- Hero image by Matt Parsons

Cartesian automobile

1y ago

3.6K

My favourite RPG has always been “Baldur's Gates II: Shadows of Amn” from 2000. Forgotten realms. Dungeons and Dragons. Juicy and involving gameplay. Launching it for the first time, I was asked to create a protagonist. Standard procedure. A bunch of classes were at my disposal scattered between two major “extremes:” Mages and Fighters. Mages looked smart and weird. Brainy anorectic nerds. In the name of a common good, they could cast a spell which would kill everyone in the neighbourhood. But they always needed time and concentration. An example of a mage was Aerie, a winged elf, who could join your group; she was completely “lost” in the reality. As for the fighters, they were usually portrayed as mountains of muscles. They took actions fast and did not care that much of consequences. Their brain functionality was capped at the level of hypothalamus (i.e. how to swing a sword from left to right and back). Surely, their muscles and armour looked beautiful on the screen. Fighters were also much funnier. Best example here is a berserk ranger Minsc with his best companion, the hamster Boo. They used to have long conversations with one another...

And now you may think: “Mate, you're probably so old with these games from 2000s!” And you may be right... but still, I'm not as old as the ancien... experienced James May with his abac... Atari!

The crazy “mages,” nerds, and scientists, who could destroy humanity in the name of common good, were not that rare even in our three dimensional reality. For instance, Prof. Freeman Dyson and his Orion project (1958-63). Professor considered using the series of controlled nuclear explosions to propel the spasecraft into the outer space. A huuuuuge city-like interstellar spacecraft: 400 meters (438 yards) in diameter, 8KK tons in mass, with 1080 bomb-engines on board. Dear citizens of the planet Earth, can you imagine the magnitude of the nuclear fallout after the launch? Looks scary, yeah? But what a progressive idea it was!!!

The biggest nerd in the history, though, was René Descartes (1596-1650). At least I perceive this man as the biggest nerd. A France-born intellectual, mathematician, and philosopher who spent almost half of his life in Netherlands and is considered to be the star of the Dutch Golden Age. Moreover, from the global perspective, he is regarded as one of the founding fathers of the modern Western science and philosophy. Why was he that outstanding?

Because he said that everything we see, touch, smell, taste, hear is a lie. Or was likely to be a lie.

The senses deceive from time to time, and it is prudent never to trust wholly those who have deceived us even once.

René Descartes

Our senses are unreliable. Having attended a rock concert, we hardly hear people speaking to us on the street. Suffering from a toothache, any kind of food seems to be made of a compressed ash. And yes, there's the dress designed by Roman Originals: is it black-and-blue or white-and-gold? Who gives the guarantee that even when we are fully healthy and in the good mood, our perception of the world is relevant? Moreover, who gives the guarantee that our dream is not real while our reality is not a dream? Maybe, we are living in The Wachowskis' Matrix and perceive what we are “allowed” or “physically capable” to perceive?

Descartes officially claimed that all knowledge about the world, which the humankind had collected before him, was not that trustworthy. It required to be tested. That is similar to what rapper B.o.B. claims today about the Earth: that it is flat and the NASA lies. However, the major difference between B.o.B. and Descartes is that the latter was smart enough to test the knowledge in the most unbiased way. He used his brains and applied mathematics.

Descartes started from the assumption that everything exists around us because it is rational. The reason is what makes the world around us as it appears. The reason provides sense to everything. As we are not capable to perceive the world correctly through our senses, we should apply the most “unbiased” way of uncovering that reason. Or finding the true nature of things. This way resides in thinking about the reason and testing these thoughts through the means of algebra and geometry. It was Descartes who eventually claimed “Cogito ergo sum” or “I think therefore I exist.” He meant by this that the only evidence of someone's existence is his or her ability to think regardless of his or her senses and – what is more – doubt these senses. He praised the human ability of deduction.

Except our own thoughts, there is nothing absolutely in our power.

René Descartes

In the nutshell: Descartes believed that it is impossible to separate a thought and a Homo Sapiens (literally: the Wise Man). The only proper way to present any thought resides in writing it down in formulae. The overall correctness of any thought should be tested through a number of mathematical operations.

Minsc would probably shout out here: “I have lost myself in your words but Boo thinks you're just ducky.”

My earlier article about car souls was based on that Cartesian perspective and scepticism towards the senses. Because of this, one of the commentators named me a soulless person. An unexpected turn, actually. The intention I pursued was to shed some light onto the nature of the unique emotions which the drivers experience and usually define as a car's soul. I argued that these emotions occur as a side-effect of certain technological solutions and processes which make the car move. In other words, smart engineering “generates” unique emotions. Thus, the latter are very subjective as they exist only for us and depend only on our senses. Instead, the physics behind the internal combustion, aerodynamics, and tyre grip is the objective thing. It can be “calculated” and written down in the formulae. Thus, our sensing the car's performance does not equal the belief that the car has the soul. This brings me to the point that emotions have very little value from the Cartesian perspective; actually, emotions make “the truth” more obscure. The acknowledgement of these emotions and seeking for the reason behind them is of much greater importance.

If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.

René Descartes

If Descartes engineered a car, he would probably start from the blank piece of paper and thousands of formulas in his head. F//ck the tradition! He would start inventing the perfect vehicle with a perfect engine – the perpetuum mobile – from the scratch. The best aerodynamics, the best handling, the best propulsion, the Golden Ratio design. He would be guided by the reason of making the perfect car and, thus, every dubious technical solution would be immediately disregarded. At the very end he would mathematically test all solutions and arrive at the best. This is a complete opposite to an approach: “Let's make something that looks beautiful and see how it goes.” Like Alfa Romeo sometimes does...

Descartes would probably get rid of the internal combustion engines. They vibrate, emits gases, weight a lot, and are not that efficient. Electric motors? Their batteries have limited range, limited life, and pollute nature while being produced or recycled. Steam engine? May work out! Cheap to run, easy to maintain, environmentally friendly... but that over-heat and under-efficiency... However, let's stick to this solution for a while.

The perfect car should be light. What else, apart from the steam engine, would make it light? Carbon fibre parts. Fine. What else? Maybe some parts of the car may be thrown away? Wheels, for instance. Why not? F//ck the tradition! Descartes might have mathematically calculated that the wheelless car can move. But then the steam engine falls out of the place. Different engine is needed. Linear induction motor? Quantum vacuum thruster? The compressor of time-and-space, as predicted by Einstein? Why actually not? This will also make the car faster and safer.

And here Descartes with his perfect rationalism might have arrived at the point of no-car-at-all. A myriad of formulas and calculations could have led him to inventing an old-good teleport.

Minsc would probably shout out here: “Butt kicking for goodness!”

The speculation on the perfect Cartesian automobile raises another issue: what is the difference between the objective reality (the “pure truth”) and the formal reality (the way human beings perceive the “pure truth”)? The second reality is our senses-based ideas of the first. Ideas, which are created in pain and struggle, in successful researches and failures. Ideas, which do not come easy as the objective reality is a very multi-layered and “concealed” beast. Therefore, in his quest for the perfect car, Descartes would inevitably hit a series of questions: can a masterpiece of engineering which moves, for instance, above the surface without wheels be named a car? Are the wheels ultimately needed for a car to be the car? Will an attempt to make the perfect car, which ends up in making the teleport, be still an attempt to make a car? Descartes would probably answered yes to all of these questions. His attempt to invent the perfect car would also be an attempt to discover the objective reality, the “pure truth,” which would occasionally push him to inventing the teleport.

To put everything in a nutshell: if the biggest nerd in the history engineered a car, this would not likely be a vehicle we use to know as a car. This would be something which allows people to travel fast and secure. Most likely the teleport.

Minsc would probably shout out here: “What? Boo is outraged! See his fury! It's small, so look close. Trust me, it's there!” This kind of Cartesian thinking does not sound thrilling. It is the nerdish boredom in its purest form! And Minsc may be right...

It is not enough to have a good mind; the main thing is to use it well.

René Descartes

Coming back to the characters and classes of the Baldur's Gates. Mages invest a lot of time and efforts to discover the true nature of things. To lean how to exploit this nature and trigger a global effect. Sometimes a disastrous one. In their stead, fighters care of minute-to-minute developments without getting into the complexities behind them That's enough to make fighters happy.

We all may be excited by Aerie, however, it is the good-old Minsc who has the biggest love of the fans. And, surely, his hamster.

We all may be excited by the Cartesian perfectionism and rationalism, but this is the fume of petrol, the sight of an open road, the touch of a leather steering wheel, and the sound of an engine which makes us enjoy driving.

Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/484277766161615544/

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P.S. One more interesting bit of knowledge. Physicists have mathematically arrived at the point that we – as parts of the Universe – exist in many more dimensions of spacetime than we can sense. Not in three, but in eleven. Check the M-theory.

P.P.S. What I did above to Descartes is a great simplification of his ideas. I selected only those of them which fit my narration. Descartes was a much wider looking individual. World's best nerd, don't forget it!

P.P.P.S. Matt Parsons can be reached here: www.behance.net/Matthew_Parsons_SA

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