Thursday, June 26, 2008

All in your mind?

In the 1791 biography titled "Life of Johnson" the author James Boswell relates this story of Samuel Johnson's mock against the Irish philosopher George Berkeley's "immaterialism" (anti-materialism) -- subjective idealism. In a thimble this theory is summed up "Esse est percipi" (to be is to be perceived).

"After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it, 'I refute it THUS.' "

I do think that Johnson misses the point, the point being that POV (point of view) necessitates identifying both scale and sensors when attempting to create a reality that one's mind can understand.

Let us assume that the universe is a measurable size, independent of the observer. 

Let us assume we need a mind in order to observe and make assumptions about this universe. 

Let us assume we need a mind with sensors (eyes) to observe and gather data of this universe.

Let us assume that this mind can construct sensors (and computers) to extend the range of the human eye and mind. 

Now we have where we are today, humans using sensors and mind to observe and measure (in all forms) the universe. 

Now the kicker, scale. The human is of a particular size in relationship to all in the universe, so that this scale/relationship "creates a reality" that the mind understands as reality. 

Now what would happen if the human (and accompanying sensors and instruments) were shrunk down to the size of say, 50 microns (the height of the human, of course, standing erect). Now what happens when this "nano-human" kicks the stone that Johnson kicked? Well, I would think this nano-human would be hard pressed to see the stone, and more than likely, see a world as amazing as the deep-field views from Hubble, the "so-called" stone would be a maze of forces and molecules. Scale makes all the difference in the world of perception, of perceived reality. 

So now we enlarge the nano-human to the size of Pluto (that former planet, not the dog), and will this "mega-human" be able to see, let alone kick, Johnson's stone? Perhaps mega-human will have a mega-micro-electron microscope that will detect Johnson's stone, and I would think mega-human would then wonder, does this minute "Johnson's stone" really exist? 

Reality equals a mind with a point-of-view, sensors to feed the mind data, and the scale of the mind-observer in relation to the universe. Change any (mind/sensors/scale) and you create a new reality.

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