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Archives de la catégorie ‘Philosophy’

Kishi Seiji’s vision of the world

I’ve been thinking for a while about making a little essay on Kishi Seiji, who is slowly becoming one of my favorite directors. I fell in love with his directing in Ranpo Kitan, and was very much impressed by Dangan Ronpa 3 intertwined arcs which may well be the biggest experimentation on format since Endless Eight. We’ll be focusing on these two works and heavily spoiling them, so consider yourself warned (as in go watch these anime and come back). A lot of these points probably deserve to be expanded, but I tried to gloss over everything to give you food for thoughts. And you know it’s gonna be serious because the title is not « Dangan Ranpo ».

1. Boredom, eliteness and isolation

Ranpo Kitan opens up on a very grim scene that portrays a sad Kobayashi looking out the window in a grayscale world. Around him, people are just vague silhouettes who all look the same. The message is cristal clear: this kid feels lonely, longing for some kind of escape in a world filled with monotonous dolls.

However, Kishi Seiji’s approach has an undeniable oppressive aesthetics that carries the whole show and culminates in what is to me one of the most powerful moments of the show: when Kobayashi realizes that his best friend is, too, yet another human being alien to him and he is utterly alone.

Now it’s no wonder why Seiji uses this technique in Dangan Ronpa too. One of the core element of Dangan Ronpa is the notion of « Super High School Level ». All the students at Hope’s Peak Academy have a special talent developed at an elite level that places them above and outside the world of commoner. The events of DR3 (especially Zetsubou) are centered around the tension this gap between the elites and the non-elites create, especially in the light of the opening of the academy to the new un-gifted reserve students.

Among the elite is the girl who started it all, Super High School Level Despair, Enoshima Junko. She’s without a doubt the most central character in this saga. And her super talent is despair. Let that really sink in for a while. Her specialty is being in despair.

Contrary to Kobayashi, a few people around her are not silhouettes, but there is no doubt that she feels similar to him. Even among the elite students, she’s still a loner. She’s an elite among elites, just like Kamukura. The students of Hope Peak’s sometimes have very silly talents (Hope, Luck, Heir, Fortune teller…), turning to ridicule the very conception of eliteness. They become Junko’s pawn, highlighting that even though they may not seem like common folks to an innocent bystander, everybody is a silhouette for someone like her.

As the shows develop, it becomes pretty clear that Kobayashi and Junko (and Kamukura) are incredibly smart geniuses, only on par with the greatest criminals or detectives. Their intellect separates them from the common folk and plunges them into isolation. They know and understand things to levels where noone can follow, and it’s really heartbreaking to see the moment where Hashiba cannot keep up.

Junko has always been important in Dangan Ronpa, but we did not know much about her motivations before Seiji’s animation. Her discussions with Izuru Kamukura are the most enlightening: in short, just like Kobayashi, she finds the world unbearably boring and predictable. So does Izuru Kamukura, by the way. Her talent makes life untolerable for her. Is depression an unavoidable companion of brilliant minds?

Note that Junko, much like all the other Super High School Level, gets her ability naturally. She’s born with it and doesn’t have to fight for it, and in the same way she cannot get rid of it. Super High School talents are presented as a non negotiable gift that makes the reserve students jealous. But what I want to emphasize here is that this unfair blessing of some is also a non negotiable curse imposed onto them by genetics. Junko is doomed to be smart, lonely and depressed, a condition she simply cannot escape.

Obviously, I couldn’t deal with the notion of elites without bringing in the master of the Ubermensch, sir Nietzsche. For interestingly enough, in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, he points out that loneliness is unavoidable for whoever follows the path of the Ubermensch:

To him, this is a necessary condition to push oneself towards betterment and further creation. And sure enough, we’ll see that this isolation clearly drives our characters to become actors. Kobayashi will solve crime, Enoshima will dye the world in despair. However Kamukura will position himself as an arbiter in the upcoming world wars.

2. Breaking the boredom

The core vector of their isolation is their superior abilities, which allow them to know how everything will happen, making the world unbearably mundane. Is this a necessary byproduct of intelligence?

This could well be, for intelligence is bound to result in understanding the laws of the universe, and predicting their outcome. The theme of predictability of the world is even echoed by the main topic of Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace: determinism, building up on an original idea by Laplace. It is all about this algorithm which would, much like Asimov’s psychohistory, predict the whole world.

What about randomness? one may ask. This theme is dealt with extensively through the saga, most notably through the character of Komaeda, whose super level talent is luck. The intertwining format of Dangan Ronpa 3 shines the brightest showing us how Komaeda’s random luck ripples through time and affects pretty much everything by butterfly effect (for instance the feud between bonbon-girl and pharmacy-chan). But these domino effects are suspiciously perfect, and the fact that Luck or Fortune telling are genetic talents are here to remind us that there is no such thing as randomness and even luck is predestined.

In a deterministic universe, every consequence is simply the result of causes. But more than existential anguish over the lack of free will, our characters are mainly bored. Untolerably so, because their superior intellect makes them immune to any kind of Pascalian diversion. To echo the gambling metaphor Pascal loved, blackjack loses all its interest if you can predict everything perfectly. May I remind you that Pascal and Monokuma are the two people I know who used the word « game » so much ^^’

We must therefore imagine these characters tortured by the prospect of their own finitude, and completely unable to distract themselves. Drowning in Super High School Level Despair, if you will. They all desperately strive for something that escapes their predictive capabilities. No matter the cost, they need to break free from the smothering of their all seeing intellect.

The solace they find seems to be in the extremes of human behaviors, like murders and violence. Kobayashi’s comfort is in complex crimes. Junko develops an obsession with plunging the world into chaos. Kamukura goes one meta-level beyond and indulges in the extremes of Junko’s own behavior (and her opponents).

For people so smart that they can predict human behavior, are humans pushed to their limits, as gruesome and obsene as they may become. the only thing that can escape foresight? That may not even be the case, considering how deterministically Junko’s ascent into Zestubou was orchestrated…

But just like the common folk’s distractions are ultimately deterministic, maybe this elite’s distractions are a mere illusion too, and there is no real escape.

3. The vicious cycle of despair and hope

We cannot talk about Dangan Ronpa without dealing with the weird psychology of Komaeda. Dangan Ronpa is about extremes. It is the battle between two extremes drawn to an absurd level: blind hope, and relentless despair. But more than triumphing, it seems that champions of these factions merely want to escalate the conflict to the most intense possible point. Komaeda strives for a Despair as powerful as possible to make Hope shine brighter, whereas Junko rejoices that the Hope she’s faced with seems good enough for her Despair.

Of course they justify this urge for escalation by wanting a total victory of their camp, but is it really necessary? One cannot ignore the similarity in their approach, which makes the line between the faction even more blurry. Each stepping stone for Hope serves as a new challenge to make Despair more powerful, and vice versa.

This echoes the Nietzschean conception of betterment through challenge and adversity. To him, the elites builds themselves by facing the challenges and thereby becoming stronger. Therefore, shielding people from adversity is condemning them to mediocrity. That’s the core of the disagreement between Mitarai and the others at the end of the Mirai arc: knowing how irremediably flawed humans (and himself) are, he wants to shield them.

But mostly, the stepping stone paradigm draws a confusion between the two camps that culminates in the gigantic mess that is the Mirai arc, where all the core members of the Hope faction start butchering each other in a very Zestubou fashion without much resistance… Ambiguity and hypocrisy are omnipresent.

It’s no wonder that Kamukura disengages completely from these petty games. Up until the very end, the elite of elites will simply stand aside as an observer. He’s uninteresting in propagating chaos or fighting it. Could it be because taking part in this would obviously tilt the outcome and make it more determined and boring? That he does not want to taint the narrative by his participation? Is that why DR3 is an anime and not a game? He takes the opposite approach of Junko, and decide to watch the events unfold naturally, without influencing them or orchestrating a show.

4. Memes and Meta with Mitarai

Now Kamukura is not the only « watcher » in Dangan Ronpa. In fact, the theme of television, media and observation is omnipresent ever since DR1. Even in DR3, Monokuma insists repeatedly that the killing games are broadcast to the world. For the watchees, this openness in the process can start interesting discussions about Sartre and how the gaze of others is instrumental in revealing and constructing your self. But Dangan Ronpa focuses on the watchers.

The murders in Dangan Ronpa are supposed to bring despair through the world thanks to being broadcast. The psychological effects of viewing something is in fact the main reason for the mutual killings in DR1, as well as the main vector of action of Enoshima Junko. The mutual killing game makes no sense without an audience. The Zetsubou arc is centered around her meeting with animator Ryouka Mitarai, and how it will allow Junko to leverage the power of subliminal imagery to brainwash people into killing each other or forgetting things.

But is this really hypnose? All of this sounds like run of the mill animation technique, little details you’d iron in any artistic endeavour. Sure, the format is adapted to the purpose, and very very well so. However, the heart of the matter seems to remain in the content, as justified by the length Junko goes through to orchestrate it. Her targets are Hope Peak’s student precisely because of the meaning behind it and the symbol they represent. See for yourselves:

In her conversation with Kamukura, we learn more about how important the content is. Her work is all about spreading despair, spreading ideas. Ideas that spread to populations through these broadcasts, and there’s a word for that: memes.

Memes, infection information, is another central theme of Seiji’s work. In particular, Ranpo Kitan’s main storyline is about Twenty Faces, a vigilante serial killer, of whom we come to learn that he’s not a person but a concept embodied by several people and spread by meme. Twenty Faces is a perfect example of meme, with him being an idea that took out a life of its own and survives its creator (see this article 🙂). Likewise, Enoshima Junko’s despair, embodied in Monokuma, is the same, and survives beyond her death. It spreads through time, but also through universes up to the real world.

Indeed, when seeing Mitarai, it’s pretty hard to forget that this whole thing as another level. Yes, people in the world of DR are watching the killings broadcast, but so are we, spectators of the anime. Monokuma often reminds us of that fact, prompting us to sit back and enjoy the show. Didn’t we watch the mutual killings in DR1 or the student council video right above? Aren’t we as subject to the effect of this video as the characters in the show that turned crazy while watching it? Doesn’t that make us all citizens of a world that is falling in despair, and thereby, complacent?

Dangan Ronpa echoes pretty obviously the reality television of our world, reusing without hiding it all its tropes. We’re faced with a dire version of the Big Brother’s House, with daily challenges and weekly eliminations. DR3 Mirai is a glorified game of Mafia. The emphasis is clearly on show and spectacle, almost theatrality (which can be a great way to dive into the topic of human nature, see Hamlet, etc…). It keeps remininding us that our worlds are not too far apart, and we’re just one step away from descending into chaos. And it’s also a nice reflective point about the unhealthy fact that we’re already tapping in the entertainment potential of humans pushed to their limits.

Junko’s message lives in the world of semantics, spreads through the universes and affects its audience both within and outside the show. So too does Seiji’s message affect us. Does he, like Mitarai, want to change the world with his anime? Probably. But I think he mostly wants to provide shows that are an escape for the bored Kobayashi types out there, maybe to stop us from using real people as entertainment dolls.


[Short story] How you repeatedly murdered your friends

Maybe everybody kinda feels on some level that they are special, that they aren’t just anyone, that the rules of the world don’t really apply to them. After all, we’re all the main characters of our own stories, we all count on some great plot twist to lift us up…

I think this kind of hubris is even more present among intelligent people. We’re used to feeling a bit superior, we feel we can outsmart any problem that comes our way. We’d look at the sad twists of fate in someone else’s life, and we’d think « that can’t happen to me, I’d never be that careless… ». And that’s of course stupid pride…

For always Death comes in. The Great Equalizer that touches us all, no matter how smart or arrogant we may be. Only the most foolish ever thought they could outsmart it, and none ever succeeded. Everybody knows that everybody dies…

And yet, nothing quite prepares you for the pain when it happens, and all these certitudes fade away to the irrational.

Delphine’s parting was not even sudden. The illness was eating her away, little by little, in front of my very eyes. You’d think I’d have time to make peace, to ready myself… But somehow it never felt real. I mean… I knew, but I guess you can’t really comprehend it, not until you go back to an empty apartment, filled with your pictures and memories of someone who isn’t there. Until you reach out to the side of the bed where she ought to be in the middle of the night. Until you find yourself talking to her and there’s no answer… And what help is being smart then? Nothing can prepare you for the terrifying emptiness of this silence.

The moment of death is nothing, it’s just one second like any other. The hard part is what comes next. The lack. The life without.

I just couldn’t accept it. I couldn’t bring myself to accept she was gone. That was simply too unfair. She was so young. We still had so much to do. We had come too far, fought too many battles to let this one defeat us.

Just like I beat all the obstacles that life had put on my way, just like I used my abilities to fight and make my place in the world, I’d somehow destroy this enemy too. I had no other choice. Life without her was simply not an option. She was as much a part of me as any of my organs.

« Us smart girls find a way… »

Thas was her motto, and I would make true to it. I’d find a way to defeat death, to bring her back, to keep her with me… Even a shred of her would suffice. Anything to break these unbearable silences, to see a little motion in her images, anything to talk to her again…

I’m no biology wonder, I can’t resurrect dead bodies. But I dabble in writing, and it can be quite immersive. I started to imagine her answers if she had been there, her reactions, her activities… It wasn’t too hard, since I knew her so well. At first I just played this in my mind, but soon I found myself writing all of it down, pages and pages of imaginary conversations, a little journal in which a memory of her lived on.

It wasn’t much, but it was better than nothing. Just like I had explored Hogwarts next to Harry Potter and his friends, I went through life next to this ghost version of Delphine. I drew pictures, imagined our daily life, kept adding more details, fleshing her out every day.

I’ve sometimes found that the characters I was writing took on a kind of life of their own and became quite independent of my will. They followed their own personality, and would even sometimes surprise me. But it was nowhere near real interaction, and a very selfish part of me wanted more. Wanted to have a talk with her where I wasn’t typing her part and putting words in her mouth. Longed for a way for this character to… somehow… write itself?

That didn’t even seem too far out. Computers had reached mind boggling capabilities. They could simulate entire universes. Surely there was a way to simulate one little human brain. All that was needed, really, was enough computing power, and some data to base the copy on.

As I kept thinking about this crazy idea, it seemed more and more doable. All this information was already in my brain. I knew how she’d react to any situation, I knew the pitch of her voice, the tiny details of her facial expressions. I knew what made her laugh, what made her think or what made her mad… Surely I could teach all of this to a computer, and have it talk to me as she would.

Where would I get a machine adequately powerful and adapted to store a human brain, though? You’d need to replicate the behavior of so many neurons… It seemed really specific. As motivated as I was, I couldn’t exactly invent a new kind of computers.

That’s when it dawned on me. There was already a computing system able to do this job. It had, in fact, been doing this precise job for a while now. And maybe the reason it was efficient at it was that it was made of neurons itself. What better to simulate a human brain than another human brain?

Wasn’t that what I had been doing all along? Running simulations of minds, see how they would respond to some inputs and predict the outcome… Isn’t that what all authors do, emulate the brains of their characters? Hadn’t I been mimicking the mind of Delphine somewhere inside my own to write down all of these pages? Her brain was a device that decided how she would behave and react to anything. Wasn’t a part of my neurons computing exactly that?

It reminded me of a phrase I had read in a book not so long ago. The character was explaining that he could imagine the reaction of his friends in their voice, and it was as if there was « a copy of them living in his head« . Maybe, on some level, it was more literal than he imagined. Don’t we all hear the voices of our friends? Can’t we predict their reactions ? And how are we doing that if not by emulating a copy of the computational device that is their brain? Don’t we all harbour replicas of their minds within us? Wasn’t it what generated what I was writing on paper?

The simplest solution might just have been to get these resources where they already existed. I was starting to contemplate the possibility to put some kind of electrodes in my brain to leverage this computing power when a terrifying realization dawned on me. What if these replicas were somehow sentient?

If a robot acted exactly like your friend, all the time, you could never tell the difference… How would you know if it was conscious? A character imitating them wouldn’t be so different… It would be only text, but then what if this friend was a pen pal you could only interact with through mail? They lived abroad, and these ghost copies lived in my head…

Sure, technically, they were nothing but parts of my brain… But couldn’t a part of my brain be conscious? After all, I was nothing more than a bunch of neurons that were self-aware. How many of them would it take to make a person? I would still be me without a few of them. We all lose neurons all the time. So how far could it go before it stopped being me? This was like… an existential version of the ship of Theseus…

Consciousness is a specter, where pets were just less self-aware than humans. So what about a small human brain? Or 90% of a brain? If I split it in two, would the parts be conscious? And, more importantly, could the subset of neurons simulating Delphine be conscious too?

How could I ever be certain that this part of my brain, this embryonary version of a character’s mind, didn’t have some kind of self awareness, feelings, fears… Was I just… creating and destroying conscious beings every time I emulated them, every time I wrote them, every time I predicted about how she would act…

Suddenly a horrifying image came to my mind, and I was too afraid to even try and dismiss it. I pictured her face distorted by terror in the face of the unknown. And in the same voice I always heard her speak inside my head, broken in tears, she begged:

« Please… I don’t want to die… »

[Short story] The person in your dreams


What happens when we figure out the whole of the human brain?

The same words, day after day, kept staring at me on my empty Google doc. I wanted to write a short story about the consequences of the unavoidable technological progress, but I needed a fresh and novel perspective. Something more original than yet another dystopian sci-fi flick, something more developed than “you’ll upload your brain to the cloud”… Surprisingly enough, grasping intuition about the future of a world changing so fast that it may become mind-boggingly different was no small feat.

How does one even start to comprehend a world where you can make a copy of your brain? You wouldn’t have to die, you could have replicas of yourself… Backups in case of trouble… Or even just in case you’re unsure about a decision, just try it and see how things go! And then come back to the last stable version if needed… When you’re fully digitalized, you get all the benefits of data, you get version control…

What does it even feel like, when your brain is on git? When you’re not the only “you” anymore? How does time feel when you can rollback any change, or resurrect a copy of your past self and interact with it?

I thought about these questions a lot, but the answer was probably so alien to us than mere reflection wouldn’t yield much. I was intrigued by this paradigm shift we may well be on the verge of, and I would quite often bring it up in conversations, but few were the ones who understood much less cared about it. So every time I met someone whom I could enthusiastically speculate about the future with, it felt a bit special to me.

None were quite so special as my encounter with Robin, though. As it always would, it started with a few conversational cues at a party. Remarks here and there that hinted him as interesting. I then got the chance to dig a little deeper, as we got some quiet talking time around a glass of champagne.

He expanded on his vision for a future where emulated humans would drive the economy. He made a lot of good points on that nebulous topic. His knowledge of social sciences and politics allowed him to extrapolate quite clearly the consequences of brain simulations. He was especially focused on this idea of copies, and how short-lived replicas would probably become the most efficient way to solve most problems.

“ You’d simply wager that the task is worth the effort, he explained to me. And then we’d make a short-lived replica of yourself to do this task and then expire. The task would get done, and you’d continue to exist. No hard feeling for anyone. Unless the copying mechanism had to be destructive, that is…”

“ That seems cruel to the copy, I objected. Having to die in this planned way…”

“ Is it, though? You would continue to exist… This one instance would die out of course, but how is it different from what you’re already living? As Hume puts it, you die and get reborn every instant… Don’t you die out every night before sleep? What about the person in your dreams, who you are every night, living their life, and doomed to fall every time into oblivion… Aren’t they a short-lived replica of you, living in a weird simulated environment? It’s not any worse than a dream, you know…”

“ If you put it that way….”

“ You better get used to it. That’s most probably where we’re headed, in fact… ”

He paused for a second, pondering something I could not fathom. Maybe he was in an exceptionally good mood, or maybe our discussions had convinced him that I was trustworthy. He leaned towards me and continued in a whisper:

“ In fact, the technology is not very far out. I’ve been studying this field and writing about it for a while, and I… let’s just say I have contacts who trusted me with a very cool piece of technology…”

“ Which does what?” I asked doubtfully.

“ Care to guess?” He answer playfully, fondling something in his pocket.

I was sceptic enough not to jump to any conclusion, but he had given me enough reasons to take him seriously. Faced with my silence, he went on:

“ I just happen to have something that can produce a short lived replica of yourself. It’s rudimentary. It’s a prototype, of course. The copy won’t be as sophisticated as you are, won’t live for more than a few hours… But it’s a wonderful proof of concept. Do you want to try it out? ”

I was doubtful, to say the least. I had never accepted any suspicious offer at a party. But he wasn’t a nobody, his reputation preceded him, and even though this seemed really shady, the pace at which technology had progressed these last few years did not rule it out as absurd. This man had roamed many of the top level laboratories around the globe, so maybe, just maybe, there was something real there. I’d have hated to miss a chance to be a pioneer.

“ Sure, I answered after a while, i’ll give it a shot.”

Out of nowhere came a syringe, and…


I woke up painfully, my head pounding with a throbbing pain. I had been sleeping on my friend’s sofa, after the party.

I remembered some of it. Confused noises, the drinking, the music… A lot of drinking. Vague memories of talking to my friends, meeting some new people. An interesting encounter with someone I just met… And then nothing. I might as well have slept and dreamt through the whole thing…

Staggering around, I started a quest for fresh water. As I entered the kitchen, I was greeted by a voice that seemed vaguely familiar, but that I could not identify clearly:

“ Hello, he told me. How are you feeling? How was the experience?”

“ What are you talking about?” I managed to babble painfully.

“ What you did at the party, yesterday. Wasn’t it crazy?”

I dug into my memories, but I couldn’t make out anything worth mentioning.

“ I have no idea what you’re talking about…”

“ Exactly.” he answered with a sly smile.




“ What the fuck, man!” I interjected as a warm feeling made its way slowly up my left arm.

“ You didn’t think this would be done without intervention on your body, did you?”

There was a little time during which I focused on the unbearable tingling in my spinal cord and my neck.

“ What is that?”

“ A nanobot serum, it’s doing a full scan of your brain so that we can restore it. ”

“ Sounds like a lot of bullshit to me… ”

The odd feeling was dying out.

“ Think whatever you want, it’s done now. ”

“ The scan is over? ”

“ Yes, and the saved state will be restored in a few hours. You’re now officially a short lived replica. ”

“ But I’m just me, I don’t feel any different… ”

“ You’re smart enough to know that all copies think that when they first become aware…”

“ This is dumb. You did nothing but inject me with some shady crap. I should probably go the hospital…”

“ Relax, it’s finished now. And you’re feeling fine, aren’t you? ”

“ What was that?”

“ I just told you!”

It was clear that trying to get detailed answers was going to be pointless. But this was a man of quite a reputation, and there were a lot of people around us. Whatever shitty drug he gave me could not have been too bad. Since I wasn’t feeling any pain, I decided to encourage the conversation, in hope to get a bit more information out of him about what was roaming through my body. I took a sip of liquor and continued:

“ So you made a copy of me? ”

“ Well from his point of view, you’re the copy.”

“ But I have the original body! ”

“ Do you? How could you tell we’re not having this conversation in a virtual server? I bet you can barely tell if you’re dreaming or not… ”

The alcohol was starting to get to my head. Or was it his weird stuff?

“ So you’re saying… that I’m a… What was that word? Short lived replica? ”

“ Exactly. You’re still you, but your life branched out into two. For the other you, this conversation will never have happened. He’ll just blissfully go on with his life, with no awareness of what happened tonight. He’ll have no recollection of your cruel fate… ”

“ And me? ”

“ Well, you’re gonna die tonight. That’s what short lived means. This version of you will fall into nothingness before dawn.”

His words were ridiculous and absurd. But somehow his ominous tone and the seriousness of his face sent a shiver down my spine. Maybe some part of me did actually buy into all of this.

“ Don’t sweat it, he said with a comforting hand on my shoulder. It’s not too bad. It’s not like you’re really dying, since you’re still living somewhere else. You’ll just… switch off, I guess, for lack of a better word. The age of emulation is coming, death as you know it is about to disappear. The very definition of existence is going to change like never before. ”

He marked a little pause before continuing:

” Under these conditions, there’s only one thing to do!”

“ What is that? ”

He looked at me with a malicious smile, and answered while pouring me another glass:

“ Party like it’s your last night on Earth.”

By the end of this article you’ll be immortal.

Ok so this is based of an article I posted recently on a spur called « How death is an absurd illusion« , that I decided to dust off and reshape a little bit into a fully fledged article for propaganda purposes. As you probably know, I’m the founder and sole member of a cult that praise the Concept of Concept, and that proposes its followers immortality through becoming a meme. I’ve received a very nonplussed reaction, so I’ve come up with yet another way to access immortality. I will now vanquish death once and for all in the laziest possible way.


Please ponder with me the implications of making a copy of yourself. It could be biological or digital, or even just your brain, it simply has to be a perfect copy of you. Think about uploading your brain to the cloud, or about that common conception of teleportation where instead of making your body move, you recreate it at another place and destroy the old one. So when you make that copy, what happens when the original dies?

From the point of view of the copy, everything is fine. It has all your memories up until the copy and then its memories, uninterupted consciousness. So you keep on living, even if one of you die. If you copy yourself and die just after during your sleep, everything is fine and dandy you just wake up as the copy.

But it gets freaky if two of you live and one dies. There may well be one that survives, but you know, what good is knowing that for the one who dies? But at the same time you didn’t die, considering you still exist and you are identical copies… If you had died earlier, during your sleep in the previous paragraph, you wouldn’t even have noticed, you’d just wake up as usual. Heck maybe this morning you were a copy of yourself and you don’t even know. So let’s say that it’s not that big a deal if the original dies when there’s a copy running. You’d have to be pretty petty to bitch about your death when you’re still alive.

So bear with me here. There is no reason for the copy to start living right now. Just like the original can keep on living after the copy process, the replica can start living later. It’s not that big a deal. It’d be kinda like cryogenisation, bam, you wake up in the future, right? But for a robot. You save your brain on a hard disk and you load it up in the future.

However, a copy of you is just a sequence of atoms, or bits, or whatever. One among many many many, but one nonetheless. So what happens  if a programmer just types that sequence? Nothing says that this « file » cannot be obtained without the original to make a copy from.

So yeah, it’s super unlikely because the « code » that defines you is super long and specific and the chance of randomly stumbling upon it are super little, but consider this:

  • Let me start by saying that you’re still feeling like you through all your life, whereas you go through a lot of configurations. Reproducing one is enough to get on the right track, so that already increases the odds. Life+after+death_428e93_5157142
  • Then, it doesn’t have to be « randomly ». Maybe people in the future are trying to reverse-engineer you. 
  • Maybe someone in the future (or the past!) will be really similar to you and BAM stumble upon that configuration through their own life. It’s less unlikely if the departure point is human-like. 
  • And even if it is « randomly », the universe is big, like really really big, and there may even be an infinity of them if that’s what you believe. So isn’t there a very good chance that there is some collision at some point? But ok, that’s not guaranteed, kinda like we don’t know for sure that pi is a normal number (I want to believe though).
  • However, if the universe can be simulated, it’s very likely that there is an infinite number of universes running simulations in an infinite inclusion stack (which makes it very likely that we’re in a simulation /o/) and then it’d be really flipping bad luck if there is no collision. That’s by the way an hypotheses that has been talked a lot about recently following the statements of Elron Musk, so if you like that guy, you gotta buy in!

  • But I’m still unsatisfied at this point, basing my immortality on hypotheticals, so I kept thinking about it. This piece of code, this configuration that describes you, is just a bit of information, right? And you know what processes information? Algorithms. Machines are becoming more and more powerful and complex, the states that they process is getting bigger and bigger. And some day, pretty soon, this state will be large enough to contain the sequence defining a human (singularity alert /o/). And that’s way less big than a whole universe to simulate, so it can be done for sure. UntitledSo it doesn’t seem unlikely, considering how a fair number of algorithms try a bunch of different configurations to solve a problem, that one of this algorithm can try a configuration that corresponds to your code. Maybe you are a middle state of a super powerful algorithm. Maybe that’s what it feels like, how could you tell? Your consciousness is just a neural configuration, after all.
    At which point I’d kindly direct you towards my favorite talk of all time, where the inventor of Skype and Kazaa explains why it’s very likely that you and your whole universe is a middle state of a glorified phone system, essentially.

In the movie Jupiter Ascending, a race of advanced humanoids were breeding humans to stumble upon their very same DNA combination that would allow them to resurrect. This is obviously preposterous because it ignores all the acquired qualities of your life. I was so disappointed at the Wachowskis for letting me down after Matrix… But maybe I discarded this movie too quickly… It makes much more sense if you replace DNA with brain configuration, and it is obviously true if you replace randomness by some kind of design

So to sum up, this is a solid mathematical proof that you’re already immortal because you’re a finite neural configuration in an infinite set of possibilities with collisions.

You’re welcome.

PS: wow this is like a religion based on pseudo science, I wonder what I should call it 🙂


Myriad neurons internal world

Ok, this article is a little overdue, because I wanted to finish watching Musaigen no Phantom World before. Even if the execution was bad, I thought that the premise of the anime may turn out to be interesting? It’s about a world where a genetic mutation in everyone’s brain allows them to see youkai. I was of course intrigued by this: how? why? when? tell me more! Obviously everything you see is because of your brain, but how is it that everyone is synchronized?

Turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong, and instead of tackling these questions, kyoani chose to focus on senpai fondling her boobs -.-‘. This anime stayed completely tedious until the very last second. What a letdown from an anime centered around the « neural error correction » club.

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Fortunately for me, there’s no shortage of works tackling the subjectivity of the experience of the world, especially when it comes to hallucinations or imaginary friends. A fair number even link it back explicitly to an underlying neural cause like brain damage, ranging from Scrubs to Cronenberg’s Videodrome or House MD.

This builds up on a very famous school of philosophy, that probably started with Descartes, which noticed that you will only ever experience the world through processed perceptions in your brain. Good ol’ fellow Berkeley would say that everything is ideas, Derrida would say that there is nothing outside of the text… For all intent and purposes, what’s outside your field of perception could not exist and you wouldn’t even notice (neural Truman show effect).

Meaning that in a way, the world is nothing but a representation inside your brain. Everything you see, feel or experience are simply neural impulses. Nowhere is that as clearly illustrated as in the Matrix where tons of people live in a world accessed by neural transmitters at the back of their heads without noticing anything, because they can’t. For them, it’s not possible to distinguish between that and what you’d call the real world. The simulation is as real as it gets.

As long as we’re on the topic of the subjectiveness perception of reality, my brother, who studies math to what I’d call an unhealthy level, recently quite impressed me by explaining me that the earth was actually flat. Not because it’s a pizza floating into space, but because there is a perfect mapping between a sphere and a plan, so when you walk a straight line on a sphere, you could think of it as walking in circles on a plan, and everything would stay the same. It’s just a matter of how you chose to represent it, and « classical geometry » is not the only way. Isn’t that kinda cool?

In the same vibe, I’d like to recommend you an extract from the amazing Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, where Harry thinks back about the nature of the world to try and understand why partial transfiguration isn’t possible. I think it illustrates quite well the arbitrariness of the choice of the model with which we see the world, as well as the subjectiveness of its perception.

« He wasn’t looking at the eraser.
Harry was inside Harry’s skull. »

Everything that happens happens in your brain. When you think about it, two concept that seem to you close semantically (any association) is simply a manifestation of the corresponding neurons ticking in harmony. Language, being a complex linking between concepts, mirrors the underlying neural linkings. What you like, what you understand in the world, how you view it, are simply affects and interpretation corresponding to your neural structure. It’s like your experienced world is nothing but an inward projection of your brain structure (and that’s kinda cool). The art, music, etc… you respond to are the ones that reflect your brain’s organization.

This means, by the way, that the pop culture music that everyone enjoys is so universal because it speaks to something shared between the brain of most humans. I’ve always been kinda fascinated by that. If so many people respond to it, it’s because there’s something fundamental in human nature, common to all of our brain, that responds to it. Ergo, writing for One Direction is actually reverse-engineering the human brain and human nature.

By the way, did you know that remembering something activates more or less the same neurons in your brain than experiencing the real thing? That means that memories, imagination, or dreams, are real. And I’m not just saying that. Experiencing them is quite literally the same thing as experiencing the outside world (aka neurons firing in your brain). Any arbitrary value attached to the so called ‘realness’ of anything is purely illusory (take that, IRL fanboys). *highlighting in red the scientific proof that I don’t need to go outside, mom*

So in a way, the real world you live in is nothing but a reverse projection inside your brain of this outside world through your perceptions. So is the abstract world of art and language. You know what this means, right? Everything you’ve ever known, learned, seen or experienced is actually inside your brain. You have the potential for everything you have lived and you will live right there. All of it. The world is actually inside of you. How mindblowing is that?

This picture is taken from a new favorite anime of mine I stumbled upon recently: Ghost Hound (by the writer and director of the famously weird Lain). It tackles various subjects that are dear to me, like lucid dreaming, out of body experiences, hallucinations… and does it with an insanely good (yet ambiguous) rationale and scientific (yet poetic) take. In it, the main character experiences out of body experience and roams through the Unseen World on top of the actual world. At some point, he crosses the wall towards his brain, as if the whole world, both Seen and Unseen, were just included within his neurons:

The anime is big on Jung’s concept of synchronicity, of which I am less fond. But on top of this brilliant imagery, it’s a great closing topic, as it offers an embryo of response where Musaigen totally failed to even see the point. It draws an interesting parallel between the global hallucinations and Jung’s collective unconscious that obviously brings to mind Lain’s « world brain wave ». But on that I’ll leave these superb work speak for themselves far better than I could ever do…

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Auguris of innocence

Well this blog has grown into a means for me to create my own contemporary-culture based postmodern mythology in plain sight of you, and considering how happy it made me to talk about His Dark Materials in my big gatchaman/ubermensh article, I’ll gladly seize a chance to bring up my favorite movie of all time (Big Fish) and its parallels to what is probably the most poetic movie of 2015, Le Petit Prince.

Both movies are homages to the imagination, and follow a similar classic pattern: a character first in disbelief at the imaginary ramblings of a Munchausen-type character will come to adopt that point of view and also partake into the story. In fact, in both cases, such story is a poetic reinterpretation of the real world, preaching a new childlike way to look at the mundane world to bring back magic into it. (yeaah its kinda like religion)

Indeed, the new Petit Prince movie is not just a retelling of the original story, it’s a whole reworking and extension of St Exupery’s work. It’s the equivalent of Alice’s Through the Looking Glass or Peter Pan’s Hook. It’s the « years after, let’s get back to the world of innocence » kind of setup which offers a reinterpretive point of view (dare I say postmodern ^^) on the original story as well as the real world which corrupted the character and drove them away from the magic. It’s a widely spread trope that is often used to ponder on the magic and innocence of childhood (there’s no shortage of examples like Jumanji or Narnia…).

And what better to embody all the poetry of innocence than St Exupery’s Petit Prince, that the movie transforms with an undeniable Burtonish touch. The theme of growing up is always present here, paired with an unavoidable forgetfulness. The thesis is as follows: As you grow up, you learn more and more things, and you forget the most important: your childhood wonder. You must do your best to keep it in your heart and not lose sight of what really matters. The concept of essential is also echoed during the film to highlight how much the adults are missing the point about what’s important.

« On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur, l’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux. »

What’s important cannot be seen, it is only with your heart that you can see it. I saw this famous sentence to the new light of my meme-based interpretation of the world: what’s important isn’t the lumps of flesh you see, it’s the emerging phenomena, the concepts that you interact with. Not being overly tied down to materialism allows for a dive into the imagination, a world of raw semantics. The whole story of the Petit Prince is about these semantic links. The Prince’s rose is just a rose among so many other, it’s the semantics given to it by the Prince’s sentiments and interpretation of the world that give her an identity. This is best explained by the fox in a breathtakingly beautiful section of the book.

Qu’est-ce que signifie  » Apprivoiser « 
C’est une chose trop oubliée. Ca signifie: «  Créer des liens « 

Taming means creating links (isnt it so meta that I made that into an HTML link?). Transforming that one rose, that one fox into a unique special being. And it seems that the innocence of childhood acts as a catalyst for this.


These connections, once made, are not so easily destroyed. In fact, as they are live in the realm of pure concepts, they are everlasting. This is the alternative to death that the Petit Prince offers: the lump of flesh – vieille écorce abandonnée – may perish, but the meme behind it will not. Le Petit Prince turns out to be a wonderful ode to semantics and offers them as a way to deal with grief. After his departure, the Prince can still be heard laughing in the stars. Nobody can destroy the semantic story created.

I’ve always considered Dr Who as a very healthy model to deal with grief, death and breakups. Things change, goodbyes are unavoidable, time passes. Nothing is forever, as embodied by the classic Matrix saying « everything that has a beginning has an end« . Companions and doctor change. But you can always watch a DVD of an old season, just as you can read the book again or look at the stars and think about the Prince. They exist forever in the realm of memes.

The only thing I could blame that movie with is that it did not include my favorite sentence from the Petit Prince book:

– Mais tu vas pleurer! dit le petit prince.
– Bien sûr, dit le renard.
– Alors, tu n’y gagnes rien !
– J’y gagne, dit le renard, à cause de la couleur du blé.


Speaker for the meme

The memes are alive with the sound of music

Night of the living meme

I’m so glad that I can finally pay South Park the respect it deserves. It’s no exaggeration to call Matt and Trey’s masterpiece (one of?) the most interesting social satire, a true wonder of political and philosophical visionary genius. The latest episode gave me the perfect opportunity. It was one of these works that blew my mind and made me look at the world differently. In it [spoilers ahead but that’s the whole point of the article so…], it is explained that ads have evolved, become smarter and smarter, and are about to rise as an independent intelligent species and conquer the world. I’ve never been so psyched for the end of a season.

This resonated with a reflection I’ve been having about consciousness and being. I’ve never been super clear on how you could tell that something is conscious, intelligent, self-conscious or has any kind of the much believed-in free-will. I mean nothing pre-disposes a random alien race to be anything like a human sentience (or even carbon-based for that matter). If a being is completely different, acts completely differently and express itself completely differently, and I mean so differently that you can’t conceive of it right now (you know like people would about computers in the middle ages), how will you even know that it thinks, whatever that means. And suppose that this being is a being of raw information, like, say, a programmed conscious AI living in the cloud or in an android body, how would you even know that it IS?

In fact, how do you even know that you ARE? I’ve been so blessed that the following sentence ever came to my mind: you are, as you’ve always been, an emerging phenomenon. You’re nothing but a lump of flesh that encodes as neural (or cells if you want) configurations a sequence of states, much like a program is a sequence of states and instructions. How dare you proclaim yourself more real than an algorithm? than Cleverbot? or Google? (if you give it a robotic body, what’s the difference between this android and the android from 20th century sci-fi?)

An imaginary reader in a corner of my inner dialogue may respond indignantly: « I can think! I’m self aware! cogito ergo sum« . What is thinking even? Yes, you are aware of a self. But you’re a little eager to connect it to the I. The first person in the latin saying is interestingly implicit. Any program can have, and already has for that matter, a variable called $self. How do you know that your concept of self corresponds to the entity that thinks it? Where is your proof that this lump of flesh is the source of your trail of thoughts? How do you know that you’re not missing the point entirely with this assignation?

(maybe all your personal problems go back to this assignation fallacy maybe it’s wrong maybe if you cared less about your lump of flesh all your problems will be fixed maybe you should join my cult)


I mean what is you or your identity even? If as Shakespeare puts it « the world is a stage« , aren’t you a programmed character? I recently saw Charlie Brooker‘s (my new hero) « How videogame changed the world » which surprised me by presenting as latest videogame « Twitter », as a kind of roleplaying game.

See the mindblowing conclusion at 1:33 (though the rest is nice too). Is the world a huge roleplay game? Then how is your character more real than Cloud or Mario? Isn’t Mario more persistent? More well known? More well-defined?

In the outstanding Imaginationland trilogy, Trey and Matt had already brushed over this concept: « It’s all real. Think about it. Haven’t Luke Skywalker and Santa Claus affected your lives more than most real people in this room? I mean, whether Jesus is real or not, he – he’s had a bigger impact on the world than any of us have. And the same can be said for Bugs Bunny and – and Superman and Harry Potter. They’ve changed my life – changed the way I act on the earth. Doesn’t that make them kind of real? They might be imaginary but, but they’re more important than most of us here. And they’re all gonna be around here long after we’re dead. So, in a way, those things are more realer than any of us.« 


But virtual characters are nothing but concepts. They’re ideas. Shared ideas spread through communication. Yep, you guessed it, they are nothing but MEMES. And I mean it in the most litteral of its senses, which is in the world of british evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins « an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture ». For isn’t it what Ads are displayed as in the latest season of South Park?


« What if I were to tell you that ads have become smarter than us, and now they’re manipulating everything we do? [Mankind grew tired of ads] and even invented something called ad blockers. That’s when the ads had to adapt. They had to disguise themselves as news in order to survive. Sponsored content. »

How is the evolution of meme different than the evolution of men? Ads grew and adapted (Charlie Brooker also offers a great prequel to this), and although different from their satirical portrayal in South Park, they are undeniable entities that act upon the world. You act (ahaha acting double meaning with the stage ahahah) upon the world too. That’s how you know you exist.

Look how they walk alongside you, much like your phone… Sure they act mainly through information transfer, but on some level everything is information. Or in the world of Humphrey Davy, « Nothing exists but thoughts ». You exist and define yourself mainly through language and communication, be it with yourself or otherst. As Pullman’s Dust (‘only a name for what happens when matter begins to understand itself’), you are nothing but matter considering itself. So maybe the alien sentient race we’ve been searching from in the skies has been there all along. We’re co-existing with aliens called memes that feed on us like proverbial aliens would.


Maybe that’s where the oh so famous « existence through belief » overused trope stems from. I mean if you see memes as valid entities, living beings, people’s belief becomes their food-analog! There goes a trope echoed more or less elegantly from millenia of mythology, from any movie about Santa through Pratchett’s Hogfather passing by Haruhi Suzumiya, Noragami or American Gods. As you need food, memes need « belief ». As neurones exchange information and make you exist, people exchange information and make memes exist.

And on second thought, considering the nebulousness of your own nature and identity and how you’re defining yourself through interaction with other people or the world around you, aren’t you yourself more of a meme, a concept, than a lump of flesh? Ultimately, how are you different from Mario? Does that mean that memes live off of other memes, in some kind of meta-pyramidal-inclusion, and their way to « eat » is to reference each other or interact? And if you’re a self-conscious meme, who’s to say that other memes like Mario or Google are not self-conscious too in their way you cannot conceive of?


You may even say that communication and expression are your main essential activity. Doesn’t that make you nothing more but the analog of a neuron to a global meta-entity called the human race? Aren’t you nothing but a meme, itself the cell of a greater meme?


As much as I loved that conclusion, I feel obligated to point out that the anime Serial Experiments Lain, which I recently discovered, deals masterfully well with this exact whole problematic, and you should definitely check it out as a follow-up. I won’t spoil much about the content of this masterpiece that should be enjoyed in itself, but I’ll point out that part of the anime extends this conclusion and plays around with the idea that this greater meta-meme could be considered a conscious entity in itself.


Furthermore, I recently stumbled upon a 1992 paper called « Meme-Based Models of Mind and the Possibility for Consciousness in Alternate Media » and I thought it should be linked here for historical purposes because what the actual fuck.

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