Meta and I passed our 24th wedding anniversary some days ago. It is on these occasions that I spend some time looking back and remembering. Memory is like a garden in that it has to be cultivated in order to yield anything. Memories that are left unattended for any real length of time will die or fade if your rather. At times it does feel like that many years have passed which is a peculiar space to inhabit. Other times it feels like the last many years are nothing but one long day. These two extreme states seem to be based on internal moods. Meta and I .lived together for about three years before our journey to the Justice of the Peace and dated (that’s what wee called it in polite company) for a year before that.
I was very schizophrenic at the time and just beginning the process of learning my new limitations. There was my first change of doctors during this time as well. The first Doctor left the community clinic to start a private practice. With the second Doctor came a change in medications, at my request. After a year or so I began to reduce my medication on my own, leaving the Doctor out of my decision. The idea of being institutionalized worried me. One of the early mechanisms or tactics I developed was avoidance behavior. If I found any given situation disturbing I would either avoid it entirely or extract myself from it as it unfounded around me. I didn’t see this as possible once inside the big state institution and I understood that this would lead to violence. Basically I had a hard time trusting the Doctors. There is a quote form the film Gothica that nicely sums up this particular paranoia. “You can’t trust some one if they think you are crazy,” matches my internal atmosphere nicely. My experience here was compounded by trying to be honest with my Psychiatrist who insisted that I had to trust her because she was a professional. I still have a hard time with this statement even though I have been able to develop more trust on my part of these last 20 years. It just isn’t a very convincing argument.
There were a lot of weird shit that went on over those first 10 years and one that I still find fascinating today was the notion that I wasn’t real, in the strictest sense. I was instead nothing more than an extension of Meta’s mind. I can rephrase that, I was Meta’s imaginary friend. My entire world from past to the moment was simply an internal construct of her imagination. When people talked to us, the mostly looked, if not only looked, at Meta, it seemed. Now this simply could have been a subtle illusion. I have no problem admitting that. Could it be that all those memories of my lengthy relationship with some of our shared friends was fabricated? This could be true as far as I was concerned. Our closest friends referred to us as MetaandIba. One word like one name. her name was always first. My brother, brother number two in the birth order, was the one person whom seemed to be able to dispel this feeling. I never viewed this as an identity crisis in the traditional sense, it was just a strange feeling that I had a hard time shaking. It caused me to take a second look at both Descartes and Turning. Descartes’ I Think Therefore I am and the famous Turning test. Both of these have to do with the ideas of being real, sentient. Descartes argued that he knows he is sentient because he knows he is thinking. He approached the question by looking at himself.
Turning on the other hand was interested in seeing if he could prove if people other than himself were thinking, thus the famous test. The Turning test was a thought problem, it was never intended as an actual test. By the end of Turnings thought experiment he realizes that you can’t tell if any one other than yourself is intelligent, sentient or Real. The test is passed when you can no longer be certain that the individual in question isn’t sentient. IN other words, the machine or the person is no longer an obvious mimic. There in lies the trick, it does not prove intelligence or sentience, it only shows that you can no longer tell the lack there of. The machine could just be genius at manipulating symbols (language, words) and the same could be said for any person you meet. So this notion of intellect is based on a negative. When the is a absence of the lack of sentience or intellect becomes obvious. Just remember that when some one in a white lab coat tells you that you can live forever in the memory bank of a super computer.
Back when I was confronted by the possibility that I wasn’t real, that I was an extension of Meta’s mind, her imaginary friend if you will. I thought about both Descartes and Turning and developed a thought experiment of my own, sort of. I wanted to see if anyone could prove to me that I was real. I looked at it as if it was some kind of a game and that is how I treated the exercise. At first I said nothing and just looked for signs in other people that I was real not just in the sense of intellect but also in the sense of physicality. I found myself impacted by The Turning Test head long. What if MetaandIba’s guests were behaving they way they were because Meta’s was queuing them,? It would have been something nonverbal, something learned over a long time. Also what if MetaandIba’s guests were nothing but Mimics, brilliant Mimics but Mimics none the less and all they were doing was manipulating symbols. That they themselves were not sentient.
That fucked with me. So I got Meta to play the game after explaining this craziness to her. This is were the real frustration began. It seems that it is impossible to prove to someone else that they are intelligent or sentient if they don’t believe they are either. She tried, and we plugged away at it for most of a day before she had become quiet frustrated. Is this why self esteem and confidence are so important? Is it possible that no one is sentient or intelligent or could it be that these two things are to poorly understood to be tested at all?
The ideas of intelligence could be so poorly understood that the best you can do is look at yourself as Descartes did because the movement you try to prove someone else anyone else anything else is sentient intelligent or mentally real you find yourself at the edge of an abyss. Crossing an abyss requires a leap of faith.
Always look to your muse.
Have a better than average day.