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The Egg (galactanet.com)
450 points by mickgiles 1384 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 153 comments

I guess I'm in the minority that doesn't find this story uplifting. The memory reset is the biggest problem, since it doesn't allow the main character to learn from his mistakes. At the end of time, the main character will have his memories and personalities merged. Then he'll look back on countless lifetimes of the same mistakes and regrets. It would be like if someone slipped you some Ambien (to prevent memory formation), played the same prank on you 20 times, then showed you a video of it after you sobered up. "Ha-ha, you fell for it every time! Classic!" Except instead of 20 times it would be billions (possibly trillions) of lifetimes. And instead of one prank, it would be countless heartbreaks, regrets, failures, and insecurities.

And that's only looking at the character's own "choices." (Is it really a choice if you can't stop yourself from becoming John Wilkes Booth?) The cruelty inflicted by nature would be much greater. Disease, famine, famine, disease, famine, typhoon, famine, rattlesnake bite, famine, tsunami, etc.

Now I wonder if a sugar-coated Lovecraftian horror story was the author's intent. No other kind of god would set up a system where you're forced to repeat the same mistakes for billions of years.

...how very human

I see were you are coming from, and for sake of intellectual discussion of speculative fiction even up-voted. But I think there's a whole load of possibilities you've missed.

The most basic one is simply that you're attributing human values to something decidedly not human. That learning from each mistaken life is actually a desirable feature. Perhaps only the aggregate matters. Perhaps, in fact, that which is being studied is so alien to us that we can't see how they are in fact learning through the process. Perhaps the point of existence is experience itself, rather than to be able to make decisions based on that experience. Perhaps we do learn from what we don't directly remember - that glass of warm water still effects the finger we dip in ;)

Then there's the passage of time and characters. Let's pretend for the sake of being able to follow an argument that concepts of "before" and "after" can be applied at all. Perhaps all those minds which we consider horrendous are the earlier ones, and those which come after are increasingly better? Perhaps it is the complete opposite, as we all have the wrong idea as to the way around things should be!

And, of course, we should be careful when interpreting "With each new life you grow and mature and become a larger and greater intellect". After all, we are assuming it is the experiences and learnings of the life which give those results, rather than the process itself. Perhaps it is not that at all, but rather those are simply a bi-product of whatever is really going on. The foetus requires stimulation and its nascent mind simply occupying whilst it grows and matures, and the nature of that stimulation has no effect what so ever.

I must admit, though, I have a fondness for your lovecraftian horror twist interpretation ;)

Lovecraft kind of covered this in his Randolph Carter stories. Check out "The Silver Key"[1] as a prequel and "Through the Gates of the Silver Key"[2] as the payoff. It's not the typical horror he's known for, but definitely incorporates his larger cosmic themes.

[1] http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Silver_Key

[2] http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Through_the_Gates_of_the_Silve...

Years ago, there was a PBS documentary about the Buddha. [1] In it, one of the guests was addressing a question about the Buddhist belief in reincarnation. He dismissed the popular notion of reincarnation, where one was Napoleon or Cleopatra or the like in a previous life, instead likening it to repeating puberty over and over and over again.

It's not a question of being forced to make the mistakes. I think you're making a bit of a "forest for the trees" kind of mistake in the way you're looking at it. Accepting, for sake of argument, the story's premise of a one-soul universe, in each successive life, I'm choosing my mistakes. Ideally, I'm choosing new and better mistakes each time — much like the oft-cited entrepreneurial advice to keep making new and better mistakes.

[1] http://www.pbs.org/thebuddha/

What about the natural disasters? You're not choosing that pain and suffering. (Well, maybe a little bit nowadays through global warming, but at least before this century you weren't)

This gets back to the popular notion of Karma, which says that when bad shit happens to someone, they somehow "deserved" it.

First off, I don't think Buddhism even has a notion of "bad". It recognizes that there is suffering, but it doesn't say suffering is bad; it merely says, matter-of-factly and without judgement, that suffering is a consequence of desire. In order not to suffer, the Buddha teaches, one must (among other things) be in accord with and accepting of one's circumstances, whatever they may be. Buddhism is very practical that way; there's the old saw about the Zen master who quipped, "Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water."

When "bad" shit happens, in that light, the suffering one experiences doesn't come from the thing that happened, but instead from wishing things were somehow different than they are. When you do that, you're diverting your awareness and mental energy from the reality that is manifest and present in front of you, and instead focusing on something that is not only not real, but can never be real.

And when you do that, you completely miss the fact that, up there, on that ledge, a lone flower has somehow managed to survive all the carnage around you. Had you not been preoccupied with wishing the world was other than it is, that flower would have reminded you that, even in the presence of destruction, life and beauty are resilient, and will ultimately triumph.

Thanks for explaining the Buddhist view. I don't know if you endorse it or not, but that sentiment really irks me. It reminds me of theodicy: Play with words enough, and you can claim the world is a beautiful place.

Except, it isn't. It's worse than you can possibly imagine.

Over 6 million children under the age of 5 died last year, mostly from disease. That's a Hiroshima bombing every week, killing only children under the age of 5. In the time it's taken you to read this paragraph, a handful of children will have died in terror and agony. Their parents will be filled with grief and guilt for years, if not the rest of their lives.

That is suffering, and it is bad. And no amount of platitudes or pretty flowers on a hillside can make up for it. If anything's in charge of this cosmos, they've got a hell of a lot of explaining to do. Of course, it would be satisfying to point a finger. Reality is more frustrating: The universe is indifferent; horrifically so. For example, nothing in physics prevents a tiny protein-encased strand of DNA from killing 400 million people in the 20th century.[1]

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smallpox

Note: Parts of this post are paraphrasing an argument originally made by Sam Harris. Credit where credit is due and all that.

You're welcome. I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm Buddhist, but I've found a lot of wisdom in and no small amount of inner peace through the Buddha's teachings.

Play with words enough, and you can claim the world is a beautiful place. Except, it isn't. It's worse than you can possibly imagine.

The beauty of the world and the morality of what happens in it are utterly orthogonal. You're conflating those things in a way that, frankly, I find rhetorically cheaper than much of the sophistry that calls itself theodicy, and which, it appears, we both disdain.

That is suffering, and it is bad.

No, it's not; it's experience. It just is, whatever you may think of it, and what you think of it doesn't change the thing you're experiencing one whit. Calling an experience "bad" — or anything else that makes a moral, aesthetic, or other kind of qualitative judgement — is something you did, intrinsic neither to the experience, nor to the thing being experienced, but only to you. There's no such thing as "bad" anywhere in the whole universe except in your mind.

Buddhism isn't about trying to make unpleasant feelings "go away", or pretending they don't exist. Of course they do; you're feeling them! It's about being present to those feelings, rather than wishing they weren't there, and recognizing them to be as transient as the pleasant feelings and everything else in life, including life itself.

> The beauty of the world and the morality of what happens in it are utterly orthogonal. You're conflating those things

He's right to conflate these things. Suffering is not beautiful.

And Buddhists don't think it is, in the sense that you mean beautiful. They think that it is unavoidable. And they (also) think you can learn to avoid it.

I don't agree with the ur-parent that Buddhism thinks that if you can clear away the illusions of everyday life that you will see beauty. I think it believes that if you clear away the illusions, then you will see clearly, and that this is something worth doing because it will end your suffering, no matter who you are and what is happening to you.

But it's also believed by most Buddhists that this rarely happens, that it takes many many lifetimes for it to happen to anyone. So they also believe that helping reduce the suffering of all other sentient beings is one of their missions.

Suffering is not beautiful.

Suffering is.


Beauty is.


not Beauty also is.


And yet, many of the people who are undoubtedly suffering horribly still manage to find moments of happiness in short, brutal lives. We as privileged people should absolutely be doing all we can to help improve quality of life for all humans, but I think you're projecting bleakness you feel on situations that do in fact have moments of joy, and even peace.

And I think joy is a better word than beauty. Beauty kind of implies to me objective truth, but joy can be found even in unimaginable trying situations where no objective person would see beauty.

I guess at the end of the day, all you can really choose is to believe in something or to believe in nothing.

That's a bleak outlook. In the end all we get are the "pretty flowers on the hillside". Look at the sadness and say "nothing can make up for that" and you've died already.

I say "look at the flowers on the hillside, nothing can cancel that out"

Buddhism thinks general bad things as the person suffered do not understand the deterministic natural behind their suffering. So there is no good/bad, there is only knowning/unknowning

You choose the pain and suffering (mixed in with the good stuff too) because otherwise you'd be as bored as it gets and can't even kill yourself. If you choose to believe that.

It's not uplifting, it is a parable of karma. It is posing the claim that we are all one life, and you should seek to uplift all of humanity, because you will live every life, even the lowest.

Or that you should uplift the best life of humanity, because you will live it.

But generally, work for a distribution that you would prefer.

It is a spin on Bentham(?)/Rawls(?) Philosophy that you should choose a social contact/morality that you'd find acceptable if you didn't know who you would be born as.

Regarding the last line, I think you're thinking of the veil of ignorance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veil_of_ignorance

Yes,thank you.

Don't know that this is what the author put in, but what I took out was that he doesn't consciously remember the lives, but there's associative memory. In the Ambien hypothetical, you could imagine all sorts of different flinch reactions developing, without a conscious memory underpinning them.

I thought the author meant, this is how you get "moral progress", and why history becomes less barbaric.

But then, that would require most of the future lives to come at the end of his timeline. Which doesn't really make sense. Shrug.

Interesting. I'd always made the assumption that something, at least, transferred from one life to the next. I figured that the worst and most selfish lives happened 'first', and the absurdly selfless lives happened 'last'.

He would experience all of the mistakes, regret, pain, suffering, and all that bad stuff, but he will also experience all of the love, joy, laughter, and all the other good stuff. In the end, one of his single lives still went through the same motions of all of his other lives together, just at a smaller scale.

That is how we mature in life. We learn and grow from our mistakes and accomplishments. Our pain and our joy. You can, as many do, see life as just one big shithole of pain, but you would still be missing out on another side of it.

That's at least what I got out of the story. I thought it was lovely.

My thoughts exactly. I feel there's something interesting there that doesn't quite work. There needs to be a stronger link between re-living life and steadily 'improving', whether this 'improvement' is something alien to us (as mdisraeli suggests), or whether these improvements fit our human view of things.

For example, the story could focus on a subset of 'humanity', some kind of smaller community, and highlight how the protagonist, through inhabiting all people in this community, broadened and deepened his understanding and/or compassion. This subset could be a family, for example, or a set of different 'archetypes' (leader, priest, caretaker, slave, etc.).

Wouldn't it be interesting if there were some way to undo the reset of memory, and you gained control over the continual reset to the point where, in fact at the end of this life, you no longer get the memory reset, but can remember everything, understand everything, and know who you are in the great cosmos.

Many religions have tried. Maybe one day one of them will make it through that barrier. Perhaps the nature of the game is that we play it until we learn not to play it any more - by making another game, perhaps ..

> No other kind of god would set up a system where you're forced to repeat the same mistakes for billions of years.

If the alternative were ultimate boredom, you might. Consider the possibility that you're not repeating mistakes so much as continuously immersing yourself in an environment that relieves boredom, an environment that also allows for personal/god growth.

I've read this several times before, and this bit always gets me, as they say, "right in the feels":

“Don’t worry,” I said. “They’ll be fine. Your kids will remember you as perfect in every way. They didn’t have time to grow contempt for you. Your wife will cry on the outside, but will be secretly relieved. To be fair, your marriage was falling apart. If it’s any consolation, she’ll feel very guilty for feeling relieved.”

It's just so human. It's almost confrontational in its degree of, "That's just how shit is sometimes," but it's delivered with utter compassion. That juxtaposition captures so much of how I feel about the human condition.

> It's just so human .

Now that you've described it like that I realize that evoking that feeling is the selling point of most literary fiction. I also feel a bit ashamed I didn't realize this earlier. It's more precise than just saying something has "realistic characters".

This would have been a significantly more enjoyable experience if the title of the submission didn't give away the ending.

I'm so glad I'd already read the story. This is the kind of title the mods should be changing.

This place has mods?

On the other hand, a title of "The Egg" might not have attracted enough views and upvotes for you to have seen it. There's a pique/spoil trade-off, now in social media more than ever.

(In this case, the first line might have worked just as well, though: "You were on your way home when you died...")

"The other hand" is a far better scenario. Odds are you'll see it at some point if this sort of thing interests you, far better that than to find it this way.

The Egg (short Sci-fi story) would have been perfectly adequate.

Speculative fiction, or parable, or fable, or theology.

I submitted this story to Reddit a few years ago with the title "You were on your way home when you died." Grabs your attention, but gives nothing away since that's just the first line. It's a great first line.

Seriously OP, why would you put the end in the title?

The story really isn't about the 'twist' at the end.

same reason american shows have the "still to come" segments? (but in this case, times 10 worst)

I won't read because of op bad title choice :(

That's alright... you wrote it anyway.

You win the internet, forever, for that one :)

What was the original submission title?

I wouldn't have been quite so aware of the title as I read if you hadn't pointed this out :-)

Who thinks of the title when reading the storey? Its a kind of double-meaning thing - when I'm done reading, and think of the title again, I see the irony or secret or whatever. Its a good title because it adds to the storey when you're done.

How is the story spoiled by the title, I don't get that?

I managed to get through it without making the link before it was pointed out in the ending. I guess I was just lucky.

I would have liked it to be titled "Theory of Everything"

well. The story seems to actually be called "The Egg"

I don't feel it's any greater spoiler than "The Last Question"

edit: oops

Another good short story similar to this is Asimov's "The Last Question." http://filer.case.edu/dts8/thelastq.htm

And "The Last Answer", which ironically ends with a question while "The Last Question" ends with an answer.

And a bunch of others that aren't quite similar except that they're short, provocative scifi. Here's my list of favorites:

* Ted Chiang - Understand - http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/stories/under.htm

* Ted Chiang - Exhalation - http://www.nightshadebooks.com/Downloads/Exhalation%20-%20Te...

* Ted Chiang - Hell Is the Absence of God - http://www.ibooksonline.com/88/Text/hell.html

* Sam Hughes - Ed stories - http://qntm.org/ed

* Isaac Asimov - The Last Answer - http://www.thrivenotes.com/the-last-answer/

* Aaron Diaz - Hob series - http://dresdencodak.com/2007/02/08/pom/

* Greg Egan - Closer - http://eidolon.net/?story=Closer

* Marc Stiegler - The Gentle Seduction - http://www.skyhunter.com/marcs/GentleSeduction.html

* Asimov - Spell My Name With An S - http://www.eco.uc3m.es/~pgomes/2-Personal/Asimov,%20Isaac%20...

* Clarke - The Nine Billion names of God - http://downlode.org/Etext/nine_billion_names_of_god.html

* Greg Egan - Wang's Carpets - http://bookre.org/reader?file=222997 (not exactly in the same vein, but would very much recommend nonetheless)

* if you like this, then two of his novels: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diaspora_(novel) ("Wang's Carpets" later became a chapter in this book) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permutation_City

wow ngpio, this list is great. you've probably come across this one before as well but it's definitely a good one: "I don't know, Timmy, being God is a big responsibility" http://qntm.org/responsibility

Recursive simulation layers! it's good stuff. :)

Perhaps also check out his "Fine Structure" http://qntm.org/structure (different kind of thing, but it's good scifi..) and perhaps the ongoing series / work in progress "Ra" http://qntm.org/ra

Thank you. It is a very good one. The ending, especially.

I just read "Hell is the Absence of God". I just can't understand or relate at all to the "slave morality", as Nietzsche might put it, of that story, or wrap my head around why people choose to worship a creature roughly equivalent to the one imprisoned at the center of the galaxy in Star Trek V.

I've taken my time, over the past week, savouring these, and I must now come back to say thank you very much!

This is an amazing collection. Thanks!

A good list, thank you!

thank's, truly amazing

Borges - The Immortal:

"Homer composed the Odyssey; given infinite time, with infinite circumstances and changes, it is impossible that the Odyssey should not be composed at least once. No one is someone; a single immortal man is all men. Like Cornelius Agrippa, I am god, hero, philosopher, demon, and world."

Honestly, just about all of Borges' fictions are really neat for the technically minded. Highly recommended!

Great story.

Here's an obligatory XKCD: https://xkcd.com/505/

That model seems ineffective. While it operates in parallel, spawns a plethora of threads and does, I imagine, aim to end in eventual consistency, it also seems to lack any form of shared state. If I was me I would make sure I overlap myself on each new instance and not deal with that restart time. I'd also suggest picking a different tool rather than the current one... I think I might be using LISP (Lost In Self Protocol).

>“You’ve been in a human for the last 48 years, so you haven’t stretched out yet and felt the rest of your immense consciousness. If we hung out here for long enough, you’d start remembering everything. But there’s no point to doing that between each life.”

Perhaps the restart time is necessary to update the shared state. Take the mind out of the universe, review its acquired experiences and integrate them into the combined soul, then reboot the mind and send it on its way.

Odd that he should be conscious for this part though. I suppose the afterlife state is equivalent to dreaming: the brain has to review and absorb the day's memories, and semi-conscious hallucinations are an interesting side-effect.

I think the problem of a shared state is that you're starting the new life with many preassumptions, which is not good.

To get the most learnings, you need to be completely open, unbiased.

It's just a beautiful piece of fiction, not a computer program. No need to draw parallels with how software works, it's kind of pointless.

Wow, I guess I'll try not to have a little fun along the way... Sheesh.

Completely off topic, however I read this originally right around when Lost went off the air.

I always wished this is how Lost ended: with Jack being told by Jacob that he was actually everyone on the plane (which is why they all had a weird connection), and all these lives were him waiting to be "born" into running the island.

I wasn't a Lost follower (my gf at the time was, so I heard most of the plot without paying much attention.) By the end I was expecting to be some kind of nonsense (like it did,) but I was expecting more like a room full of monkeys with typewriters. Seriously.

Yes! That would be such a better ending... I would buy that in a second.

Replying with a non-mobile link for those who are as lazy as I am when I see a .m Wikipedia link :)


On HN, we want to hack the way our systems work. We want to see through the obscurity and complexities advanced systems have brought along and find the most elegant and quickest way to challenge and control them. Why can we not look at hacking religion? Why can we not hack philosophy? I like this story, but more than that I like the fact that it has reached page 1 on HN. I think many people here are not looking for self-realisation in the form of a startup that brings them big bucks, but hey - self-realisation.

"Why can we not look at hacking religion"

I'm in the camp of people that considers religion a hack already - a psychological manipulation of emotions and thoughts to bring about a particular state of being and behaviour. In many cases it's a beneficial symbiosis - and in others a spiritually parasitical one - between the 'host' religion and the 'client' believer.

So what does it mean to 'hack' region? To further twist it to your own purposes? That's been happening for millennia - large organisations have been honing their practises, others are constantly 'disrupting' it with alternatives.

I know a number of people who 'hack' religion, in the sense that they don't necessarily buy into all of it, but use it to further an agenda that I would consider good. My former pastor (and father) is one of them. I've also known a number of gay individuals who did not believe they were 'sinful' and yet actively worked within a religious framework that condemned them, because they felt the benefits were worth it.

That said, most of them do believe quit a bit of their chosen religion.

This is within an iota of the precise cosmology of my religion of birth:


Except that, coming from that background, I expected the big reveal to be that the Egg is talking to himself, hatched.

As unprovable speculations about the nature of reality go, I rather like this one.

Indeed, egg talking to himself would be better. Otherwise our existential problem isn't clarified just moved up one level of conscience.

One could imagine the concept recurring outward, since time has no meaning. Maybe when egg has lived all the lives he moves to the next level and finds that he was both egg and the "god", teaching himself.

I was expecting that too. Son was okay, but a bit Jesusy. Self would've been more of a head scratcher.

This would be horrifying if it was true. Think of how many billions of painful, terrible lives you would have to experience.

Edit: I suppose it's just as horrible regardless of whether or not you experience them...

Don't forget this is all make believe. You won't need to re-live the lives of everyone there ever was, as implied in this creative writing.

"Once you’ve lived every human life throughout all time, you will have grown enough to be born".

There's no magic number of humans that represents "all of them". It's odd to suggest that people (even aborted foetuses?) are only part of a giant equation, that permits one into heaven, or whatever is suggested here.

Please, this is not a lot different than believing that the large round boulders on the hill were laid by crocodile spirits a long time ago. Lovely story and belief of a particular native people. But those boulders have quite a different origin - nothing to do with crocodiles, and their fate has nothing to do with crocodiles either.

A conversation isn't waiting on the other side. Death is the end of conversation, not the beginning. We only hope it will mean beginnings and re-incarnations, but the chances are that when you die, you're done being human and you'll be onto something else.

LOL, progressing up through the ranks of humanity to reach God-status. That is some messed up mass-ego injection.

If you're choosing the reincarnation yourself (if only to relieve boredom), then it's no longer horrifying.

Incompatible with Free Will

The story is incompatible with free will. The only way the universe could be the way it is, with the one person living all those lives, yet always choosing such that the other people (him in another re-incarnation) also always choose as they (he) did, it would be necessary for free will not to exist.

But this would also mean that the "god" in this story also didn't have free will, because the man was "of his (god's) kind".

But if God does not have free will, he isn't the greatest possible being. The universe thus described therefore fails Anselm's Ontological Argument for the Existence of God. The hypothetical God who is identical to the God in this story, with the exception that He DOES have free will, is obviously a greater being.

I conclude that this story cannot possibly describe Reality, as It actually Is.

You keep using that word, "always". You understand this has a meaning only in temporal context, right? The narrator sequentializes the events in order to make them comprehensible, but that doesn't mean the Egg actually lived these lives sequentially on by one. Once you realize that, your argument about "always" disappears. Also the question of free will becomes much stranger than you put it. Imagine you filmed somebody and watching it later. Does the person on film lack free will because you can just jump to any place on the film and "predict" his actions? I think you won't make this conclusion. Imagine now somebody who does not perceive time linearly (we're in SF territory so we're allowed to). Would his existence mean free will does not exist?

With some specific FMRI tests, they have shown that your decisions are being made before your are consciousnessly aware of them, therefore what we would call free will is called into question as something that exists at all, and arguing our consciousness is not an artifact of many lower level processes is a hard sell. (to me anyway)

Additionally: I don't see how the ontological argument ever was correct, "god is the most perfect, therefore he exists because an attribute of perfection is existence" is about the most ass backwards way of trying to prove the existence of anything, much less the creator of the universe. I conclude the this story is about as accurate as any other non-evidence based argument for some sort of creator and how they(it/he/she) works.

> your decisions are being made > before your are consciousnessly aware of them

Yes, I'm aware of these studies.

But they make the mistake of presupposing materialist reductionism a priori, as if it were actually true.

Those who assume materialist reductionism have an entire set of questions they are incapable of answering, such as:

1) How can teleology arise from non-teleology? 2) Whence consciousness? 3) How can something come from nothing?

There is a great deal of evidence that materialism is not the best explanation for Reality. If you want to see some of this evidence, read "Mind and Cosmos" by Thomas Nagel.

1) Show teleology is more than a human construction to explain the purposes we ourselves invented

2) Emergent behavior in the brain

3) Big bang

Treating these questions as unanswerable assumes a very weak form of materialism.

> Show teleology is more than a human construction > to explain the purposes we ourselves invented

Your question itself is enough evidence that humans didn't invent teleology, but merely recognized its existence. You are asking for a reason why. You are asking a teleological question.

Two year old children do the same thing, constantly. They ask why.

It is natural to ask why.

It is very unnatural to deny the naturalness of asking why, or to try to suppress it, as if the desire to understand why didn't exist in all of us.

Indeed, the answer to the "why" question is one of the four causes Aristotle says we must explain to understand what a thing is. We must understand the why behind it. That is the final cause, or the purpose for the thing.

What you cannot answer is this: How can final cause -- purpose or motivating reason for something -- arise out of nothing? Indeed, the intelligent person recognizes that such an idea is non-sense, and rejects it out of hand.

You get purpose, or reason for being, from a priori purpose or reason. I work in order to have money. I want money in order to buy food and shelter. I want food and shelter to continue to survive. And so on.

You never get purpose, or reason for being, from nothing.

You think by asking me to show that teleology is more than a human construction, that you will bolster your evidence for reductive materialism -- especially if I can't provide an answer that meets your satisfaction. But in so doing, you are demonstrating teleology. You have a goal. You are driving towards that goal. And your goal is self-contradictory. Your goal is to establish that teleology is somehow not Real, not inherent in the universe, and not inherent in us. But goal-based action is what teleology is all about. So you are engaging in the very behavior you are seeking to prove doesn't exist, except as a figment of our imagination.

A house divided against itself cannot stand.

What you cannot answer is this: How can final cause -- purpose or motivating reason for something -- arise out of nothing? Indeed, the intelligent person recognizes that such an idea is non-sense, and rejects it out of hand.

I can indeed answer this, and I will. Also, it strikes me as bad form to imply that someone who disagrees with you is unintelligent because they do not reject the ideas you want them to reject.

Now to my answer: purpose arises from lack of purpose because purpose itself is merely emergent behavior in the neurons of our brains, arising from the laws of physics.

You get purpose, or reason for being, from a priori purpose or reason. I work in order to have money. I want money in order to buy food and shelter. I want food and shelter to continue to survive. And so on.

You never get purpose, or reason for being, from nothing.

You still have to show that purpose, itself, exists in any form other than a chemical arrangement in our brains. For that matter, you have to define the "nothing" from which purpose is supposed not to have originated, before I can agree that, indeed, that sort of "nothing" is incapable of creating "purpose", or even agree that such a definition of "nothing" is tenable.

But in so doing, you are demonstrating teleology. You have a goal.

I may have a goal behind this comment, but behind that goal is an emergent phenomenon of the laws of physics, and as such, my "goal" is not incompatible with my claimed nonexistence of teleology.

Anselm's ontological argument is, however, bollocks. Merely postulating the existence of a greatest possible being is irrelevant as to whether such a being exists, or whether free will is even possible. There's no evidence that it is apart from our feeling and wishing it were so.

The ontological argument makes a lot more sense when you start from Augustine's viewpoint that evil is always a privation, a lack, and never a thing itself. In fact, it cannot be understood without Augustine's understanding of evil as a framework.

If you believe in free will, I'd be very interested to know your beliefs as to whence it derives. If the universe is bound by a set of consistent physical laws governing the behaviour of all energy/matter, then every interaction is predetermined by the combination of those laws and whatever the initial state was. Free will therefore requires a supernatural component that is not subject to those laws and processes. Even at a more macro level, every decision you make is necessarily based on a combination of genetics and the contents of your memory, i.e. the sum of your experiences, and the interaction between those elements.

What we like to call free will is just the deterministic result of processes to complex to be understood, modelled or predicted.

> If the universe is bound by a set of consistent physical laws governing the behaviour of all energy/matter, then every interaction is predetermined by the combination of those laws and whatever the initial state was.

Quantum theory disproves this thesis, and quantum theory is the best-confirmed of any current scientific theories, i.e. it's very likely to reflect a basic truth about reality. Quantum theory shows that, even though physical laws, and cause/effect relationships, still exist, outcomes aren't predetermined -- there is more than enough indeterminacy in outcomes to justify an argument for free will.

Someone might argue that, if quantum probability only allows a certain number of possible outcomes and one of those outcomes will be selected randomly, therefore free will is disproven by that essentially mathematical process. But if there are enough such outcomes in a timeline, the real difference between many stochastic quantum picks and what most people think of as free will, may seem academic.

> What we like to call free will is just the deterministic result of processes to complex to be understood, modelled or predicted.

That may be true, but it cuts both ways. It can be used to argue for a purely mechanistic unpredictability with no involvement for conscious agents, but it can be used to argue for the opposite case (conscious choices, "free will") with equal justice. And we might never know which is true.

What about pre-human hominids? Was he also all the Homo Ergasters? Homo Habilis? Australopithecus Afarensis? The great apes? All the mammals? All multi-celled life?

I don't get what's interesting about this story. It's pretty silly and not very enlightening.

Me too. It's ridiculous and empty.

Maybe he lived as all of them on the way up.

Or WILL live as all of them on the way up, depending on your worldview.

The author of this wrote THE MARTIAN. I recommend it:


Amazon Smile link, first I have seen in the wild!

Epic book, totally recommended.

Well I'm glad I wrote it.

While we're talking about dark cosmologies, Divided by Infinity [0] is fantastic. I'll post it here as when I try to submit it as its own post it is automatically marked dead.

[0] http://www.tor.com/stories/2010/08/divided-by-infinity

First time reading this story would be nice if someone can explain the takeaway from this? It's a very deep story but trying to rationalize the meaning or concept behind the idea of this story. Thanks:)

I didn't take anything from it, just thought it was a very creative idea.

I suppose there's a 'every experience makes you grow' angle - but I don't think the author was really trying to push it. It's mostly about the clever construction.

We should love each other like we love ourselves.

some people can take the idea very literal lol

I'd strongly suggest "Sum: 40 tales from the after lives" for anyone enjoy this story. It's a lovely collection of short stories with very similar writing style and theme.

The central idea - ROT13 ... gung rirel uhzna guebhtu gvzr vf gur fnzr fbhy orvat er-vapneangrq ... /ROT13 is also explored in parts of Transcendent, by Stephen Baxter, in which immortal far future beings ROT13 zhfg cercner sbe gurve vzzbegnyvgl ol rkcrevrapvat rirel yvsrgvzr bs rirel uhzna gung unf rire yvirq orsber gurz. /ROT13. It is also mentioned in The Thought Gang by Tibor Fisher as a possible metaphysics.

Of all the religious, non religious, philosophical, etc. texts I've ever read. This is the one I most hope is true.

Me too (us too?) but I guiltily admit it's partly because I'd like to experience being Genghis Khan.

But then again you'd have to experience being Paris Hilton as well.

brings new meaning to "go f* yourself"

This seemed cute the first time I read it, and it explains the "why I am me?" question that most religions just don't.

But I realized, this is would be an absolute disaster if true. True story: life more or less sucks if you aren't near a local maximum of a food chain.

I always thought the point of he story was to call attention to that fact and plead for empathy and compassion.

I think there's an inevitability to his eventual hatching of superpowers. Whether or not he's good, bad, or indifferent to people, all he has to do is wait it out —til they're all dead — and he hatches into super universe monster. Pretty sweet.

Yeah, but then you hatch into a megabeing that can make and destroy universes. Swings and roundabouts.

The Gentle Seduction is a similar short story in regards to singularity that The Egg reminded me of http://www.skyhunter.com/marcs/GentleSeduction.html

This would mean that life is an episode in a Monte-Carlo simulation traversing the state space of all possible human lifes.

The story also suggests that the simulation is heavily parallel and complete knowledge of all episodes (rather all paths) makes you god.

I hadn't read this, but I recognized the author's name as the author of one of my favorite (no longer running) webcomics[0]. I guess that means I would probably enjoy his other writings[1].

[0]: http://www.galactanet.com/comic/view.php?strip=1 [1]: http://www.galactanet.com/writing.html

... hmm, now I'm a little disapointed in myself that I didn't recognize the domain name too.

I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. I am the eggman, they are the eggmen. I am the walrus, goo goo g'joob goo goo g'joob. Lennon

The theme and mood remind me somewhat of Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke - one of my favorite books.

Ah, interesting - I've been thinking that if time isn't linear + there is reincarnation then only needing one soul is an obvious side effect, and then this story goes on to answer the next question that comes up.

Of course, it's just a thought experiment - though it is interesting.

Wow! That was a good read. Advaita philosophy, and Karma Siddantha in a nutshell.

How can you bootstrap such a world with only one soul? (I know, not the right question.)

    >How can you bootstrap such a world with only one soul?
VC funding, baby! Don't worry about monetization yet, just work on scale.

I think it works out fine here. You have one path through all lives, you can't be adam and eve at the same time but you can interact with yourself as either of them at some point in your path. Of course i think original sin should come pretty early in your path ;)

One soul manifests itself as endless possibilities, including you, me, and the world. That's the core of advaita vedanta: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advaita_Vedanta

I think it's a fair question. But if God can be omnipresent, omni*. Then soul, which according to the story is a God in making can also have those attributes.

Do souls have @mixins?

This is a little reminiscent of Mormonism (minus the 'only you and me' bit)

Same premise as Mark Twain's The Mysterious Stranger http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mysterious_Stranger

I first read this on 4chan. I'm so glad to learn it wasn't created there... A truly life changing story.

I enjoyed the story. Thanks for posting this mickgiles.

I wonder when this was written?

August 2009. The author told me by email.

That was G-Man

That makes actually a lot of sense.

Unlike that sentence structure :)

I think I will stick with cryonics. Thanks, anyway...

    The rate of information increases.
This is true of humans, gods, and all things. Some initial configuration is irrelevant to this fact of existence — that information describes it, so too, is part of the configuration that you play into.

Many gods, one god, whatever — it is part of a being to know what is relevant at any point in time. If there are gods, your death is something that becomes information to them.

The implication here is that even in their case, their ends become information to something else.

The first to be surprised — to introduce new information — doesn't "win" or "sin". What's to be felt about the falsity that

        The rate of information increases.


Old. Seriously who hasn't read this by now.

I see what you did there. You're saying that if one of us read it we all did. Because we're the egg. Brilliant.

Who hasn't written it?

Honestly I have read this before too but it was in a 4chan screenshot, know I know it's just copypasta

Unless it's had seven billion hits, I'd say a few people haven't. I was one of them.

I haven't, for one.

Do souls have cryptographic hashes?

If so maybe they should change the hash function, according to this short story billions of collisions have been found.

Assuredly they do. It's intriguing you replied with this comment to the guy that will probably bring that to pass for all software processes.

I know exactly who I asked this of, and that's why I asked it of him.

That would imply we're all thinking the same thing then. That continues to be interesting to me.

That we could all be considering a concept that has, even if true, a statistically insignificant measurable signature?

    God: Oh yes, yes! Souls... I remember those. Great idea at the time. Yeah, I wrote those a loooong time ago. They're causally insignificant now, I'm pretty sure. Obviously it's all automated by now.
Or something Stephensonian, like the protofestering of a fledgling clan of digital spiritalists secretly brooding over the core belief-set of Hackerdom as it is scripted?

whom*, you baboon.

I haven't either. Go back to Reddit.

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