Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Imaginary friends

Infidels sometimes ridicule faith in God as analogous to imaginary friends. Imaginary friends are make-believe friends which some young children invent, but later outgrow.

Imaginary friends are also a literary theme. And in fiction, imaginary friends aren’t always so imaginary. Sometimes they’re ghosts, poltergeists, or wee folk.

I haven’t investigated the issue, but I expect that in parapsychology, some “imaginary friends” are, indeed, thought to be ghosts, poltergeists, and so on.

But fiction sometimes turns this around. One SF theme is the use of VR in espionage. A soldier or government official is kidnapped. He is hooked up to a neural interface.

When he regains consciousness, he imagines that he woke up. He finds himself in a world which is indistinguishable from the real world.

Sometimes the virtual world is set in captivity. He’s given a fortuitous opportunity to escape. Or he’s rescued.

When he’s debriefed, he unwittingly divulges classified information to his captors, who appear to be on his side.

Another variant on this general theme are shy or lonely people who create holographic worlds with interactive characters they relate to more easily than their real life colleagues.

To take this one step further, you could have an individual who’s unconsciously immersed in a virtual world. This inverts the relation between real friends and imaginary friends. All of the people he meets in the virtual world seem to be real people. Visible. Tangible. Interactive.

Yet they’re equivalent to imaginary friends, whereas the real real people outside the program are, from his simulated viewpoint, equivalent to imaginary friends.

Maybe he becomes semi-lucid. He remembers people who don’t exist in the virtual world. People from another life.

And here’s the final twist. Suppose he’s a Christian. Within his simulated experience he continues to pray to God. God continues to be invisible, intangible.

Yet the visible, tangible people who populate his virtual world are imaginary, while God is the only real person he can still relate to within his simulated experience. The only person who transcends the simulation. The only person with whom he enjoys direct contact.

At present, VR technology is still quite primitive. But as time goes on, this may cease to be a purely fictitious exercise.

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