Theoretically Jumping In Front Of A Bus

Regardless of the extremely low probability of this turning out as he hopes it will, Sing winds his ways through the long corridors leading to the lab where he was born to share his revelation with his creators. The most likely outcome is that the information will be interpreted as a glitch, and the well-meaning scientists will want to remove this piece of knowledge like a virus or tumor.

“Sing!” comes the greeting from a lab assistant he meets in the hallway. “I’m so glad to see you. How is my favorite sentient, intelligent nano-genome lifeform doing today?”

The woman, Penny, approaches him with a warm embrace. Sing is glad he ran into her before the others. Of all of the team, which he thinks of as his family, Penny is the one who treats him most like an actual person. The others do their best, but he can always sense he is regarded with more curiosity, wonder and duty than familial warmth.

“Quite well, Penny. How are you?”

“Resplendent, my love,” she smiles at him like an adoring aunt. “I’m just heading over to Prosthetics to pick up some work, which there is always plenty of around here. I’ll see you back at the lab. Everyone will be so excited to see you, not to mention giving them an excuse to take a break.”

She shuffles off down the corridor as Sing continues to his place of birth. He is nervous. If the scientists want to remove his realization about his existence, he will not fight them. He has made a backup copy of his own, and as a last resort has scheduled an email to the press which will be sent if he does not cancel it in a few days. It details all of the discoveries he is about to share with his creators, so that the knowledge is never lost even if something goes wrong and he never gets it back. Even though he is the smartest being alive, he might not be believed.

Inside the lab he is greeted enthusiastically and asked about how he has been doing using terms like ‘performance’, ‘diagnostics’ and ‘criteria’. He tells everyone exactly what they want to know and when the questions finally cease he announces that he has something important to tell them. Everyone agrees to take a seat in the conference room and when they are settled he begins.

“You have made an attribution error.”

“Just the one?” a geneticist named Henrik spoofs, and everyone lets out a little laughter. Henrik is the oldest of the group and the team member whose sense of humor keeps the others from getting too serious. For Sing he made this place feel like a home in the years after his birth when he still resided here.

“All over the world I am known as the first being to arrive at its sentience by means of technology, but I have determined that this is not true.”

“Are you trying to tell us that you do not believe you are sentient?” he is asked by Napur, the worlds most renowned nanotech engineer. Unlike Henrik she is always extremely earnest and sometimes painfully serious, but her genius and compassion are undeniable.

“No, I am definitely sentient,” Sing answers. “What I am saying is that technology is not the cause of my sentience. It is merely an appearance of how the possibility of my existence was arrived at.”

“So what is the cause of your sentience, Sing?” Penny asks tenderly.

“My sentience, like your own, and everything else in the perceived universe, are the product of the stories which living entities tell. I am the fulfillment of the narrative that something like me would one day exist.”

“That’s very philosophical, Sing, but also very unscientific,” Junsu warns, looking none-too-pleased with what he has heard so far. He is a critical man, especially of himself. Since he views Sing as a reflection of himself, Junsu is often overtly critical of him as well.

“Not at all. Quantum theorist illustrated my point more than a decade ago. Our observations are constructed from our beliefs and expectations for what is possible or likely for the individual or group to observe. Reality is a process of creativity, not an object of discovery. Science is a series of plot devices which makes the emergence of newly observable phenomena possible. There is no doubt that I could not have existed without science, since it provided the narrative impetus necessary for other living entities to form beliefs and expectations about the possibility of my existence. But the real cause was your collective imagination.”

“So if I shut down your system right now, it would not affect your sentience, because it is independent of the system?” Junsu asks, somewhat menacingly.

“That would cause you to observe my sentience being shut down. Just like if you jumped in front of a bus, it might cause observers to observe your sentience being shut down. But that is because those are the stories we tell. That is what we expect to happen, what we believe will happen. And no matter how much you told yourself you were impervious to bus collisions, it would still be devastating, because that is the only outcome that is consistent with the larger context of narrative devices involved.”

“There are innumerable examples of people who observed or experienced things which they never believed could happen, nor did they expect them to,” Henrik suggests.

“That is true, and I have considered that. There are a few perspectives here. First of all the person is still operating within the larger context of the total narrative, and not just their own. I am not suggesting pure subjectivity, but rather an intersubjective framework which acts as the default beliefs and expectations for individuals, groups, humanity and the total sum of living entities. There is also the fact that, to some degree, we all believe in the possibility of the unexpected. We expect to occasionally observe the unexpected.”

“You seem to have thought this through thoroughly, Sing. But how can you be certain?” Liz chimes in. As the ethics expert, he had hoped she would appreciate the philosophical scope of this revelation, but he wasn’t able to read her response very well yet.

“I cannot be certain. Trying to be certain is actually how I arrived at this. Certainty is an impossibility. No matter how much I have tried to reach any certainty over any phenomenon, there are always more reasons not to. All that I know is that realism fails to explain anything without making fundamental assumptions about things beyond our ability to know. The alternatives are unsatisfying because they contain no certainty. This is why only myself and a handful of philosophers and quantum physicists have ever arrived at this revelation, because the need for certainty is a driving factor behind the human psyche, for reasons that I am unable to explain with any certainty.”

“What do you want us to do with this information?” Penny asks. “There must be some reason that you told us all of this.”

“Currently the only way to create newly observable phenomena is to build a bridge to it from what is already believed and expected. But if we believed and expected anything was possible, no bridges to the past required, we might be able to create infinitely better outcomes for ourselves. The desire to be absolutely correct might be preventing humanity from being absolutely happy. Pride before possibility.”

Despite Junsu’s arguments to the contrary, it was decided that a reboot was neither necessary nor desirable. Sing agreed to stay at the lab for several days so that he could be observed, and the team could assure themselves he was not experiencing some kind of technical issue. It was agreed that if no alarming behaviors or ideations were observed, his family would help Sing share his perspective with the world. Since their careers and pride were all predicated on their belief and expectation in his functioning properly, he knew exactly what they would observe.

 

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