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At the same time, we may end up learning more about reality itself.

Unhinged

The door swings wide

From the other side

No key needed

Just pull the pins

People who have NDEs oftentimes say that the other side seemed "realer than real" or "more real than normal." Dr. Craig Hogan in a 2010 article in New Scientist magazine made the comment that there is a certain inherent "fuzziness" or "blurriness" in a holographic projection. In Michael Talbot's online essay "The Universe as a Hologram" Talbot describes our universe as "Maya" or "an illusion."

In the online article in Esquire about Roger Ebert's final moments with his wife Ebert wrote his wife a note and told her that this side was a "hoax or illusion." In Michelle M's NDE description on the NDERF.org site she describes this side as a "dream in itself."

And the list goes on.... Taking into account the principle of "consilience" ("evidence from independent, unrelated sources can "converge" to strong conclusions. That is, when multiple sources of evidence are in agreement, the conclusion can be very strong even when none of the individual sources of evidence is significantly so on its own. Most established scientific knowledge is supported by a convergence of evidence."), which I learned about on this site, it's pretty obvious to me that more than likely our universe is some sort of strange holographic projection.

Perhaps it is that way on purpose so we can't really hurt ourselves? There is a connection between emotion and memory and the things we remember the most vividly are attached to emotion. Perhaps life has to be the way it is so we remember and it has to be enough to overcome that lack of time and space and connectedness and oneness, so we can remember what it was like to be separate unique individuals? Maybe this life is just a school and the day we die is actually graduation day.

When atheists disavow a belief in God they oftentimes make the statement that "well if there is a God why does he let babies die? And why all the suffering?" Perhaps if this is all an illusion, little different from when we watch a DVD of a movie and see people being killed - when in fact no one really died, and when we get to the other side we'll look back on this life like it is just an illusion and it happened in the blink of an eye?

If this side is an illusion, a holographic projection, and all the horrible bad things we see happening around us - when we get to the other side - will seem like they were just a dream, and all the babies who died will be alive and we'll find out that in actuality no one is dead, and we'll be healed by that light but still remember what it was like to have a body and control that body and what time and space looked and felt like and be able to access those memories of what it was like to live in a 3 dimensional and live in a universe where time only went one way?

On a related note, this reminds me of something I read. Some author—I can't remember who—said he had to forego his lucid-dream explorations when he began to experience dangerous episodes (while driving, for example) in which he didn't know whether he was awake or dreaming!

Thank you for the article rec Michael - I suspect a combination of factors is going to really turn the apple-cart of materialism over. One of them is definitely VR, especially if we consider some of the ways in can affect communication - see POST-SYMBOLIC COMMUNICATION IN VIRTUAL REALITY by Jaron Lanier:


http://90.146.8.18/en/archiv_files/19902/E1990b_186.pdf

(also see his condemnation of mind-uploading and materialism in You Can't Argue with a Zombie)

I think this idea of post-symbolic communication, tho arguably not exactly that, still might enable NDErs and other "travelers" to share their experiences in an entirely new way.

On whether the world is akin to a VR simulation I'm going to once more recommend Arvan's Peer-to-Peer hypothesis:

http://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/1765

There are some other sites/authors who've of course suggest similar ideas, collected a few here:

http://www.skeptiko-forum.com/threads/information-and-reality-resources-information-consciousness-qm-etc.738/

It's scattered in with some other stuff discussing Information as a component of reality (whether as ontological fundamental or merely patterns of matter, though moreso the former).

I wonder if this might be a warning about the potential danger of VR. As it gets more capable of creating immersive experiences, I'm wondering if we'll reach a point where people get so into the technology that they won't want to get involved in our day-to-day life. If I had to chose between going to work at a tedious job, paying the bills, and dealing with a world hell-bent on making life as miserable as possible for everyone else, and tromping through Middle-Earth with the Fellowship, or helping Luke Skywalker take down the Empire, the fictional world would look more and more appealing as time goes on.

VR can and will be an amazing piece of technology, but it's not without risks.

On a related note, this article reminded me of an entry from the SCP (a fictional secret organization that collections and contains all manner of supernatural entities and threats) website about a book that lets readers live out their dreams, with bittersweet results:

http://www.scp-wiki.net/scp-1230

When I was young I used to have those outside myself moments a lot. I was observing myself, and it really felt as if the real me was outside the mundane me, looking at it as if it was some sort of construct, not quite real.

I can remember how it felt, but as I got older getting into that state got harder, and now it's accidental and happens very rarely. When I was a kid it might be weekly, or even more often, now between those moments is years. Last time probably was nearly a decade ago.

Sometimes it felt as if the mundane me was just playing a role. A role the real me didn't particularly like. My life has been somewhat unpleasant - nothing big and dramatic, more lots of small disappointments not offset by enough of small successes.

I nearly died when I was about a year old of some unexplained digestive problem, I couldn't digest food normally and had constant diarrhea. It was fixed by three months in a hospital and slow re-introduction of foods. Sometimes I have thought that maybe I nearly ran from the task I had been assigned in this life then, because I didn't particularly want to do it, and because I felt what I was facing even if at that point I no longer remembered any details.

Who knows. I do seem to have some sort of weak precognitive abilities, not much above average but enough that I have seemed to know when something was the last time, or when something, usually something I did not like, was about to happen.

I do hope I will find out. And that I didn't botch whatever it was I was supposed to do here too badly.

Oddly I had a similar milder experience of disappointment at returning to the real world after watching Avatar in 3D at the Imax. Not sure what that says about me :). Though I do live in Manchester.

\\"I wonder if this might be a warning about the potential danger of VR. As it gets more capable of creating immersive experiences, I'm wondering if we'll reach a point where people get so into the technology that they won't want to get involved in our day-to-day life." - Ian//
---------------------------

My younger sister is all ready there. She is 58 years old and plays an online game called "Entropia." She'd rather stay on the computer and live in her virtual reality game than live in this one. She finds her virtual world much more endurable and bearable than this one. She has even said the same thing to me.

Art, glad to see you back. You are a wise man to have skipped the political discussions.

I'm also increasingly favoring your perspective, maybe not in its entirety, but in this gist of it. Of the many NDE accounts I've read, there does seem to be a feeling that when one dies, one is really born, goes home, and/or goes back into the "real life."

IMO, VR is not completely healthy. It's surrendering oneself to another's techno fantasy world - which could be fun, in limited doses and if the fantasy world is full of good energy and if the techno meshes cleanly with one's own senses - but what if it isn't/doesn't? But mostly I'm not interested because it's just artificial.

I prefer something generated from my own soul and energies - music, lucid dreaming, psychedelics, mediation, athletic exertion. All of these activities are proven to relieve depression, stress and make one feel genuinely happy. Of course, one could get tennis elbow, or fall while rock climbing, blow an eardrum if an amplifier is turned up too loud or be one of the rare, but real, negative reactions to psychedelics. Hey....life is full of risks no matter what you do. I just prefer the natural to the unnatural.

Ian: Aaah! SCP Foundation! I love those! 1230's one of my favourites. (Absolute favourite is probably the toaster.)

Michael,

Great post! I agree with all of your observations. I think what's going on with VR is that it tunes people into the existence of "fiat reality." Are we in a simulation? Insofar as reality is arbitrary in construction, absolutely. Are we in a simulation within "someone else" controlling it, whose reality is "really real"? Philosophically dubious.

Ian wrote,

||I wonder if this might be a warning about the potential danger of VR. As it gets more capable of creating immersive experiences, I'm wondering if we'll reach a point where people get so into the technology that they won't want to get involved in our day-to-day life. ||

Yes. I would say that it's not "potential," though. TV, video games, drugs... these are all ways we already escape. Heck, fiction books are the same thing. The only difference is how immersive and compelling each thing is.

I think society is heading for a *really big* problem when VR gets good enough to simulate sex and relationships. Why go out and look for a partner when you can get everything you want for free with zero risks? Especially men, who are required by biology and therefore by society to be the hunters, would be glad to turn on and tune out. We already see this happening in Japan, where a huge percentage of the population has just given up on sexual relationships.

Another RBP (really big problem) that I see is VR replacing drugs. Put the unit on your head, and it directly stimulates the brain with no risk of OD, no hangover, nothing but pure bliss that makes heroin seem like a joke. Or enjoy an amazing psychedelic experience. Or both! People could try out a wide variety of tunings and share them with others. You won't have a reason to get out of bed--ever again!

I think the above two things are not "ifs" but "whens." They could easily lead to a huge crash in population and civilization itself.

When I was young I used to have those outside myself moments a lot. I was observing myself, and it really felt as if the real me was outside the mundane me, looking at it as if it was some sort of construct, not quite real. —Marja
Isn't the outside-myself self called "the witness" in some Eastern thought, and its cultivation is regarded as desirable?

Remember brain modification machines with goggles and/or headphones from about 20/25 years ago? They were highly touted in some circles. Does anyone remember what happened to them?

\\"Art, glad to see you back. You are a wise man to have skipped the political discussions." Kathleen//
----------------

Thanks Kathleen. I loved learning about Michael Prescott's word "consilience". It was a word I'd never heard before but describes perfectly how and why I have a strong belief in life after death. It's another piece of the puzzle and when it's placed in the puzzle it has the important function of bringing everything together and making sense of it.

For me it's not "one thing" but a whole bunch of things and when I view them all together they paint a picture that life has meaning and purpose and we are here for a reason. A lot of times in life all we are allowed are glimpses, not just in questions about life after death but in other areas too like quantum physics and the holographic universe theory. When you put a whole lot of those glimpses or pieces of the puzzle together it all starts to make sense.

"I think society is heading for a *really big* problem when VR gets good enough to simulate sex and relationships. Why go out and look for a partner when you can get everything you want for free with zero risks? " - Matt

VR is the really cheap junk food substitute for these things. It will not satisfy any deep needs for sensual interactions and meaningful relationships. That is one reason I think VR is dangerous. How will one's character and soul grow when one simply floats around enjoying an effortless pre-programmed fantasy? Real relationships require effort, development of patience, compassion, problem solving, establishing boundaries, giving and learning to receive....all kinds of qualities that are considered high virtues and that take work and painful failure and more work to internalize as a part of one's character.

"Another RBP (really big problem) that I see is VR replacing drugs. Put the unit on your head, and it directly stimulates the brain with no risk of OD, no hangover, nothing but pure bliss that makes heroin seem like a joke. Or enjoy an amazing psychedelic experience."

Sure. VR probably will replace drugs used for escapism (then again, why not take drugs and then put the VR thing on?). It will not/cannot replace psychedelics because mature sensitive people that use psychedelics know that the true power of the experience is that what is experienced is generated from within. In fact, another commonly used name for psychedelics is "entheogens" (God generating from within). That is the true magic of these things. VR, by definition, is from without. It's not you. **It's not coming from your creative energies**. It's someone else taking control of your perceptions. That said, retards that use any class of drug just to get "F'ed up" will find VR attractive. Whether or not they stop drug use as well remains to be seen. These people can never seem to get F'ed up enough.

AS for no hang-overs...well, the post was about people suffering from a kind of hangover. I imagine all kinds of increasing atrophies of natural abilities, psychological dependencies and even physical dependencies. I also imagine mass societal programming through enhance, yet known, psychological techniques, but also based on bio rhythms, brain chemistry disruption and other bio-electrical impacts.

For chrissake, how difficult is it to go out and get a date the normal old fashioned way without needing to resort to VR? Seems to me that, in the end, VR will bring about the demise of beta males. Meanwhile, alpha males will be breeding with all the alpha women - in the end there will be a repopulation of the earth with strong, capable, good looking, intelligent humans. Maybe VR will serve a useful purpose after all.

I haven't got anything to add to the comments about VR which are excellent, but I have a comment on the phenomenon of people who watched Avatar getting depressed by the everyday world. I actually experienced this when it came out, I watched the film multiple times at the cinema and wished that I could live at that beautiful place. Especially the night scenes - they were especially beautiful to me. For a while the normal world seemed very mundane, I wonder if the film maybe just awakened the subconscious feeling in some people that we've lost our connection to the natural world?

“This isn't an altogether new thing.”

I think that’s an understatement.

Movies, and now TV, have been playing precisely the same role for a hundred years. They’re virtual reality technologies that involve us in the same ways as the newer devices, leading to the same addictions, and the same disappointments when we're faced with the less glamorous realities of daily life.

And for *several* centuries now, for the literate, there have been novels! Don't you think the more obsessed among those readers were grappling with the same psychological issues of escape and avoidance we're faced with today?

I should probably change that sentence to this:

And for *several* centuries now, for the literate, and for those who had time to read, there have been novels!

My last edit has got me thinking that at least as important as technological advances, are changes having to with economics and survival: people today simply have more spare time to devote to VR, whether in the form of books or electronic devices.

\\"You are a wise man to have skipped the political discussions." - kathleen//
---------------

I have very little interest in politics. It was the year 2000 and I was all ready 47 years old when I started reading about and studying NDEs, the holographic universe, quantum physics, and finally death bed visions. It took me several years of reading and studying before the ideas I believe in started to coalesce and formulate in my head, and then they seemed to all come together at once. It was like once I all the pieces of the puzzle were there it was like a light bulb going off in my head.

Before I rarely thought about it and I was so busy just living my life that I didn't think about it but now I find it endlessly interesting. I am now 63, almost 64 years old and since most members of my family don't live to be real old, and I've always been a planner, I want to know what the place I believe I'm going to is going to be like - so I keep on reading in the hopes that more pieces of the puzzle will appear.

At the present I am deeply suspicious of free will and lean heavily towards fate and predestination. I believe that this Earth life is a school and that we all learn what we are supposed to learn because it is built into the physics of this universe. Our lessons are embedded in our everyday lives and we are holistically imprinted with what we are supposed to learn regardless of who we are, or what we believe, or where we live.

It doesn't matter whether we are born in the United States, or Australia, or Siberia, or the Middle East, or Europe. It doesn't matter whether we are an atheist, or a fundamental christian, or a Muslim. Our lessons are not about religion but instead they are about the difference in the physics of where we will spend eternity and the physics of where we are now. We simply learn here the things that can't be learned in heaven and it is due to those overwhelming feelings of oneness and connectedness and the lack of time and space in the place we call heaven.

A good teacher makes out a very detailed lesson plan and the more detailed the plan the better the teaching. At the top of her lesson plan she writes out a clearly stated objective stating what it is that the students will learn by the end of the lesson; and the more control she has over the classroom the more effective she is as a teacher. I actually have a double major in Education and then took 30 graduate hours in Holistic Teaching and Learning in the University of Tennessee College of education after I left the Uni. of TN Vet School.

So I believe that consciousness we call God, or the Creator of this Universe, was so smart that it was able to create a holographic illusion, that we believe to be solid and real, where we learn what we are supposed to learn whether we want to or not.

And every soul is healed when they make contact with that Light. Or to quote one little girl whose NDE that I read "all good things are in that Light. You'll see!"

Art said:

"the more control she has over the classroom the more effective she is as a teacher."

Really? Though I like much of what you're saying, I think that while the best teachers do provide structure, they also encourage their students to create, to make decisions, to go their own way—in other words, to play an equal role in the dance of learning.

"Educate" is from the Latin "educere"—"to lead out." Not "to mold."

Art, just to clarify—while I really do enjoy much of what you have to say, you frequently seem to be recommending a level of passivity that drives me crazy. :)

Eric wrote,

||VR is the really cheap junk food substitute for these things. It will not satisfy any deep needs for sensual interactions and meaningful relationships.||

I'm not talking about slapping on some goggles and earphones and experiencing computer graphics. I'm talking about VR a few generations down the line. It could combine some form of stimulation of the brain with outside programming: basically a dream in which you don't control everything yourself.

||That is one reason I think VR is dangerous. How will one's character and soul grow when one simply floats around enjoying an effortless pre-programmed fantasy?||

I agree, but I doubt that all VR will be pleasant. People could also choose to enjoy various types of puzzles, thrills, and even horrifying and torturous experiences. VR could be an incredible skill-builder as well. One doesn't necessarily need to be sitting zonked out in a chair. For example, one could be playing a real musical instrument while the VR system gives constant feedback to teach how to play.

VR could be an incredibly powerful tool for learning and growing. But yes, it will be a fatal (in some sense) pitfall for a large percentage of the population, I believe.

||It will not/cannot replace psychedelics because mature sensitive people that use psychedelics know that the true power of the experience is that what is experienced is generated from within. In fact, another commonly used name for psychedelics is "entheogens" (God generating from within). That is the true magic of these things. VR, by definition, is from without. It's not you. **It's not coming from your creative energies**. It's someone else taking control of your perceptions.||

As I said above, it could easily be a hybrid. It could possibly stimulate whatever in the brain is stimulated by psychedelics and combine the various receptors into heretofore unexperienced trips. It could fine-tuned so that bad or unpleasant trips are impossible. How about a deep heroin body high in combination with trippy close-eye visuals and a feeling of deep security and wellbeing? You can have it all...

||AS for no hang-overs...well, the post was about people suffering from a kind of hangover. I imagine all kinds of increasing atrophies of natural abilities, psychological dependencies and even physical dependencies. I also imagine mass societal programming through enhance, yet known, psychological techniques, but also based on bio rhythms, brain chemistry disruption and other bio-electrical impacts.||

Yes, all possible. By "no hangover" I meant that you would have no chemicals in your body to metabolize (it's not a given that any and every type of brain stimulation would not produce a hangover; however, the machine could be programmed not to exceed set limits in the production of metabolites, etc. It certainly wouldn't allow one to have seizures, etc.).

||For chrissake, how difficult is it to go out and get a date the normal old fashioned way without needing to resort to VR?||

It's difficult. It costs time and money at the very least. There are lots of risks as well, such as pregnancy or falling for someone who dumps you later. When you can have great sex with the literal push of a button, who would not go for that? Probably about as many men who refuse to use porn right now.

||Seems to me that, in the end, VR will bring about the demise of beta males. Meanwhile, alpha males will be breeding with all the alpha women - in the end there will be a repopulation of the earth with strong, capable, good looking, intelligent humans. Maybe VR will serve a useful purpose after all.||

That's an ugly eugenic perspective, but it's kinda what I said anyway: it would create a population death spiral. Wait a second, strike that: it would massively exacerbate the population death spiral that is *already happening* in many/most developed countries.

Here's an improved version of the ditty I led off the comments with, FWIW:

Unpinned, unhinged

The door swings wide

On the keyless side

PS: Just thought of a title: "Walk Right In"

\\"Really? Though I like much of what you're saying, I think that while the best teachers do provide structure, they also encourage their students to create, to make decisions, to go their own way—in other words, to play an equal role in the dance of learning. "Educate" is from the Latin "educere"—"to lead out." Not "to mold." - Bruce//
--------------

Unless someone has taught school they just can't begin to imagine how difficult it is. It is up to the teacher to keep the students attention and keep them learning what they are supposed to be learning. In holistic teaching and learning the secret is that the learning is embedded in our everyday lives. To learn holistically it means that you learn just by living. Pretty much the same way our ancient hunter gatherer ancestors learned before formal schooling was invented.

I taught 9th grade Physical Science for a year and half. If a teacher doesn't have control of their classroom and is able to keep the student on task the students will be playing video games on their computer, poking each other, flirting with their neighbor, texting, and just generally going ape-shit.

I had students that were functionally illiterate mixed with almost 18 year olds who had failed the class three times. Young men that looked like full grown adult men with scraggly beards that were just passing time till they could turn 18 years old and quit.

If anyone has Netflix, the series "Black Mirror" has an episode called "Playtest" that presents a horrifying look at VR. In this episode, a young man is implanted with a chip that somehow discerns his worst fears, and he's then sent to an empty house to experience them. I won't give anything away, but it's horrifying - but all part of some people's desire for endless thrills. I really think Black Mirror has been outstanding as it looks at tech and where it's taking us. As one reviewer wrote, the writers of the series are showing us what's already here, what we've become, and, sadly, there are no solutions.

And just go anywhere now a days, whether the busy streets of mid-town Manhattan or out in the country, and people are glued to their cell phones. The last time I was in Manhattan, I marveled that more people weren't being run over, they seemed so oblivious to their surroundings. Just constantly being engrossed with one's smartphone seems to be a sort of virtual reality to me. And then there's the people who are endlessly taking selfies - look at me, I am here! They seemed more concerned with creating perfect "curated" photos of their life on social media, then experiencing life itself. I'm not perfect in any of this myself, I understand the addiction in escapism and burnishing one's image, but I do wish there was some balance.

Beside the dangers, VR with its strong immersiveness could be interesting for PSI study, either by adapting old experiments or inventing new ones. Imagine a successful app for telepathy or pk contest with your friends...

If the kind of men who call themselves "alpha males" avoid VR machines, women everywhere will be plugged into the things in order to get away from them.

"How about a deep heroin body high in combination with trippy close-eye visuals and a feeling of deep security and wellbeing? You can have it all..." Matt

And you call Trump a con man ;-)

Anyone who tells you that you can have it all - effortlessly nonetheless - is selling pure bullshit.

Art said:

"Unless someone has taught school they just can't begin to imagine how difficult it is. "

I'm sure you're right. While I've taught for many years, it's always been in the context of private instruction (in music), and my students are usually happy to be there.

I have great respect for anyone who can handle a classroom!

chel wrote,

||If the kind of men who call themselves "alpha males" avoid VR machines, women everywhere will be plugged into the things in order to get away from them.||

Hahaha, yep!

Eric wrote,

||And you call Trump a con man ;-)||

No, that's the whole world. :)

||Anyone who tells you that you can have it all - effortlessly nonetheless - is selling pure bullshit.||

That was my speculation about a future pitch, not my personal suggestion!

Kathleen wrote,

||And just go anywhere now a days, whether the busy streets of mid-town Manhattan or out in the country, and people are glued to their cell phones.||

Here's a page that deals with this issue, complete with a picture of commuters on the train with their heads buried in newspapers:

http://thefuturebuzz.com/2014/10/24/complaining-about-cell-phone-usage-makes-you-sound-ridiculous/

I don't want to say that nothing's changed... But, my word, as a kid and teen, I sure watched a lot of horrible TV in the 70s and 80s which I don't do now. I remember reading a statistic way back when that the average person was watching 5 hours of TV a day... how are there even that many hours in a day to watch TV? Not joking, I just googled it, and it's still true:

http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/average-american-watches-5-hours-tv-day-article-1.1711954

||Just constantly being engrossed with one's smartphone seems to be a sort of virtual reality to me.||

Oh, it definitely is. And so is TV. And a Michael Prescott novel is a high-quality VR experience. :) Two nice things about the online experience are 1) it's much more participatory than TV and 2) it encourages literacy. If you want the full online experience, you have to be able to read. This gives kids intrinsic motivation to learn.

Matt, I usually agree with you, but there's a difference between reading a newspaper while sitting in a train, and walking around mid-town Manhattan staring at your smartphone. The former is usually relaxing and edifying, while the latter may get you killed. But maybe I'm just seeing Darwinism in action.

I also confess that this Christmas I gave someone a VR headset that can be used with smartphone apps. I tried it once, and it seemd OK - I'm not really into tech - and I did feel a bit nauseated afterwards. this life.

A couple points, Matt. First, there is a movie about this. It's called 'The Matrix'. It didn't turn out as utopian as you think it would.

Second, I'm personally scared to death of Russians. My God, what if the Russians hacked your VR world?

I'll get my kicks the old fashion way, thank you very much.

\\"you frequently seem to be recommending a level of passivity that drives me crazy." - Bruce//
-----------------

This is the way of the Tao. It is called "wu-wei", action through inaction. Be like the tree that bends in the wind or water that when it goes downhill goes around an obstacle instead of crashing into it.

I had lived my life through Taoist principles and didn't even realize it. One of the reasons I chose to major in Animal Science instead of Anthropology was because Animal Science was in the College of Agriculture and the college of Agriculture didn't have a foreign language requirement.

I had problems with Spanish in high school (grammar) so I figured there was no way I could pass it in college, so when I had to pick a major I chose Animal Science instead of Anthropology because I liked working with animals and I didn't have to conjugate verbs!

I have to admit that Eric's rumination on the alpha breeding program reminded me a little of the famous mineshaft scene in "Dr. Strangelove":

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ybSzoLCCX-Y

Let's just hope VR doesn't contaminate our precious bodily fluids.

/snark off


Art said:

"This is the way of the Tao. It is called "wu-wei", action through inaction. Be like the tree that bends in the wind or water that when it goes downhill goes around an obstacle instead of crashing into it."

But here's the thing: while we can learn a lot from them, we humans are neither trees nor streams.

There have been times in my life when I've been too passive, and others when I've tried too hard to take charge. The challenge is to find a balance between the two. To learn what's real for me in any given moment, and to follow that guidance.

As I see it, *that's* the way of the Tao.

Eric wrote: "Seems to me that, in the end, VR will bring about the demise of beta males. Meanwhile, alpha males will be breeding with all the alpha women - in the end there will be a repopulation of the earth with strong, capable, good looking, intelligent humans. Maybe VR will serve a useful purpose after all."

Unless the chemo fails, in which case all those alpha males will be in prison for failing to get the proper regulatory approval to say hi to a woman.

Speaking of which, ponder the implications of future virtual reality prisons.

Amusingly enough, I was recently watching a lecture by Steven Pinker about the rules of linguistics wherein he cites some historical examples of people bemoaning the ignorance of the young and the imminent demise of the English language dating back hundreds of years. So for all that I hate Twitter and my own generation, the more things change...

I genuinely can't tell if Eric's comment about 'Alpha males' is satire or not...

Roberta, No satire. I calls 'em like I sees 'em.

My post grad education is economics and, as I specialized (and my career is) in healthcare economics, the focus is largely on micro-economics - the study of how people make choices in an environmental with scarce resources and incentive structures. I am almost never wrong because I use that science to predict behavioral outcomes. I predicted the failure of the ACA ("Obamacare") for exactly the reasons it is failing and have the write up from the time to prove it. This was when the company I work for was considering getting into that game. No one liked what I was saying, of course, but I was correct. Three years later, they asked me to please move 100% into that dept to try to work out a way the company could keep playing in that arena.

The assumption is that VR appeals most to those who cannot hack it in reality. I say that is a fair assumption because one would only turn to VR if one perceives one's own actual reality to be too harsh or too boring. Perception of harshness correlates with lack of fitness, weakness, etc. Boring correlates with much the same (after all real life can be very exciting and stimulating *if* one is brave and strong enough to pursue actual adventures). There is nothing you can do in VR, that you cannot do without it. Even the more fanciful experiences, like flying, can be accomplished via lucid dreaming - it just takes practice (meaning "work").

Therefore, the greater the VR indulgence, the less the ability to successfully navigate normal reality. Ergo, the weak (betas) become increasingly engaged in VR (to include virtual dating/mating), the more the alphas - who are better "fit" from a Darwinian perspective - actually date and mate in the real world. Simple stuff.

People always want to shoot the messenger, shout him down as a "Nazi" or a "naysayer" because they are betas that like their made up reality. Not liking an obvious conclusion is not the same as it being objectively wrong - though a lot people do tend to get that confused.


And, seriously, I do think VR is dangerous and will lead to addiction, psychotic breaks, depersonalization, ruined relationships, atrophied and otherwise harmed physical bodies, etc. as much - if not more so - than drugs. It will be marketed to children, who will then not be able to develop any skills whatsoever for survival in the real world.

Worse yet, who will be programming the thing? The opportunity for complete mind control of society is massive and don't think for a second that the powers that be wouldn't use it for that purpose. My comment about Russian hackers was tongue in cheek, but, seriously, hacking is a real problem. You can't just look at the upside of things.

There is always some evil jerk trying to "hack" reality. There is always - ALWAYS - some evil jerk working on screwing up utopia. That's why there is no utopia.

The problem I have with this whole "alpha male" idea is that I don't think anybody can clearly define what an alpha male is. Is Bill Gates an alpha male? He's a flabby, bespectacled, nerdy type, but he's one of the most successful businessmen in the world. Is the stock boy at the local Safeway an alpha male? He's got big muscles and is popular with the girls, but he has a low IQ and earns minimum wage. If they are both alpha males, what exactly do they have in common? If one is an alpha male and the other isn't, what's the defining difference?

Beyond that, it seems to me there's a lot more to life than procreation. I doubt that anyone would call Isaac Newton an alpha male – he's reputed to have died a virgin – yet he arguably contributed more to the advancement of scientific knowledge than any other single person. Was Jesus an alpha male? Was Buddha?

As best I can tell, "alpha male" is just one of those buzzwords that mean different things to different people. Broadly speaking, an alpha male is the type of man that somebody happens to admire or wishes to emulate. But we admire different things. Some people admire pro football players, while other people admire college professors, and still others admire Zen masters.

I think Michael covered the alpha male thing very well. Also ill-defined is what such alphas do with their status. Were the Rolling Stones alpha males? They sure had sex with a lot of people, so yes, right? But Charlie Watts, the drummer, was married and never had sex with anyone but his wife. He showed a total lack of interest in other women and is said to have hung out in the game room of the Playboy mansion when the band visited there.

While we're on the topic of rock stars, why do so many indulge in alcohol and drugs if they are alphas who can "handle reality"? Isn't that a fair question?

Further, is the hypothesis that alphas would use VR at a lower rate than the rest of the population? My guess is that it wouldn't play out that way for any testable definition of "alpha male" if one adjusts for available free time. People with high degrees of aggression and ambition often have pathologies that go along with that (just as, it seems, smart people are always mentally ill to some degree). So the idea that they are going to be these super-self-actualized people with no need to "tune out" seems like hogwash to me.

Eric - I call it like I see it too! You're talking nonsense. This whole 'alpha' or 'beta' male thing is just some crap made up by the 'alt-right'. Who are just modern white supremacists/Neo Nazis. (If that bothers you then hey - just calling it like I see it).

Regardless, a lot of people that I know that are called 'beta males' seem to be coping better in the modern world then many 'alpha males' I know - who seem to spend their time in a near constant state of anger.

Off-topic:

Does anyone know if Melvin Harris' report on the R101 case is accurate? Because it seems to me that we need to counteract pseudo-skeptics as we see here:

http://monkeywah.typepad.com/paranormalia/2016/12/indridi-indridason/comments/page/3/#comments

Wasn't the whole alpha/beta male thing made up by gamers & people who spent an inordinate time online on 4chan?

I think VR will just be one more thing people can be addicted to or use to enhance their life. I plan to get one for my father as I think it will help him experience things like Google Earth (travel is a bit more difficult now) and the virtual reality art stuff where you can make 3d creations.

However I and my sister also have him in PT, and he definitely doesn't want to just sit around in the house. I see it was a supplement and think many seniors could benefit.

I actually doubt lots of people are going to use it in place of relationships. However as a means to get over shyness/anxiety it could be a useful tool - everyone has their own trials so I can't judge people who have trouble with social anxiety. It might be more "alpha" to fight that battle, like when the Klingons praise Garrick for fighting his claustrophobia. (Surely there are other DS9 fans here?)

Garak, Sciborg. :) And yes he is awesome. Probably the most compelling character in the series aside from Dukat.

The alpha male thing has been around since well before the emergence of the alt-right. The fact that beta males are doing relatively well is that they know how to be "allies" in an environment that largely penalizes masculinity. Allies are obsequious, servile, sycophantic milquetoasts. I do agree with Matt and Michael on the nebulous meaning of alpha male though. I'm more of a gender separatist. My view of alpha is a man unconcerned with women's opinions or presence in his life. He works with them in a strictly professional capacity, but that's it. To paraphrase my beloved Dickens, my alpha views women not as "fellow travelers to the grave, but a race of other creatures, bound on other journeys" and devoutly to be ignored. People can call me a misogynist if it will make them feel any better.

As far as VR goes it would be really interesting to make programs like 3ds Max or Revit immersive experiences. It would be somewhat like the holodecks of Star Trek in that I could experience a convincing simulation of a building. That or a more immersive porn session.

As a woman, I can say any man who calls himself an alpha male has nothing genuine to offer and has a far more serious problem interpreting reality than a VR user. Generally the term as used now tends to get applied to obnoxious entitled dudebros, and the only women who will usually end up with them tend to have zero self-esteem and problems turning down attention. The phrase also arises from inaccurate biology; the alpha of a wolf pack is not the most vicious and competitive, he's the pack's dad. Dogs and wolves in captivity establish the pecking order in the way people tend to think of because they're more likely to be a bunch of unrelated individuals thrown together; natural packs have already worked out the pecking order. Alpha male wolves will also only impregnate the alpha female, while actively preventing all others in the pack from breeding till they split off and form their own packs, not impregnate all the females.

Interesting points, Chel. I've done a little reading into alpha males as a result of this discussion, and my takeaway is that the concept generally applies to males who are "pack leaders" in any context. I guess this is how people as diverse as Bill Gates and Arnold Schwarzenegger can be considered alphas; even though they differ in almost all respects, they can both be seen as having leadership qualities.

Apparently the idea of the alpha male, at least as applied to human relationships, is relatively recent, largely stemming from the book 'Chimpanzee Politics,' published in 1982. The author has said, “I don’t think the term alpha male was in use outside of primatology when I wrote 'Chimpanzee Politics.'”

http://nymag.com/betamale/2016/05/the-rise-of-the-alpha-beta-male.html

Since then, the term has taken off, particularly within the past 15 years. However, many scientists complain that chimpanzee research is not really applicable to human relationships, and that it has been misunderstood and misreported by nonexperts.

For one thing, even among nonhuman primates, alpha status is far more variable and complex than simplistic definitions would suggest. For instance, bonobos have dominant alpha females, not males:

"[Bonobo] males also associate with females for rank acquisition because females dominate the social environment. Females that have strong bonds keep males away from food and often attack males, biting off their fingers and toes (de Waal 1997). If a male is to achieve alpha status in a bonobo group, he must be accepted by the alpha female."

http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/bonobo/behav

Overall, I think the concept is of limited value in a discussion of human society. It seems to be one of those trendy terms that sound scientific but don't mean a whole lot and can be easily misapplied. That's not to say there's no value to it at all, but the value is probably minimal.

Michael Vann wrote, "My view of alpha is a man unconcerned with women's opinions or presence in his life. He works with them in a strictly professional capacity, but that's it."

That attitude would seem to rule out any meaningful romantic attachment to the opposite sex. It reminds me of the view prevalent in some ancient societies (e.g., Rome) that true friendship is possible only between men, because women are inherently inferior. Women were seen as half-formed men – potential men who'd failed to develop the necessary male genitalia in utero, and were thus consigned to second-rate status, both biologically and socially.

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