So, you think you are real…

So, you think you are real…

The phrase “but in the real world” is one that is intended to convey that the speaker is asserting that his or her knowledge and experience are in contrast to a statement that contradicts or ignores reality.

Yet, what is reality?

In a world in which artificial intelligence and “virtual reality” are being incorporated into ever-widening roles or functions, how can anyone be certain that they are dealing with “the real”? What are the boundaries? After all, the famous Turing Test posits that, if a computer can convince a human interlocutor that its behaviour is indistinguishable from that of a human, it has, at least to some extent, artificial intelligence.

And if an artificial intelligence is a form of artificial mind, and virtual reality is an artificial world, and we humans interact with both, arguably we are making them real, because we are incorporating them into how we act, think and behave in what we term the real world. Descartes used his “evil demon” thought experiment to raise the possibility that everything that we think is real is, in fact, an illusion; while there are a number of high profile individuals in the world of technology who also raise the question of whether our entire world is a construct of some vastly superior civilization- think The Matrix on a cocktail of LSD and steroids!

To add to your sense of disassociation, if a simulated world is just a world produced by digital information, and human beings are the product of the digital information encoded into our DNA, to what extent can we say that we are “real”? If we are simply “code”, then that code could be uploaded into a different environment. After all, work is already under way on giving an individual the chance of immortality by uploading his or her mind into an electronic storage system, enabling an emulation that would supposedly run much faster than it does on the messy biological version we have now (now, apparently, the “meatspace”). Of course, all this begs the question of “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes”- who will keep an eye on those in charge of the process?

Before, Dear Reader, you think that the Awbury Team has completely “lost it”, there is a serious side to all this seemingly hallucinogenic sophistry.

All reality, including yours and ours, is grounded in information. Whether we live in a Newtonian or quantum mechanical world, the underlying physics is grounded in information, yet also real; based upon models created by individuals and validated by observation and empirical testing (until a better representation refutes it!) However, as more and more economic and social activity switches to the “virtual and cyber world”, the boundaries between what is real and what is not become increasingly blurred. As such, the nature of risks will become increasingly “virtual”; influenced by events or environments that may not be “real” at all, or only partially so.

Therefore, Awbury’s ability to continue to succeed and remain relevant is based not only upon remaining grounded in the real world, understanding its nature and boundaries, but also in being able to conceptualize “virtual” risks, and construct, manage and understand the appropriate range of models that will enable us to identify and assess opportunities and risks in all their forms. We just have to avoid allowing the models to appear so elegant, self-referential and perfect that they distract us from the fact that our world, whether real or not, has limitations and boundaries in terms of what we humans can perceive. Some factors may simply not be capable of observation, so one has to make assumptions grounded in reality- whatever that is!

The Awbury Team

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