12 Dec

are omniscience and consciousness compatible?

This may be rubbish, so if you’re not into “what if” scenarios, then go somewhere else.

I was thinking of the difference between these two sentences:

I could never grow tired of watching that.

If I’ve seen that once, I’ve seen it a thousand times.

Naturally, my mind started ticking, and I started pushing the above to extremes. It’s obvious from experience that everything gets a little boring after time, even things you are currently interested in. Eventually, you lose interest in these things, as there is nothing new to be learned from them.

For example, I’m a fan of Nine Inch Nails, and have been since their 1988 (IIRC) album Pretty Hate Machine. However, I don’t enjoy listening to the album as much now as I used to – after 16 years of listening, the novelty is wearing thin. If you take that to extremes, in fifty years, I will only listen to it one every few years, and in a thousand years, I’d probably be satisfied with just the memory of it.

Anyway – what I’m getting at is that all things eventually fade into boredom – be it after one experience of it, or a thousand.

Now, consider what happens if you are omniscient, or you have an enormously long lifespan and a perfect memory. Everything you, or anyone else does will have consequences that you can predict from past experiences. There will be no novelty in anything, as you will have experienced everything, or will already know what will happen as a consequence of every action that is taken.

So – I was considering that scenario, and how it might affect a conscious person. I came to the conclusion that any conscious person, after being subjected to perfect memory for a long time, or omniscience for any time at all, will lose sense of “self” – as every action and reaction will be totally predictable, there will be no sense of free will, and so the person will become a mere actor in a dream-like drama. A serious consequence of this is that the person will not have the power to consciously make a decision. This person will always know which path to take in all eventualities, so there will be no thought involved – just memory.

What this means to the average human is not much, at the moment, but in the future, when long lives are commonplace, and memories are much improved, it may become a problem.

I predict that a solution that will become very popular in those days will be total-submersion games, where the person loses all memory of “reality”, and lives a life from beginning to end in a virtul reality. This is ominous, really, as there is no real way to prove that this is not already taking place at this moment – how can you tell that you are just who you think you are, and that once you die, you will not awake into a “higher” reality with memories of another life? It’s an interesting thought… Obviously, this is similar to that described by the Matrix films, but that doesn’t make it any less possible.

This idea also would allow for the cuckoo ideas such as regression (imperfect removal of previous memories), after-life experiences (waking up and deciding to continue the “game” just a bit more), rebirth (obvious), and even more outlandish ideas such as angels (“messengers” from reality) and aliens (who says you have to play a human?).

Ignoring the above paragraph, consider what it might also mean for religion – if an omniscient being cannot make conscious decisions, then it is impossible for the following two statements to be true at the same time:

  • God created the universe.
  • God is omniscient.

Of course, I’m biased, in that I don’t believe in an ultimate creator of the universe, but I think it’s interesting to play thought games where everything is at least possible, even if improbable.

Then again, it does support the idea that the universe was created by an unconscious being – ie: itself…

Feel free to laugh now.