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Improving Your User Illusion

Summary:
It is becoming a commonplace among many who discuss consciousness to compare consciousness to a computer desktop and the things we see and hear, smell and taste, feel and sense as akin to the icons on that desktop. Some people go on to deny the existence of a real material world in a kind of Neo-Idealism (in the philosophical sense of “Idealism,” not idealism in the everyday sense of the word). Yet, one doesn’t need to deny the existence of a real material world for the metaphor of everything we see and hear, smell and taste, feel and sense as desktop icons to have important practical implications. In particular, there are always two strategies

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Improving Your User Illusion

It is becoming a commonplace among many who discuss consciousness to compare consciousness to a computer desktop and the things we see and hear, smell and taste, feel and sense as akin to the icons on that desktop. Some people go on to deny the existence of a real material world in a kind of Neo-Idealism (in the philosophical sense of “Idealism,” not idealism in the everyday sense of the word).

Yet, one doesn’t need to deny the existence of a real material world for the metaphor of everything we see and hear, smell and taste, feel and sense as desktop icons to have important practical implications. In particular, there are always two strategies to improve the quality of one’s experience:

  1. Change the material world that helps to stimulate the appearance of particular desktop icons;

  2. Change the settings for the desktop so that the desktop is more pleasing for any given set of external-world inputs.

One of the virtues of changing the material world is that, when you are focused on doing good, those changes in the material world can affect the experience of other people even when they don’t realize that they can change their own desktop settings. And even if you diligently pointing out to others how they can change their desktop settings, most people’s skill level at doing so is such that changing the material world in the right direction will continue to be important to the quality of their experience.

On the other hand, one of the virtues of changing one’s desktop settings and helping others see how to change theirs is in dealing with the many situations in which changing the external world in the desired direction, to the desired extent, is beyond our and their powers.

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Miles Kimball
Miles Kimball is Professor of Economics and Survey Research at the University of Michigan. Politically, Miles is an independent who grew up in an apolitical family. He holds many strong opinions—open to revision in response to cogent arguments—that do not line up neatly with either the Republican or Democratic Party.

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