Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Silicon dreams

This morning I was musing on my last post, the one about letting my plane go on autopilot while I was busy with other stuff. It's kind of an odd thing to think about-- the computer working hard to create a virtual experience while no one is watching it. I thought a little further: what if the monitor were turned off? The computer would work just as hard, of course, since it wouldn't know the monitor was off.

All those electrons would be zipping around, the 2.3 GHz CPU going full tilt, the graphics card slaving away, all to create, in some sense, a world of air, light, earth, water, seasons, weather, and the fascinating machines we love so much. Not only all these components, but the interactions between them. Light casts shadows and reflects, changing weather affects the flight dynamics, fuel is consumed. This all exists... where? It's as if it is all a dream, behind the closed eyes of the computer. This kind of thing boggles my mind. It's not like a book sitting on a shelf, unread. It's a dynamic, evolving space.

In a sense we are dreaming when we interact with this game. Just because we can see the simulated world that is being created for us doesn't make it any more real.

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