"You know, I'm sick of following my dreams, man. I'm just going to ask where they're going and hook up with 'em later."
- Mitch Hedberg
November 15. Going early into the weekend with some optimistic and useful links. For how much room the world has to get better, a reddit thread: What are some of the worst examples of the "We've always done it that way" mindset?
And for some examples of the world getting better in just one generation: What is a parenting technique used on you as a child that you will never use on your own children?
I've probably linked before to this brief 2012 article about the value of not thinking.
With Thanksgiving coming up, How To Make The Perfect Pie. I would add: a good way to add the butter to the flour is to freeze it and use a cheese grater. Also, the way she cuts apples is wasteful. You get more apple if you cut it into quarters first and then cut the cores out, like in this video. Personally I cut the stem skin off with the cores, after quartering.
Related: Sourdough Hands: How Bakers And Bread Are A Microbial Match.
Build a do-it-yourself home air purifier for about $25. You just tape a HEPA furnace filter to a box fan.
Finally, a inspiring and informative reddit post about guerrilla edible landscaping.
November 14. Two links about technology. Is anyone still surprised that Limiting Social Media Decreases Loneliness and Depression? And yet, it's hard to say exactly why. Maybe it's that we're hungry for healthy socializing, and social media is like junk food, offering sugary but unnourishing connections. It could also be what someone says in the Hacker News thread: "The problem with social media is you only see the interesting parts of people's lives, so you're forced into a loop of thinking your life is pointless and boring."
And a scary essay, Why Technology Favors Tyranny:
Currently, humans risk becoming similar to domesticated animals. We have bred docile cows that produce enormous amounts of milk but are otherwise far inferior to their wild ancestors. They are less agile, less curious, and less resourceful. We are now creating tame humans who produce enormous amounts of data and function as efficient chips in a huge data-processing mechanism, but they hardly maximize their human potential.
The author focuses on ownership of data, but I'm thinking more about how tech shapes our moment-to-moment lives. Wild animals are practicing deep skills to engage with a living world. A squirrel keeps a watchful eye for hawks while building its nut stash. Meanwhile, a human spots a red light camera and makes a hard stop before turning right, or wonders if an operating system upgrade will disable file sharing. I've said this before, but the author who best saw this century was not Orwell or Huxley -- it was Kafka, and our nightmarish rules and punishments are coming from our own tools.
November 12. Back to psychology, I've been struggling for a few years now with anxiety and free-floating psychic pain. With physical pain, if the doctor asks where it hurts, you usually know exactly where. The best I can describe this feeling is, it's like I'm surrounded by an aura of thousands of needles pointing inward, and every time I think about doing something out in the world, it's like pushing my soul out onto the needles. Lately, my experimental strategy has been to isolate that feeling, not think about the things out in the world that cause anxiety, but just amp up the inner pain as high and long as I can. Of course it feels terrible, but the idea is, eventually I'll get used to it, and that will be the new baseline.
This TEDx talk, Depression and spiritual awakening, seems to describe something similar that happens in the brain. She doesn't explain it well (and I disagree with her about the point of having kids) but the idea is that depression can be processed in a way that thickens the brain like a growing tree.
Another TED talk, by Lisa Feldman Barrett: You aren't at the mercy of your emotions -- your brain creates them. This one is really good at explaining the science. Emotions are not hard-wired in the brain; the brain does not have "emotion circuits". What really happens is, the body starts with a very simple feeling, something that could be interpreted all kinds of ways, and then the brain extrapolates, or embellishes, that body-feeling into a complex emotion, into predictions, and into actions. All of these brain behaviors are learned from our culture and our family, and usually become so habitual that it doesn't occur to us that we can behave any differently.
Depressed people are often told to "just cheer up", which implies two ideas: that we can choose how we feel, and that it's easy. It's probably a harder thing than most people have ever done, but the video hints at how it could be broken into tiny steps. Barrett gives this example: Your heart is pounding before a test, and you could interpret that heart-pounding as crippling panic. Or you could interpret it as your body gearing up to go into battle!
So this is what I've been practicing when I feel an unpleasant emotion: 1) immediately notice, 2) trace the emotion to its simplest root in the body, and 3) move that body energy in a different direction. I haven't found a better mental direction yet, but I've already been able to channel it into an urge for physical exercise.
November 9. Yesterday this was posted to the subreddit, probably because my last post used the word "tribalism": America's Problem Isn't Tribalism -- It's Racism.
The way I use the word, tribalism is a biological urge that we inherited from our primate ancestors: to divide our species into in-group and out-group, and make judgments based on that division. Racism is just one flavor of tribalism, and certainly a big one, but I use the more general word to also capture non-race tribalism. For example, why do Republicans hate solar energy? Not for any rational reason, and it has nothing to do with race, or any supposed Republican values. The right hates solar energy simply because the left thought of it first, so that whole technology has been colored by its association with the enemy monkey tribe.
Moving on, various links on the subject of observation, starting with another article from the Atlantic: That Cute Baby-Bear Video Reveals a Problem With Drones. A viral video shows two bears inspiringly climbing a ridge, but it turns out, they were only climbing it out of fear of the drone that was filming the video! The article's angle is that drones are scary. But I'm thinking about the broader philosophical issue, that we think we're observing how things are, when really we're observing how things respond to our own observation.
A Fighter Pilot's Guide to surviving on the roads. It's about how our eyes and brains are not made for the world of automobile traffic, but there are techniques we can practice to make up for that.
Earlier this year I wrote about the difficulty of dancing, and this comment has some good advice on how to dance better: "Dancing is just painting music with your body. How would you convey this song visually to someone who couldn't hear?"
Finally, a great bit from an interview with jazz pianist Keith Jarrett:
I was trained classically. But one time, I missed my entrance in a very simple Mozart piece because I was listening to to the orchestra and they sounded so beautiful. And the conductor turned around and said, "Don't listen." That ruined me, man. That destroyed my interest in constantly staying in that world, because my main job is listening. If you're improvising and you're not listening, the next second that comes up, you have nothing to say.
November 7. Quick election update. A couple weeks ago I linked to this article about thirteen candidates who are trying to revitalize the Democratic party from below, by having actual progressive positions and not taking corporate money. Of course, they all lost (except Jared Golden in Maine who still has a chance). This is why I've stopped following politics -- it's too depressing. With every election, big money tightens its grip while voters get more distracted by culture wars.
Supposedly these things go in cycles. In the 1930's we had labor movements and the New Deal. In the sixties we had massive cultural upheaval. Then the nineties, if anything, were an authoritarian decade, with economic power being concentrated by globalization. Now the police are militarized, young people are listening to bland music, and the only energy rising from below is ugly tribalism.
A few things still make me optimistic. One is demographic changes -- that is, old people with terrible politics dying. Another is the change in human consciousness if psychedelic drugs become more widely used. And then there's the big structural change, when we finally come to the end of economic growth, which has been the fuel for a lot of things being done the wrong way.
I don't think Donald Trump is a friend of the common man, or an agent of chaos, because if he were either, he would tweet two words that would change the world: fake debt.
November 5. There's an election tomorrow, but I have nothing interesting to say about it. So instead I'll write about my favorite sport, women's soccer. We're about to have the college tournament, and I think West Virginia is most likely to win it. Yesterday I watched them impose their will on third ranked Baylor, and they played with an intensity and precision that I've never seen at the college level, and not even that often at the pro level. [Update: They looked much less impressive losing to Wake Forest in the second round.]
Top-ranked Stanford is more loaded with individual talent. Check out this goal by Catarina Macario, where she catches a ball on her knee, bounces it again off her foot, and casually bends it over four defenders and inside the far post.
My home team, Washington State, does not have the possession offense to go deep in the tournament, but they have a terrifying counterattack. Here's a heroic goal by Morgan Weaver. Most breakaway goals start with the scorer around midfield, but with the team a player down, she's all the way back to defend, and she blows by two defenders in a box-to-box sprint to seal the game.
One more goal, an incredible long-distance strike from Shannon Cooke, to win the SEC tournament for LSU.
November 2. For the weekend, some sci-fi/fantasy TV reviews. You've probably heard that we have our first female Doctor Who. I love the idea, and Jodie Whittaker totally pulls off the role. But through four episodes, this could be the worst written season since the 2005 reboot. The first episode was pretty good, and since then it's been steadily declining in good ideas. Where the Doctor usually has one companion, now she has three, and all three are cardboard nice people who have yet to show as much personality as Donna Noble did in every scene.
I wonder, do the writers think that having a female Doctor is so radical and challenging, that if they do anything else even slightly mind-blowing, it will be too much for the audience to wrap their heads around? Or have they slipped into a daze of self-congratulatory social activism that takes the edge off their creativity? The last two episodes have been explicitly political, one about Rosa Parks, which dumbed down the real story, and the latest one with a villain who's clearly based on Trump.
I watched the first eight episodes of Counterpart, a really well-made spy drama with one sci-fi element: that it's about a conflict between two parallel universes that are pretty much like our world. No spoilers, but at the end of episode eight, the writers had a character do something he would never do. That's forgivable if it sends the plot in an interesting direction, but I was excited about the character behaving realistically, and all the possibilities that would open up. When the writers stuck their fingers in to steer it into cliche, I jumped ship.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina also starts with a great idea: a teenage half-witch in a world where Hogwarts is full-on evil. But the writing is lame on every scale from dialogue to story arc, and they're unable to come up with a single character who's interesting and also a good person. (With the election coming up, it occurs to me that the Democratic Party has the same problem.)
American Horror Story Apocalypse is... eh... pretty good, more fun and less mean than previous seasons. Of all the shows those guys have done, the only one I like is Scream Queens, which was also the shortest lived.
Disenchantment is promising: a Matt Groening fantasy, with the headlong creativity of The Simpsons and Futurama, in a world with castles and magic. It's definitely the best looking of the three shows, but after ten episodes it's still finding its footing.
Maniac is an awesome show about a psychedelic pharmaceutical trial. The best way to adapt Philip K. Dick is not to put his actual stories on the screen, but to take the spirit of his writing and do something original. I think my favorite Dick adaptation is an obscure French film called Barjo.
October 31. I want to go back to last week's subject of whether or not we dwell on mistakes. My first thought was, it's about mind vs body. But then I was watching Monday Night Football, and Cris Collinsworth mentioned that players are haunted for years by their big mistakes on the field. (One exception is Jameis Winston, who seems completely unbothered by mistakes, so they don't shake his confidence, but he also keeps making a lot of them.) The point is, it's not about mind vs body -- it's about consequences, which are mostly social. Then a reader points out that the pain of social mistakes can linger if we don't "close the loop," which could mean talking to the other people involved.
So here's a hypothesis of how technology could be causing the social anxiety epidemic. In a low-tech culture, our social connections are deep and nearby, or you could say we have a small number of high-bandwidth connections. So we can see the full consequences of our actions, we know who we've harmed and who hates us, and we have the opportunity to work it out. But in a high-tech culture, our social connections are thin and far-flung. Even our in-person encounters are often with people we'll never see again. So we often have no idea who we've harmed or who hates us, and no chance for resolution.
You could say, that's their problem, they have to tell me if I'm doing something they don't like. But the way it works in practice is, I'm going through life with good intentions and I think everything's fine, and suddenly someone is really mad at me and I don't know why. That's traumatic, and it makes me hesitant to be around other people.
One song for Halloween: Exuma - Mama Loi, Papa Loi.
October 29. A Dark Consensus About Screens and Kids Begins to Emerge in Silicon Valley. Basically the people who best understand smart phones are keeping their own kids away from them as long as possible. The Hacker News comment thread looks more deeply at the different kinds of things that are on screens, and how they have changed. The top comment is about how the newest games are being engineered like slot machines, and the sub-comments point out that even slot machines are more regulated than games like Candy Crush.
Some good news, an explanation of Japan's Hometown Tax and how it works to stop cities from draining the wealth of towns. Normally, towns would do all the work of raising and educating people who end up living in Tokyo, and they wouldn't give anything back. So Japan gives you a huge tax break for donating money to your hometown. The twist: you can declare any town to be your hometown, and towns can reward people for donations. So now towns are competing for donations by offering local goods and services.
More good news: Feds Say Hacking DRM to Fix Your Electronics Is Legal
Just submitted to the subreddit, a review of Embrace of the Serpent, a film about two white people learning from a shaman in the Amazon. Iron_dwarf argues that it's actually science fiction, because it's about taking ecological consciousness forward through new technologies.
Finally, Casey Malone, who did the "Living In A Van Down By The River" blog, has turned it into a book: Moving Out.
October 26. Continuing from Wednesday, on the subject of "grounding", I was thinking about how I practice physical skills vs other kinds of skills. If I'm swimming and my arm hits the water at a bad angle, I don't dwell on it for a millisecond; I just immediately try again. But I've made social mistakes that I've dwelled on for years.
Then I read this comment from Eric:
If I hit my thumb with a hammer, I will simply curse and get back to what I was doing, but if some stupid software doesn't work, I get pretty upset.
Trying to explain this, my first thought that the body is grounded, so that the residue of mistakes is immediately drained away; but the mind is not grounded, so the residue of mistakes can circle around into neurosis. Knowing this, we can try to make our minds as as well-grounded as our bodies. But when I think about it more, this issue is deeply related to culture, and how we're penalized by other people for social mistakes -- or for moral mistakes, whatever that means.
New subject, but still psychology. This was posted here on the subreddit: Harmonious Passion vs Obsessive Passion. It's a hard thing to explain, and the article's careful explanation is mostly about whether you're in control of the behavior, or whether it controls you. I would frame it as a continuum rather than either-or. I can play a video game that starts out as healthy fun, and gradually veers into a compulsion to keep doing something I no longer even enjoy.
The more general point is that there's more than one way to "feel like" doing something -- or to feel like not doing something -- and it can be hard to tell these feelings apart, to know which feelings to act on and which feelings to ignore.
A few months ago there was an obscure and fascinating AskReddit question, something like, "How many times out of ten are your gut feelings accurate?" Strangely, almost every answer was at one extreme or the other. If someone says 10/10, they're so intuitively gifted that they're not even bothered by unreliable feelings. If someone says 0/10, they're so intuitively challenged that they have not yet seen any reason to let a feeling overrule rationality -- or maybe their intuition is working on a level they're not even aware of. I probably would have said 0/10 until some time in my twenties, and now, maybe 6/10.
October 24. Continuing from Monday, there's a discussion of that Jung quote on the subreddit, including a link to this page about Jung and suffering, which includes this bit from Barbara Stevens Sullivan:
The most hopeful result of analysis finds the patient suffering more of his pain than he was able to manage before. More of his pain is held in conscious awareness instead of being discharged into behavior that jumbles up his life...
Buddhists make a distinction between pain and suffering, where pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. In that semantic framework, "suffering" would be unskilled processing of pain. So what is skilled processing?
I like the metaphor of surfing, where pain is the wave, and if you can really stay in touch with it, you can ride it down without hardly getting wet; but if you lose focus, you can wipe out and get completely soaked.
Another metaphor is doing the dishes. I remember, back in my 20's, when I developed the habit of washing dirty dishes immediately, instead of letting them build up in the sink. The way most people avoid facing pain, is like letting dishes pile up, except your inner world is a lot more complicated than a sink basin. I think it's possible to become a hunter of pain, where you're constantly watching inside yourself for traces of pain, tracking them down and cleaning them up. The process, like cleaning anything, is to completely engage with the mess.
Another metaphor is grounding the pain, like an electric charge. A friend mentioned this over email, and I asked, "What exactly is the pain grounded to?" She answered, to the earth. And that reminds me of a quote from Keanu Reeves: "It's easy to stay grounded. The ground is very close. And we walk on it every day."
October 22. One reason I've stopped writing about politics is that the whole national spectacle has become toxic. I feel like it's bad for my mental health to even know anything about the stuff that CNN and Fox News are focusing on. At the same time, I'm sure there are important things happening in obscurity.
This article, Portrait of a Campaign, is a composite story of several US House campaigns, in which a progressive candidate has a simple message that can win a red-leaning district, and the national Democratic party is not helping: "While claiming to seek victory, the Democratic leadership has instead created a consulting and fundraising complex that incentivizes narrow defeat."
The article has a lot more details about the politics, and a donation page to help thirteen candidates. But I want to slip out of politics and into psychology, because the same thing happens on the scale of individual people: that you want something, and it's realistic for you to get it, but you have a set of entrenched habits that keep you suspended short of success but safe from total failure.
The way out, of course, is to risk total failure. Re-quoting Yuri from ten days ago: "We must not get stuck in a local minimum. This is why we go through shocks/turbulence." I'm also thinking of a Carl Jung quote: "The foundation of all mental illness is the unwillingness to experience legitimate suffering."
October 19. This was posted to the subreddit last week: Virtual Reality as Moral Ideal. It's from Matthew Crawford's book The World Beyond Your Head, and it starts out with a fascinating comparison of old and new Disney cartoons. In the old ones, the physical world is dangerous and unpredictable, as it is in real life. In the new ones, the physical world presents simple challenges that are always tidily solved by magical tools.
The second half of the article is mostly about Immanuel Kant. I have a degree in philosophy, and fuck that guy. It's like, if you're learning to play music, you don't memorize some shitty music from hundreds of years ago just because it happened to be the first music with certain ideas. I think philosophy took a wrong turn with Socrates, and since then only a handful of philosophers, including Spinoza and Husserl, have said anything interesting. If we threw it all out and started over, we would have more fun and soon be doing better thinking, in the same way that Germany and Japan got better at manufacturing by having all their old factories destroyed in WWII.
Anyway, back to the original subject, I would frame the change in children's entertainment in terms of black-boxification. This is an idea I got from Bruno Latour's book Science In Action. A black box just does something for us, and we don't care how it works. From there, you can go "upstream", and take apart the black box to find out how it works, or go "downstream" and build black boxes into bigger black boxes that we no longer look inside.
The recent trend has been heavily downstream, with increasingly complex gadgets that are supposed to be our magical servants (Siri, scratch my butt) but in practice, when they malfunction, or when their unseen handlers exploit us, we are powerless, because the gadgets are too complex for us to tinker with or even understand.
I think that feeling of powerlessness is a big part of the epidemic of anxiety and depression. Crawford suggests "reclaiming the real" by learning skills: cooking, sports, music, fixing things. But there are also internal skills, and that's a more direct way to tackle mental illness: by taking apart the black boxes of our habits of where we turn our attention and how we think and act.
I think it's best to do both. I've been going to the pool a couple times a week, and trying to build a decent swimming technique by breaking it down into smaller bits. I might work on my kicking by doing a backstroke lap, not even using my arms, and kicking with only my right leg, and then only my left, figuring out how to move my leg to get the most propulsion. Then I'll work on freestyle, holding my breath and not kicking, so I can focus all my attention on the arm strokes. Then I'll let my arms and legs flail terribly while I focus only on breathing. Eventually it will all come together, but the point is, this physical work is like a foundation, or a template, that makes it easier to do mental work.
October 17. Does Being Bored Make Us More Creative? Studies show that it does, probably because boredom leads to daydreaming which leads to creativity. It includes a good definition of boredom. I used to think boredom was one thing, and then I thought, no, it's two things, one where you have nothing to do (which doesn't bother me at all) and one where you're forced to pay attention to something that's not interesting (which bothers me a lot). But this paper merges those two with this definition: "Boredom stems from a situation where none of the possible things that a person can realistically do appeal to the person in question."
Anyway, now I'm wondering if creativity is declining because the world is full of so many high-tech options to pass the time. But maybe when we get bored of all the TV and games and social media, creativity will be higher than ever, because we'll have learned from all that stuff how to daydream better.
Loosely related, from the subreddit, a copy-paste about touristification, how society is changing to make everything more predictable.
Also, since Canada just legalized weed, here's an update on my own use. I've always viewed my highs, and my recovery from them, passively, as if I'm being swept by forces beyond my control. Now I'm starting to view the whole thing as a workout, like I'm a weightlifter raising and lowering the mind. Or it's like every session is skiing down a ridge, and every break is climbing back to the top, and I'm starting to figure out how to ski better and climb harder. That doesn't mean I'm good at it yet.
October 15. Not smart enough today for an original post, so I'll catch up on old links, starting with two threads from Hacker News. This one is about how doctors are not scientists -- they've learned a set of accepted symptoms and diagnoses, and they tend to dismiss anything outside it, which makes them useless for any medical issue that's not completely normal.
And a discussion of Google becoming evil, in the context of a new version of their Chrome browser, which keeps Google cookies when you tell it to delete all cookies.
A sad reddit thread, Sex workers of reddit: What is the saddest experience (client wise) you've had while on the job? It's all about people who have non-sexual emotional needs, not all of them healthy.
Your IQ matters less than you think. My angle would be: IQ tests are purely about the skill of manipulating abstract symbols, which is a tiny shred of all the skills a person can have. The article's angle is to point out how badly IQ correlates with "success" -- a measure that I also don't trust, because even if you factor out people who are born rich, success is mainly a measure of how well a person fits with a given society.
If we're trying to measure the value of a person, it's hard to find any firm ground to stand on. But here's a stab at it: a valuable person is a person who fits with a society in which everyone has high subjective quality of life. So we can't measure it until we actually achieve such a society, maybe in ten thousand years.
Also on the subject of how the world can get better: The case for making cities out of wood.
And an inspiring self-improvement article, Teach Yourself to Echolocate.
October 12. I got some good comments on Wednesday's post, but I don't want to make two posts in a row about politics. So I'm going back to Monday's subject, with this comment from Yuri, a Ukrainian friend of my old friend Kevin. Somewhat edited:
You've heard about artificial intelligence being a threat. Putting a mind into a simulated reality seems a perfect way to contain that kind of threat. Imagine yourself awakening in the middle of the absolute void without knowing what you are. You realize that you can alter the void and create something out of nothing by will. Still that doesn't add to the understanding of what/who you are. Then you create creatures and put part of yourself into them in order to observe them and reflect on oneself...
That interpretation explains a lot of wonders performed by prophets/saints/reality hackers. It also justifies the existence of all the evil things, as good things have to be compared to something, and without both bad and good experiences it wouldn't be possible to achieve wholeness/deeper understanding.
In order for this simulation to continue to run, apart from not breaking initial conditions, we must not get stuck in a local minimum. This is why we go through shocks/turbulence, so that we continue searching for the global maximum. That kind of maximum might be well beyond our current physical reality, so in order to reach it we might need to expand outward (go into space) or inward (like the movie Inception) by creating an intelligence, and simulation for it to run in, within our current simulated reality.
I have another thought. The problem with simulations all the way down, is that one person can pull a plug and kill infinite nested universes. If that were possible, then with infinite universes above us, it would have already happened. Now we're really moving from metaphysics into sci-fi: to make infinite nesting work, there would have to be a way for simulated worlds to become independent, so their existence could not be threatened by whatever world contains them.
Sort of related, My journey into fractals is about the development of a 3D fractal exploration game.
October 10. The other day this was posted on the subreddit: Empty Realm. It's a thoughtful article about the NPC meme, the idea that ordinary people are so much on autopilot that they're not people in the same sense as "we" are -- whatever subculture wields the meme. At the moment, that subculture is the far right, and the author generously interprets the NPC meme as an expression of cynicism about our society, and a yearning for more genuine freedom.
Okay, but what I don't get is, if someone feels this way, why are they drawn to the right wing? Historically, the right is about top-down power, about "law and order" which limit the possibility to live differently, while the left is about bottom-up power and risky transformation. So why would anyone who is not already powerful, who is unhappy with things as they are, choose to be right wing? I think it's despair. The world is now so tightly locked down, and so incomprehensible in its complexity, that trying to have hope for bottom-up change is just too sad, so people internalize the dominator, and dream of a top-down system that's more clean and pure.
Unexpectedly related: The Best Article Ever Written About Bragging. It breaks bragging down into 17 categories, many of which we don't think of as bragging when we're doing them. I find this kind of analysis troubling and finally exhausting. The more aware I become of the complexities of social subtext, the more I give up on ever doing it correctly. I'm like, fuck it, let's just all be bad people.
Going back to last week's subject of mental and spiritual self-improvement, a reader sends this massive page of links, the TAT Forum archive. I suggest clicking randomly.
October 8. Today's post is about metaphysics. I've been getting back into Starsector, a game whose designer makes blog posts about the design process, and one thing he wrote continues to stick with me (although I can't find it now). The idea is, he used to think of a game in terms of the inner mechanics, and then you put a user interface on top of that. At some point he realized that the user interface is the game.
This reminds me of an Edward Abbey quote: "Appearance versus reality? Appearance is reality, God damn it!" And it's also related to the trendy idea that we're all living in a simulation. All three of these ideas are about the tension between the world that we directly perceive, including our sense experience and our mental states, and some hidden world that supposedly underlies it.
Whether or not we're living in a simulation, we're living in a society increasingly run by computers, which leads us to frame the simulation hypothesis as a simulation by computers, and not by some other technology. On a deeper level, our materialist culture tells us that the simulation must at least be something physical.
But we already believe this when we talk about invisible atoms and waves, the physics and chemistry of the brain somehow creating the quality of what-it's-like-to-be. The popular simulation hypothesis looks deeper than atoms -- and unimaginatively only finds other atoms, in some massive data-crunching machine in a universe basically the same as ours. The only important difference is on the level of meaning: that our world is a sub-world, managed by people with motives and plans for us.
Now, maybe they're in a simulation too, and this article raises and rejects the idea that it's simulations all the way down. I find it strange, that the author of that article finds it relieving, that if you go deep enough, you eventually get to the materialist God: lifeless matter in which mind emerged by accident. I think simulations all the way down would be kind of cool.
What I actually believe is that matter is local. Matter is the user interface of our own particular universe, which has been created on the level of mind. It's not that aliens in another physical universe are dreaming us, but that the fundamental reality is dream-stuff. Matter is dream-stuff so sticky that you can do physics with it.
So how did mind get stuck together into matter, and why? I don't think we can answer that from here. But when I think about it, a mind-based simulation is less likely than a matter-based simulation to have a purpose. Building all those computers is a massive job that wouldn't be done without a reason. But if we're pure mind dreaming of matter, we might just be doing it on a lark.