‘You’ the ‘you’ that you think exists inside yourself, inside your body (i.e. – inside your brain) doesn’t actually exist at all. It’s all an illusion* (defined as things which are not what they seem to be). It’s an illusion programmed by outsiders (The Simulators) who have created a computer simulation with us as players in a virtual reality landscape.
The following thought bubble was triggered by reading Susan Blackmore’s book on “Memes” (“The Meme Machine” – Oxford University Press – 1999), which would probably please her no end since this re-enforces her thesis and is an example of a transfer of a social / cultural meme – the subject of her book. However, another thesis she has re-enforced in this book is that ‘the self’ is illusionary. You are basically just a mish-mash of millions of interconnected neurons, genes and memes. No more, no less. There is no real nebulous ‘inner you’.
If there is a real ‘inner you’, a real ‘inner being’ inside your body and brain, then where is your thinking organ? Where is your free will located? Where is your essence? Where is the self? Where is your ego? Where is your sense of humour? Where is myself? Where actually is your self-identity; your self-awareness; your consciousness? Where can I find your personality; your creativity and basically ‘the you’ that you believe you are? If you could walk through your body, well more likely as not specifically your brain, all of these bits and pieces that make up that ‘inner you’ are absolutely nowhere to be found. Yet…
Your sense of self-identity, consciousness and sense of free will is absolutely so strong that you have absolutely no doubt that they exist and have a reality internal to yourself – whatever that actually is if it is anything at all. However, the central mystery is, for something so obvious, why are these reality ‘facts’ so elusive and hard to pin down? Your body has substance and structure. Your brain has substance and structure. Your sense of self-identity, consciousness and sense of free will do NOT have any substance or structure to them, so do they actually exist at all? Are you, that is your ‘inner you’, just an illusion?
There is no Cartesian Theatre inside of your head containing a tiny incarnation of you that directs all of the action that big-body you do on a daily basis. You are not an entity, a driver or even a passenger that exists and drives (or goes along for the ride inside of) your body**. If that were to be the case then there would have to be an even tinier incarnation of you inside the head of that tiny incarnation of you and one inside that head and one inside that head in turn and so you’d have an infinite regression, at least until you hit the quantum limit; the smallest bit possible.
Part of the reason – my reasoning here not Blackmore’s – why you have self-identity is that you’ve been given a name. That reinforces your sense of self-identity. You are a Jane, a Mary or a Sally; you are a Tom, a Dick or a Harry. Now since 99.999% of all the animals, all of the higher animals say mammals and birds, don’t identify with a personal name, one might wonder if they have a sense of self-identity at all. The concept of free will is probably totally foreign to them. They react; they don’t decide.
Speaking of the animals, what’s the real difference in principle between you and say a flatworm in terms of having some structure and substance? There is no difference. You’re both from the ground up composed of particles, atoms, molecules, cells, tissues, organs, organ systems, a body and a head with a brain and sensory apparatus.
And speaking of your particles, atoms, molecules, cells, tissues, organs, your body and your head, if none of these, like say your body cells (which are the most fundamental living component that makes up your tissues, organs, organ systems, body, etc.) have any self-awareness, consciousness or free will, why should the totality that is you?
Now an interesting further bit is that not one particle, atom, molecule and therefore your tissues, organs, organ systems, body and the totality that is you has remained as a part of your body for the duration of your existence, or even for very long. You are a totally brand new you compared to the you that was you X number of years previously. I believe the generally accepted number is about seven years that it takes to replace every bit of you with new (but not improved) bits. That’s one reason why you need to eat and breathe. Old with the old; in with the new. Yet you are apparently still you seven years on down the track. You’re not new at all. What part of you that is really a constant is your overall pattern? Particles, atoms, molecules, cells, tissues, organs, organ systems, and ultimately the body all comes and goes and comes and goes but the pattern maintains itself.
So you are a self-maintaining pattern. Now is a pattern material like your body and brain, or is it immaterial like ‘the inner you’ appears to be. Well a pattern is immaterial. Patterns are ultimately mathematical and can be simulated.
Consider the “Star Trek” transporter. Kirk, Spock and McCoy frequently get beamed up or down by Scotty. Their matter pattern is converted into pure energy at Point A and then converted back to their matter pattern from pure energy at Point B. That in itself isn’t a problem (in theory) since of course matter and energy are just two sides of the same coin as per Einstein’s most famous equation. Quite apart from the philosophical issue of their now being copies of their former selves and of the philosophical question have they committed suicide since they must be clinically dead between Point A and Point B, and ignoring difficulties posed by quantum uncertainties, the issue arises of what happens to all those immaterial bits these United Federation of Planets Starfleet officers had before beaming? After all, the usual quote is “beam ME up, Scotty”. No doubt Kirk, Spock and McCoy, etc. want their inner ME to be transported up and down along with their anatomical bodies.
Take Captain Kirk for example. Kirk has an inflated ego which is probably an essential ingredient in all good leaders. Kirk doesn’t like to lose. There’s no such thing as a no-win scenario. Yet Kirk’s ego is apparently ‘made’ up of the non-physical. Something non-physical cannot be converted to energy and thus when Kirk re-materializes from a pure energy state at Point B, he should no longer have an inflated ego! The same would apply for his inventiveness and creativity in the face of impossible odds. Bummer! The same applies to any other characteristic that people have that have no apparent physicality.
Take Mr. Spock. Mr. Spock is a highly intelligent and logical being, yet you won’t find a person’s logic or intellect / intelligence in any brain dissection. ‘Bones’ McCoy is full of common sense and compassion and other emotions, but where do I actually find your common sense that’s inside your skull? All that is immaterial is lost when you use that damn transporter!
But now consider that a character in a video game has no real ‘inner you’, no real ‘inner being’ inside its body and brain (not that it has one). Where is its thinking organ? Where is its free will located? Where is its essence? Where is its ego? Where is its sense of humour? Where is the simulated self? Where is itself? Where actually is its self-identity; its self-awareness; its consciousness? Where can I find its personality; its creativity and basically ‘the you’ that it (in theory) might believe it actually had or possessed? As with the real you, all of these bits and pieces that make up that virtual character are absolutely nowhere to be found. In this case however, the reason is obvious. It’s all computer / software programming. The virtual character is just bits and bytes.
*As an example of an illusion, you never actually ever, ever see an object, only the light that reflects off of that object which may or may not ‘reflect’ really real reality. We’re not aware of how things actually are but only of how we perceive them to be. Switch from visible light to infra-red or ultra-violet and your perception changes real quick-smart. Of course another false perception, a tactile illusion is that of the phantom limb.
We are indeed pretty clueless when it comes to reality. Our ancestors from 50,000 years ago would have been floored and flabbergasted to realize that their reality was but a tiny, tiny fraction of the whole and not just in the ever increasing realization of the vastness of space and also of time. They would be dumbfounded to learn of other stuff that existed too in their reality like the rest of the electromagnetic spectrum, magnetic fields, antimatter, cosmic rays, neutrinos and all of this other stuff that’s actually out there but not really a detectable part of your normal five-sense reality. You see only a tiny, tiny fraction of the Universe no matter how much you strain your eyes. You can’t see much below the resolution of a “period” in a document. You are fooled by optical, tactile and auditory illusions. You can’t echo-locate like a bat or a dolphin. You can’t much navigate by polarized light. There are audio frequencies way above and below what you can hear. You can’t feel much of what might be wrong inside of you like the early stages of numerous diseases. Then too there’s virtual reality (computer simulations and dream worlds), the reality inside of a Black Hole which is totally unknown, a possible unobservable Multiverse, a variation of which is the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics, and if string theoreticians are correct, there is the reality that we might exist in extra dimensions. Then too are the rather nebulous unknown realms part and parcel of an afterlife, if you’re prone to believe in those realms. That’s a lot of reality we’re pretty clueless about.
**Are we actually even in control of the body and bodily functions?
P.S. There are lots of interesting videos on the “Self-Illusion” (including one by Susan Blackmore) on YouTube.