Living the Berkeley idealism

post by Yuxi_Liu · 2019-09-04T22:20:09.829Z · score: 12 (7 votes) · LW · GW · 3 comments

Quick observation, more funny than insightful.

Today I was thinking about how to publish my thesis when it's finished, and rethinking again what format to put it in. The standard pdf format seems reasonable, but it is merely made of digital print, with no interactivity. Putting in interactivity requires me to not only learn something (web hosting, JavaScript, etc), but at the same time trying to guess which one is future-proof. Flash are Java applets are daily reminders of what not to bet on for future-proof.

Book publishers enjoy a relative longevity. Go to the library and open a book that hasn't been touched for three hundred years, and it would still work. Books run on light energy, with almost no upkeep cost (if located in a building with dry and ~300 K temperature air). It would be a small cause for celebration to find something interactive online that is 10 years old and still works as intended.

To live in this kind of uncertainty is to experience Berkeley's Idealism. Berkeley thought that anything exists only because God is perceiving it, and if God stops perceiving it, that thing disappears. Just like that, as long as you are paying attention to something online, it would keep existing. As soon as you forget about it, it has a serious chance of decaying and stop working.

From which we conclude that Berkeley's God would probably feel annoyed all the time that the world can't seem to run without His constant staring.

3 comments

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comment by ryan_b · 2019-09-05T15:06:30.744Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This post reminded me of a video about a different way to prepare textbooks, which was written in Julia. The book is Algorithms for Optimization. It's beyond my ability to assess content quality, but it seems to look pretty sharp.

comment by shminux · 2019-09-05T02:08:15.812Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW
Berkeley thought that anything exists only because God is perceiving it, and if God stops perceiving it, that thing disappears.

That sounds remarkably perceptive, for some reasonable definition of God. In quantum mechanics, or, rather, the classical measurements of it, we can only observe what's entangled with us. If somehow a state got untangled, we'd stop perceiving it. If you subscribe to the MWI, you are living with multiple copies of yourself which, for you, don't even exist because you can never perceive them, or even infer much about them. (There is a wrinkle there, gravity doesn't fit into the picture, but then it doesn't fit into any quantum picture.)

As for the appropriate media, basic PDF and paper copies are indeed the safest bets. Also, pure HTML5 might survive, even if JS goes out of fashion. Also, hosting is always an issue. Then again, most published works, especially theses, do not deserve a ten-year lifespan, though yours might be different.

comment by Pattern · 2019-09-05T19:08:18.292Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW
most published works, especially theses, do not deserve a ten-year lifespan,

1) That's probably true of most theses individually. (Variation between fields?)

2a) Perhaps there is value in a collection?

2b) If it's cited it should stick around.