Kyla has been your best friend for as long as
you can remember. While you argue and fight like any other pair of
you really understand one another, and have a deep, complex and
relationship. One day, Kyla says she wants you to come and meet her
She leads you through a door that mysteriously appears in an apple
You find yourself in a world of tall, strangely shaped buildings, tall
strangely beautiful people and a variety of strange plants and animals.
looks right, and you feel waaaay out of place.
After having a strangely
shaped dinner with Kyla’s tall, beautiful parents, you find out that it
isn’t the 21st
Century but the 37th
and you’re really on the planet Entelechia, not Earth. The world you
came from, and in which you’ve lived all your life, was actually a
based loosely on a 34th
Century soap opera that was vaguely set between 1900 and 2399. You were
not based on any real person, but were originally written to be someone
who Kyla could be friends with. (You could have
turned out enemies.)
Kyla explains that, since her father just lost his job, they’ve had to
turn off the big holoprogram and sell the main projector. But, since
gotten to be such good friends, she’s saved her allowance and bought a
microprojector that will keep just you going as long as she pays for
power you consume. And then she turns
you off (temporarily) so she
can do her homework.
Are you real?
It’s true that you have feelings, desires, hopes
and dreams, that
you have consciousness and experience yourself as having free will, but
you have all of those things because a computer
them. (It does, however, create these things by performing exactly the
same functions that a human brain would do.) You don’t have an organic
body. You don’t have a biological brain.
Your program has been copied from one computer to another several
When the computer is turned off, you cease to exist, and if it was
from the computer it’s on now, you would never exist again. Explain the
case you can for you being real, and the best case for you not
real. (Make sure you do not state these cases as if they are both your
personal opinion. You must indicate that these are arguments that
someone might make, and not necessarily your personal opinion.) Decide
which is the logically stronger case, and explain
DO NOT ASSUME THAT BEING A HOLOGRAM MEANS
YOU CAN'T BE REAL.
If you find yourself thinking something like "so am I really
a hologram?" or "I'll only be real if it turns out I'm not really a
hologram" or "okay, holograms aren't real, so that means I'm not real,"
snap out of it! Slap yourself up the side of the head and stop thinking
that way! You're a hologram! That's it! And it doesn't
automatically mean you're not real! If you think it does, then you've
got to come up with an argument to the effect
that a thinking, feeling, self-willed being can't
be real merely because that being is instanciated by means of a
Don't attempt this topic unless you can
accept at least the possibility that the meaning of
the word "real"
automatically include the meaning of "not a hologram." If you want to
that being a hologram makes you not real, then you will sooner or later
have to come up with reasons why being a hologram
makes you not
real. Saying "I'm not real because holograms aren't real" won't cut it
unless you can eventually come up with a reason why we should
the word "real" in such a way that it excludes holographic persons. If
you can't, you should say so.
DO NOT PRETEND THAT HOLOGRAPHIC-YOU IS DIFFERENT FROM
Remember that the subject of this essay is you. You
have not changed in any way.
If you want to say things like "As a hologram, I have no hopes and
dreams," remember that you will also be saying that, as a
flesh-and-blood, biological being, you also have no hopes and dreams.
If you had hopes and dreams before you started the class,
holographic-you had exactly those hopes and dreams. If you have hopes
and dreams now, holographic you has exactly those hopes and dreams
DO NOT PRETEND THAT YOU ARE NOT THE HOLOGRAM
Sometimes students write about "the hologram" as if it's not them.
Don't do this. Use words like "I" and "me" to refer to the hologram,
because the hologram is you.
DO NOT "DEFINE"
"BEING REAL" AS "EXISTING."
The words "real" and "existing" are basically synonyms, and may be
used as such, but this means that when you define the word "real," you
can't just say "a thing is real if it exists." That's not a definition.
To define "real," you have to nsay what the word means, not just give a
different word that means more or less the same thing.
Don't attempt any of these
follow-up questions until you've attempted the main topic. Don't do any
follow-up question unless I've specifically assigned you, or given you
permission, to do that question. If you want to do
a follow-up question,
ask me, and I might give you permission. Don't do
it if I don't
give you permission.
People We Know
A final note. Sometimes, despite the frequent admotitions given above,
a student will still write something like "I don't think I could be a
hologram because . . ." This student is deliberately failing the
assignment. The assignment says "You are a hologram." It doesn't give
you the option of deciding that you're not a hologram. Once you do
that, the philosophical problem disappears, and anything you write will
be a waste of time.
Copyright © 2010 by Martin C. Young
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