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I'm Bored!

David Cowles

Jun 23, 2022

“We are co-responsible for the world. We are all always our siblings’ keepers!”

What parent has not heard this cry a million times? It’s annoying, but we usually just ignore it. We do so at our peril. Boredom is more than meets the eye.

As we noted in the June 21st edition of Thoughts While Shaving (TWS), information is the difference between what is and what might have been. Therefore, ‘information happens’ whenever an event occurs. The universe consists of events and only events. If it is, it is an event, or part of an event; and if not, not.

Each event springs from a unique ‘actual world.’ An event has one and only one such world, but each actual world has the potential for innumerable, mutually exclusive, events. Every ‘real event’ occurs in lieu of many other, ‘potential events.’ The difference between a real event and its potential alternatives constitutes the information content of that event.

Information is interesting! We are interested in ‘what is’…to the extent that it differs from ‘what might have been.’ What is and couldn’t have been other that it is is not interesting. Of course, the converse is true as well: anything interesting must have information content.

Information and interest are two axes of the same phenomenon. ‘Information’ measures an event in terms of other (potential) events. In that sense, you might say that information is the ‘objective’ element of an event. Graph that quantity on the X-axis.

Interest, on the other hand, is the ‘subjective’ element; it is a measure of the ‘intensity’ of the experience (every event is an ‘experience’). Graph intensity on the Y-axis.

So, an event must be informative, and it must be interesting. A universe where so-called events are predetermined by other events (and, therefore, cannot be other than they are) is neither informative nor interesting; nor is it even event full. In fact, there are no actual events in such a world and without events, there is no world at all.

Boredom is a symptom of ontological breakdown. To be bored is to deny the existence of anything interesting, and if nothing is interesting, nothing is.

We refer to the end of the universe as Heat Death (or Big Freeze). A good definition of Heat Death is the absence of any communication, i.e., an information vacuum; and when there is no longer anything of interest to anyone, then there will no longer be anything…or anyone.

In ancient mythology, there are many examples of individuals with outsized roles in the creation and/or maintenance of the world: Atlas supports Earth on his shoulders (Greek), three norns weave the threads that determine destiny (Norse), and God says, “I am who am.” (Hebrew)

In contemporary mythology, we all have an outsized role. We are co-responsible for our world. We are all always our siblings’ keepers! We are called to imitate the Clerk in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales: “Gladly would he learn and gladly teach.” Chaucer’s dictum in a version of Kant’s categorical imperative. It is binding on all for the benefit of all.

Imagine a world where no one wishes to teach, and no one wishes to learn. (Sounds like some schools I’ve encountered.) Such a world would not be a world at all: no interest = no information = no being.

After completing work on the atomic bomb, Robert Oppenheimer, paraphrasing the Bhagavad-Gita, said, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” Next time a youngster complains of being bored, ask yourself, “Is this the beginning of the absence of Being?”


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