Have you ever thought about the possibility that real life is not what you assume, but something created in a computer? If your answer is “Yes,” then let’s take it further. Have you ever faced any doubts about your identity? Have you suspected that you might not be a real person but an entity created by an advanced computer? Is the life you are living nothing but a Simulation that could be created by posthuman civilizations?
There’s a chance that our reality only exists within a rapidly developing technological device using digital code for its construction and transmission.
Years ago, there was a prototype game using a virtual reality (VR) headset developed by a company called Dream Reality Interactive. This company was founded by Sony’s VR division, headed by David Ranyard.
Ranyard says that the Ph.D. he earned has been useless for nineteen years. However, he knows that there is going to be a connection between Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence (AI), and he says that his company will be there when it happens.
Everything changes. We had Virtual Reality (VR) ten years ago, but playing early VR games was only affordable for wealthy people. Now, everything has changed. VR headsets and games are available at low prices, and even ordinary people can easily enjoy VR. According to Ranyard, the cost will continue to fall and the headset’s size will keep shrinking until it is as small as a pair of glasses.
Right now, VR uses headphones and a large box over our eyes. This makes us feel like we’ve left our environment instantly. One game lets us move a ball just by looking at a cursor in front of us. The ball can travel within a high, narrow path in a vertiginous 3D simulation created by a computer. The ball must be guided into several goals to reach the next stage, where a series of ever more wonderful backdrops begin.
The skills needed to play the game are quite simple; however, a prominent feature of the game is the physical sensation of playing it. You experience the game physically, feeling as though you’re moving back and forth, rolling from one place to another. It feels like reality has gone far away, and you’ve been transported to an unusual world. There is no desire to escape from this new world. Your brain will continuously send signals to your body that create an illusion of movement that feels something like shooting a pinball. But you will be stationary.
To some, this will seem similar to effects produced in other video games, though with some added thrills. However, it’s not that simple; something is going on here, the change of narrative perspective is radical. Meanwhile, most computer games revolve around a story. Human beings are committed storytellers.
Many things are explained in the book “Sapiens,” written by an Israeli intellectual, historian, and professor in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Yuval Noah Harari. In his book, he tells us that almost 70,000 years ago, there were at least six hominid species on the Earth. They were much like other animals, and their ecological impact was less than that of jellyfish or fireflies. In the present day, there is only one species of hominid left, and that is us. In his book, he argues that creating fictions that bind us together allowed us to become the most dominant species on Earth. What is a story, if not a Simulation or representation of reality?
Ranyard says that when he talks about this theory, he has a picture of Harold Lloyd hanging from a clock in his head. He discusses that whatever Lloyd’s character encounters in a movie, we have to care about him. The purpose of the film is to make you like him. It’s quite different in virtual reality. You don’t need that setup, because you are the protagonist. Our emotions are already involved because we’re involved in the action. While watching films, we have to relate using empathy.
Virtual Reality (VR) is not like a film; it is different in VR. You watch other people in a movie. In VR, you are like a star within what feels like another reality.
Let’s leave the moral implications of this change aside for a moment. Whether this technology encourages social detachment or heralds greater self-absorption, what’s remarkable is the way it impacts our perception of reality. Specifically, it causes us to lose our sense of reality. When you remove the headset and return to the real world, you can experience a disorienting harshness in your new environment. It takes a few minutes before you can return to your normal, material self.
After returning to the stiffness of reality, your body will not feel stable. This suggests a more intense and confusing question: What if the reality we return to is not actual reality but another realistic virtual reality? If our senses can be fooled by a mere headset, that tells us that our real-life universe may be, in fact, an artificial creation. Every single bit we observe could be an illusion, with whatever we experience built out of pixels.
It is a horrible metaphysical debate that has troubled many thinkers as diverse as Zhuang Zhou, Descartes, and even the Godfather of philosophy, Plato himself. Countless sci-fi films have been made based on Simulation Theory. One popular movie influenced by this theory is “The Matrix.” However, what do we have as evidence that can assure us that our reality is actually real?
The movie “The Matrix” was made by the Wachowski sisters in 1999. This movie shows that humans have been paralyzed by advanced machines that use them as slaves for their energy. These humans are locked in an unreal reality. Their masters, the machines, create a massive Simulation to control them.
In short, this movie was a reworking of the “brain in a vat” concept created by philosopher Hilary Putnam. Here, human brains are attached to a computer, and that master computer lets them live in a false reality. Actually, Putnam’s vision was an updated version of an idea that appeared in “Meditations on First Philosophy” by the 17th-century philosopher, René Descartes. He proposed the idea that some evil demon had constructed the external world.
For everyone, it’s a philosophical legacy. “The Matrix” movie was one of the best cinematic depictions of what’s felt by alienated teenagers. A few years after this movie was released, Nick Bostrom wrote a paper that became the center of discussion about Simulation Creationism. This paper was titled, “Are You Living in a Simulation?” He made an argument that one of these three propositions must be true:
- Human civilization will be extinct before reaching a posthuman stage that can develop technology robust enough to run realistic Simulations.
- Posthumans would have the technology to run a great many Simulations, but they would not be interested in doing so.
- We are, indeed, in a Simulation right now.
The argument is well known as a Simulation Theory. There is no doubt that it is a fabulous work of logical analysis. There have been several critiques of the hypothesis given by Nick Bostrom. Some critiques are on a complicated logical level. And there are some arguments that it is impossible to be convinced that running an Ancestor Simulation is impossible.
Bostrom’s argument has gained the great interest and attention of many Silicon Valley types and futurologists. The New Yorker reports that two tech billionaires are working on it, and they have even hired some scientists to work on how to break out of this Simulation and leave this unreal world.
The most shocking thing about this hypothesis is that the third proposition, that we are already in a Simulation, is a challenge to our perception’s primary foundation. However, it is also illogical to presume our perception of what is real is based upon actual reality. The story of the first human may have been that whatever we see or experience is a Creator’s product. Hence, in this way, religious belief enters into this Simulation. Something higher and superior, a purer reality, is what we aim to encounter.
A hostage, Nicolas Hénin, who was held by the Islamic State of Syria, reported upon his release that one jihadi was obsessed with “The Matrix” and believed that he had broken out of the Matrix by going to Syria.
Suppose you were given two options: go back to the real world or stay in the simulation. Wouldn’t you choose to be in a world that is completely real and advanced in all aspects of technology in the present day, we can see how computer science has developed. We are also developing quantum computers, whose enormous potential would be the key to creating a large-scale Simulation.
Meanwhile, there is rapid development in artificial intelligence, biotechnology, virtual reality, and other fields that could create a Simulation that would be even more convincing. With every advancement in our technology, we are able to make even better and clearer renderings of this world, not only of the current day but also of the past.
Considering that we’ll one day have the technology, it’s easy to imagine us creating simulations of the world. That would create a point in the future, whether after 100 years or 100,000 years, that simulated beings with their conscious minds would represent the majority of sentient beings. There would hardly be any differences between the simulation and our reality. The simulation would become identical to reality.
Suppose this is the unavoidable conclusion of unending technological development. In that case, it is likely that this development has already happened, and we are nothing but beings within an Ancestor Simulation created by an advanced, future human civilization.
One thought from business magnate, industrial designer, and engineer, Elon Musk, might blow your mind. In a Code Conference, he said that he concluded there was a one in a billion chance that we live in a real, physical world. Elon Musk has given an example of the rate at which technology is being developed; soon, he said, we will have a game that will be completely realistic Virtual Reality wherein the player would have a conscious brain. He compared now to the time when Pong was invented, a game containing two rectangles and a dot, to now. Currently, we have photorealistic 3D Simulations being played by a countless number of people at the same time. He also said that, if we assume a consistent improvement rate, then the game will become identical to reality.
Elon Musk is the man who runs an electric car company named Tesla and SpaceX. He aims to send people to Mars to colonize it. He has amassed nearly $14bn from technological advancements and their commercial exploitation. He is sponsoring an enormous global study of Artificial Intelligence (AI). He is a man whose eyes are stably fixed on the future and its fantastic prospects.
Therefore, when Musk says he trusts that we are already in a simulation, it is not like David Icke’s claim that a secret brotherhood of shape-shifting reptiles is dominating us. But it doesn’t seem very different. This is one of the biggest problems with Simulation Creationism. Even though the argument is completely based on logic, we cannot confirm it, because it is not falsifiable using any experiments. Simulation Theory gives rise to all sorts of probabilities; many are as far-fetched as Icke’s wicked lizard people.
Let’s make multiverse theory even more complicated by saying we are experiencing an infinite number of simulated realities. Within those simulated realities, there would be endless other simulations. In those simulations, you might be someone standing in an office block with a headset on, pushing a ball along a high, narrow pathway.
Several incidents have taken place that could be glitches in the Simulation. One of them was during the best picture award at the Oscars. First, it was announced that the winner was La La Land, but when their cast members came to the stage to get the award and deliver their speech, it was realized that the envelope was mistakenly changed. The final winner was “Moonlight.” Another example is Brexit’s election, and the US electing Donald Trump, an unthinkable President, for four years. And the unlikely, late return by the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl proved that we are living nowhere but in a Matrix, and these events are glitches in the Creator’s program.
There is one more example of a glitch in the Matrix: the Mandela Effect. This effect happens when a large group of people claims to remember an event that never happened. Some people said that they remember TV coverage about the death of Nelson Mandela in the 1980s. However, he actually died in 2013. Or it may be possible that this incident happened in a parallel Universe, where Nelson Mandela died in the ‘80s, and he lived to the age of 95 years. There are many more bugs in the Matrix. If we think from a different perspective, we may assume that these bugs were made intentionally so that the creator can see our reactions to these glitches. The programmer of this computer simulation might like to observe their simulated beings to see how readily we can notice the creator.
This part is lighthearted, but it makes a serious point. If the truth is that we are living in a simulation, then is there any probability that, as with other computer software, it could have bugs? And could some events, for example, the Second World War, be described as a programming failure? Or is whoever is in charge of the simulation a devil in the Cartesian sense?
In the movie “The Matrix,” machines first created a utopian Simulation, but people did not believe in that reality. Hence, it was adjusted to include all the pain and drama humans associate with being alive.
Bostrom says the chance that we live in a simulation is 20%. However, this is not good news for us. On the other hand, Elon Musk says there are two possibilities, either we will start creating simulations in the future, or human civilization will become extinct before we reach that point.
There could be a third option: It’s possible our successors will be bored by running billions of ancestor simulations, and that fake reality will become passe.
In the next 10,000 years, VR entertainment could be entirely outdated.
Next, we will discuss five mind-bending theories.
The Universe is a Hologram
In a nutshell: Whatever we observe or experience is not real, but an illusion. We can’t see the 2-dimensional surface on which our 3-dimensional reality is rendered. What’s the evidence? Scientists from Southampton University stated that they discovered something that supports this theory by researching the radiation left over from the Big Bang in the background of the universe.
In short, there are an endless number of the Universes, including the Universe we live in. There are an enormous number of theories and classifications describing the types of multiverses that might exist. This theory is supported by Stephen Hawking and Neil deGrasse Tyson suggesting that there may be another universe in which, for example, Zayn Malik had not left One Direction due to stress. The Multiverse Theory is as impossible to prove as Simulation Theory.
Ekpyrotic Universe Theory
We know that the Universe came into existence after the Big Bang occurred. However, the reality could be that the Big Bang was a transformation from a previous period of shrinking to the current period of expansion. In this case, the main event that was essential to the creation of our Universe happened before the Big Bang, and this Universe is sustained in a cycle of expansion and contraction.
Scientists from Princeton University suggested the concept based on unproven ideas suggested by string theory in 2001. This theory has been widely rejected. However, the discovery of the Higgs boson being just 98% of the mass needed to keep the Universe steady, provides this theory some credibility.
If we believe in black holes, then there must be something opposite them that can be called white holes. These white holes are assumed to be continuously releasing light and matter and allowing nothing to enter them. The evidence for this idea can be found within a paper that was published in 2011, which theorized that the Big Bang was nothing but a white hole, and that gamma rays also proceeded from white holes.
It is possible for two particles to be connected to each other even when they are separated by billions of light-years of space; a switch induced in one will influence the other.
And to support this theory, we can cite the fact that Albert Einstein called it “spooky action at a distance” during the 1930s and considered it impossible. On the other hand, most modern physicists accept that quantum entanglement is real.