A Temple Where People Actually Believe Physics

Imagine a place of gathering where you weren’t asked to worship a random deity – where you weren’t asked to believe in a fairytale afterlife, but you weren’t asked to believe in eternal none-existence either, because, after all, the only condition for entry to this temple was that you had to take physics seriously while inside its premises.

Being a hardcore reductionistic physicalist forces one to conclude that experience never ends. There are just mind configurations which equal specific experiences. These mind configurations exist only from their location. Despite the unrelenting work of medial parietal cortices and parietal lobes to imbue themselves with a sense of owning a forward-traveling soul, no soul has actually been found in the mechanism.

Even today’s popularizers of science have fallen prey to a non-reductionistic view. Richard Dawkins, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Lawrence Krauss, Sam Harris, and all their following of mainstream atheism believe that they are passengers on a ship that will dump them into absolute oblivion once it reaches the other shore.

It was the more careful thinkers such as Albert Einstein, Hugh Everett, David Pearce, and Eliezer Yudkowsky, who realized that viewing a present experience as anything more than its present configuration is uncalled for. And if my own narrative-stream and the comment section on LessWrong are honest, then a bunch of other nameless people also discovered this (and thought it was easy and trivial). All we had to do was to believe the universe exists outside of us. This means that it is littered with configurations which are present from their own inner present. Since there is no universal reference frame, i.e., the pasts and the futures are already there. I ask then, “Whence cometh death?”

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It is clear that there are just many experiences, not belonging to anyone special besides their own intrinsic existence. We can therefore say that we are all one single fragmented being, or that we are many different infinitesimal beings. If you want to be a proper reductionist, take your pick between something like Brahman or Anatta. But the pieces of reality contain nothing like Abrahamic souls.

And isn’t this why people made up all those elaborate lies about Vishnu, all those eschatologies and cosmogonies? They wanted something more than mere dust-to-dust. Well, the universe has given it to you already. Immortalists rejoice, efilists tremble.

Open individualism (saying we are all one, but can’t know it from each location) and empty individualism (saying there is no self) are the same thing at ground level. The aesthetic preference displayed in this regard supervenes on the quarks.

Here are great visuals from Qualia Computing

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Note: Empty = Open

Acknowledging the elephant in the room gives us a tremendous incentive to cooperate and can help some people out of nihilism. Yet it seems that many smart people feel ashamed to own up to what is an easy-picking implication of materialism and physicalism. Maybe they don’t have enough contrarian chakra to overcome the shame from normie atheists. Maybe they have learned to take comfort in a closed little world which ultimately asks nothing of them.

Thomas Henry Huxley, when presented with Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution said, “How incredibly stupid not to have thought of that.” This is quite an entertaining quote, but it would be surprising if no one had actually ever thought about common descent and some hereditary mechanism for it. It is closer to the truth to say that many people had already seen much in the puzzle pieces, even ignoring the probable people who died without publishing their thoughts. There is a block which tends to appear in one’s mind when an obvious thing isn’t obvious to others. Darwin only got around to publishing his major work when he found out that another naturalist had also arrived at the same conclusion. Before that, he was just scared.

I say, burn this aspect of human nature. Why walk trepidatiously, when one is sure that the ground is stable?

One day, when open individualism is interpersonally assumed as a matter of convention, people will say the same as Huxley. How incredibly stupid that no one thought of this before. Except, of course, just like with evolution, many people did – but their sounds were drowned by their own undulations of submissive fear or by the heaving motions of the masses.

It is true that society will not reward you for merely discovering true things. Especially if those true things don’t fit usefully in their status-signaling neural networks. There are already many true things that society would rather not look at. But if you are here, you are probably not normal, and might as well embrace it.

People like Derek Parfit, Sam Harris, and Sean Carroll are especially curious. And that is because they exist somewhere near that stage were Darwin found himself before learning about Wallace’s similar conclusions. Derek Parfit reasoned out selflessness but just turned out to be wrong about physics, so he believed that atoms had persistent individual identities which made for his continuity of consciousness. I suspect something similar occurs with Sam Harris. He at times seems to understand selflessness, but ultimately refuses to be sure of it at the very edge, by saying something about “continuity of consciousness.” So you get a soul with a finite timeline split into many pieces. A fusion of closed individualism and empty individualism.

Sean Carroll, like me, also says that no one is traveling because each brain just exists from where it exists, also understands that relativity implies an eternal block, even assigns most likelihood to the reality of the wave-function and hence Everett’s many-worlds; to top it off, he knows way more physics than me. So why the heck does he still believe he is going to simply die?

I am not a psychoanalyst, but I’m going to be a psychoanalyst anyway. To top off the general suggestions offered before for our collective failure, I would add to that list the suspicion that so much energy is spent sparring with religious non-challenges. Religious people care a lot about life after death, so the antithetical position (eternal non-existence) also becomes very important to the atheist, and would now be extra-embarrassing to reject.

Okay, so why, of all the assortment of truths that I could be pointing to in the world, am I picking a fight over this one? Well that’s because it matters. Because I am selfish. Because in the most fundamental sense, I am you, and you, and you; all experience slices everywhere. It is in my best interest that you live an enjoyable life of some sort. Although I won’t be able to access the experience of this mind typing these words from that location, I am that. This is enough to concern me.

We should be no more solipsistic with regard to “another person’s” now slices than we are with regard to some past slice of now with our name (which we also can’t access) or some future slice with our name (which we also can’t access from these spacetime coordinates). I don’t care about this name. I don’t merely care about similar memories. I care about the sum of my experiences. Somewhere, I am still that child in my old photographs. And by his physical constitution, he cannot tell that the inner light of awareness also shines here and in that girl in the Mughal Empire.

This brings me to the matter of building a temple. I had already shown an inclination for pursuing a related line of thought when I was sixteen. And it seems he assumed failure at convincing people, based on the title of that post.

It is not the case that I am convinced this is a good idea. Questions abound. How many positive hedons should we be okay with creating instead of blocking dams of potential negative hedons? How do we account for the effects that mining positive qualia and inspirational stimuli can have on people who belong to a religious-like community?

The first question has already been explored in the public eye with current religions. Often as a source of accusations against the powerful institutions. For example, the statement that “If the Vatican were really Christian, it would sell everything of high market value that it owns and use it to save kids in Africa.”

Unlike nations or corporations, organized religions put themselves on the spot by claiming moral high ground. The moral high ground seems to track closer to negative utilitarianism in most people. Our most abstract sense of good generally says that it is more important to prevent suffering than to create happiness.

Yet one witnesses an apparently stark hypocrisy:

According to Vinod Rai, the former Comptroller-and-Auditor-General(CAG) of India, who had audited some of the Temple records from 1990, in August 2014, in the already opened vault A, there is an 800 kg (1,800 lb) hoard of gold coins dating to around 200 B.C, each coin priced at over 2.7 crore (US$390,000).[42] Also found was a pure Golden Throne, studded with hundreds of diamonds and other fully precious stones, meant for the 18-foot-long Deity.[43] According to varying reports, at least three, if not more, solid gold crowns have been found, studded with diamonds and other precious stones.[44][45][46] Some other media reports also mention hundreds of pure gold chairs, thousands of gold pots and jars, among the articles recovered from Vault A and its antechambers.[47]

This revelation has solidified the status of the Padmanabhaswamy Temple as the wealthiest place of worship in the world.[48] It is conservatively estimated that the value of the monumental items is close to ₹1.2 lakh crore or ₹1.2 trillion (US$17 billion). If the antique and cultural value were taken into account these assets could be worth ten times the current market price.[49]

These estimates were on the basis of the revelations since July 2011, when five vaults were opened, with the at least one remaining vault (B), which is the largest, still closed. One of the oldest existing estimates regarding Vault B, which can be considered to be at least as reliable as any other made since the discovery of the hidden treasure (or assets) of the Temple in 2011, was by the Travancore Royal Family itself in the 1880s (when an older existing estimate was updated). According to it, the gold and precious stones contained in Vault B, which is by far the largest and the only vault (of the reported six) that is unopened so far, since the discovery of the treasure, were worth ₹12,000 crore (US$1.7 billion). Considering the subsequent inflation of the rupee, and the increase in the prices of gold and precious metals and precious stones since in general, the treasure in the unopened vault B alone, would be worth at least ₹50 trillion (US$730 billion) in present-day terms, without the cultural value being factored in.[50][51]

Why don’t these devout Hindus spread this wealth to the faithful crowds on the streets who could surely benefit greatly from it? Why don’t the crowds expect this from the religious authority?

We don’t mean what we say is the short answer.

The sacred has a cost. In practice, we are willing to pay that cost.

I may be a utilitarian on paper – talking about carefully dissecting masses of hedonia, and weighing them at their fault lines. But in reality I am much more practical. I workout  every day without worrying about how much it pains me or what arithmetic I’m performing on the longevity of my narrative stream. I eat the same thing every day for simplicity, regardless of how much positive qualia is going unborn. We pay prices to uphold the establishment of our sacred rituals.

Both in the Vatican and the Padmanabhaswamy case, it is not even that long-term happiness/status sustenance is implicitly preferred to suffering prevention. If the goal was to create happiness or preserve status, having jewels locked up in a temple dungeon would do little in that regard.

This is more a brute side effect of deontological reinforcement. Quite similar to how I have not taken a single bite of a donut in over five years – to reinforce the sacredness of my commitment to diet, even though I know based on my will-power that a bite of a cookie would do no harm.

Selling a diamond-encrusted crown or two would not make a difference to the temple’s public glamour, since no one would notice. And yet the person on the street almost starving, or needing treatment, would surely notice. The energy of the temple’s reasoning engine is not enough to overcome the systematizer. The reasoner is an expensive process and prefers to sleep in the belly unless it is absolutely necessary to awake.

If we are going to create a religious-like community, it better be weighed against the other potential uses of that money and energy. Overcoming systematizers is very expensive, and no one likes it. Those who would benefit the most from an overthrow don’t even peep about it (Prussian-style soul-destroying school system come to mind?). The sort of smart people who would end up loving having access to such a physics temple, will likely be the primary obstacle to the formation of such a thing. And their children who would grow up with the proven benefits of a reassuring community gathered to contemplate their commitment to each other and to ‘the ultimate’ will also miss out. All because we were embedded in invisible systematizing agents that happened to trade too many precision points in exchange for energy conservation when evaluating what sounded “religious” or “spiritual”.

Finally, I do recommend taking architectural cues from the Padmanabhaswamy temple:

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Don’t Let Ada Learn Quantum Mechanics Part 4

It turned out Wilhelm, Mary, Deanna, and Ada were having ice cream in the back alley that afternoon. It turned out we would just slip back into routine.

Being born again can be monotonous.

In school they teach you to die before you die. Grate your mind against new content and forget. It’s the primary lesson and us mortals want to ensure we understand our fate from day one.

Today, I had deliberately not paid much attention because I needed energy for a bit of an after-school scuffle with a professor. He had been warning his large philosophy congregation that if they cared about themselves, they should keep away from Ada. I even heard rumors that this man, well above his fifties, had been using nasty names to refer to her. I’d been meaning to confront him about this so I was speedily passing by brutalist architecture mini-brick walls and school billboard screens. Tall-forehead Pippen Peterson was in the middle of telling a story to his club when I walked into the classroom E271.

“Borderline asexuals, incels, and homosexuals are what a woman tends to find in these advanced math courses. I could almost sympathize with her desperateness for me, but had no time. You must understand. She was foreign stuff. Hot stuff,” his speech was that of the falsest of stoics.

Propping his head up in dignity, he continued “She had a little nose ring,” wiggling his finger without raising his arm. “And her skin was tan. A bronze. Belizian bronze.” His students grew more attentive with each second. “Golden Brain. Green eyes.” He met the gaze of an entranced chubby student waiting for more. “Those irises were a Bahama breeze that served to clear the air of penis stench.” The group of all males looked at each other in full amazement.

“And yet, a man must know the place of a woman in his life. Only after duty is fulfilled, can he come to attend such matters. If it is the duty of a Spartan to dine in hell, he must dine in hell before coming to his woman’s kitchen. If it is the duty of an insectologist to attend to the matter of bees, he must attend to carpenter bees, and hornet bees, before boo bees.”

No one laughed him off. They either took notes or struck a fist to their own chest in admiring devotion.

It was time to knock this clown off his stool.

“Hey, you’re the one they call Pippen Peterson.”

Some bobblehead disaffection was his response.

“Why have you been trash-talking about Ada?”

He paused as if to repose on my heavy words.

“The methods and instance variables of life must be those which allow us to fulfill our duties as members of a society – they must be defined in the mind of each individual as thinking objects that facilitate our willful submission. Ada is the opposite of that. She represents the untainted spirit of the Paleolithic hunter-gatherer, of the charismatic barbarian. She will inspire a revolution in the hearts of these developing men, so that they may remain children. This would be a disaster.”

“I can tell you’re a philosophy professor. Now tell me in simple language why you think it’s acceptable to bully a student by spreading falsehoods about her.” I lost my cool and shouted.

“Bully. Ada? She bullies you. And anyone else not protected by the emergent immune systems of anti-fragile brotherhoods.”

Okay. He kind of had a point about her fierceness. Indeed, didn’t go far enough with his point. That skinny girl would rip out the entrails of any enemy tribe, regardless of how many adjectives were tacked on to it’s supposed mechanics.

I did feel weird to admit I was bullied by a girl in the presence of all these aspiring manly-men. Yet it was also true she had given me the courage to act in defiance.

“It is true that Ada can be demanding, selfish, and inconsiderate – never willing to compromise with the rest of the crew. And I can’t speak for the others, but I accept her because I…(loved her?)… because I understand not everything must have parity. Not all transactions will be equal in value. Not all of these images will be mirrors. Gravity has parity, the electromagnetic force has parity, but heck if the weak nuclear force had parity, there would be no universe on which to stand!”

“That analogy was sloppy.”

My eyes became white circles. “Look who’s talking.” I fumed to the side.

His goony sons, all forty students of his, looked ready to carry me off into a flash mosh pit.

I bucked down to my thighs to power-ski through the inertia. “That still gives you no good reason to spread lies – calling her a thief, and dirtying all our names in the process. Everyone knows we are always with her. That’s Deanna, Wilhelm, Mary, and myself.”

“It’s obviously not the case that you have constructed this scene for the sake of yourself or anyone else besides that girl.”

My eyebrow had detected he was right and was twitching angrily in reaction.

“And my calling her a thief must be understood in the context in which the use of that term was embedded. It is the mark of a novice mind to assume that single words constitute platonic solids.”

Just a moment ago he had been using rhetoric that should only impress third-graders. Now I seriously felt him kicking me around. It was like being in the presence of a drunken-pose martial artist.

“In my ontology, there is no phrase in which being called a ‘thief’ is a high compliment. I live in the junction between common sense and reality, and the people in this location hardly make the effort to parse the subtle eruditions intended. You told your students that Ada’s will was that of a thief, and left that insinuation to fester, as it did in the minds of the cafeteria ladies and the security guards, once the rumor had spread.”

“It is true that I have done wrong if that is the case. Tomorrow morning I will speak with the cafeteria ladies, with the security guards, with the professors who may have begun to get the wrong idea, and clarify with greater precision what was meant to my students during class. If I see her walking past on the hallway from my office to the classroom after lunch, I will even ask her for a bit of her time and apologize where it is due. But I will never accept anything about her besides her standard personhood. Man’s character exists in his willingness to blame what is wrong, and not hold back unnecessarily.

And that’s when I walked out in case his fatherly trance began to get to me.

“Just fix up the mess, and apologize to everyone.”

This firmly satisfied me, as indeed such an insubordinate statement should have, and I was now eager to run over to the alley where I could replenish my affiliation and be filled with the sense that this was all worth it.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Wilhelm’s favorite way of positioning himself was to have one leg lunged over the crate in the corner, swanking here and there with little tugs at his clothing.

Despite that, tonight he was standing forthright for my arrival and I probably had never seen him alone in the back-alley when it was late and the others had left.

After I caught my breath and asked where the others had gone, I realized that he was not merely zoned out, but he was awfully dead in his eyes and wore gloves with tetrahedron knuckles.

As he zipped up the side of his boot he said, “Just what do you think would happen if one of us were to kill Ada?”

I almost gasped.

“Wilhelm. We’ve always been friends. But what the heck is wrong with you?”

The suddenly unrecognizable hooded Wilhelm seemed to smile mockingly.

“You know you’ve thought about it before.”

Shamefully, I had. But I would never admit that.

“Watch what you say. I’m not afraid to…”

“To what, Dante?” his mien sharpening to attack.

Something in my inner program had rolled along too far, and I couldn’t stop my balled fist.

It hit cleanly on the side of his mouth. I almost wished it hadn’t.

He picked himself up with elegance.

Couldn’t un-hurl myself now. I rammed myself shoulder-first into his gut.

Bad move. Always a bad move.

I’d given my neck away in the easiest of headlocks.

There was the clogged notion that these were my carotid arteries meant to feed my brain being mercilessly crushed.

A field of black and static-like pressure made his words distant.

“Did you know Genghis Khan………. his own brother……. with a bow and arrow……. ”

…Distant until their stretching distance was unreachable by my consciousness.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

It is said that when you lose a sense, for example, the sense of smell – after recovery, the first smells to come back are those that you hate the most. In keeping with the will of nature, it seemed that Wilhelm was bent on uploading my most hated sense module first – knowledge of the truth.

He held up my head from a tuft of hair to lecture me better.

“As you know by now, degenerate orbitals don’t just apply to a hydrogen atom’s electron. Superposition applies to us too. Your tissues and organs are part of the degenerate flesh of the universe.

Physicists accept the wavefunction when it applies to the supposedly separate magisterium of small things. And then chitter in fear at the prospect of biting the bullet when it implies that they too are in many places at once.

They scuffle their papers and run ducking out the building, mumbling something about ‘philosophy’ or ‘metaphysics.’ But we know that this is physics. Our decisions are weighed by a factor of infinity, and we cannot escape.”

He released my head to find comfort in the concrete.

“Now answer my question Dante. What do you think would happen if one of us were to kill Ada?”

My spit fell on sharp little pebbles as I growled through my lips.

He insisted, “Alright. Let me make the hypothetical more palatable. What if Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence doesn’t pan out in our lifetime, and she just ages and dies?”

“Like an arch without keystone, I would expect the world to wilt along with her. But this won’t happen because of quantum immortality. If anyone’s identity is to be preserved, it would be hers. We may see her die, but that would only mean the real her, the one which continuously survives, is no longer entangled with the majority of us. Seeing her die wouldn’t mean she died, it would mean she abandoned us to die. Wouldn’t you agree Wilhelm?”

“You lack self-awareness, as evidenced by the fact that you let yourself be possessed by a sense of destiny and can’t bother to respect the people you need the most. But I’ve gotta give you one thing, you’ve got insight.”

I didn’t need fake compliments. We weren’t some abstract group of fake friends, we had built a family, and by openly suggesting killing Ada, even as a hypothetical, he was no longer playing his part.

“The reason I asked this question is to motivate a revelation.”

Something clicked, something which made me very angry, something which my subconscious had discovered but could not yet deliver in clear words.

Wilhelm stared at me, waiting to see if I got it. But it was not coming to me right now.

“Okay. Apparently not enough insight. Let me give it away.” he said almost playfully.

“The way we at the MOON squad have been returning the world back to normality is by murdering Ada as much as possible.”

My eyes were peeled as if by raven claws. I suddenly saw the blood on the leaves.

He stared into me victoriously. “When the course and order of life seem thrown at peril by some sharp, demented change in her epistemology, we crank up the amount of betrayal branches.”

“Betrayal branches.”

“That’s right.”

“The…”

“Yes – the locations of the universal wavefunction where we suddenly stab, strangle, or otherwise cause Ada’s destruction, whether after long conspiracy or sudden sleight of hand.”

“You explain this as if you were a tired office worker complaining about his day job. Do you realize just how evil you are!?”

I couldn’t visualize all the Ada’s, but I could visualize one. To see just one Ada suddenly stabbed in her gut by Wilhelm –  that was all that was needed to feel myself vomit in reverse.

“You’ll get used to it. I mean, what else could we do? In a big universe, we must comfort ourselves knowing that there are smaller infinities than others. It is the only thing we can do.”

I thought of the Wilhelm I once knew, and Mary, and for God’s sake Deanna – the innocent. I would have drowned myself from hyperventilating if I hadn’t had a further question. “But this doesn’t make any sense. How does she respawn in the world we observe, and not remember, and….”

“I thought you understood quantum mechanics, but you’re just a bozo. Fooled me there for a second, Dante.

I don’t remember ever waking up with blood on my hands because I delegate that task to my clones. All I have to do to increase the versions of reality where I kill her is by vividly predisposing myself with murderous thoughts – by fantasizing and only stopping myself short at the very edge, when I feel the fantasy is going to spill into my actual hands.”

I looked at his hands. They were not clean at all. They were tainted with that precious glimmering-red iron, though we could not see it.

“But these murders you commit, you do so knowingly. You know that people just as real as us will experience this.”

“The slightest dipole-moment of ideation causes a displacement of an infinite amount of actual you’s. You send clones to maraud the night when you are restless in bed. Clones jump out the window when you so much as think it a poetic death. Every thought matters. You must learn to accept the significant consequences of your every move atop infinite dimensional Hilbert space.”

His words were sensitive little stabs, and my morality couldn’t comply with that. It was just disturbing, repugnant, to think about what it would actually mean to be a good person. The implications of all this invisible machinery.

“We’re saving the world by doing this, remember? If we don’t trim her measure, things will get very weird or disappear completely.”  He finally mustered to say this with something like sympathy for my pulsing head.

The echo of his past words throbbed violently: ‘Just keep slaughtering her until the measure of her soul is negligible. In a big universe, we must comfort ourselves knowing that there are smaller infinities than others. It is the only thing we can do.’

I became heaving breaths, one mind expelling my spirit out of my lungs, the other mind cursing with non-existent words.

His knuckles shoveled me straight into the wall.

“It is supposedly said that when Muhammad learned he had been chosen by God, his first thought was that he should cast himself from the mountain on which this had been revealed – for if he had not gone crazy, then he had been entrusted with a responsibility so large that he would rather not deal with it.

Dante. You jumped. Willing to forsake us all.”

“It wasn’t like that. I thought she would heal the world. That we would all wake up somewhere new.”

“Such sudden blackmail was reckless. But what ticks me off the most is that for these past few weeks you thought you could just slyly sneak back into routine and forget. As if it had all been a dream.”

Considering that he too had been acting as the perfect Wilhelm who he had been in the past, down to his cool faux-laziness and the little coquettish smiles he always threw around indiscriminately, it was now evident that I had always been in the presence of a highly intelligent sociopath of some sort.

“Perhaps you are not an unscrupulous narcissist, Dante. Perhaps not.

I think I can deconstruct your character further.

In gerontology it is said that as people grow older, they exhaust their ego energy, and hence become more self-absorbed, feeling less and less of a need to prove anything to the society around them.

But take a look at you and me. There are those of us who never felt a need in the first place. We were born old-and-worn retiree children – wanting nothing but peace, like elephants in the forest. When such a person is captured; bound at the ankles by the demands of the world, they must either learn the ways of the circus or rampage.”

Maybe it was the novelty of Wilhelm’s hypnotizing sociopathy. I could almost feel the South Asian heat, my eyes red; horrible noises cross-linking lanky blobs swinging faceless from side to side. I, fed, and again fed, just enough, by a demigod parade of cruel trapezists who failed to fall from each other’s shoulders out of sheer collective insanity.

He threw his face across my shoulder and past my line of sight, “I am the smart elephant who accepts the long defeat, and learns to call it a win. You are the impatient fool who stampedes, only causing damage to yourself and others.

How can you be forgiven?”

Pushing me back, he paced again and unknowingly caressed his jaw, revealing a dominant ape Wilhelm; ensuring the charming and collected young man I once knew was buried in a coffin.

My response was the healthy response to an aberrant world. He was trying to turn it all on me. And punish me for it.

I would not allow it.

Don’t Let Ada Learn Quantum Mechanics Part 3

The lumen of the room was a fluorescent white. To have seen a single cherry would have been to be presented with the problem of the existence of qualia.

But there was a more urgent problem before me. I was not in the beyond, in that singularity beyond my reach forged of Ada’s truest dream.

This could not be it. I refused to believe this was the best she could do.

I brought my hands to my skin. Finding it non-permeable to my touch, I realized nothing had changed.

The white was white. Impossible to describe what is absent.

Where was everyone? Did Wilhelm make it into this new world? He may not have been her romantic interest, but she kept him around. She trusted him, our unofficial second leader – so calm and cool, yet stylish and agreeable. What about Deanna? How could Ada bring herself to destroy her favorite dress-up doll. However punctured that girl’s life was by Ada’s psychological abuse, her life was worth living. And Mary? She was so quiet – Ada hardly paid attention to her. I had less hope for her.

The hours passed.

She shouldn’t have placed me here, alone. Not if she loved me so much. My upper body still weighed down on my bony back so that standing caused leaning or sitting. The walls were still hard.

It had been so recently that I had jumped off a skyscraper and I was already thinking about my respiratory tract. Was that really the only option to press restart if it came to that?

Wait. Maybe she changed the laws of physics so drastically that I had been self-constraining myself all along by looking at my environment and seeing what I could do with my hands. “Ada. You can hear me can’t you?” I repeated, “You can feel my thoughts.” I tried to create open windows through the room. But my eyes didn’t work. They were just eyes.

To have traded the world for a white room – now if that was the case, I had just earned the title for the most tragic gambler of them all. Maybe that’s why people told the story of Icarus. We were absolutely meant to be creatures without faith.

I got up, stuttering at the knees as I took a step forward, balancing back and forth. There was a gnawing noise, a clicking, and teeth doors opened from the walls.

I whirled around, but no one came in. Perhaps someone was watching me all along. The light was about 400 nm. It had that grungy lilac fluorescence that sad teenagers always liked on social media, and the smell was nosebleed sterile.

I went through one of the exits and into the corridor. I recognized my surroundings. There were pipetting instruments, computers, spectrophotometers. It was a laboratory.

This was nonsensical of course, but it could have been far worse – a chamber in God’s nightmare. Ada really had a dark side, and I would never want to see what post-modern horror loops she would come up with; not mere monsters I’m sure.

Even if I was to accept that the world had remained after hurling myself down a skyscraper as blackmail, I still could not account for why I had awoken in a lab. I had my same clothes: zippers, belt loops, a keychain of an sp-orbital, and this long white dress shirt with a tight collar that didn’t fold.

‘You have to look handsome,’ Ada had said two days ago, when she’d given me this Kung-Fu surgeon attire, a selection that was now difficult to make sense of as a mere coincidence. ‘What if you need to blend in when I lock you in a lab? Then you won’t be questioning my attire choices for you.’ I imagined her saying. I imagined her knowing all along.

I looked down at a little test tube which I was now holding. It had a thick white content and a label CA1. I tentatively plugged it back in its rack. A Donacuala forficella flew into a corner, contradicting the pristine vacuum environment, and then fluttered behind some microscope.

‘Yay!’ Ada would have said, after her eyes recovered from long exposure to the moth. ‘We found a new species.’

I could only hope Ada was still the interface for God’s mind because I had been trapped in that lab for more time without a bathroom than even a tough lover would bestow on your bladder.

I tip-toed a piss-dance while distracting myself with the assortment of glassware on my right. What had otherwise turned out to be a quite monotonous afterlife finally led to something interesting. Large laser white Kanizsa triangles behind glass; a silky vat inside them. There was an ominous feeling that a living bundle was packaged inside that film. There were labels but I could only see a blur for the letters. I stressed my eyes, to no avail. But I was very curious now about what the label said so I stressed my eyes again but this time I even visualized blood flowing to my ventral stream like an advanced yogi channelling chakra.

Finally, I could perceive the contours of text just enough to make out: Fetus.

Then a large figure appeared, walking straight towards me.

He carried himself like a masterless samurai as he paced through the lab. His katana as stern as a ronin’s, though merely implied by his certain Schizophrenia.

“They call me a genetic engineer, but I call myself a genetic composer. Every genome is a canticle.”

Never for a second did he take away his eyes from the artificial wombs.

“I create happy babies. In fact, they don’t cry as they come into existence.

I have extended photoshop to real life merely by coding their basepairs. This batch here will grow up to be graphically-designed angels. I choose their skin to be coffee or flour. I reduce their amygdalae to an almond so light in their head that they may have no fear.

Most importantly, I make babies who will grow to be far more intelligent than me and you. Contrary to common wisdom, IQ isn’t about book-smarts or a measure of some meaningless standard. On a handful of odd SNIPS lies the future of civilization, of transcending the great filters, the entirety of the cosmic endowment.”

In the world I came from, the people who made important decisions were old prudes. Perhaps the world had changed. Or maybe I just hadn’t realized this was going on under the flood of information distracting us busy students. So I asked him how it was the case that his project wasn’t halted by some committee.

“The government funded my research when they realized that Star Trek would occur in Mandarin if they didn’t put aside their pseudo-ethical crap.”

The wombs were moving, they pulsed.

He pressed both hands into his lumbar and began to whine in that sour way that tired mad scientists do.

“All childhoods must end. It’s about time we dethrone our stupid creator – that Mother Nature bitch gave me a bad lower spine.”

He clawed at an imaginary Rubik’s cube, like a disturbed child untangling molecules.

“… the broad even had to circle the whole damn aortic arch … atta teach’er to engineer a proper…” he muttered on as his head disappeared, tucked in front of his great shoulders.

“I like your thinking,” I said. “Except for the fact that I actually know God. She has beautiful eyes… I probably should have followed my nature and never looked at an attractive girl in the eyes. Then I wouldn’t be in this mess.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” he squealed in that sour nerd voice that fit so awkwardly on his body type.

Maybe it was because this was not a normal human that I didn’t feel the need to hold my tongue. There were standards of implied consensus reality in normal conversations, but these invisible strings felt very loose with this guy. He was surely the sort to speak about GWA studies one moment and DMT elves the next. And he was now looking at me with the psychopathic inquisitiveness of a dog. There was nothing to lose by telling him.

“I can explain. But understanding what I have to say requires knowing basic quantum mechanics.”

“Bring it. I’m a man of letters,” he said quickly.

I brought out the sp-orbital figurine that was chained to my belt loop. One lobe large, one lobe small.

“Why do we find ourselves in the reality that we do?” I said as I pinched the probability density to eye-level.

“The answer is the Born probabilities. They seem to be about finding yourself in a particular blob, not just the particle being in a particular place.

The fact that there is a carbon-hydrogen bond in your throat is implied by your throat

But what does the integral over squared moduli have to do with anything? – In other words, where does this lopsided shape come from? On a straight reading of the data, you would always find yourself in both blobs, every time. How can you find yourself in one blob with greater probability? What are the Born probabilities, probabilities of?”

He was now attentively amused.

“Well, it turns out they are probabilities of where the majority of Ada’s epistemology finds itself.”

“Ada?”

“Yeah, this girl from school.”

“You are mad.”

“I have evidence.”

He turned twice in his chair, pedaling a bicycle. And then got very close to me. “Show me the evidence.”

I gave a step back. “Okay, well she really likes to collect moths, and we found this moth that only appears in Africa in our school yard, because her entire machinery of cognition uncompromisingly defined rationality as that world in which she did indeed collect this specimen.”

He threw me a goggly eye.

“But of course, that was the least of it. When she was obsessed with making money, our friend Deanna inherited a mansion from a relative that hadn’t existed in her life until that point. We found valuable Greek pottery just laying around for the taking.”

I gasped to check if I still had him.

“We even found Jesus because some Jehova Witnesses had knocked on her door. This religion was new to her because she is half-Japanese and half-Nordic, so she hadn’t learned to place this memetic artifact in her fiction bin yet, like she had done with cartoons and literature. So while she was learning to cope, we actually found him. He was like some short guy who spoke Aramaic and was just terribly lost. Not even hitchhiking really, just beaten up and in fear. Poor guy, we couldn’t help him because he darted off.”

The scientist seemed to be laughing internally up to his forehead. As if he had finally attained some knowledge that he really desired. Or maybe he was just thinking mockingly of me. So I cautiously continued in case it was the latter.

“We didn’t believe it at first either. But after seeing all these highly improbable events occur, and only related to her, we knew she was the one determining where we find ourselves. The only thing that would have been more obvious is if a pop-up window appeared in front of us saying, ‘Hello, I am Ada Soryuu the creator of the simulation. I wiped my memory for fun and you bunch of losers are my consecrated apostles.'” I imitated in her valley-girl-adjacent sass.

He crossed his legs. “Fair enough. I am intrigued.”

I was now ready to ask him for the exit.

“What did she say about me?” he asked.

“Nothing. She doesn’t know you.”

Ouch. Okay that was very mean.

“I meant to say…umm. I just now realized you existed because we are in near proximity. She’s not some freak of nature who could circumvent that requisite without the aid of technology either. By the way is there a bathroom in near proximity?”

His face was static. I accidentally froze him.

“Well, I’ll be going good sir. Thanks for showing me around.”

He gave a dispirited sigh, and I sprinted headfirst towards the direction from which he had entered.