Victus Spiritus


The Story and Observer Paradox

26 Sep 2009

Welcome readers both old and new. This morning's post will explore a couple of "far out" thoughts on the power of story in shared human experiences, communication, and forging lasting social connections.

Allegory may play a more profound role in creating a connection between minds than we casually dismiss. We look for understanding in those we share emotional states with. When we tell our stories we seek empathy within listeners. We wish for them to understand our life experiences. As receivers, when we deeply listen to analogies, or allegorical relationships, then, and only then, can we wholey understand a story teller's true message and intent. It is by reliving the emotions they share that we arrive at the same destination. When we work together with others grand tapestries are spun into more effective messages. Practical examples surround us within Hollywood films, software projects, and orchestral music. Each form of art/science transmits a deeper message that may dynamically adjust with time.

Of equal import to the magic of collaborative stories (beliefs) is the observer paradox. In social sciences this represents the presence of the observer's affect on the subjects natural speech and mannerisms. Many find themselves nervous in the presence of a focused crowd of listeners where they are judged within an instant. Instead of showing genuine interest, storytellers may obscure their true message with boring slides flooded with bullet lists or charts drowning in the minutiae of details. If you should find yourself in such a position, think carefully about building a connection with the audience by telling a story.

Shroedinger's cat illustrates a quantum mechanical variant of the observer paradox. In this case the essence of empathy is boiled down to the reality of the cat's life. Do we see a living or dead creature when we perceive the cat? Technical jargon aside, the act of observing or listening changes the state of the message, which is counter intuitive. We'd instinctively guess the cat alive or dead, not statistcally both. In a box separated from us by a barrier that prevents quantum decoherence the cat is described as both alive and dead probabilistically. Quantum decoherence is the collapse of the probabilistic state to one deterministic state, ie the cat is either alive or dead when you observe it. Incidentally the issue of isolating quantum states is very important to quantum computing design.

Finally, the connection of observers and stories is relevant to our dreams. In this case we are our own observers, through subconcious self inspection. During dream states our mind may take on the multiple roles, of story teller, actor, or passive observer. What precisely are we witnessing? The personas in our dreams do not require a direct link to our own, they are capable of entirely different histories, although vague upon morning recollection. A fascinating question to me is: Who's telling the story? Is it an isolated section of our minds, that's capable of fabricating virtual realities complete with a story? Or does our active perception create the story from malleable potential dreams?

Fun flu induced late night thoughts, thanks again for tuning in and have a wonderful weekend.