The Hitchhikers Guide to Reality

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“Curiouser and curiouser”


I was sitting in a café here in ‘the Stan’, chatting to my arty friend about the circumstances that have led us to Brexit, the Trump presidency and other instances of weird and stupid shit that doesn’t seem to be making the world a better place.

It’s nice, having recently written about games and people’s distraction with them, to see world events like the women’s marches and other instances of people standing up and being counted, as if they suddenly are more interested in the world around them than the ones they’ve been building in Second Life or The Sims.

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Before leaving China I was, with some trepidation, having a chat about the country’s lack of protests (the very famous exception from the late 80s not exactly being a popular topic of conversation there). One young Chinese woman was telling me about her visit to Spain where she was talking to an activist who asked her to spread the word in her home country. “Of course,” she said, only to be handed a pile of anti-Chinese-government flyers which she immediately chucked in the bin.

In the café I discussed the seemingly mad but somehow believable conspiracy theory that the Large Hadron Collider has tripped us into some hellish alternative Alice in Wonderland dimension that was foretold in an episode of the Simpsons!* We talked about quantum field theory, non-violent resistance and six more impossible things before breakfast, chatting so much ‘pub physics’ that we probably looked like a Monty Python sketch.

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As Winston Churchill says, “Men ** occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.” To me, the thought of a young Chinese person fearfully tossing the truth in the bin is sad, but understandable given the cultural context. But the thought of a young American person doing the same, at a time when facts have become meaningless in the face of half-witted debate, where American journalists are arrested and detained just for doing their job, is nothing short of a tragedy.

I could personally give some credence to the theory that we’ve shifted into some bonkers new dimension; that our reality is just another virtual reality; even that our universe is housed in the equivalent of some kind of really powerful PlayStation. But it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t treat our games very seriously indeed.


*I haven’t seen the episode in question but it sounds like that show, like 70s Doctor Who, got really good at predicting weird crap.

**[and women, natch]

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