Tuesday, 4 March 2014


Hacking the real world.


I once had a friend that had a stereo arch. That is, a stereo shaped like an arch, with the electronics housed at the keystone. This stereo had a remote control, a remote control which had disappearing buttons. I would use it to listen to stuff if I was reading in the dining room and occasionally, with no discernable frequency, a couple of the buttons would disappear. I couldn’t work out what was going on, but when I was sharing a joint with this friend on his back doorstep, I would ponder whether I could be jumping back and forth between dimensions where the only discernable difference was that this remote control was slightly different.

Could this be the same for everyone, could reality not be as fixed as we have always thought, like Einstein proved is true of time, but we drift through it as on a gentle current, things imperceptibly changing of such a low level that most of the time we don’t even notice? Maybe a girl born Mai in China is now born Mia, or there is a slightly different taste to a brand of cola you don’t drink. And even when something like a changing remote control design or a fact you know to be incontrovertible being proven to be wrong comes along, your reality compensating brain does it job and rationalises what it sees. It is a brain function that Derren Brown exploits in his act all the time. What, I wondered, if we were all adrift in a reality sea, reality being a dimension, like space and time, each living in a separate world, each wondering why anyone would want to live the way they do. In a Christian’s world, God absolutely exists, it is obvious, why hasn’t everyone given themselves to Jesus? Inversely, for an Atheist there is absolutely no god. Likewise, to the militant Christian, abortion and contraception and homosexuality are immoral practices which must be stamped out, because in their reality it would not seem anything unusual to regard personal freedoms as irrelevant and counter to God’s will. By the same token, it would explain why a child molester could serially behave in that manner despite the obvious moral objections. The mentally ill could also be regarded as persons very far from the societal mean, but we have got very good at detecting them. It would explain a lot of things as a matter of fact.

Then one day I was reading at the dining table, fiddling with the remote in my left hand when I felt it split. I looked up to discover the back had come off. The remote was reversible! One side had a remote for the radio, the other side was for the CD, which slid into its case. In between visits, my mate had been using the radio or the CD player and changed the remote as required.

So I had a smoke and wondered, why haven’t I noticed that before? Was the solution so obvious or did I drift into a third reality, a reality my brain sought out to rationalise the disparity between the first two? Had the remote in fact started out as two remotes in separate realities, before I had drifted on a channel between the two, resolving into a rather elegant solution? And does it matter? Real or merely philosophical, this is a good model of the world in which we live. People believe in gods, people believe in Barrack Obama, or think Robbie Williams has talent or that Gladiator is the greatest movie ever made, or that Bob Dylan can sing.

And as people believe in things, they also disbelieve, disbelieve in higher powers, in the Moon landings, or that Diana’s crash was an accident, or that Peter Serafinowicz was the voice of Darth Maul. There is no fixed reality, because reality is only a matter of our perception of it. If we decide once again that to hang, draw and quarter prisoners is the way to go then that will be the norm. Global warming only becomes a reality if enough people believe, otherwise it is nothing more than a couple of words strung together. Human individuality has progressed at too quick a pace in recent history for us to stop and take account of it all, we still cling to monorealisms, where there is but one God that has certain rules about what may and may not been done with one very happy ending for those who follow the rules and a hellishly definitive ending for those who disobey.

My stories, my philosophy looks to establish that we all generate our own localised reality, all sitting spatially and temporally next to each other, all vying for domination, which is why we feel the need to invent cyber space and the information superhighway in which to house all these disparate ideologies. We don’t get anywhere because we have yet to begin to try and make all the ideas interact, to find common ground with others, even if only on one issue. We could easily manipulate society to meet all expectations by adding new strata to the visible world, strata which may for instance, sometime in the future, closet away fascists in their own little bits of heaven. Like sending the BNP or EDL to the Isle of Man and telling them there was a virus which wiped out humanity, leaving only them alive. That would suit them.

Yet these realities, these thoughts, they push together, tensing space. And if enough of them push together, as education increases, as the superhighway establishes more and more connections, as mass media ideas like those of Fox and Disney and Tesco and Obama and Cheney and Simon Cowell and fair-trade, as well as  myriad others, these squash together until a rift forms and very much like a hole in a pressurised airplane cabin, anyone who isn’t anchored to the plane gets sucked out. These ideas fascinate me, which is why I write about them. Who knows what reality really is. Maybe one day we’ll work it out. But probably not.

Get it done.

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