Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Universe That Cares

Would you like the Universe to tell you how to make tea?

So one day the Universe got up and said -"I do care". Of course the first thing it did was to send a foot of snow outside my house because it did not like the way I make tea. I saw the snow and unwittingly took that as a cue to make some tea -in exactly the way I liked and the Universe did not. And then I thought -" Tea tastes better with a foot of snow outside".

Now, is that a shooting star? Why is it getting so big?

Unless you are reading this on a small scrolling screen you know that this does not quite end here. Not that I expect you to have a lot of experience with shooting stars hitting you but I expect you to assume that the duration from noticing an unreasonably large shooting star to actually being hit by it would be pretty short.

But there is a catch (there always is – it is called Gödel’s incompleteness theorem – with apologies to any computer scientists reading this).  Time, as we all know is relative. “Relative to what?” you might ask and that would be a silly question.  It may not actually be that stupid but I am counting on you not asking that question for fear of sounding stupid. By now you may have guessed where this is going. It has been 100 years since Einstein completed his theory of relativity and I recently watched Interstellar so, the time will be dilated and will behave as demanded by the story. The interpretation of the laws may be a bit loose but I never let the laws of Physics get in the way of a good story.

So, the shooting star is paused and the Universe starts talking to my brain. I am a bit confused now – is the Universe inside my brain or is my brain inside the universe. How could they both be inside each other? It reminds me of a Bollywood song – “tu mere dil mein rahta hai. Main tere dil mein rahta hoon” -You live in my heart, I live in your heart. It was too paradoxical for my liking – I have really struggled to find a reasonable explanation for this rather uncomfortable situation.

“Time to have an uncomfortable conversation” – the Universe insinuated into my brain. It had my attention. “Uncomfortable for you that is” It chuckled. “For me it’s a pleasure.  I do not agree with your views and I have decided that I no longer don’t care.”  

I was aghast. Why would the Universe care enough to make an appearance in my head? “Why?” I asked rather meekly.

“For one I do not like people saying that I don’t care behind my back,” it offered by way of explanation.

“Pardon me, but there is no ‘behind your back’ – you are all there is”

“It is a figure of speech, idiot. But glad you brought it up. I have sensed you warming up to the idea of this Multiverse.  I do not like it. I do not like it one bit”

I had by now recaptured my composure and was preparing for a dialectic argument with the Universe itself. In person. No, I will not consider revising that fragment. Microsoft Word – may you rot in hell. Well, of course there is no w in rot – I would have figured that out by myself.

“So, Universe to your first point. You took exception to my airing the views that you do not care. I think I caught that. But don’t you find it ironical that you started caring because I said you don’t care?”

“What’s the irony? Wasn’t your lament that I don’t care a cry to make me start caring?”

“No, it most definitely was not – I was just stating my observations”

“All right – let’s do this. Go through the rest of the day and debate the question on whether I care the we will circle back to this point in time”

“Circle back to point in time?”

“I will just invoke an advanced hyper dimensional time warping wormhole and we can make this happen”

At this point the reader can probably tell that I do not have the money to hire a wormhole expert as a consultant for my story. Now I hear a different voice in my head. It is the reader talking to me and it is – a sentiment detecting algorithm! It is talking to me from the future. There is this wormhole nearby so anything can happen.

This algorithm says that it can tell that I am Indian.

Is it because of the reference to Bollywood? I ask.  

No, the algorithm says, there are other indicators.

Can you tell me what are those indicators?

The algorithm declines. I bet you the algorithm has no damn clue why it is saying what it is saying – it is a Machine Learning Algorithm for sure. But now I have to get rid of this Algorithm. First let me help it give a little more confidence in what it is guessing about me. Maybe it will leave me alone.  Please do the needful. The meeting has been preponed. What to do we are like that only.

The algorithm claims that it can tell I am Indian with 90% confidence. But it is still there. I have to think of something else. I am from Nigeria. The king has deceased. He has left a lot of money. Give me your bank account number. This is the best investment ever. Be rich, loose weight. Get a date. I hear a fading sound – “These spammers are getting more sophisticated – they put in some nonsense before giving me those keywords. Makes me waste my computing power. This has been marked as spam.”

Then as I went through the rest of the day I saw meaning in everything. What was I doing in the middle of the night writing this? Why did Facebook show me that post? Who cared enough to put that story before me? Why did the alarm go off? Who cared to keep those CPU’s ticking? Why did it snow here? Why did it not snow there? Why was there no coffee in the office? Why am I here? At this snapshot of space-time? Why do I have to ignore this fragment again? Would a whole new Universe be created it I toss a coin?

What was the probability of my being in this space-time when I was born? Who was calculating that probability? It was overwhelming. Then I heard another voice inside my head– it was an electron inside me. It said that I did not care. It said that at the slightest provocation of any electrical force I would let it go. And I always thought that the electron wanted to go. And all of them are the same anyway. Are they not?

And then, the shooting star was back. Inching closer. Hey, that’s not a fragment now. Has it learned that I like fragments? Just as I have learned that I must now get a drink.

So, we are back - said the Universe.

“Go pick on someone your own size, ” I said.

“Now that’s an oblique reference to the Multiverse. I am hurt”

“I am sorry, can you make the shooting star go away”

“There never was one. Go outside and turn off the headlights of your car. Or not. I don’t care”

I am sure there was a shooting star. The headlights of the car would have drained the battery long ago. So it must have been the shooting star. “When you have ruled out the impossible – whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth, ” said Sherlock Holmes.

Oh there is another of them. Difficult to categorize. There is a 20% chance that this is about Physics, Religion or Software Engineering. There is a 20% chance that this is Science Fiction. Could be Satire piece- those ones are tough. But hey, I will take my chances and just classify it as Bullshit.
So that’s the true story of why I don’t take sugar in my tea. Aren’t you glad you asked?