Actual Reality, Interpretation, and Shared Reality - The Preservation and Perpetuation of Power in the Information Age

Freeze time, if you could, and you could describe the world in terms of what is where, and you would do a pretty good job of describing reality as it exists at that moment. Since time never freezes, though, what you would be describing is incomplete. Absent are the directions in which things are moving, changing, evolving—pick your word here. Take your freeze frame of reality and move it (again if you could) and you would notice after considerable study, some patterns. Some people tending to move towards food and ingesting it--we assume they are hungry. Others wiggle in ways that manipulate raw materials into the shape of a Mercedes Benz. Follow those movements backward and forward in time and you may begin to understand the process taking place as commerce, labor, etc.—a more complex pattern than animals feeding but no less discernable as a pattern of activity and motion comprising a part of the whole of reality. Play the tape in real time and you will find veritable weather patterns of human activity, like the weather predictable to some degree but subject to dramatic changes from even a slight unexpected and/or imperceptible shift in one variable or another. We can draw the conclusion that reality is far more complex than any one of us can grasp, which is not surprising given that our tool for grasping reality, our conscious mind interpreting the input from our senses, is extraordinarily complex yet only a tiny part of that reality we strive to understand.

Why this philosophical deconstruction of reality? Because as complex and formidable an object of study, reality exists. And more than that, confusion tends to reign as to what reality is, and what is real. This confusion is not simply a result of the complexity of reality—by the act of interpretation of actual reality humans create most of the confusion themselves. We are not, like animals, content to gaze at the sky, we gaze at the sky with awe. That awe gives way to curiosity and curiosity in turn, and over time, results in the creation of knowledge—the ability to understand certain aspects of reality to the point of being able, for example, to predict a rainstorm. As our collective ability to acquire knowledge increases, there are those who come to have faith in our abilities to discern reality and act accordingly. This significant success often gives us a false sense of knowing when in fact we do not know. We have come to assume that, within our limits to understand, there are things that are knowable because by knowing them we gain advantage, i.e. we don’t get wet and catch cold.

As with all matters based on faith, there exists the potential for mistaken assumptions. Moreover, it is possible for us to be tricked into believing we understand a portion of reality when in fact our understanding is based on a plausible but ultimately unfounded interpretation of that portion of the big picture to which we are exposed. We always have the choice, of course, to fill in the gaps, but that presumes that we believe gaps may exist, which we can only find out by probing the model that purports to describe reality. More often than not, we decline to pursue this kind of inquiry if not facing compelling reasons to do so. Most of us do not worry too much about whether or not quantum mechanics adequately represents the reality of the universe as opposed to say, string theory, for several reasons. First of course is that others are engaged in that inquiry and we see no reason for them to deceive us (though maybe we should, given the amount of money directed annually to these folks.) Second we do not consider it worth our time to acquire the necessary knowledge with which to evaluate the various claims involved. Third, it does not seem to have a direct impact on our lives to know precisely how subatomic particles behave under varying conditions. All of these are more or less valid reasons for us to do other things with our lives, such as grow food, make love, and compose music. By dividing the labor necessary for our collective existence and progress, we have come to reap certain benefits in the form of free time to explore the complex realities around us that are compelling to our nature, that of seeking pleasure and happiness and avoiding pain.

The result of this state of affairs is that most of us have our own particular perceived realities that only intersect to some extent with the reality perceived by others to whom we are nonetheless bound, however indirectly, by our shared, actual reality. Modern methods of social control have traditionally exploited the existence of shared perceived realities, the manipulation of by which groups of people are encouraged to act in ways that benefit those with the means to control the sources of shared reality, i.e. the various media of communication. Remember though that the complexity of the interaction of billions of intelligent human agents is, potentially anyway, more complex than the interaction of innumerable unintelligent subatomic particles. Counteracting the tendency of complex systems like human societies comprised of complex objects like human brains to result in such a degree of complexity as to seem chaotic is the host of human instincts (no less a product of our complex natures) that despite our free will as intelligent agents results in behavior that can be studied, predicted, and reproduced, however imperfectly. The task of the modern “leader” when faced with the potentially unpredictable results of human networks left to evolve naturally is to intelligently design a number of shared realities among different, sometimes competing groups in order to simplify the process of predicting behavior and anticipating the kinds of behavior (action, speech, etc.) among individuals and groups that might subvert the interests of that particular “leader”. Whereas the traditional concept of democratic leadership is that the leader acts in the interest of those electing the leader, the reality in most cases seems to be that since even these elected leaders are susceptible to the realities created by those with the means to do so, we find, unsurprisingly, that power determines who leads any given effort to shape realities, and that we must examine the sources of power used by these actual “leaders” to determine the best possible ways to counteract the use of this power in the interests of the few at the expense of the many.


Great stuff. No comments, as this may be a bit too academic for many here, but you've touched on something totally essential to the movement. You may find some consonance with our project, We are concerned with the virtue, process, and function of truth. We hope to encourage people to not only examine a broad array of facts, but also to consider the psychological challenge of making the transition from a manufactured to a genuine reality. Have a look, and keep it coming.