Sun 8/6/00

(This letter starts off by quoting from Nature, Representation, and Misrepresentation): 

"...Contrary to what one might think, simulation isn't confined to human beings, nor is it necessarily something that is consciously created. Plants and animals manifest deceptive appearances in great profusion, which are essential tools in the struggle for survival.

"In many instances, these deceptive appearances consist only in an animal's ability to walk with stealth or hide or remain completely still, to create the impression it isn't there. As we discover in all those television nature documentaries, predators and prey are constantly slinking around in the underbrush, peering from behind obstructions and standing motionless, as they wait for the right moment to strike or flee from danger.

"Also common are disguises that are built into the appearance of plants and animals. These deceptions exist in nature in a remarkable profusion, easily matching anything produced by that other world of illusion, Hollywood. Nature is unambiguously a world of things that appear to be other things or, in some cases, of things that appear to be nothing at all..."

The essay (quoted above) directly expresses the notion that simulation is a fundamental property of biological existence, a tool of evolution, its true origin unknown. How can, we as organisms ourselves, then propose that popular modern simulations are the "pies we gorge on in the face of life's difficulties" if the object of simulation is infinitely rooted in the realm of life itself? If nature is truth and nature is "unambiguously a world of things that appear to be other things or, in some cases, of things that appear to be nothing at all" than how can we have a distinct life different from one that is engulfed in a sick addiction to simulation if we are a product of biology and biology is totally dependant on simulations? If one were to argue that simulations are not the corrupt "interweaving of nature and fabrications" but are, in actuality, a pure "interweaving of nature and fabrications" and a component of nature itself that has been convoluted and stretched to fill the addiction of mankind than how does one defend the obviously beautiful and simple characteristics of biology such as: a hierarchy of organization, emergent properties, the cellular basis of life, heritable information, the correlation between structure and function, interaction, unity in diversity, evolution and, as exemplified in the above essay, an animal's ability to simply walk? Simply put, how can humans break free from the cage of simulations if we are a product of them? Perhaps the simulation is a characteristic that separates biological life from inanimate objects and every thing else. Is the beauty of the living world a random collection of simulation?

From: Nicholas Meade

Response: The answer, as I see it, is that we can use various capabilities and inclinations that we have inherited either to mature or to regress, to move forward or to stay stuck. Eating, for example, is a biological pleasure and capability. We can eat to express a robust enjoyment of life or to escape life and wallow in fantasies and sensations of infantile feeding.

At the same time, it has to be admitted that the issue of fabrication and deceptive appearances in human life is very complicated. The mind is a maze of deceptive appearances. And much of what makes life worth living is fantasy and invented appearances, which make up a large part of art, literature, movies, playfulness, interactions with other people, and so on. We exist (to repeat an idea from the site) in what Northrop Frye refers to as a human world, one we create ourselves, that is modeled after ourselves. The question then becomes whether we will model it after our better selves -- our selves as we are when we have achieved a state of wholeness -- or after the regressive and hateful side of our nature. For example, we can use our ability to simulate either to craft great films that put us in touch with our desire to create a decent world or to create campaign commercials that vilify opponents.