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Friday, September 21, 2007

The Psychological Anthropic Principle

In a 'A Nice Place to Visit', a classic episode of the 50's sci-fi anthology 'The Twilight Zone', a burglar is shot while escaping, and awakens to a jovial Santa Claus like figure who informs him that he is quite dead, and as a reward for his peculiar virtues, can have anything his heart desires. Naturally, he asks for the predictable stuff: wine, women, power, success. Soon, he become painfully bored with the all too certain largess of his new found 'life', and asks his angelic mentor to relieve him of his boredom, from this 'heaven'.

Be careful what you wish for....

To which the angel replied laughing: 'What made you think this was heaven?'

And that's the problem, not with the stuff mind you, but with its predictability. Human beings, as befits their heritage as foraging mammals, are not built to entertain predictable things. Give them sameness and they will rebel in pain, and die from boredom. And yet we perversely desire certainty, starting with a clear vision of God, and a place in heaven where it's all so damn predictable, which is a most ironic phrase to be sure.

In physics, we have discovered that the universe is exquisitely tuned for a life. The fact that we exist is almost literally a miracle. Move an electron's orbit an infinitesimal bit wider, and the whole universe would implode, explode, or be otherwise inhospitable to the likes of you and me. This is called the Anthropic Principle. But there is a psychological anthropic principle that makes our brief moment in time necessarily unpredictable. Indeed, just as a low oxygen level is not conducive to life, boredom is not conducive to living. In the near future, the highway to hell will be paved with not good intentions, but with good technology that makes the good life all too certain. Thankfully, I will not be around, but if the angels permit, I will be moaning anew about an uncertain stock market, traffic problems, and problematic kids. Ah, heaven!

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