Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Wednesday, October 22, 2003day link 

 Manufacturing Reality
We seem to form our picture of reality based on a pattern matching algorithm. It doesn't really matter if you consider that a function of neurology or as a deeper metaphysical principle, the result it about the same.

If "enough" pieces of a reality are assembled and they are recognizable and familiar to us, we assume that the remaining details are probably also in place and that we're dealing with a "real" reality.

It is perfectly possible to fool people into accepting a scenario as reality that really isn't, if you put enough familiar elements into place. Most candid camera episodes are built on that kind of principle. An environment is set up so that it looks like you've been hired for a new job, and there's a real office and other employees and everything. And then a surprise element is thrown in, like the arrival of a stripping telegram, or the need to handle some impossible problem, like your desk falling apart. And the "employee" accepts it as real, because everything else looked right.

Or how about experiments that were done where a comedian managed to get up in front of a medical convention and give a speech in complete giberish without anybody noticing. Because he looked right, and sounded right, and even though the attendees where highly educated M.D.s they were also used to not having to understand all the details of what everybody was saying, and they were used to displaying a certain respect towards their peers. The Emperor's New Clothes. We're all trying to act normal, unwilling to admit we don't understand everything.

Conversely, we can also create an invisible reality, if it is constructed of elements that are so unfamiliar and unexpected that we just can't see it. A stage magician is usually quite adept at that. You don't see what he's really doing because you're not attuned to the patterns he's using.

It is said that when Captain Cook's ship first approached the island of Tahiti in the South Pacific, the inhabitants could literally not see it coming. Even when Cook and his crew got out and pointed out their ship to the Tahitians, and explained how they arrived, the natives couldn't see the ship at first. Because it was totally unfamiliar and they didn't have any belief that included the possibility that somebody could arrive from the ocean in a large sailing vessel.

In our modern society we tend to walk around believing that we're very rational and observant and we've got a pretty good grip on what is reality. Science tends to create that picture. But yet, science, however useful it is, is just a systematic way of agreeing on what a certain reality is, and how to get predictable results with it, and it tends to stay within the boundaries of those codified agreements, often ignoring anything that doesn't fit. Science only very cautiously and gradually will expand that area.

If you master these principles, and you have sufficient resources at your disposal, it is entirely possible to both create fake realities that large numbers of people will accept as the truth, as well as to create realities that are invisible to the general population.

Think for example of a black project that has access to sufficiently advanced principles and technologies that have been kept out of the public knowledge, out of scientific text books, and out out of the educational system. Say, teleportation or time travel. You don't even have to worry much about leaks, because they will pretty much be self-healing. If somebody puts out a story about secret time travel experiments, it is very easy to ridicule them, and you don't even have to do it yourself, as there will be plenty of respectable scientists and good citizens who'll stand up and say that it of course is impossible and complete nonsense. Somebody could even write a book with all the details and you could pick it up in the UFO section of your local bookstore, but it wouldn't sink into the public awareness as anything real.

You can keep very big things very secret if you just make sure that enough of the components and participants are far enough removed from what is normal and expected, and the facts are generally so hard to get to, and so hard to piece together, that the whole thing becomes invisible to most people.

Single secrets hidden by known people can fairly easily be discovered. But complex secrets, put together from many individually incredible elements, those are much harder to bring to the light.

Conversely, you can make fake stories appear very real and accepted if you just make sure that you provide enough components of normal reality. Like, pictures, sound, stories, information, and lots of it, and repetitive delivery of it. And that the people presenting it look like the right kind of people to do so. Reporters, scientists, government officials, etc.

I'm not really even talking about conspiracy theory particularly. A bigger view than that. Conspiracies are usually imagined as something the known and accepted players are doing when you aren't looking. Like, does George Bush and Tom Brokaw and Kenneth Lay and everybody else you see on the news have secret meetings where they plan out how they'll fool everybody? Well, maybe they do, but that's probably not where it is really at. Whatever specific things they do will quite likely come to light sooner or later and would be too hard to hide. What matters is not what they did, but what reality we end up accepting, and which realities we'll ignore. The real secret stuff would probably be going on in places you don't even know to look at, and would be done by people you've never heard of. And the people you are looking at on the news are quite likely thinking they're just doing the best they can with what's available to them. Because they probably live in a manufactured reality as well.
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