Creating reality

I’ve always been interested in the “fake it to make it” credo, which is pretending that you are something until you become that thing.

Fiction writers contiually create realities that exist on paper until someone later makes it real (like Heinlein’s waldos). When governments create realities, then what? Cyberpunk author William Gibson has begun to blog again. In a post Sun, Oct. 17, he quotes an article from the New York Times Magazine by Ron Suskind.

In the quoted section, Suskind recounts a conversation with an unnamed senior advisor to Bush.

‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out.’

That level of arrogance, of certainty, scares the heck out of me.

One day I said, “I’m a professional grant writer for high level, multi-investigator science projects.” And some one believed me, so I did the task assigned, and so grows a reasonably lucrative occupation.

But that’s me. I created a reality, and stepped into it. I behaved as if it were true, and because I actually did the work and seemed to have some talent, it became true.

But that’s me. Just me, and my life. If I’m wrong, the affected sphere is pretty small.

Turns out, however, that our current administration feels the same way, and the sphere affected by a government like ours is global.

Sure I like to say that I create my reality, but I’m trained to observe, to report, to design testable hypotheses and well-controlled experiments. When I create a personal reality, it is influenced by what have become such defining personal characteristics. Thus, it is reality-based. If my work had been substandard, it would have been all over.

Similarly, if one wishes to change the paradigm in experimental science, one damn well better have solid data. Our administration ignores all data that does not fit with it’s views, ignores all feedback.

If your musculoskeletal system ignored all the feedback circuits, you couldn’t walk. You’d tear your very sinews. Reality creation has limits which tend to enforce themselves. The sinews of our culture are strained.

Full article at the NYT: Without a Doubt. [registration required, free]

About Peg.

Peg has a PhD in neuroscience and has a mind like a cocker spaniel. New scientific questions are like squeaky toys. She makes her living consulting with university faculty members on the fine art of grantsmanship, writes fiction for fun, and considers herself a wetware hacker.


  1. Every day this whole situation seems more and more like The Emporer’s New Clothes. Excecpt that while in the story the emporer could not see the swindlers’ clothes, in this case I believe that the swindlers have actually chanced the emporer’s vision. And when we tell him that the clothes are not there he literally does not know what we are talking about.

  2. That’s a reasonable assessment in my book. As I posted over on HuSi: I’m not against religion or faith.  I’m against arrogance and unwavering certainty in the face of contradictory evidence.  I prefer reality.  I prefer to use the brain God gave me.  Many Christians of Bush’s stripe and following seem to think that using your brain is akin to disobeying the order to Adam not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge.

    In the NPR interview with Suskind (…), he brings out again that there is a reality-based vs. faith-based division that underlies all the Red vs Blue, etc. I’d have to agree.

Comments are closed