The Parallel Universe

Image used for representation only.

He pinched himself. Ouch, that hurt. He pinched himself again. Ouch, ouch. There was no doubt that that was real.

No, he thought, he could not be the brain in the vat. The brain in the vat was simply a brain in life-sustaining solution stimulated by external signals through electrodes. Pinching, he assumed, was the perfect way to know he was not a brain in a vat experiencing a simulated reality. The reality he perceived, his pinch confirmed, was from his brain being in a whole him, sensing the real world.

In theory at least his brain, if it was in a vat, could not cause the simulation to simulate the pinch. Or for that matter any other perception. That, anyway, was what he believed.
The reason he needed to pinch himself was his perception and his memory did not match. It had something like what computer geeks called as a checksum error. When you check the original with a copy, if there is a difference, computers can signal an error. His brain was signaling an error. No. It was flooded with error alerts.

He had just perceived he was having a conversation. A conversation!

It felt strange to be engaged with another where his questions elicited a response! Questions that seemed to be exchanged just like a ping-pong ball in a game. But unlike the game, there was no score to be kept, no games to be won. Both seemed to receive the question with joy and respond back with care and respect. The dialog seemed to make his partner in conversation feel joyful. It felt strange that he also felt joyful.
His memory had no record of conversations.

In his memory, all questions had been a monologue. He normally got no response. If at all there was a response, it would be one that seemed impatient, depreciating, sarcastic, or angry. And there was certainly no record of anyone he asked a question to feeling joyful. Or of his finding joy either. But it was not just him. His memory records showed that that was how it always was for everyone.

Was his perception of a conversation in error? Had his senses, that had stood him for many times the earth went around the sun, failed him?

Or was the vast store of his memory corrupted? Had it for some reason inverted what it had got recorded? Or was reporting back something through a filter that inverted what had been recorded?

Or was his brain’s apparatus to compare the memory with the perception failing him?
His memory records showed that the few questions he had raised were not to persons sitting with him enjoying a cup of tea together. There was no record of sitting together to enjoy a cup of tea together. Or a meal. Or just enjoying a walk together. Or of the presence of another. Or of simple smiles, occasional laughs. Loving touch. Feelings of warmth. An atmosphere of trust. Of care. Of respect.

Yet strangely, his perception said that what he just experienced is exactly what his memory had no record of!

His memory recorded that any questions, no, answers, and assertions were always typed, rarely spoken. The responses, if any, were usually inattentive, uncaring, disrespectful, indifferent, even abusive. They were as if only the responder mattered, distant, disconnected, dreary, remote, and electronic.

He looked around. They smiled back at him. He looked back, bewildered. Hesitatingly, he smiled back.

There was joy in the air. Everyone appeared to have kind eyes. There was a pace of leisure, comfort, peace, and ease. And they all seemed to be engaged in conversations. Some seemed to be walking together. Others sat at tables under the beautiful trees that emitted the sweet fragrance of the fresh yellow flowers. Others seemed to have beautiful mauve or blue flowers in place of the leaves. Some had beautiful white flowers with long stalks and the most alluring fragrance as they spread a carpet below the trees.

His memory did not have records of interactions that resulted in joyful experiences. To him, interactions were synonymous with experiencing pain. Or coercion, exploitation, and abuse. They were what you took part in only when you had no choice. 

His perception contrasted his records. His memory could not have been so wrong about interactions.

Should he trust his memory? Or should he trust his perception?

The observer smiled as he watched the thoughts of this man. He looked at the man as his face displayed an expression of disbelief at his perceptions. The observer sighed. He looked at the parallel universes he had designed. He had just exchanged the man from his universe to the parallel universe where interactions were diametrically opposite of each other.

Like the practicalities of the simple line-segments as women and polygons with various numbers of sides as men, in the English schoolmaster Edwin Abbot’s Flatland, the practicalities of the two universes differed.

The observer shook his head as he watched his subject struggle to grasp that his universe was the consequence of his interactions.


#All views in this column are those of the author and/or individuals or institutions that may be quoted and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to the same. 

Anupam Saraph

Anupam Saraph

Dr. Anupam Saraph grew up in a Pune that was possibly a tenth of its current expanse and every road was lined by 200 year old trees. He’s committed to the cause of de-addicting the short-termers.

He can be reached @AnupamSaraph
Anupam Saraph

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