The New Empowerment


As described in The Personal World, the world in which one lives is very different to our current understanding. We live in parallel physical realities. The truly extraordinary news is that when confirmation bias operates, this biases which way things are likely to go, everywhere.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is what tends to happen when a new experience would clash with an expectation. In response, in order to avoid the unpleasant feeling, the unconscious mind tends to modify the observation of the event. It alters the content of the observation so that it conforms to the expectations, instead of contradicting them.

Confirmation bias means that the process of observation is biased so that the resulting experience does not jar with the expectations. The brain instead formulates an observation of what is expected. So what is expected tends to be what is observed. Where there are ten witnesses to a significant incident, there are inevitably ten different versions of events.

This is a well-known phenomenon. Research shows that images held in the mind can directly affect what is observed. As neuroscience writer Mo Constandi reports:

A new study now shows that visual working memory can influence our perceptions, so that mental images in the mind’s eye can alter the way we see things. (2011)

So you tend to see in the world what is in your mind’s eye, a perfect example of confirmation bias.

Bias on Reality

Obviously, in the ordinary world, the result of confirmation bias just produces a rose-tinted view of the world. We go away thinking, wrongly, that things turned out how we expected. But in the personal world the situation is very different. It is the biased observation that becomes part of the definition of the physical reality.

This means that the expectation is fulfilled, in reality. Suppose I glance at a billboard, and now it has a tatty banner across it. It says “Continued”, but because it is a banner, my unconscious reads it as “Cancelled”. This means I now live in a version of the world where the banner actually reads ”Cancelled”. And in this version of the personal world the show is almost certainly not going ahead.

Positive Thinking

Naturally, this means that positive thinking is vital. Given this strange empowerment we do not want to encour­age unwelcome events. The obvious thing is deliberately focusing on positive outcomes. Not, of course, a new idea. But now we know just how significant this is. Expecting the best is vital because this actually makes better things more likely to be experienced.

When we are not aware of the effect, we are as likely as not to be steering in the wrong direction. If we do not recognise that we are doing ourselves harm by holding negative expectations we may be careless about it. Saying, for instance, knowing my luck this will not turn out well, is a recipe for just what I want to avoid. In this type of world positive thinking is kind of Reality Health & Safety.

By making positive thinking more and more the default position, we can influence our mental habituation, and thus come to expect positive things more naturally.

For any given situation, there is a possible future in which an unlikely but very welcome outcome exists. In this type of world, if you can come to expect this optimal future, the confirmation bias means you are more and more likely to arrive in that kind of future.

The Physics

It seems crazy that just altering an observation could alter what is real, but there is solid physics to support the basic principle. As physicist Saibal Mitra describes in a remarkable thought experiment, observation is everything. His technical paper is Changing the past by forgetting. His protagonist is an AI who can effectively reverse events in his world by deleting an observation from memory. He observes a planet-killing asteroid inbound. By deleting the observation, he is thereby defined as existing back in a reality where such an event is enormously improbable.

We cannot do that because our brains do not work that way. But the same principle applies when confirmation bias operates. The observation of a certain event is altered. As described in The Personal World, the reality of each relative world is defined by the observations made. Therefore, when a different observation is made, a different version of the physical state of the world becomes the result.

So every possible version of the next moment is a real possibility. When the next observation is altered, you wind up in a different version of the next moment, a version in which the events defined by the altered observation actually happened. And thus the biased observation means you wind up in an alternate version of the world. It is not, of course, that changing an observation affects the world in any way. It is simply that it alters which version of the next moment you wind up in.

The extraordinary implication is that we are doing this all the time. As a result, the altered observation defines the reality of this individual. The physics is described in detail in later sections.

The next main section is The Game of Life.