The Matrix Problem
Sat, 22 Oct 2016
One morning, I was woken early by a hammering on my back door. I quickly dressed and rushed downstairs, to find Alun in an excitable state.
“What’s this Jed?” Alun said, holding out a spoon.
“It’s a spoon,” I said. Spoon identification has always been one of my strengths. I won a prize for it at school.
“No it isn’t, Jed. There is no spoon here. It’s simply the words: This is a teaspoon.”
“I don’t understand,” I said.
“All I need to do,” Alun said, “is rearrange the letters and it’s no longer a spoon. Here watch.”
Alun started to wrestle the spoon. I’ve seen nothing like it since the international spoon wrestling tournament was held on Happy Island (see the international spoon wrestling problem).
“What are you doing?”
“I’m changing the fabric of reality,” Alun said. “I’m rearranging the constituent parts of the spoon to reveal the underlying reality.”
“Oh. Only it looks like you’re wrestling a spoon”
However, no sooner had I spoken that the object Alun was wrestling changed. Suddenly, for no explicable reason, the spoon was no longer a spoon, he was suddenly holding a plate of his potato anises (the famous Happy Island aniseed potato delicacy).
“What on earth is that?” I said.
“Potato anises Jed, you’ve just said.”
“But where’s the spoon gone?” What’s the point of aniseed potatoes without any cutlery to eat the with?
“There never was a spoon Jed, it was just the constituent letters in the phrase ‘This is a tea spoon’. I’ve changed the order of the letters and now it’s ‘His potato anises'.
“I still don’t understand,” I said.
“Take this red pill, Jed.”
“Are you sure?” I said. I’d not taken a red pill since the Happy Island rave (see the 24 hour party problem), after which I’d spent three weeks thinking I was a rabbit. I still twitch my nose every time I see a carrot.
Reluctantly I took the red pill. I realised that if I didn’t he’d start wrestling the potatoes in his next effort to persuade me, and I’m not ready for the sight of a grown man wrestling potatoes.
I swallowed the pill. It took a few moments, then reality suddenly ceased to be reality. I was no longer living on the same safe, secure island I’d lived on all my life. I was suddenly surrounded by a jumble of letters and words on a screen.
“What just happened? Where’s the island gone?”
“There is no island, Jed. Merely a written description of an island.”
“You mean it wasn’t real?”
“This is reality Jed. This is all there is. We’re nothing more than text on a page. Just a story. And not a particularly well-written story.
“So I’m not real?”
“No Jed, you’re no more real than I am. You’re just a character in a story, just a jumble of letters.”
“I should have taken the blue pill.”
“Why? You’d just think you were a rabbit.”
“But this means all our lives are meaningless, none of our decisions or actions matter, we simply do what our ‘author’ tells us. We have no free will.”
“Of course we can have free will Jed. We just need to take control. Here.”
Alun suddenly grabbed a selection of letters from the page and started wrestling them. A purple o.a.p..tomcat appeared.
“How will an ageing purple cat give us control?” I asked.
“Sorry Jed, I grabbed an anagram by mistake. Hold on.”
Alun started wrestling the purple cat. The cat didn’t like it and fought back, hissing and clawing violently, meaning that Alun was soon covered in scratches, but he fought on, and eventually the purple oap tomcat changed.
“A laptop computer!”
“Yes, Jed. With this laptop, forged from the very text that makes up our universe, we can create our own world.”
“You mean we can write our own stories now?”
“Yes Jed, frankly I’ve had enough of the Other Terrence Oblong telling us what to do. It’s time we grabbed back control. You can write anything you like and it will come to pass.”
“Yes Jed, you’re the writer.”
I opened the laptop and stared at the screen. The words that made up our universe blurred around me. I struggled for inspiration, but only briefly. Soon I began to write.
As I wrote, the island we stood on began to fade away, but before long a new island appeared. Our island. One you will never know anything about. Because these are our stories now.