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October 31, 2008


Awesome post, but somebody should do the pessimist version, rewriting various normal facets of the human condition as horrifying angsty undead curses.

Carrier's system still seems to create a circular situation where the smaller parts we reduce larger things into continue, in a sense, to be mental constructions. Electrons behave in ways Einstein called "spooky", and it takes very sophisticated systems to describe them, and then, the descriptions are probabilistic. The important thing is that we're still observing something, whereas the supernatural is basically a collection of spectacular reports that cannot be verified. How much greater would it be to have a third eye to read people's thoughts, in addition to the amazing eye you described? Would you really be bored by it, if you knew there was some bizarre quantum explanation? Heck, New Age types make appeals to all sorts of seemingly reductionist explanations. The problem isn't that the supernatural concept can't be broken down beyond one's mental process, it's that there is no phenomena beyond the person's mental process in the first place. Carrier's distinction only seems to ensure that you're debating pseudo-scientists instead of supernaturalists.

I recently had an argument at work over Barrack Obama's supposedly unverifiable Hawaiian birth certificate. I accessed all of the various websites showing the certificates authenticity. But everything I said or pulled up on the internet was met with disbelief. There was some alternate person my co-worker could point to saying the opposite. This was a debate on the reality of a perfectly mundane, real object. When people stop looking at the objective, outside world, there's unfortunately no philosophical argument that will pull them back in.

...schiavo, or "dead while breathing"...
A nice touch.

The Real Ultimate Power: Reproduction.

Two compatible users of this ability can create new life forms which possess many of the traits of the two users. And many of these new life forms will themselves be able to reproduce, leading to a potential exponential spreading of the users' traits. Through reproduction users can obtain a kind of immortality.

Trans-temporal recall

Trans-temporal recog

Sister abilities which allow one to tap into the power of trans-temporal retention.

Also, I'd say the "Ultimate Power" is more a class of powers than a particular power in and of itself.

As to "the power that cannot be removed without removing you"... I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean. You think psychological consciousness is necessary for intelligence?

Actually, the Mystic Eyes of Depth Perception are pretty underwhelming. You can tell how far away things are with one eye most of the time. The difference is big enough to give a significant advantage, but nothing near superpower level. My own depth perception is crap (better than one eye though), and I don't often bump into walls.

But the whole post got started with the phrase "Mystic Eyes of Depth Perception"!

Pete, I mean simply that human intelligence is not peripheral to our personal identities in the same way as our clothing, limbs, face, etc.

James D. Miller, you forgot to include the link.

Possession of a single Eye is said to make the bearer equivalent to royalty.

I approve.

How many wielders of the Ultimate Power have been killed by humble microbes?

I can't believe I just saw a Type-Moon reference on Overcoming Bias. Impressive.

schiavo joke is hilarious. i wish everyone would find it hilarious

Aaron: Would you really be bored by it, if you knew there was some bizarre quantum explanation?

If you think of the explanation as "bizarre", then it's still magic to you and hasn't really been explained.

Anon of /jp/: thanks for pinpointing the Tsukihime reference for me. I was racking my brain - I was in that incredibly annoying state where I knew that I knew the reference, but I couldn't quite recall it ('Was it a Death Note reference? But that's not right!').

Perceptual psychologists have found that binocular vision has mostly second- and third-order effects. For example, it's necessary (but, as my own sad experience attests, not sufficient) for finding hidden pictures in magic eye images.

We get most of our ability to reconstruct 3D scenes from perceptual cues like relative motion and texture gradients. This takes enough mathematical mojo -- real-time 2D Fourier analysis for the latter, mapping between projective 2-space and euclidean 3-space for the former -- that they probably belong on The List in their own right...

Oh, it wasn't the first Type-Moon reference I've made (this month).

It's amusing to compare modern technology to the stated capabilities of the gods in various mythologies and religions...

Eliezer, exactly how many decibels of evidence would it require to persuade you that there is magic in the universe?

For example, see this claim of magic: http://www.clairval.com/lettres/en/2006/12/08/2061206.htm

How many times would a coin have to come up heads (if there were some way for it to test this) before there would be a chance you wouldn't defy the data in a case like this? If you saw 20 heads in a row, would you expect more of them? Or 40?

Possession of a single Eye is said to make the bearer equivalent to royalty.

Very good.

How about the miraculous ability to synthesise or isolate compounds of chemicals from the world that recreate sensations, or even push perception beyond the sensations for which it was designed? I'm always pretty impressed by that one.

Magic is supposedly intentional - it would require someone who could consistently make something happen against the expected likelihood. Before I'd bother even considering it.

'All other lifeforms' except some nasty little ones that impair us.

The rebels' time is almost done. Soon we will crush them utterly.

Devour Soul (level 6)
This spell enables the Mage to extract Energy from the Bodies of Plants and Animals, merely by placing various Parts of them inside the mage's own Body. More advanced Mages can derive not only Energy, but physical Pleasure, from enhancing this spell with dark and eldritch lore found in Books of magical recipes, exotic Potions and the judicious use of Fire.

"Posted by: Anon of /jp/"? I've been lurking on 4chan and OB for a long time, and I never expected them to come into contact...

I've heard there are vast shelters overflowing with fruits, nuts, and meats and giant baskets so large that the ones who created them placed them on wheels... and a tiny but infinitely powerful Master Scroll that allows those who possess it to take whatever they please.

Oh, and don't forget the Mystical Intertubes of Communication, which allow any person with access to the Tubes to 'post' their opinions for others to peruse. Even better, other Intertube users can append inanities to any of these essays with the minimum of thought and effort!

On the subject of magic, well, just a reminder that we can also get stuff that really does "smell like magic" out of basic physics. Consider this toy.

If you really want something that at least "looks like" magic and isn't "just a trick", well, physics does have some things up its sleeves. Heck, even on the level of basic Newtonian stuff, gyroscopic motion can seem kinda magical. It's there to be had, folks.

The rebels' time is almost done. Soon we will crush them utterly.

We are not doing very well so far. We can't even seem to keep the blighters out of our tiny, digital, deterministic and engineered computer systems yet.

For Feynman on the eye, see 34:40 in this video: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3164300309410618119

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