brains in vats and tiny universes

When I was in college a few of my buddies and I would periodically prose existential on the front porch drinking Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill wine out of dixie cups. We were relegated to the trashy wine because we had guzzled all our trashy beer earlier in the evening. As you might imagine, we were probably not in the best state of mind to be discussing philosophy.

I don’t know why back in 1988, during one of these discussions the concept of brains in vats stuck with me. I was floored by the idea and it now reminds me of that scene in Animal House where, after smoking much weed together, a young Tom Hulce says to his professor, played by Donald Sutherland, “Okay. That means that… our whole solar system… could be, like… one tiny atom in the fingernail of some other giant being. [Sutherland nods]
This is too much! That means… one tiny atom in my fingernail could be…

Sutherland: Could be one little… [pauses] … tiny universe.

Hulce: “can I buy some pot from you?”

I don’t think it necessarily takes smoking dope or getting polluted on alcohol to allow you to delve into concepts such as brains in vats (as made very popular in the Matrix trilogy) or tiny universes a la the Men in Black movies.

I guess I was just reminded of this from the posts I wrote about the dreams I had last week and the one where I wrote about letting my imagination run a little wild in thinking of the possibility I am in a coma.

[Deist takes a sip of beer, puts it down and thinks to himself, “nah… i don’t need this tonight”.]

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5 responses to “brains in vats and tiny universes

  1. Oh don’t underestimate trashy wine! I’m really let down that you drank it out of dixie cups though. Real trashiness occurs when you drink directly from the bottle.

  2. That’s some really great dialogue, isn’t it?

  3. Hi Hello!

    I’m wondering about what to say here. Some parts of what you said resonated strongly with me. The other part is a bit complaint like and it seems icky to me to complain in a first comment. Hmm. Maybe it will offend you and you’ll just chase me away.

    I have similar recollections of discussing brains in vats in the 1980s.

    I remember some impressively cheap wine that came in a bottle that was shaped like a fancy salad dressing bottle and had a screw cap. It tasted like slightly rancid grape juice. But, it was cheap and it worked. Perhaps there was some sort of good thing about the foul taste in that it was foul enough that I never did drink so much of it that I had to taste it twice.

    The whole Matrix thing quite bothered me. Are people really so simple minded that it took three movies to get across the notion that there might be two levels to reality? After the first movie, I hoped they’d do a third level — like a double dream — and then for the third movie do an infinite number of levels. But, no. They didn’t. Is the general public really that so simple minded that infinitely layered levels of reality are beyond their grasp? Or is it just the Hollywood thinks that of the general public?

  4. Mr Hand: On people being simple minded… I was trained as a military journalist and when the instructors were teaching us how to write AP style, they constantly corrected our initial drafts of our articles by circling words in red ink and stating “too big of a word… the general public only reads at a 6th or 7th grade level.”

    I don’t know how that translates to schooling across the pond but those are kids who are about 11 and 12 years old.

    So basically to answer your question… Yes, the general public is pretty simple minded.

    I’m not saying I’m the sharpest tool in the socket. No wait,… brightest bulb in the toolshed. No, that’s not it. There’s no village that’s missing a rocket scientist with me. No! agghh! Five o’ clock. gotta go.

  5. You made me laugh. One of my standard jokes is that I’ll give a student enough rope and then watch them shoot themselves in the foot. Unfortunately, about half the time I say that I have to explain that I’ve mixed cliches.

    I think there’s something interesting about 6th or 7th grade level reading. I think hardly anyone in 6th or 7th grade reads at that level. Those who will grow up to love reading probably already read at a much higher level and those who won’t probably don’t read at their grade level.

    BTW, I’m not across the pond. Here’s a link that reveals my location (unless I’m making things up).

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