In Borges’ Library of Babel, the titular library contains the books from all universes, thoughts, and dreams. Everything that ever could be is there. And among the many marvels described are maps that were made so well that eventually they perfectly emulated the place they were supposed to represent. And so do we continue forward with our endeavors into Virtual Reality. Particularly because of our capacity to continually improve our representations of the world–all the way from radio, through black and white television, to full scale, high-depth, dramatic story telling on HBO.

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Our representations are getting closer and closer to the real thing in terms of appearance and feel. But when virtual reality catches up, as it is getting closer and closer to doing, what ought this to teach us about human teleology? If we can create the exact same game we are already in, why would we not simply live better within this world now rather than spend our time longing after a pretend world in which we act in essentially the same way we could act in this one?

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So, is the goal of living within this reality–which is perhaps given away from the verb in the first clause–to represent reality as best we can through images, sounds, and words and whatever other symbols we can come up with? Well, let me ask you this: if we were to perfectly simulate the reality in which we live, under that notion, what then would be the purpose of living within the simulated reality? What goal would we pursue? Of course if representation were the key, then we would attempt to create a representation of the simulated reality within the simulated reality we had already created and so on ad infinitem. Because of this infinite regress, one immediately notices that the point of existence within reality is not simply to represent reality, but to live within it. Otherwise, one is attempting the following action:

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Of course the image above is that of Zeno’s Paradox of Motion whereby an object which continually covers the relative measure of “half the distance” to an object never reaches it. This, like Achilles attempting to catch the tortoise, never results in contact because the motion of course is relative. If one only ever covers half the distance, the relationship of distance between archer and target, or subject and object is always maintained, of course. Such is the problem with representations of reality. As they come from a subject existent within reality, the very relationship between the subject and the object will always be expressed in the subjective representation of the object, and therefore will always be subjective, or “not totally objective.” This is also expressed quite poignantly by the basic tenet of Quantum Mechanics: by perceiving an event, one changes the event.

It has therefore been shown that one cannot perfectly represent reality, and in fact, even if one could, there would be no point, for the function of living within reality is to understand it, not to create one’s own simulated version of it. For in creating one’s own reality, one would then have to live within it, like Milton’s Satan, so keen to create his own Pandaemonium. Better to serve in heaven or to rule in hell?

 

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