16 August 2007

Freaky Happenings - Today's Dilbert Blog

Yesterday I referenced sending Scott Adams a link to an article. He blogged about that today, posted below as he archives regularly - link to post here.

Freaky Happenings, from Scott Adams' The Dilbert Blog

I’ve said before in this blog that it feels to me as if all of my ideas already exist, and I’m nothing but some sort of antennae. Every time I have an idea, no matter how strange, that idea inevitably finds its way to my door from some other source. It’s freaky.

The first time I saw this phenomenon was in 1990 when I had been cartooning for about a year. One day, I sat down at about 4:30 AM and wrote a comic about opera singer Placido Domingo. My gag involved the fact that there was a fake version of him called, naturally, Placebo Domingo.

I was quite proud of my pun. Later THAT SAME DAY, I opened up the San Francisco Chronicle and started reading the comics. A syndicated comic called Farley had a joke about an opera singer named Placebo Domingo.

I just checked, and there are 460,000 hits on Google for that pun. I guess it is somewhat obvious. Still, what are the odds of drawing it in a newspaper comic in the morning and reading it in a newspaper comic within hours?

Skeptics will point out, rightly, that it would be more amazing if coincidences didn’t happen. You don’t notice all the things that could have been coincidences but weren’t, so when they happen they seem special in our minds.

I mention the Placebo Domingo story because a similar freaky thing happened the other day. But this one takes it too a new level. Let me see if I can give you chills. I promise I’m not making this up.

On August 14th, a fascinating article ran in the NY Times. A number of people recognized it as the sort of thing I would like, and forwarded it to me. The gist of the article is that an Oxford philosopher has a serious hypothesis that our lives are nothing but a computer program developed by someone else. Perhaps humans of the past created us as a hobby. The idea is that we have no physical bodies, we only think we do. This notion is standard science fiction stuff, but now it has risen to philosophic consideration.


That article was published on August 14th. One day earlier, I had an idea for a movie plot that felt as if it came out of nowhere. I quickly typed it out in the Word document that happened to be open – the same one I am using now for my blog posts. I’m going to paste my notes below, without editing, so you see it exactly as I wrote it.

--- begin ---

Movie plot.

It's about people trying to download themselves to computers when humanity is at an end.

They discover they are already the downloads, in a loop of history

You can tell it's a program because of reused code in the form of memes.

Deja vu is memory leak

Clues you are in a program

No free will

You keep forgetting where you put things. Everyone does.

The program is crashing.

Some humans are like self correcting code. They spring to action trying to fix the program. They try to debug humanity.

Whole movie is program code analogy

--- end ---

Now you might say, rightly, this is a little bit like the Matrix, and a little bit like The Sixth Sense, and a little bit like my own book, God’s Debris, and a little bit like lots of other things. That’s all true.

The freaky part (chill alert) is that the main idea in my movie plot is that the characters discover their true nature as program code by noticing coincidences in their lives. For example, they see people who look exactly like other people they know, but aren’t.

The reason for all the coincidences in their so-called lives is that the program in which they live was written hastily. It reuses a lot of code. There are only a few hundred types of people, with minor variations. It was easier for the programmers to prevent duplicate people from ever becoming friends than to create 6 billion unique avatars.

So as I’m thinking about being nothing but code in a program, and thinking that the way you discover your true self is by realizing the coincidences in life are clues, a dozen people forward me an article about…being…code…in…a…program.


Hundreds of comments will likely ensue, but by favorite so far are:

"Hi, you don't know me but our interfaces were programmed to fit. If you take off your clothes, I can show you how my algorithm can blow your recursion loop." (posted by Manual)


Female chick;
procedure Intercourse() {
if (chick.isSatisfied().equals('no'))
milkey.penisSize += 10;
if (chick.isInjured().equals('yes'))
milkey.penisSize -= 1;
milkey.penisSize +=1;

(posted by milkey, which makes the "milkey" bit make sense. I'd have written it generically for the better joke.