Consider the following thought experiment. If everyone was like me would the world be a heaven or a hell? If all persons on the planet shared my likes and dislikes, my tastes and preferences, would I be happy or miserable. To illustrate the problem consider this example. Imagine that everyone likes/loves the same types of music you do. Logic would suggest that in such a world there would exist countless variations of the music you love. Since all are striving to create the sorts of musical compositions you perceive as optimal with each passing day music would evolve toward perfection in your mind. That said it is easy to imagine that in such a world music would devolve toward the lowest common denominator. That denominator being your own idea of what constitutes “ideal” music. In that world you would never be exposed to any music that challenged your own preconceived notions of what is good, what is valuable. You would never have a chance to open your mind and consider the possibility that your own perceptions of “the good” may need to be expanded. A similar argument could be made for any topic in the world where everyone is just like you. This line of reasoning suggests that the “similar” world would be one bereft of uniqueness and would eventually plateau into a squalid sameness where anything different or rare was dismissed. Such a world would indeed seem like a hell.

However I would argue one could/would still be happy, maybe even blissfully so. After all only the music you love is exalted. There would be no disagreement with your neighbors or co-workers or anyone on earth as to what you should be listening to in the car, on the radio, in the gym, etc. There would be no conflict, no war, no significant difference of opinion in the “same” world. Yet something would seem to be lost. Differences drive conflicts but also animate progress, they give rise to discovery and surprise.

In the end the thought experiment is only that, an experiment. Without the powers of a god creating such a world is an impossibility. If I were a god though I would thoroughly enjoy observing the results of a world created where each conscious being is the “same”. Ideally I would create a huge number of “same” worlds and a similar number of “different” ones. After a set number of years (aeons most likely) I would evaluate the results. A third set of worlds where I (God) would not interfere but let “nature” decide the outcome of human thought via the process of evolution would also be included as a control. What would be the result of such an experiment? On which world would the majority of persons be the “happiest”?

I don’t pretend to have the answers but if such an experiment could be devised I would be thrilled to analyze the results. I would even go so far as to suggest I would enjoy drafting the discussion section if the data were to be published. So god, if you do exist, and are running an experiment along the lines I have proposed, I’m available.

Written by

Research scientist (Ph.D. micro/mol biology), Thought middle manager, Everyday junglist, Selecta (Ret.), Boulderer, Cat lover, Fish hater

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