Thursday, January 19, 2017

Jaskologist's Theory of Magic

Jaskologist, a commenter at Slate Star Codex, has a theory about magic. It starts from a weird video that shows some guy using glitches in Super Mario Brothers 3 to warp to the end. He goes on:
This is magic, and evidence that we live in a simulation.

SMB3 is a completely deterministic world, with easily discovered rules. And yet, it still contains these little pieces that act completely outside of the normally observable rules. What that guy is doing in that video is magic. There’s no substantial difference between “jump on the turtles when they have these facial expressions in this order” and “gather the tears of a virgin during a full moon.”

So, if we are in a simulation, we would expect there to be bugs in our universe, which might be exploited with just the right series of normally-unremarkable actions. In-universe, we call that magic.

“But Jaksologist,” you object, “we’ve investigated magic rather thoroughly and found that it does not work! Doesn’t this cut against your theory?”

On the contrary, you are missing a very important difference between our world and SMB3. SMB3 was released and done with; our world is still being maintained. So what we would expect to see in our world are bugs/magics that work for a while, but then stop once the god/grad student who maintains our code patches the bug.

Looking back in history, we might even be so lucky as to see the people who were around taking note of the dying of magic. . . .


G. Verloren said...

This is the sort of self-amusing twaddle people occasionally come up with to just have fun wrangling with a concept.

For example, while contemplating the confusing rules, culture, and traditions of the game of Cricket, an amusingly absurd notion once playfully crossed my mind to the effect that it isn't actually a sport, but rather is a long running hoax collectively carried out as a form of absurdist humor.

The gist of the idea is that since the rules for cricket are so bizarre and hard to remember, the actual truth is that there are no rules, it isn't actually a sport, and people just make it all up, frequently inventing new rules and citing fictional historical precedents to override old rules, all on the fly.

The cricket community is then made up of two segments. First, the core group of people who are in on the joke, all sworn to communal secrecy, who follow a set of agreed upon guidelines - not firm rules in their own right, but a foundation of shared terms and tools with which to improvise the secret performance art that people mistake for an actual sport.

Second, all the actual players and fans of the game who make the mistake and are convinced it's a real sport. Since the rules of cricket are so labyrinthine and bizarre, anyone who "understands" them must necessarily be accepting of the seeming contradictions and counterintuition within them - hence they never catch on that they're made up, self contradictory, and frequently changing.

They'll be actively watching or even playing in a game, and the umpires and referees (who are all in on the hoax) will make some call that seems to go against the rules, but by providing a plausible made up historical reference to some non-existant match on August 12th, 1842 between the fictional teams of The Huddersfield Weavers and their bitter Scottish rival of Aberdeen United, which resulted in the creation of an obscure by-law not recorded in most modern rulesbooks, but that the "experts" all agree is absolutely a little-known part of the Laws of Cricket at least by tradition, if not by written inclusion.

Anyway, yeah. Utter twaddle, but harmless twaddle. Dadaism in textual form, really. As long as it amuses even just one person, it serves its purpose.

leif said...

exactly. it's the essence of magical thinking. pick out something extraordinary, build a mythos around it, cathect it, and defend it by offering arguments picked from the constructed mythos. it's all fun until someone gets an eye poked out.

[and i sure like picking out street numbers instead of storefronts.]