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The Coin Flip: A Different Perspective
GhylTarvoke Offline
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Posts: 232
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#1
The Coin Flip: A Different Perspective

I know that this forum is basically dead, but what the heck. This will not be a thought experiment where you wake up in a dark room and must determine whether you're the original or a copy. It's something entirely different.

I've always thought that the playerbase is massively unfair to Simon. Yes, he can be dense, but I believe that most people in his situation - "flat neurograph" or not - would react the same way that he does at the end of the game. I also believe that people who deny this are suffering from a failure of empathy, and are not accurately predicting how they would behave if they were actually in his predicament. Sort of a Dunning-Kruger effect.



Imagine you're playing a SOMA mod. You sit your character in a chair, waiting to be scanned. Ask yourself: am I, the player, going to experience the rest of the game from my current perspective, or from the perspective of a copy? Is the mod about to give me the "scan at Omicron" treatment, or is it about to give me the "scan at Phi" treatment?

Without prior knowledge of the mod, you can't be sure of the modder's intention. In fact, the modder may have programmed an actual coin flip: at the moment of the scan, a pseudorandom number generator decides which character you control.



Let's return to Simon in the chair at Phi.

So far, the game has put you (the player) through two scans. Both times, it switched your perspective to the copy's. Based on this pattern, the game will switch your perspective again: immediately after the scan, you will control Simon on the ARK. (Some players have said that this would be a better ending, and that returning to Phi after the credits would have a greater emotional impact.) Expecting a perspective flip is only reasonable; after all, it happened both of the previous times.

This is exactly how Simon feels. At this point in the game, his experience perfectly matches the player's: he remembers being scanned in Toronto, waking up at Upsilon, being scanned at Omicron, and descending to the abyss. It's only here, at the very end, that the game breaks its own rules. Instead of switching perspective, it shows you what the original Simon sees. It cheats you out of seeing the ARK (until the post-credits scene). And just as you feel cheated, so does Simon.
08-25-2018, 06:01 PM
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Abion47 Offline
Senior Member

Posts: 349
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Joined: Oct 2015
Reputation: 46
#2
RE: The Coin Flip: A Different Perspective

The issue of the coin flip has certainly surprised me as being one of the most controversial topics of discussion regarding SOMA's numerous thought experiments. I believe that this is because, in general, people are one of two minds regarding the coin flip.



On the one side, you have people claiming the coin flip is not real. After all, the process that produced the extraneous Simons was technological in nature, and thus follows a strict set of logical rules. When Simon sits in the chair, his brain is scanned in a static operation, and the resulting scan is nothing more than inert data. At the moment after the scan is complete, there is still only the one Simon, and since the scan was neither transferring nor destructive, the only logical conclusion is that not only is the Simon in the chair the original Simon, but he can only ever be the original Simon. And with that being established, it follows that any Simon that is subsequently created from the scan data can only ever be a copy. Because of this, there is not even the slightest element of chance involved in the copy process. Therefore, the concept of the coin flip as Catherine describes it does not exist.



On the other side, you have people that the coin flip does exist, albeit in a different way. The previous description of the process comes from the perspective of the observer, but things change if you consider the perspective of the participant (i.e. Simon himself). Our own perception of a continuous existence comes from our memories of our immediate past; we are never truly living in the present. To Simon, this means that both the original and the copy would experience the moments leading up to the scan the same but the moments after very differently. To the "original", the scan would complete and he would simply still be in the chair, as expected. To the "copy", the scan would complete and he would suddenly and instantaneously find himself in a completely different place, a transition that he might not even fully recognize until enough time passes for him to digest it. In this circumstance, each Simon would experience what amounts to a lottery, that they either won or lost depending on whether the Simon in question wanted to be the original or the copy afterward.



Now comes the part where I must give my own opinion. While there is some philosophical merit to consider the implications of the latter argument, I must confess that I am in the former camp. At the end of the day, saying there is a coin flip implies that there is a chance that the Simon going into the scan has an equal chance of becoming either the Simon still in the chair or the Simon that was transferred to another body. This is simply untrue - the original will only ever be the original solely because there is nothing involved in the scan process that would result in anything else. 

The metaphorical coin flip that the Simons experience following the scan is a real sensation, but it is erroneous to actually call it a literal coin flip. The only reason that people do is that of the thought that Simon would invariably come to, that, using the example at Phi, he "won" in the case of the copy on the ARK or that he "lost" in the case of the original that got stranded on Earth. This thought, and the emotions that come with it, are the result of the illusion of continuity. The copy thinks he won the coin toss because he was transferred from Phi onto the ARK, but that is only because of the memories which were carried over along with the rest of his brain scan. In reality, that Simon did not exist in the instant prior to his activation, so the transfer which he experienced was nothing but a convenient falsehood.

Continuity is a really fickle thing to argue for or against in philosophical discussions. The point is always brought up that one can never truly prove that they didn't just spontaneously pop into existence five minutes ago, as any evidence can be refuted as being a product of the memories that were implanted into our minds at the moment of creation. The closest thing we have to proof, then, is that we can use logic to example the circumstance of our existence, and conclude that, since there is no evidence that we didn't exist prior to five minutes ago either, it is safe to assume that we did. However, this is not the case for the copies of Simon. Examining the circumstances surrounding the scan and copy processes, it is not only feasible to assume that he really did pop into existence with a collection of memories, for that it is most definitely what happened. As such, Simon-2, 3, and 4 are some of the only humans alive (in a matter of speaking) to which the concepts of Last Tuesdayism are far more than just a mere thought experiment - it is a core principle that defines their entire existence.



TL;DR The literal coin flip doesn't exist, and though the figurative coin flip might exist in a way, calling it a "coin flip" is misleading and should probably be called something else to reduce confusion and arguments over semantics.

Also yes, this forum is quite dead. Tongue

(This post was last modified: 08-26-2018, 08:28 AM by Abion47.)
08-26-2018, 08:27 AM
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GhylTarvoke Offline
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Posts: 232
Threads: 13
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#3
RE: The Coin Flip: A Different Perspective

We agree on the true nature of the coin flip: it's an illusion. (I also think that the "reliving memories" theory makes no sense. You clearly play as four separate characters throughout the game.) Nevertheless, it's an illusion that would be very difficult to overcome if you were actually in Simon's shoes. Players are mistaken when they call Simon's climactic tantrum "stupid" and "unrealistic".

At least the SOMA subreddit is alive and well!
08-26-2018, 09:30 AM
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Abion47 Offline
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Posts: 349
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#4
RE: The Coin Flip: A Different Perspective

I certainly agree that it's wrong to call Simon's reaction unrealistic. However, I'd still consider it to be "stupid" - it's a completely understandable reaction and there's a pretty decent chance that I might make the same decision, but that doesn't make it an intelligent idea.

Beyond that, though, I'm not sure that Simon's reaction is purely because he interpreted getting left at Phi as having "lost the coin toss". Thinking about it, Simon had been repressing his reactions to a lot of revelations throughout the game. The revelation that he's in the future, that he's been sucked into an underwater hellscape, that the Earth is basically dead from a comet impact, that he's an AI, that many of the few things still alive at Pathos-II are actively trying to kill him, that his body is comprised of a combination of a corpse and futuristic technology, that nearly all the robots in his same situation have literally lost their minds, that he's basically committed suicide by proxy by either killing his "former self" or leaving it to die... the list really goes on and on. There might even have been a part of him that already understood what had happened at Omicron, and how the same thing had happened to him back in Toronto, but his mind was so close to falling over the edge, that he instead subconsciously embraced ignorance. Focusing on the ARK, and the salvation it promised, was the only thing that mattered, so everything else was shoved aside as nothing more than an inconvenient thought.

When it gets to the point at Phi that the ARK has launched with him left behind, suddenly the one thing that's been keeping him focused and driven is gone, and the floodgates had opened. Everything that he had convinced himself was temporary was now permanent, and the full realization of his situation was just starting to hit him. The shelter that was his ignorance had been stripped away, and all that he was left with was despair and rage. In that state, it's absolutely natural, human even, to find someone or something to blame, and Catherine was a convenient target - after all, it was she who filled him with false hope, who gave him a purpose only to have it ripped away just as victory was all but assured. Surely it was all her fault that he was in this situation since it definitely wasn't Simon's. He is just a man torn out of his own time, after all, who was thrust into a reality he didn't belong in. He did nothing to deserve this hell, and to be stuck in it forever, to be robbed of all hope, a fate worse than death -

And then just as suddenly, Catherine is gone as well, and to make it even worse, it's Simon's own fault. If it wasn't enough for Simon to have his circumstances be made painfully clear to him, he now has to face them alone. He had one friend in the entire world, and he all but killed her himself...

An underwhelming and stupid ending?

Nah.

08-26-2018, 09:55 AM
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