Re: Fwd: Implementation/Relativity

From: <>
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 09:10:45 -0700

One of the problems with interpreting Sherlock Holmes as real is how to
do so in a quantitative way.

We can agree that Sherlock Holmes and other fictional characters exist
in some universe. However, the universe in which they exist is probably
a rather unlikely one, more so than our own. Although sometimes people
say "truth is stranger than fiction", I think the opposite is true.
Fictional worlds are often stranger and less lawful than our own.

In this particular case, it would be very difficult for a person to
have the range of knowledge and deductive skills of a Sherlock Holmes.
He leaps to conclusions that very often turn out to be correct, with
what seems to be insufficient data. He turns out to be an expert on
a variety of minutia which is perfectly relevant to the cases he needs
to solve. He is simply an unlikely character, and he therefore lives
in an unlikely universe.

The problem arises when we want to say that he lives, to some extent,
in our own universe as well. By creating these fictions about Holmes
(or even, presumably, by simply thinking about Holmes and other unlikely
characters), Hans seems to say that they thereby come to exist in our
universe too, in some sense.

The question is whether this makes Sherlock Holmes a more likely character
in the context of the multiple-universe model. And specifically, in the
context of the Self-Selection Assumption, would it make it more likely
that someone might find themself to be Sherlock Holmes.

Without this possibility, we would say that the chance of finding oneself
to be Sherlock Holmes, or any character who lives in a universe whose
rules and laws are as weak as in fantastic fiction, is very small.
We could in theory enumerate the many loopholes and exceptions which
would have to be embedded in the universe description in order to allow
the necessary bizarre events to happen to this character, and this would
give an idea of just how small the likelihood is.

But if Holmes also exists in our universe, to some extent, then we
need to give a boost to the probability of finding oneself as Holmes.
And more generally, we need to give a boost to the probability of finding
oneself in a relatively lawless universe, if any fictional consideration
of such a universe in a high-probability, simple, lawful universe gives
additional measure to the fictional one. We would need to know what kind
of quantitative enhancement was appropriate when this kind of fictional
enactment occurs. So any theory along these lines needs to be made more
specific before we can consider it as in any sense testable.

It might be that fictional considerations of characters like Holmes add
only an infinitisimal amount to his overall presence in the multiverse,
even though our universe is a relatively high-probability one. But if
we were to say that Holmes' life as described in the corpus of books
about him is sufficiently detailed as to make him "almost real", then
we have a harder time explaining why we all don't find ourselves as
Holmes-like characters. It makes a difference in our understanding and
explanation of why the universe seems lawful.

Received on Wed Jul 28 1999 - 09:35:54 PDT

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