Saturday, June 23, 2007


Illusions of Individuality

Two boxers fight in a ring. One falls to his knees. The other triumphs. Do you care which is which? Well, it's unlikely you'd pay good money to watch just one boxer beat himself unconscious. So it takes two.

We can model a boxer in a computer and make the two fighters absolutely identical. Let the starting conditions of the fight - the tiny irregularities in the mat, the difference in the noises from the crowd, the breeze blowing across one fighter's back - determine the outcome. A butterfly's wing would do.

In real life we are all like these boxers. A thought doesn't care whether it is thought by you or by me. As you read this your understanding is no different from mine as I write it. We are just boxers, one up, one down. The feeling that you or I am somehow unique, different from all the other yous or is, this illusion of individuality...

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