Wednesday, March 28, 2007


"I was working on my computer, aware of the headlights of oncoming cars. They cause me little bother; in fact, they’re quite reassuring: a communion with other hard workers, getting on with their lives.

Even an absence can stimulate. I looked up and the window was black. How curious. I stared at the window wondering, why were there no lights? At this time of the evening, it's always a river of white.

I looked around. The house was as it always was. The lights were on, the rooms well-lit. There was a curious silence. Should anyone else be in the house with me? I wasn’t sure.

I was now getting somewhat alarmed, something was clearly not right. I believe the feeling is known as dissociation, reminding me of Kafka, one of my favourite authors. But I didn’t think I was dreaming.

Absurd thoughts came to me. Perhaps I had lived my whole life in a virtual environment. Perhaps this was a ‘glitch in the matrix’, like when that cat reappeared in the film. You blink, you expect reality to come back, but somehow it didn’t. I seemed to be the sole inhabitant of a familiar, well-lighted, but wholly empty world, and I couldn’t quite remember how it had ever been different. I was getting badly frightened.

It’s been a while. Nothing has changed externally, it’s still that long, eternal evening. The house is well-lighted, while outside my window there’s nothing but unrelieved darkness. Curiously, I never seem to leave this room. I don’t seem to get back to my work on the computer either. I just go round in this endless loop.

Here is what I think, though I can’t prove it. I think I must have had a massive stroke. I think I am probably lying in an intensive care ward, tubed to the eyeballs. Large parts of my perceptual brain must have ceased to function, and the higher cortical layers are synthesising this reality out of my memories. A kind of ‘natural virtuality’ if you like. Unfortunately, by definition, I can’t prove this, but what else could it be?

It’s funny, isn’t it. The basis of this conclusion is Descartes: “I think, therefore I am”. He never realised the elasticity of ‘am’. When I did philosophy at Warwick, I believe I encountered a refutation of Descartes’ argument somewhere.

Now, if only I could recall it, I’d be out of here.”