Twofish's Blog

July 20, 2006

A Chinese Ghost story

Filed under: academia, china, ghosts, massachusetts institute of technology, personal — twofish @ 2:02 pm


Meg Tegmark wrote a paper in which he argued that the reason that space has three dimensions and time has one dimension is that only in this space can intellegence exists. What is intellegence, intellgence is the ability to ask “what if”. “If this event changed, how would subsequent events also have changed?” You can only mathematically define this problem in 3+1 space. In any other dimension, the question “what if” cannot mathematically be asked.

And intellegence requires time not to be changable. If you could change the past, then cause and effect do not exist. If cause and effect, do not exist, then intellegence and hence sentience is impossible. String theory says that there may be an infinite number of universes, but it is only in those universes that *you cannot change the past* can intellegence exist.

Death is irreversible therefore life attempts to avoid death, and this creates a process of natural selection in which intellegence exists, as intellegence is an effort to avoid death. Unicelluar animals do not die, hence it is unnecessary for them to be intelligent. In any world in which there is no death, intellegence is unnecessary. It is only when there is the reality of death and the ability through calculation to avoid death can there be natural selection pressures to create intellegence, hence death.


A lot of the basic fundmental conflicts that sentience faces are the result of its own existence. Any universe in which there is intelligent life must have these as fundamental laws

1) you cannot change the past

2) you cannot raise the dead

A colloary is that universe in which there is intelligent life must have ghosts.

A ghost is a valid solution to the equations of physics which did not manifest itself in this time line. In this time line, the car went right and hit someone, but it *could* have went left and not hit them. It is possible to *think* of what would have happened if the car went left. And the *possibility* that the world could have been something that it is not, influences our world.

I *could have been* a tenured astrophysics professor. I’m not, but the mere fact that I speak meaningfully of things that *could have been* but are not, is an example of a ghost. My parents *could have been* still alive, but they fact that they are not, creates a ghost.

Act I.

Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Girl falls in love with boy. They have children, and live happily ever after.

Act II.

Same situation, Boy meets girl. Boy almost tells girl that boy loves girl. Girl almost tells boy that girl loves boy. But before that can happen, boy leaves girl, and talking about this love becomes an unspoken taboo.
You now have a problem that becomes the heart of the conflict in the story. There are now some ghosts. The boy in Act II is now a different person as the boy in Act I. The girl in Act II is also a different person than the girl in Act I. As time passes and the time lines diverge, they will become more and more different, and the ghosts will be more and more “real”. The ghosts are in love, and they have produced more ghosts. The children that existed in the other time-line and do not exist in this one, are now ghosts.

Act III.

Boy meets someone else. Has children, but these are *other* children, not the one’s in act I. He exists, but he is some different than the person in Act I.

Someone dies. This attracts the jealous ghosts, who start haunting the boy. The boy is haunted by the ghost of the children, the ghost of the girl, but most importantly he is haunted by *his own ghost*. The person he *would have been* but isn’t.

Act IV.

Girl meets someone else. Has children but these are *other* children. I don’t know if the jealous ghosts arrive. I think that they are there.
What is the major dramatic conflict? Boy and girl do not say that there was ever love. In this world there isn’t. Boy is in love with someone else. Girl is also in love with someone else. There is no need to talk about love.

But there is. Because the boy and the girl are not in love, but the ghost of the boy and the ghost of the girl are. It is a fact that there is not and cannot be love now. But do say that there was *never* love, means that the ghosts do not exist, but since the ghosts *DO* exist, and wreak terrible havoc.
Why can the word love not be said? Because to say it would admit that one does not live in a perfect happy world. But if this is the perfect happy world, then the ghosts do not exist *even as ghosts* and they do. So the ghosts come to be recognized.

Act V.

Boy says lets the ghosts known that he admits that there was love, and that he mourns for the loss of the children and for the existence of his own ghost that do not exist. The ghosts are satisfied and leave.

Act VI.

No idea what the girl is doing. If the girl says love, then the ghosts can leave, but if the girl does not, then she will have to deal with some jealous ghosts.

The core of the dramatic conflict is this….

Ghosts demand that they be mourned, so that they can be at peace. Mourning demands sadness. In the early 21st century, we do not like to talk about sadness since everyone must pretend to be happy. What is worse, in the early 21st century, people do not talk about ghosts, and if you don’t talk about ghosts, they become jealous and hungry, and wreak terrible havoc.

Tragedy requires a mistake.

The mistake was not to say the word love in Act II or III or IV. If the word had been said the ghosts would have been satisfied and left a long time ago.

Ghosts are real. They are solutions of equations that produce alternative time lines that did not manifest themselves in this time line. X is dead or non-existent in this time line, but you can *imagine* a alternate time line in which X exists. You can rigorously mathematically define the existence of alternate solutions of the laws of physics which are valid but which do not exist. This creates a ghost that influences this time line.

If you speak the name of the ghost, they are satisified and leave. If you admit their existence, then they have no need to cause havoc, but they demand that you be sad for them.

The boy in Act V is not the same person as the boy in Act I. The girl in Act VI is also not the same person as the girl in Act I. Each action that you take, you produce a huge number of ghosts. These are the people who you *could* have become, but didn’t. These ghosts

Let me stop with a riddle….

Our society has a lot of riddles. A job interview is a series of riddles. The SAT is a set of riddles. A debate between candidates is a series of riddles. Answer the riddles, you get money and power.

Let me ask an important riddle which I’d like the people at Wikimania to think about.

Why with all our technology and power, is it so difficult to talk about ghosts……

And about love?


1 Comment »

  1. If we talk about love, we show a weakness, a vulnerability, thus showing that our power can be destroyed, our invincible technology challenged.

    Comment by Trapped in a Memory of a Ghost — September 22, 2008 @ 9:12 pm

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