Choose Your Language

Friday, 12 February 2010

The Infinite & Destiny

This is a very long and deep topic that I hope will raise some interest. I have been working on the module, but as this topic turned out so long, I will leave normal module updates for next week.

I considered the title, "What Inspires You?" for the blog this week, but hoped the one I finally chose may also inspire some discussion, as it is something that I thought builders of modules may have a shared interest in, even if it is only subconsciously. Outside links to different points raised are provided at the end of this post.

It was after I watched a Horizon programme, entitled "To Infinity and Beyond" that I was reminded of my own interest in the subject. For myself, coming from both a background of science and being a Christian, I look at this topic from different viewpoints - and if I haven't bored you already (and you forgive my reference to God now and then), I hope to share some of my own thoughts on the topic and would be interested to hear some of yours. However, if something else inspires you to write your mod, then do let me know that as well, as I am always interested in what drives fellow modders to write what they do.

The Complete Works Of Monkeyspeare

Some of you may already be familiar with the idea that given enough time and enough monkeys who would continuously tap away at a typewriter, that eventually, purely by chance, one of them would manage to type out the complete works of Shakespeare. So, if the universe is infinite, as many believe, then this idea, as crazy as it sounds, becomes a certainty. This idea can be extrapolated further to the point that eventually a monkey would manage to type out every word that has ever been written if Time is truly infinite.

The above assumes an eventual culmination of order of events that give forth a meaning. I then reasoned, using the same argument, that given enough time (infinity), it is not unreasonable to consider that something has to eventually come together in such an order that "random" actions are no longer random, but actually ordered in such a way to form consciousness. Indeed, on the face of it, it would appear I may be arguing the "evolution" theory, but I am not for reasons that will follow.

Nothing Is Perfect Forever

The above sub-title may appear straightforward when first read. However, it is actually ambiguous and its ambiguity is quite challenging. For instance, we could read it that we imply any "something" is always open to imperfection. However, it could also be read to mean that "nothing" is actually something that is perfect forever. It is saying that something is both perfect and imperfect at the same time, subject to its reader's interpretation. Why is this so important? I believe it is for two reasons: Firstly, if we believe God is perfect in everything He does (which the bible teaches), then the latter supports this point. Secondly, if nothing is actually "something", then I believe the idea of there being "nothing" is actually an illusion and a man-made interpretation of something that we cannot fathom or understand. In other words, there is no such thing as "nothing". While it is natural and correct for man to assume a duality in many things, in the subject of existence (and especially when considering infinity) there is no such thing as "nothing" as an opposite to "something". In other words, infinity exists beyond our own understanding of time and space.

Within The Mind

Even trying to grasp the concept of the infinite is mind-blowing. I consider that to try to think of infinity in some ways has to be a matter of continuous thought. Infinity is so alien to our thinking in terms of its size, that to think of it at all requires us to have an endless imagination - and in this sense, God has made us like this. In this sense, we have been made in His image (Genesis 1 v 5), in that we too have the ability to think in an unlimited time and space within our own minds. In everybody's ability to think and imagine, in this sense we also have the ability to perceive the infinite.

This is where we may find a modder can, perhaps, begin to have a common interest in the infinite, as every good modder must use and stretch their imagination into new thoughts and ideas to come up with a new adventure. In a much lesser way than God, they use their infinite mind to help create and develop an idea into a story, which hopefully becomes a module, in which other players can play and see the modders world come to life. It is an old cliché, but is quite true to say that DMs or mod builders are the "gods of their worlds".

This thought opens up another interesting pathway in our discussion of the infinite: Does the module we build, or the story we tell, ever genuinely have anything new or inspired? There is a belief that there are only so many fundamental origins for a story and that each "new" story is just another permutation of one of the fundamental stories with slight alterations. (If someone is able to find a source for this belief, please let me know and I will update this blog.) Even in the light of this "belief", I do not want to undermine the vision someone has of a creation within their mind's eye. For instance, it is often said that a sculptor will "see" the final statue they will eventually create in the rock they look at, even before they have sculpted it. The question I am trying to ask here is at what point does something become real? Is even a thought real?

The question of reality or what is considered reality is a difficult thing to grasp when considering the infinite. After all, what we consider reality in the fullness of infinity would be considered almost a "nothing" if we had not already come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as "nothing". However, if we consider our reality in the light of God, then we could say (with almost certainty in an infinite reality) that we are Within The Mind of God!

I want to take a step back for a moment and reiterate this point. The reason I believe we cannot understand, comprehend or imagine anything beyond the infinite is because we are incapable of understanding fully what God's intentions for us are. In the same way, one person cannot fathom the limits of vision of another person; it is impossible for any person to out-imagine another. In this sense, we are infinite! And if we believe something could be considered "real" by words alone, then we can also create a reality out of nothing actually physical by speaking a story. Consider any favourite story. For example, if I was to ask you who is it that swings through trees on vines, has a companion called Jane and lives in a jungle, I suspect most of you are able to call to mind Tarzan. Yet, Tarzan is a fictional character who we say "does not exist". My argument is that in the sense of the infinite, he does exist. We know he exists because we are able to think about him. He is a fictional creation.

Substance In The Design

If we can agree that something can be "real" in a person's mind's eye, but at this stage are in disagreement about the substance of reality, then let us also consider the following: If anything that is possible can happen in an infinite universe, then anything that we can imagine as possible should eventually become a reality. It may take an unimaginable period of time (or maybe a continuous thought on the infinite) before it happened, but what does that matter in an infinite universe? We know there is no such thing as "nothing" from both argument and just by looking around us. Therefore, the building blocks for everything that is potentially possible already exists, and is available from all the particles of energy there are in an infinite universe. And if one argues that that is impossible, then ask yourself how did we come into existence ourselves? The particles had to eventually come together in such a way to form us, whether by accident or design. My typing this and you reading it, and having the ability to say, "I think, therefore I am" is all the proof you need to acknowledge your own existence. The only alternative is to argue that we don't actually exist and that we are the result of one infinite course (of many infinite paths) that just happens to be able to maintain a span of coherent thought over many thousands of years to be able to acknowledge a history and an understanding of Time in the first place. However, whichever belief you have, the result is we do at least acknowledge that we are cognitive beings in one sense or another.

What About Destiny Then?

To answer this question, we also have to consider the argument of whether we have freewill or if everything is pre-destined? This is such a big topic, but I will try to comment on it in the light of the infinite and all that I have currently discussed. I would also like to use the analogy of a player playing in the module of a fellow builder. (I hope nobody takes offence at my analogy when referring to God in such a way.) Let me start by asking the question, "How much freewill does a player have inside a module?" I have discussed this before (as I am sure many of you have), but I hope that all will see that the answer is actually very little. The player is bound by the universe as created by the mod builder. If the builder had created only one area, then the player would be bound to that single area, with no choice about going to another place. In the same way, but with certainly more potential paths, God has created a universe in which we may move about (according to our abilities), but will eventually meet with the same end: death! In this sense, freewill is only an illusion subject to Time and a belief that we are in control of our own destiny. By saying this, I am not condoning we do nothing but sit back and wait for destiny to take its toll on us (although if that is one's destiny, it would happen anyway), but instead, asking one to recognise that we are subject to the laws (code) and limitations that the designer of the world has placed upon us.

One may argue that we have freewill to make choices during this time. To admit this, however, we also have to admit that we are more than a simple result of chance creation within the infinite. There comes a point in the argument when we have to decide whether everything we do is the result of a chance happening of existence as it runs its course with us in it, or we are existing within the design of some greater being, like God. If we believe it is all a matter of chance, then the same argument actually leaves no room for any real existence or manifest inspiration within ourselves. Chance creation would not leave any room for genuine creation of any thought. Everybody's thoughts would be existing on a "good luck run" of particles and energy just happening to flow in the right way for this existence of the universe to take place as we now live. The opposite argument, however, that we are the result of design, defends our own thought processes as being something more than a chance run. This argument says that our own thoughts are important as new design and that we are truly being creative just as we were first created.

Let me take this final point to ask a question using my "infinite" imagination to try to grasp some of the truly infinite, which we know is impossible, but is obviously destined to be: Where does all this lead to? Well, we can either believe we are following the path of chance, in which case, as I have already discussed, ones destiny is already set as your life is already following its path for this infinite road. Or, we can believe there is a God with a design in mind. Interestingly enough, however, this argument also points to a pre-destined road, with one exception: God is in control of your destiny rather than nobody.

If we believe an artist can perceive something before it is created, and we also believe God is an artist, then we can easily believe that God could have perceived us (made us real) in His mind (the Infinite) even before we were made substance (using the particles of energy that have always been - assuming there is no such thing as nothing). Life and existence is then God's creation bound by the laws He wants. In the process of its building to perfection, some parts will be forged into His design while other parts will be perfectly removed and discarded. In much the same way a story writer or a modder will rewrite some sections of their book or module to make it as "perfect" as they can, God does the same with His creation but to absolute perfection and without any possibility of error.

With infinity as His backdrop and eternity as His time schedule, every moment of life could be taking Him unimaginable amounts of time to work. Just because we perceive time as a constantly flowing thing, it does not mean that God has not rested many times during His continued design for us. Imagine the passing of time like watching a video that God is making. If we were the actors in the video only conscious of the story being told, then we would never be able to understand the idea of more time passing outside of us while God paused in His work (paused the video) and did more work before un-pausing the action for more of the life story to continue. To us, the actors inside the video, life would be continuously flowing, but to God, He may have taken an infinite amount of time to perfect one scene. (How many hours does creating a cutscene take to make compared to when it's played in the game?)

One Of Many

Throughout this blog I have been discussing only one infinite universe and one destiny. There are mathematical theories now, however, that suggest our infinite universe is just one of many. It suggests that there are an infinite number of infinite universes. When we consider this, then maybe we are reaching the limit of our imagination, because to suggest we are able to think about more than one infinite universe at a time almost becomes an absurdity if we consider our imagination to be like a single infinite process itself. What it does suggest, however, is that no matter how much we try to think about the infinite, we can never truly grasp what the infinite beyond us is, perhaps much in the same way we are unable to say when we have reached the limit of our own imagination.

Permanent Consciousness

My conclusion to all this, no matter what you believe, is that we are all subject to a permanent consciousness. Or, to put it another way, in an infinite universe, it is impossible to ever be in a state of permanent unconsciousness, as eventually, either by chance or by design (God), we will return to being conscious just as we are now. After all, it has happened once already! You are alive now! In an infinite universe, it can happen an infinite number of times, even to the point where you have retained memories. The extreme amount of time that passes between such manifestations of your consciousness will mean nothing more than a video on a brief pause when considering infinity. One minute you will be alive, the next minute dead, and in the blink of an eye, conscious again. You cannot ever be aware of being non-existent! You can only ever be conscious.

Now, if we are to assume the possibility of this in an infinite universe, it becomes a certainty. Only the existence of God will have any meaning to the result of a rebirth if it is part of His design. There is even the argument that God MUST exist in an infinite universe, which is, of course, my own belief. I don't think living eternally is ever in question if considered mathematically. The question is if there is any meaning to it all.

Some may argue that even universes eventually die or return to such a low energy state that they eventually cease to exist. Well, let us consider this in the first place, where traditional science has us believe in a "Big Bang Theory", and I stress that it is only a theory. Even in this theory, they suggest everything that exists today came from "nothing". As I started this debate, I do not believe it came from nothing, but came from God's Mind. The moment God thought about it, creation began. And no matter what you believe, it comes down to the same argument, if it can happen once, then it can happen again!

For those that have not yet seen The Matrix trilogy of films, then I recommend you do. They help you to imagine some of the things I am trying to say, and while I obviously do not subscribe to the fact that we are in a simulated reality created by sentient beings, I do sympathise with the overall concept of a reality designed by a greater sentient being for His own purpose. If we believe in the Bible, then we know the world (and universe) was created by God out of love. The greater part of the mystery of creation (once we die) we must wait and see, although I believe we are given an insight of what to expect through the Bible.

Outside Links:

Horizon: Infinity & Beyond
The Matrix
Simulated Reality


Anonymous said...

Very interesting post. I had never heard of the "chance is certain in infinity" argument before, and it does make sense.

I didn't quite understand the there is no "nothing" argument though. You're saying that if nothing (not) existed, then it would be perfect forever, which is impossible by your above theory?

Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts. That's much to think about.

Amraphael said...

Interesting. And I find it very good that there are people like you thinking about things like this, besides thinking of starting war, Top Model, Eurovision Song Contest and how to eat our planets resources in the most ineffective and profitable way.

In my world the God-word has no meaning as in there would be an infinite numbers of people believing in an infinite numbers of Gods in those infinite universes. There's a good chance that there would be a really large numbers beings that would qualify to the definition of a God too. I believe that the cause or mechanism of infinity is just a side-effect of something that's impossible to ever know. Like learning what's written on a certain page of a book by listening to the sound of the book being put in the bookshelf. And the author has no chance to exactly know how it will sound when thinking about his story. Okay, we can call the effect God if we wish but it makes no sense to interact with it as interpretation of whats on that page only will cause disputes, war and oppression of the weak and vulnerable. But that's another discussion.

Oh, I really love thinking about things that make my brain hurt and it is good to hear other peoples ideas. Thanks for sharing Lance.

I've tried to solve the light models problem this week but it fails. I also find the same problem with the original torch sometimes. Arrggh

dgraf said...

Lance - enjoyed the blog, and it brought back many memories. Have to share a story (true). In a "former" life I was a seminary student. We had a student in our 3rd year class on theology who seemed more interested in debate than in learning. Every time he had a chance he would push the discussion toward the topic of free will vs. predestination (which he was obviously passionately against). This went on for most of the semester until one day when he asked the professor "you mean to tell me that if I go out into the street and jump in front of a bus that is god's will"? With a sly grin the professor responded - "tell you what John - rather than speculate - I would be glad to excuse you so that you can go out right now and put that idea to the test - then report back to class what you have learned".

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Everyone,

I'm glad the post inspired some thought and comments. I was worried I might have scared everybody off. :)

ANON: I tried to use the phrase as an introduction to the idea that there cannot be such a thing as "nothing". It was my attempt at a play on words that may not have come off that well, while at the same time trying to support the fact that although what we see may appear "imperfect" at times, that it is actually "perfect" in the sense of exactly what is meant to be! ;)

AMRAPHAEL: My wife says I think about it too much at times. ;) I think what you call the "side-effect" is what I was trying to say was "the mind of God". The bit we do not "know" in the fullest sense is "God", but we see the effect of His mind via such things as the infinite, which is still something we have problems understanding, even if we can imagine it within our own minds. It's good to know I am not the only one who likes to look into this more closely. LIGHTS: Not the original torch as well! Oh, that is a real shame. I am keeping the lights in though, because they add a great gaming element in my opinion.

DGRAF: LOL! :) Great story. It also sounds like you had a rather interesting class there if they were discussing Free will v Pre-destination. What class was it? And what was the conclusion of the discussion? I would love to know. :)


Eguintir Eligard said...

I was going to comment earlier but the post is so long I figured I might forget my points but I'll attempt this, lets just hope I have the order right.

About the random monkeys and actions forming a consciousness, not sure if I know what is being talked about, but I do not believe that you, me and everyone else are anything but a set of scripts. This ties in with destiny vs free will (well thats not how your ordered them but...).

Basically, I think we are scripts responding to billions of variables, most of which are those which make up our biology, and those of the actions and events around us. Your posts were kind of giving me a headache to follow and hopefully I can use examples here so I dont give myself one. Oh and furthermore, this also ties in with the "the universe is random particles and infinite, and they will form anything because there is infinite time" bit.

We are simply scripts, responding to variables. And as for the random particles, science (as young as ours is) more or less states that NOTHING is random. Everything happens because particles were on a predetermined course based on gravity and collisions with other particles.

I extend that to the higher level procedure of humans. Here's my example for all of you:

#1 Not yet, but prepare to think of an animal
#2 Remember you have free will, so feel free to go a little crazy, pick something you normally don't if you feel inclined
#3 Remember though, once something happens, it is history and cannot be undone
#4 ok go ahead and pick

You picked your animal, lets say it was a zebra. You think you chose freely, and it felt like you dide because you considered the factors you wanted, before you chose.

Well it's done now, and no matter how free you think you are, you chose zebra, and its done forever. It's scripted.

I submit to you that history isn't the only thing scripted, the future is as well. It's the whole the "world is a stage" bit from shakespeare. We're all actors, but instead of being given lines we are given constants (I almost said variables, but then that would defeat my own point that nothing is random) that come at us. Then we reacted, as a collection of scripts.

I'll close with on very brief example analysis of a situation. You are at a restaurant and someone walks up and insults you. Your reaction, free will? Or

Your DNA
Your upbringing
Your personal history with confrontations
Your brain stem level vs your limibic system level (results of DNA)
The size of this person
The tone of this person
Your ability to perceive tone/intent
The near infinite memories you have of every social situation and the likely course of actions and reactions based on your personal experience

You decide now wether to laugh, shove them, call the manager over, ignore etc.

I submit for every "Free" and "random" thought, we can given enough time, calculate all the variables that caused it, none of which occured in a void.

In my campaign, which has been relatively light hearted philosophically, I am at the end adding an ongoing conversation that seems to blend well with a main companion. I am using it as a vehicel for my own thoughts that everyone is a follower of fate. Or are they? And when they appear to battle it, was it not their "Fate" to do that all along?

Hopefully I can make it stick well enough that it suits the campaign but use examples that arej't TOO high brow for the average person who will be bored or confused instead of pulled in by it.

Eguintir Eligard said...

Oh and some notes.

Based on my university intro to astronomy, we do NOT believe in an infinite universe, which it was stated above that we do. That class, at least, believes the universe is like a stretchy ball that gets more stretched out and thinner, rather then particles expanding into nothing, leaving gaps, and that it will reach a limit then re-compact into a ball like the big bang theory that started it. We also believe the amount of items(particles) in this ball was finite. Uncomprehensibly big, but finite. And the constant of gravity is such that it will expand and contract infinitely.

Also you mentioned (or maybe it was a commentor) about the universe entering a low energy state and ceasing to exist. That, scientifically can never occur because the constant of gravity is such that energy is never created or destroyed, and that the universe MUST snap back when it reaches its max size, and then explod again with equal force. Always equal = never loses anything.

Strangely enough, we do believe in the possibility of other dimensions/universes which we would assume could be infinite.

I myself believe a higher force created/oversees the universe. Science is good at telling us that it was just a solid, tiny sphere of a near infinite (but finite amount of particles) that expanded. Well I submit to science, who/what put those particles there to begin with, and for that, they have no answer. ;)

Eguintir Eligard said...

This topic has really given me verbally diarhea but it touched on somethings I was actually thinking of putting into a campaign series. Specifically this thought of dying and reawakening and not knowing your were not existing.

I had an idea for a campaign series (several campaigns) where in a more "one god of good" type setting, although Im sure Lathander would work fine, you are anything from a regular joe to a great king. you lived your life from birth till death and when you died you wake up in heaven.

Lathander lets say, is there, and says "Hey, that was quite a nap."

As always you wake up in heaven and the memories of all your other lives flood back and you remember. Every time you "live" on earth, its really just a projection of your spirit from heaven. Lathander sends you to faerun when an area needs a hero to save them. And your death coincides with when he needs you back in heaven. If he needs you really quickly, your death could be quite ill fated, such as a brick falling off a house and hitting you.

And then my campaign series would be a set of totally unique adventures, where each time you die at the end, and wake up with Lathander or one of his generals and you recall everything, and hang out in heaven for a day. Then you await your next "nap" when you go back to earth and live a full life. The lives seem long when you live them, but when you wake up they somehow seem like seconds, as any dream does.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Eguintir,

In your first post, it sounds like you agree with me that there is no such thing as "freewill", and that everything is "destined" - or "scripted" to use your own word. :)

Reference your second post, I understand the concept of a hugely vast "stretchy" universe, but it still begs the question that it must be stretching into something. My point is that it is not "nothing" that the universe is stretching into, but part of the infinite, which I refer to as the Mind of God.

The "low energy state" was something I was referring to from another program that proposed the idea that a universe (in this way) could theorhtically come to an end, which, I hasten to add, I do not agree with. My argument was that there never was and never will be an absolute "nothing", because I believe in an infinite beyond our own understanding of an "infinite" or even "finite" universe.

And it sounds like what you describe as "other dimensions" is exactly what I am saying about the Mind of God. It is something beyond our understanding of infinite, even in an astronomical sense, and which you agree "could be infinite".

And its good to read that you too believe in a "higher force" as creating the universe rather than it being all down to chance. :)

In your third post you reiterate the exact emphasis I was making with respect to "permanent consciousness" (dying, reawakening and not knowing you were not existing), so I am glad I am not the only one with that thought process.

Your example reminds me of a TNG Star Trek episode, I think called "The Inner Light", which touched on this very idea. A lifetime taking place in a mtter of seconds "dreaming".

It all makes you wonder when we are going to "wake up" from our current stream of consciousness and what we will think then. :)


Eguintir Eligard said...

Well if it was anything like my dream "missions from Lathander" idea, when you go to the mortal coil, you remember nothing of heaven or previous lives(if you did it would ruin the experience of being human) and then wake up and remember it all and add the experience to your resume :)

PS there was also a DS9 episode I believe, where Obrien spent a few seconds in a "punishment" complex where they implanted a lifetime of prison memories but it only took a few seconds.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Picard does remember the experience, but that was the point of this episode, as it allowed the people's history to be passed on via an experience of living it:

I intend to watch DS9 again when I get the chance. I've seen them all once, but do not recall them all at the moment. :)