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Working From First Principles: Subjective Reality

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  • Working From First Principles: Subjective Reality

    This sounds like a fun experiment. There's been a few mentions of Occam's Razor recently and it got me thinking: what happens when we start with a simple explanation and adjust it to cover objections.

    So I'm going to start with a single idea, listen to any objections as to why it doesn't work. Objections can be anything from logical incoherencies to violated themes to 'just doesn't feel right'. If I agree with the objection I will adjust the idea accordingly, if not, I'll explain why I think the current idea works. If it turns out I am making an assumption I didn't realize I was making I will add it to my approach. I won't accept all objections, but I'll try to address as many as possible. I have no idea what we will end up with but the journey should be fun.

    If you want to do the same thing (and I highly encourage this) state your overall approach and your core idea and let people start objecting. Everyone gets to be the judge of their own idea line but I encourage them to tackle even the things they don't like.

    Approach: I'm a big fan of the subjective reality side of Mage, and I like to avoid unchangeable things. I'm not particularly concerned with what the past actually looked like, but the modern world should look like the modern WoD and that includes historical evidence. Wherever possible I will choose solutions that rely on the Consensus, not on permanent cosmological constants. I reserve the right to duck objections involving time travel if they get too complicated. Above all, I want to keep that feeling of Reality on the Brink.

    Ramnesis 1: Reality is completely malleable. If you can get enough people to believe something it becomes true.

    If anyone does start with their own first principle I'll put it here.

    Quantumboost 1: The range of influence on Consensus increases with an entity's ability to reflect that range within itself.

    Karlgust 1 - reality is TOTALLY subjective. What defines reality is the Consensus of all beings that reside within it. That encompass ALL beings - so, the majority of "reality builders" will be the spiritual beings. Therefore, humanity only play a small role in that dance. Furthermore, the beings don't all have the same role on that "spiritual Consensus"; greater beings have a greater role on that cosmic dance. The ideas and beliefs of Umbral lords and gods will have a far greater impact than that of a small semi intelligent spirit. However, reality is made by the shared beliefs/perceptions/thoughts of ALL beings, so, trillions of jagglings without real self awareness could have a bigger influence than a single incarnae.
    Last edited by Ramnesis; 02-16-2017, 01:21 PM.


    Mage: The Ice-ension: An Epic Game of Reality on the Rink

  • #2
    I'll make the first objection just to give you an idea of what I'm talking about. This is the one unchangeable element I knew we needed:

    Objection to Ramnesis 1: If people don't believe reality is Consensual, wouldn't they take away their ability to change it? What about when a society thinks some people aren't people? Wouldn't the non-people no longer affect the consensus?

    Yeah, that's a contradiction. Two in fact. Paradoxically, for reality to be consensual, the Consensus itself has to be objectively true be. So:

    Ramnesis 2: Reality is almost completely malleable. If you can get enough people to believe something it becomes true. The Conensus cannot change who affects it or change anyone's personhood.

    Now I know for a fact that this doesn't fit Mage as we know it, but I want to hear objections other than my own.


    Mage: The Ice-ension: An Epic Game of Reality on the Rink

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    • #3
      Objection might a strong word, but I'll keep with the formatting anyway:

      Objection to Approach: "Consensual" is not thoroughly defined. How much weight does a group of believers need to have to alter Reality? Plurality, majority, near unanimity (if so by what degree), unanimous? If Consensus is dictated by plurality or majority, what happens to almost won beliefs (ex: 51% vs 49% of believers in conflict with each other distributed evenly to discount for Reality Zone formation)? Who is a "person" in regards to defining Consensus, and are "persons" equal? Do persons impact the Consensual Reality even if they lack capacity to have a belief in something (examples: Can a newborn infant impact the value of delayed gratification? Can person that has always been blind impact what blue looks like?). Do persons have "range" of belief (aka do my beliefs weaken their impact on Consensus the farther away I am from an event)?

      Objection to Ramnesis 2: In accordance with the need for the modern world to exist as it does on a superficial level, the anthropic principle must be in play on some level (that is the rules of the universe must both allow for the current state of the world to exist, and the rules must have played out in a fashion that lead to the current state), isn't there a requirement that somehow a "person" or group of "persons" defined reality so strongly that certain aspects of reality are nearly immutable on the large scale? While somewhat contingent on the above questions, as a example, if a spiritual entity of sufficient power called Gaia both counts as a person for Consensus and has an unequal impact on Consensus to the point where humanity as a whole cannot override Gaia, could Gaia be empowering rules that are effectively constant (perhaps even to the point where every other person believes in them for being seemingly constant and would persist even after Gaia ceased to)?

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
        Objection might a strong word, but I'll keep with the formatting anyway:

        Objection to Approach: "Consensual" is not thoroughly defined. How much weight does a group of believers need to have to alter Reality? Plurality, majority, near unanimity (if so by what degree), unanimous? If Consensus is dictated by plurality or majority, what happens to almost won beliefs (ex: 51% vs 49% of believers in conflict with each other distributed evenly to discount for Reality Zone formation)? Who is a "person" in regards to defining Consensus, and are "persons" equal? Do persons impact the Consensual Reality even if they lack capacity to have a belief in something (examples: Can a newborn infant impact the value of delayed gratification? Can person that has always been blind impact what blue looks like?). Do persons have "range" of belief (aka do my beliefs weaken their impact on Consensus the farther away I am from an event)?
        I'm going to call this an objection to the idea. The approach is more so you have an idea which way I am going to lean.

        And yeah, that's a good objection. I'd ordinarily hesitate to give specific numerical thresholds, but hell let's see if it works. Lets go with 10% is the bare minimum for something to happen, 66% makes it likely, 80% makes it certain. Also yes on the range, but I'm going to duck any specific numbers because that math is more complicated.

        On the subject of personhood, I'm going to refrain from limiting it at this point as I don't want to limit anything if I don't have to. Specifying local belief might handle any problems that come from supernatural input anyways. I do think that everyone affecting the consensus equally is technically implicit in the wording so that doesn't need to be changed (although I admit I'm stretching on that one) I also think that while babies do count, they don't have any beliefs and so don't affect the consensus in any positive or negative way. No need for a change there either.

        Objection to Ramnesis 2: In accordance with the need for the modern world to exist as it does on a superficial level, the anthropic principle must be in play on some level (that is the rules of the universe must both allow for the current state of the world to exist, and the rules must have played out in a fashion that lead to the current state), isn't there a requirement that somehow a "person" or group of "persons" defined reality so strongly that certain aspects of reality are nearly immutable on the large scale? While somewhat contingent on the above questions, as a example, if a spiritual entity of sufficient power called Gaia both counts as a person for Consensus and has an unequal impact on Consensus to the point where humanity as a whole cannot override Gaia, could Gaia be empowering rules that are effectively constant (perhaps even to the point where every other person believes in them for being seemingly constant and would persist even after Gaia ceased to)?
        Tricky. It's a distinct possibility, but one I'm trying to avoid so I'd like to try to reason around it if I can. Can I get some specific of elements that should be immutable?

        ---

        For now, let's go with:

        Ramnesis 3: Reality is almost completely malleable. If you can get 10% of the local people to believe something it is possible, 66% and it's likely, 80% and it's certain. The Conensus cannot change who affects it or change anyone's personhood.


        Mage: The Ice-ension: An Epic Game of Reality on the Rink

        Comment


        • #5
          The problem is that spirits are 'persons' by the definitions of cWoD and, since spirits outnumber human beings by orders of magnitude, the beliefs of spirits would have more weight than the beliefs of humans. While human belief might effect whether or not True Magick is coincidental or vulgar, the beliefs of spirits would basically prevent human beliefs from changing the foundations of reality even within a Consensual Reality model.

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          • #6
            The premise demands two things:
            1. Existence of humans at the very start.
            2. Protected status of humanity as the class of superbeings that warp reality.

            This further creates problems such as "what is human" and "what is personhood".

            The simplest objection I can offer is a moral one. Jews really were behind the decline of Germany. Gay people, crossgender people and other 'freaks' really are possessed by demons. Foreigners really did ruin America. Black people deserved it because they didn't believe hard enough.
            The other objection I can offer is that the setting built on the premise of subjective reality is unusable. Not for urban fantasy anyway. I can't even imagine what contrivances you'd have to pull to make a subjective reality setting to look like our objective reality.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Aya Tari View Post
              The problem is that spirits are 'persons' by the definitions of cWoD
              What definitions would those be? Humans in cWoD have a soul and spirits don't. Humans were created by YHVH and spirits are just an unfortunate side effect of fallen angles messing with the Lore of Realms. That already makes humans and spirits different.

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              • #8
                Objection to Ramnesis 3: If 80% believe something (unrelated to personhood or meta-Consensus etc.), but 10% believe in something which contradicts that, and 'enough' believe in the contradictory nature of those two possibilities, then you would have the lesser-believed thing be 'possible', but the greater-believed thing being 'certain' rather than uncertain.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Ramnesis View Post
                  I'd ordinarily hesitate to give specific numerical thresholds, but hell let's see if it works.
                  While the example numbers are an interesting idea, I think there's more important issue in the fundamental nature of how Consensus works. It very hard to reasonably expand on the base explanation of how a subjective reality works if the main mechanism of how reality is affected by subjectivity isn't thoroughly defined.

                  This specific thing also has issues as Quantumboost already hit on, were you can have conflicting beliefs in the same area without any clear idea of what this makes Reality look like.

                  I do think that everyone affecting the consensus equally is technically implicit in the wording so that doesn't need to be changed (although I admit I'm stretching on that one) I also think that while babies do count, they don't have any beliefs and so don't affect the consensus in any positive or negative way. No need for a change there either.
                  I'd disagree with the the assumption that consensus implies equality. If two parents and three children reach a consensus on where to go out for dinner, it doesn't mean that everyone actually has equal power in the decision making process. The parents in particularly have the ability to effectively veto any choice the children make even if they are outnumbered.

                  Babies do have rudimentary beliefs, even if they're extremely superficial ones shaped by their environment to the point where they probably can't impact anything. But this doesn't address the blind man's influence on the Reality of visual appearance.

                  Tricky. It's a distinct possibility, but one I'm trying to avoid so I'd like to try to reason around it if I can.
                  The Gaia solution is an example of many possible iterations of the same concept of a progenitor person that creates a stable enough reality for the current state of Reality to manifest itself.

                  Can I get some specific of elements that should be immutable?
                  Well, this doesn't assume anything is truly immutable, just effectively immutable due to metaphysical inertia.

                  A lot of these though would be the rough natural laws that mirror our objective reality: gravity, basic properties of matter, etc.

                  Originally posted by Kammerer View Post
                  The premise demands two things:
                  1. Existence of humans at the very start.
                  2. Protected status of humanity as the class of superbeings that warp reality.
                  No, it doesn't. The premise does not inherently suppose the humans are the only beings that can participate in Consensus. And if anything, not demanding these things by not restraining it to humans makes a stable reality that emerges out of the pure chaos of pre-Consensus reality.

                  Originally posted by Kammerer View Post
                  What definitions would those be? Humans in cWoD have a soul and spirits don't. Humans were created by YHVH and spirits are just an unfortunate side effect of fallen angles messing with the Lore of Realms. That already makes humans and spirits different.
                  1) Mage makes it clear that the Avatar (which is what makes human special in regards to Consensus), which is not the same thing as a soul (varied on how one defines a soul) even if they are metaphysically linked.

                  2) The WOD does not posit that Demon's metaphysics are the absolute truth of the setting.

                  3) Some spirits and related entities are clearly capable of defining reality at least on a local level. Paradox spirits, Avatars, Psychopomp spirits, as well as spirits in Umbral Realms that are shaped without the influence of humans all canonically exist. Even if not all spirits participate in Consensus, some clearly do.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
                    Do persons have "range" of belief (aka do my beliefs weaken their impact on Consensus the farther away I am from an event)?
                    Maybe it's not a matter of space distance (space is... An illusion of the Consensus perhaps?), but rather a matter of connection... Metaphysic connection between events. Just like the correspondence table

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
                      3) Some spirits and related entities are clearly capable of defining reality at least on a local level. Paradox spirits, Avatars, Psychopomp spirits, as well as spirits in Umbral Realms that are shaped without the influence of humans all canonically exist. Even if not all spirits participate in Consensus, some clearly do.
                      Building off that, it's entirely plausible that the 'weight' of influence on Consensus is based on how powerful+complex+aware a being is. Power means that enough 'stuff' is tied to the contributor that they basically count as multiples by sheer bulk. Complex means that its self-image encompasses more detail and reality. Aware means that it can observe the world and contribute to Consensus about not-itself.

                      Maybe everything is a contributor to Consensus, and only things that possess beyond a certain level of awareness can extend that beyond 'mere' ontological inertia to something other than 'being itself'. Humans might get to 'cheat' by naturally being things that create representations of other things within themselves, letting them influence Consensus related to other things noticeably without first being Celestine-grade; meanwhile, maybe spirits don't do so before that level because they're too... self-centered, I guess.

                      Edit: Actually, gonna propose some of that as another "first principle":
                      Quantumboost 1: The range of influence on Consensus increases with an entity's ability to reflect that range within itself.
                      Last edited by Quantumboost; 02-15-2017, 05:42 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Heck, if you assume that the belief of spirits are capable of shaping reality, then the differences between Objective Reality and Subjective Reality are academic. Just out of curiosity, where does it say in Mage that the sleeping Avatar is the mechanism by which human belief shapes the Consensus? And Jagglings are presented as being as sapient.
                        Last edited by Aya Tari; 02-15-2017, 05:44 PM.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post

                          Objection to Ramnesis 2: In accordance with the need for the modern world to exist as it does on a superficial level, the anthropic principle must be in play on some level (that is the rules of the universe must both allow for the current state of the world to exist, and the rules must have played out in a fashion that lead to the current state), isn't there a requirement that somehow a "person" or group of "persons" defined reality so strongly that certain aspects of reality are nearly immutable on the large scale? While somewhat contingent on the above questions, as a example, if a spiritual entity of sufficient power called Gaia both counts as a person for Consensus and has an unequal impact on Consensus to the point where humanity as a whole cannot override Gaia, could Gaia be empowering rules that are effectively constant (perhaps even to the point where every other person believes in them for being seemingly constant and would persist even after Gaia ceased to)?
                          That's my own personal theory. Consensus is everything. But humanity ISN'T the only source of Consensus - actually, it aint even the greatest source of it.

                          In my theory, all "entities" out there are responsible for the Universal Consensus... That means all plants, animals, vampires, werewolves, centaurs, whatever.

                          But it also means that the biggest source of Consensus are the umbrals. The spirits.

                          I also think that all beings AREN'T equal contributors to the universal Consensus. It could be debatable if a cosmic entity like the Wyrm or the Weaver or even Gaia could be a sentient being (or just a natural force like gravity), but those higher beings would be "bigger contributors" to the "universal Consensus" than a fly.

                          So, we could say, for example, that ENTROPY, the process o decay of all the creation, only exists because those are THE WYRM'S (ENTITY) THOUGHTS. Basically, the entity the Garou call "Wyrm" think about death, destruction and decay... And it's thoughts are reflected upon the reality.

                          The Weaver entity thinks about ecstasy... And it brings pattern about the world.

                          The One thinks about the Tellurian... And so, the Universe IS.

                          Lesser beings contribute to this cosmic song too:

                          The Sun celestine, if you like that idea of antropoformization of everything from WtA, and do consider the Sun a sentient entity, you could have the Sun (entity) thoughts be about heat, light, energy. That would be the reason of why the Sun heats the Earth: that's the contribution of the Sun entity to universal Consensus.

                          Even lesser beings keep contributing by lesser degrees. So, dirty have this brown aparence, the texture that soil has, because of the millions, millions, trillions or gazillions of earth elementals that as a whole determine the Consensus about earth, rocks, soil, dirty. That's too are were you'll see the differences: maybe one group of earth elementals close to a court of water elementals, started thinking about clay, while another group that became friends with fire elementals, developed thoughts about vulcanic rocks. That's why you would have different kinds of soil, earth, dirty etc - "different earthly Consensus"... Something we could call of "divergente of opinions" that earth elementals may have about their "universes" (I think that rocks and soil would encompass the entire universe of earth elementals).

                          Rivers are made by water elementals that agree amoungst each other that salt is an abhorent substance. All River elementals agree that "saltless" should be the "water Consensus". Of course, ocean elementals think the idea of saltless water not only ridiculous or heretic, but insane... In fact, they probably can't even conceive of the notion of water without salt. The Consensus of "salt water" is a belief strongly held by ALL oceanic water elementals.

                          And so forth.

                          Most spirits are bound by their roles; so, they are both the creators of Consensus just as much as a product of it.

                          In time they could change, and become new things... That's how an earth elemental and a water elemental can get too close toghether, start "comparing notes" (in a metaphysical non literal way) and give birth to "mud elementals"

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Ramnesis View Post
                            Ramnesis 1: Reality is completely malleable. If you can get enough people to believe something it becomes true.
                            Scenario given R1: Suppose the critical number of people were persuaded to believe that reality was not completely malleable. Would reality adapt to this belief?
                            If Yes: If reality ceased being malleable, then it could not be changed later and this R1 would not be true any longer. Thus later reversions to the belief that reality was malleable would not change reality back to being malleable, since the initial changed belief would be for an unmalleable reality. Reality cannot be made completely unmalleable, therefore it is not completely malleable, and thus R1 is not true.
                            If No: Then R1 is not true.

                            ∴ R1 cannot be true.
                            Last edited by BenjCano; 02-15-2017, 06:53 PM.


                            I seem to have acquired a site for running play by post games. This is unexpected and frightening and come watch either the glorious play or the magnificent train wreck:

                            The Malkavian Madness Network

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                            • #15
                              An interesting point built on a valid logical paradox.

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