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The Analogue World

The thinking mind, whenever it operates, automatically creates a type of surrogate or ‘analogue’ world, which it then proceeds to treat it as if it were not a surrogate or analogue world. Every time we think, in other words, we create a virtual reality construct, or simulation, which we relate to as if it were actual reality and not a construct.

 

 

It’s not just that the thinking mind creates an analogue world when it operates – the creation of this analogue world, this simulation, is its operation. There is no other way for it to operate. This is what ‘thinking’ is…

 

 

The thing about this surrogate or analogue world, this simulation, is that it contains invisible flaws or contradictions in it. We act as if these flaws or contradictions weren’t there, but naturally enough that doesn’t stop us suffering the consequences further on down the line, even if we don’t understand where they come from. These snags, these ‘internal contradictions,’ cannot ever be ironed out from the system – they are inherent in the nature of the analogue, they are inherent in the nature of the surrogate reality. It is the fact that the analogue world is an analogue, that the surrogate reality is a surrogate that gives rise to these internal contradictions. There is no way to have an analogue world, a surrogate reality, without them! They are always going to be there.

 

 

 

Why this has to be the case is easy enough to show. A simulation, by its very nature, is deliberately simulated. There is in other words nothing in it that has not been put in it, nothing in it that has not been specified in advance. What this means is that there is no freedom (or leeway) in the system for there to be anything that has not been specifically written into it. Simulations are made up of rules – nothing happens in a simulation unless there is a rule telling it to happen and this is just another way of saying that there is no freedom in a simulation. This is something that is obvious enough, were we to reflect on it, and may not on this account seem worth making such a big deal of, but the undeniable truth that there is no freedom in a simulation has absolutely tremendous ramifications.

 

 

 

The question arises – why does the fact that there is (necessarily) no freedom in a simulation lead on to there being inescapable internal contradictions in the system? Surely – we might think – it ought to be possible to design a logical system which doesn’t have any internal contradictions in it. The whole beauty of logic is after all that it is self-consistent, which must (or so we might be forgiven for thinking) mean that it is most emphatically not ‘self-contradicting’. There is a problem here however in that whilst a logical system has to be self-consistent in order to be logical it can be (and in fact always is) self-contradictory at the same time. The reason this assertion probably seems odd is because the inherent paradoxicality in a logical system cannot be seen from within that same logical system, which means that the paradoxicality inherent in all logical statements is always going to be invisible to the rational mind…

 

 

 

A good way to argue the point (and get around built-in blindness of the rational mind) is to say that freedom is not a condition that can be bestowed upon systems, as a kind of special ‘added ingredient’, so to speak, but rather that freedom is all that there is. There isn’t actually anything else other than freedom, and it is an illusion when we think that there is. There isn’t anything else other than the unimpeded ‘flow’ of possibilities – there isn’t anything apart from this unobstructed flow and there never could be. This is like saying that there isn’t anything else other the Universal Set – the Universal Set being a mathematical term for the unlimited (and therefore undefined) set of all possibilities. The Universal Set wasn’t created (because it necessarily comes before everything else) and neither can it be destroyed (since both ‘creation’ and ‘destruction’ apply only to defined possibilities that exist within the Universal Set). The Universal Set facilitates all possibilities, all events (it facilitates the arising and dissolution of all possible elements, of all possible aggregates of elements) and is therefore not itself subject to ‘arising and dissolution’, ‘coming and going’…

 

 

 

The Universal Set is, we might say, the ‘Greater Context’ within which all other contexts exist. Using James Carse’s terminology, it is the Infinite Game within which all finite games are to be found. All closed contexts (all finite games) are therefore models or simulations that are run by the ‘Open System’ which is the Infinite Game. So the way the thinking mind operates is by blocking out all mention of the Open System, all mention of the Infinite Game, so that it can treat the ‘closed context’ which it is running as though it were the totality of everything that exists. This is the ‘mechanism’ of the rational mind – this is how it does what it does (i.e. this is how it turns what is only a dry abstract construct or simulation into ‘an actual believable world’ that we never look beyond).

 

 

 

This therefore equals ‘the substitution of the finite analogue for the genuine article’ or ‘the substitution of the closed context for the Open System’. This however is an illegitimate move! The analogue is fine as an analogue but not fine as the real thing. The simulation is fine as a simulation, but not fine as ‘the totality of everything’. The simulation is not fine as the totality of everything because it doesn’t contain any freedom, which is to say, it doesn’t contain any ‘unformatted space’! This is a bit like the situation where the writing on the page gets above itself and decides that it doesn’t need the page anymore, and so votes to abolish it! Instead of having the actual page there (which is the ‘unformatted space’) we could just write about there being a page there, and thereby create a simulated platform from which to run everything. This of course is what Jean Baudrillard calls the hyperreal, which is where we replace the actual territory with a map that describes the territory, or where we replace documentaries about the real world with documentaries about people making documentaries…

 

 

 

What we have done here is to create a loop, which works after a fashion, in a limited kind of a way, just so long as we don’t see that it is a loop. The loop ‘kind of works’ but it doesn’t really because there isn’t any way for anything new to happen and this makes the hyperreal into a parody of reality rather than a representation of it. This is where the snag or ‘internal contradiction’ comes in – the contradictoriness comes about as a result of the way in which the virtual analogue of freedom has replaced the genuine article, when it is not actually capable of doing the job. ‘Closed’ can mimic ‘open’ by posting lots of signs around the place marked ‘open’; it can pass itself off as ‘open’ by repackaging and re-branding everything in sight on a full-time basis. ‘Closed’ can simulate ‘open’ by creating innumerable ‘virtual doorways’ but none of this window dressing can ever alter the nature of the actual underlying situation. The actual situation is that we are caught up in a loop, caught up in a pocket of ‘recycled time’ (so to speak) and this inherent redundancy manifests itself in terms of the internal contradictions that we have been talking about.

 

 

 

This might sound rather vague, but it isn’t. A self-contradiction is a self-contradiction and this is a very precise sort of thing – it is in fact a mathematically precise sort of a thing!  Something appears to be one thing but then (perhaps later on) it shows itself to be the exact opposite thing. We think there was a big YES, but actually it was a big NO pretending to be a YES. We think the directions say “Take a LEFT” but really they say “Take a RIGHT”. We think the traffic lights are telling us to GO but really they’re telling us to STOP. We think we’re climbing UP the ladder but really we’re climbing DOWN

 

 

 

If it happened to be the case that the reality which we were operating within was a ‘non self-contradictory’ reality then this would be a very different situation indeed – in this case we would have the space (or ‘leeway’) to actually move, to actually get somewhere. But we DON’T have this space, this leeway, because we are living in a closed analogue (or ‘version’) of reality and the closed analogue (or ‘version’) of reality doesn’t have any freedom in it. This is why everything is self-contradictory, or ‘paradoxical’. There is no space – there is no space because Yes equals NO, because LEFT equals RIGHT, because GO equals STOP, because UP equals DOWN.

 

 

 

Jung says that the way in which the rational intellect works is by ‘separating the opposites’. This might sound rather odd because we are very much inclined to think that the opposites already are very well separated by virtue of the fact that they are opposites! But the reason we are under the impression that the opposites are already intrinsically separate from each other is because the rational intellect has already done its work of separating them. We never get to see the situation that prevails before the rational mind performs this action – it is kept behind a thick curtain. It is unknown to us, impenetrable to us, incomprehensible to us…

 

 

 

The essential ‘action’ of the rational intellect is therefore to separate [+] from [-]. Actually, PLUS and MINUS can’t be separated, any more than (as Alan Watts says) buying can be separated from selling. I can’t buy something unless someone else – at the same time – sells it! As soon as I separate PLUS from MINUS this creates two directions to go in, the ‘positive’ direction and the ‘negative’ one. The former takes us towards our goal, the latter further away. We have the freedom, the leeway, to go one way or the other! But this is the thing – this is the very thing that we have been talking about. By splitting apart the opposites we seem to have created two directions (which gives us one definite degree of freedom, the freedom to go one way or the other) but really there aren’t two directions at all. There aren’t two directions at all because, as Heraclitus points out, ‘the road up and the road down are one and the same’.

 

 

 

It’s all just the one thing, but we adopt the convention that it is two things. The ‘road’ that goes from [+] to [-] is of course a geometrical straight line, which is to say, it is the graphical extrapolation of a linear equation. An ‘equation’ is a quintessentially static kind of a thing. If we take a simple example of a linear equation such as X = 2Y + 1 then at every single point on the line the numerical value of ‘X’ is going to be equal to the numerical value of ‘2Y + 1’. It’s always going to be the same story. Obviously this is going to be the case, the straight line equals ‘X = 2Y + 1’ – the line and the equation are the same thing. But what this means is that the straight line doesn’t ever go anywhere other than itself, so going in the one direction isn’t any different from going in the other. It’s all just the same thing and so there’s no such thing as genuinely meaningful ‘movement’ on this line. ‘Movement from one known to another is not movement’, as Krishnamurti says. The straight line, in our conventional way of thinking, separates the highest possible (positive) numerical value at one end from the lowest possible (negative) numerical value at the other, but actually the two values (positive and negative) are not separate at all! They are ‘one and the same thing’…

 

 

 

When the analogue world which is created by separating [+] from [-] is ‘running well’ – so to speak – then we can happily keep on moving in the positive direction without having intimation whatsoever that a reversal is taking place. It’s all ‘glorious progress’, in other words, even if we are always travelling on the same loop, even if we are always cycling around the same old pocket of recycled time. So all is well – or at least, all is virtually well. But what inevitably happens is that the ‘shine wears off’. The inflationary currency which we are utilizing starts to visibly lose its value. Actually, the currency never had any value in the first place really because it was printed in large quantities without any genuine wealth to back it up, but it nevertheless takes a while for this lack of value to show itself. The economy responds well in the first instance to the massive input of freshly-printed currency but it doesn’t take long before any apparent gains that seem to have been made are reversed. We have to keep on printing banknotes of ever-increasing denominations, but the process of inflationary devaluation sets in just as soon as the freshly-minted currency hits the streets.

 

 

 

In the same way, the pocket (or bubble) of ‘recycled time’ is inevitably bound to devalue since it too is ‘based on nothing’. The only ‘real wealth’ is to be found in reality, not the simulation, and so when we cut our ties with reality and ‘go it alone’ in the analogue world progressive and irreversible impoverishment is going to set in right from the very beginning of our adventure. ‘The only way is down’, in other words – right from the very first moment when we created the analogue world and proceeded to take up full-time residence in it…

 

 

 

The on-going process of irreversible impoverishment and degradation (which is really the mental equivalent of the Second Law of Thermodynamics which states that the entropy of all closed systems is bound to increase) can show itself in various ways. In general way we can say that the way in which the progressive impoverishment or degradation of the analogue world shows itself is through neurotic suffering. We experience and ever-increasing sense of frustration and despair with regard to the realization of our hopes and desires, which never seem to properly pan out.  Our hopes and dreams never seem to come true and disappointment seems to be a dominant theme in our lives. There is no feeling of ever getting a ‘kick’ or a ‘buzz’ out of what we’re doing – it is as if no real positive outcomes ever seem to come our way anymore. Possibly we have a sense of futility with regard to our daily activities, or perhaps we suffer from anxious feelings with regard to our ability to carry these activities out correctly. We might feel that we are struggling hard but at the same time never really getting anywhere – so that we keep on finding ourselves ‘back at square one’ no matter how much effort we put into moving ahead. This is what might be called ‘the Groundhog Day effect! All of this is very well known neurotic territory.

 

 

 

Following on from the intensification of feelings of frustration and futility, the feeling that all roads are blocked and all doors closed, or the sense that all progress gets to be reversed just as soon as we think we might be getting somewhere, there is another type of neurotic suffering too – a sense of ennui, a sense of ‘meaninglessness’ or ‘hollowness’ to our experiences. It may be the case that we go straight into this sense of ennui without going through the anxiety or feelings of not ‘getting anywhere in life’ – we might just notice that as the years go by life progressively loses its flavour, like a lump of tired old chewing gum that has been masticated far too many times, and this is neurotic suffering too…

 

 

 

It may also be the case that we ‘keep on down-sizing without knowing that we are down-sizing’. Life progressively loses its flavour, but we don’t notice because the change has been so gradual, so insidious. Everything becomes terribly dull, terribly predictable, but we don’t notice because we don’t know any different. We have adapted to the dullness so that we don’t really realize just how dull it is! It could be the case that the vividness and zest and wonder is lost from life, but we never notice it going because we have simply fallen asleep! This too is a manifestation of mental entropy, only in this case it could be pointed out that there doesn’t seem to be any actual suffering going on – none that we are aware of, at any rate. This anaesthesia can only last so long, however. Eventually, maybe only at the very end of our lives, the pain that comes with the realization that we have gone down a dead-end, that we have ended up in a complete cul-de-sac, will make itself known to us. There is no way – in the end – that we can avoid the pain that comes with the awareness that we have somehow ‘taken a wrong turn’ somewhere along the way and ended up in a sterile ‘analogue world’.

 

 

 

And yet this pain is also what – in the end – liberates us, and returns us to reality. The pain belongs to reality, after all – not to the anaesthetized existence of the analogue world. The neurotic pain is the awakener. ‘…to know illusion is to depart from it, as the Buddha says in the Sutra of Complete Enlightenment. Equally, we could say that ‘to know the analogue world to be the analogue world is to depart from it’… This however just happens to be something that we are very much averse to knowing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Nick Williams

Nick Williams works and writes in the field of mental health and is particularly interested in non-equilibrium states of consciousness, which are states of mind that cannot be validated by standardized experiments or by reference to any formal theoretical perspective.

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