, the stance, that will make it possible to see things differently, which is all that “spirituality” is, really.

So, to say that life as you experience it is largely illusion is true, but it is also true that your life has real consequences, for you and for others. Now, this is the reason, as much as any other, that we developed our strings-and-rings analogy, because physical heredity acts as much as a negative as a positive. That is, it determines what kinds of things can’t come in, as well as (in the same process, as part of the same reality as) what can. You might look at your physical heredity as the software running on the hardware of the physical base. Let’s pursue that a bit. It will allow a discussion of a couple of meaningful distinctions that sometimes get lost.

For instance, you might be inclined to say, “the physical heredity is our physical body,” but this is wrong. Your heredity is the shape, the nature, of your physical body. The hardware is, shall we say, the human pattern imposed upon cellular matter. [I think they meant or should have meant firmware, though this didn’t occur to me until I came to type this up. The cellular material is the hardware, and the human or equine (or whatever) pattern is firmware running on that hardware. I silently replace the word hardware with the word firmware throughout.] A horse’s firmware is a horse’s pattern imposed upon the same type of cellular matter. The pattern, the species, say, is the firmware.

The software is the specific genetics of a given individual. Given that the firmware it is running on is the human form in all that this means the software running on that firmware is the individual’s particular possibilities. So, you might say that on the human firmware are all those millions of programs that have been developed, subset after subset, specialized application after specialized application, more complex as time goes on as the software itself has a built-in learning capacity. First male or female, the very primary division. Then within that, the various emotional and chemical variations of male and female. Then all the innumerable polarities and positions on the scale between all those polarities, the result being perhaps millions of possible combinations.

On that software base one then runs data – and that data is what you bring to the mixture of traits that is your heredity.

Now, bear in mind, the software shaping the individual (by selecting among possibilities) is aware of the data to be run. This is in no way a matter of chance. All those winnowings of firmware-constrained possibilities – vast enough, after all – still leave huge amounts of significant traits and combinations of traits to be chosen among. Your physical ancestry is a limited vocabulary of choices – but limited is not the same as few. It isn’t like your genetic heritage determines what you must be. It doesn’t. It determines what the limits are of the pool from which you must be chosen.

This is a vitally important point, though it seems simple enough to us. Nothing in your family history determines that you must have red hair, or be left-handed, or have an equable temper, or be scientifically inclined, or have an ungovernable aversion to snakes, or be afflicted by tuberculosis or even have a “hereditary” predisposition to contract it.

Those are all possibilities! They are not limitations or requirements.

Your software contains a limited but hardly scant array of possibilities from which you are assembled, or gravitate, however you wish to put it. But there is no reliance on chance in the choosing, except in the inessentials. (Your life’s purpose may not have anything to do with your favorite color, or your attitude toward cats, or even your interaction with your relations. It may. Or it may not.)

Well, obviously if your software provides the range of choices, and the choices are made with an end in mind (that is, with the construction of an individual to fit into certain circumstances and to function in certain ways that may not even exist as yet) someone or something informs those choices, according to some criteria that may be looked at as a life-plan or an experiment or some other idea. The only alternative is to believe that the individual is shaped by chance, and from that it is a short path to deciding that all of life is chance, hence meaningless or illusionary or inscrutable. Yet your experiences, once you delve a little beneath the surface, convince you easily that there’s something vastly more interesting going on, vastly more meaningful and structured, than chance. This is the factor that is introduced as what we might call your spiritual heredity, and it is the invisibility of this factor to a certain mentality that leads it to conclude that life is chance (hence, meaningless). For in the absence of a concept such as we are attempting to provide, one’s only intellectual choice is to concede some variation of the statement, “God made me,” and while we don’t have a particular aversion to that attitude, we recognize that for many people it is an unconquerable obstacle. We also recognize that it isn’t particularly helpful in making sense of life unless one can accept the rest of the God-centered attitude, for otherwise one winds up with an ungrounded concept contradicting the rest of the assumptions and interpretations that comprise one’s mental existence.

And yes, you may stop now.

Thanks. It’s 6 AM and I’m tired. But – thanks. Good stuff, and helpful and I like your computer analogy.

Wait till we get to bugs and viruses and antivirus software.

I wish I were sure you were kidding.

Time will tell, won’t it?

Tomorrow, then, I hope.

2 thoughts on “An elaborate analogy to computers

  1. It from bit – John A. Wheeler
    Reality is a giant quantum computer – Seth Llyod

    This here is a nice post from 10 years ago. Now, since then, science has progressed and quantum computers are now becoming reality; quantum physics is merging with information science.

    Instead of bits, we can now use qubits (quantum bits). Let’s try:

    So threads and rings are no longer pure entities, but composites. Likewise, qubits are no longer pure on/off states, but can be in a “mixed” state, which expresses potential and probabilities. They can also be entangled with other qubits. Do you see the connection?

    Also, the question is evolving as to ‘what is software?’ It is no longer just a linear sequence of statements in a traditional computer, but quantum software explores all possibilities at once.

    So fun and exciting to think about, don’t you think?

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