n such strange times, it is hard to believe that many people in the world believe that this time and place in which we are living is not really real at all. We are, in fact, living in extremely advanced simulation.
Why somebody would want to create a simulation with so much pain and suffering is a question that best left for another day. But the simulation theory is widespread, particularly amongst the tech geniuses of Silicon Valley.
Elon Musk, for one, is quite sure that all of this around is not technically real.
Enter the Matrix
Fans of the classic Wachowskis directed movie The Matrix will already have a basic idea of how a simulated world could look.
Neo, played by Keanu Reeves, meets a man named Morpheus (the Greek God of dreams) who gives him the option of taking two pills, one red, one blue.
If he takes the red one, he will wake up to discover that the world he thought was real is, in fact, just simulated reality. Neo is then outside of that illusionary world and inside of the broader Matrix that controls it.
Technology meeting philosophy
One of the most influential voices in the real of simulation as reality is the Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom.
In an influential paper, he laid out three possible scenarios for life as we know it:
1) All human-like civilizations in the universe go extinct before they develop the technological capacity to create simulated realities
2) If any civilizations do reach this phase of technological maturity, none of them will bother to run simulations.
3) Advanced civilizations would have the ability to create many, many simulations, and that means there are far more simulated worlds than non-simulated ones.
For Bostrom, one of these scenarios must be true. And it is his belief that the third of the scenarios is the most probable.
The tech God
It is not surprising that many of those who believe in this theory comes from a programming background. And the argument also follows sound logic, as you would expect.
There is also some support for the simulation theory if you look at quantum physics. This field came out of physics, which was supposed to be the study of physical objects.
Quantum physics moves beyond the world of the physical and, instead, is dealing in possibilities. Everything is a form of information rather than having a physical foundation.
When you look at the advancements that have been made in gaming in the last 30 or 40 years, it is easy to speculate that future improvements in this filed could result in a simulated world. That games would advance and naturally develop into having the capacity to simulate the universe or billions of universes.
An old, new religion
The idea of a simulated reality may sound far fetched and straight out of science fiction. Still, it is not really all that far away from the vision of the world as seen by some of the world’s oldest religions.
Both Hinduism and Buddhism believe in reincarnation. And this is a process that is in constant flux taking palace all at the same time.
The physical world, as we see it, is not real. The objective of the life we lead now is to leave this world behind and achieve enlightenment by breaking the cycle of karma.
In a simulated world, the objective would inevitably be to break out of the simulation and meet your maker. This is precisely the same as the process described above.
Some wise words
Morpheus, the God of dreams, was not given his name by accident in The Matrix.
And all of the talk of life as a simulation, no more real than a dream, brings to mind the beautiful worlds of Alan Watts:
“LET’S SUPPOSE THAT YOU WERE ABLE EVERY NIGHT TO DREAM ANY DREAM YOU WANTED TO DREAM, AND THAT YOU COULD, FOR EXAMPLE, HAVE THE POWER WITHIN ONE NIGHT TO DREAM 75 YEARS OF TIME, OR ANY LENGTH OF TIME YOU WANTED TO HAVE”.
You would have every kind of pleasure you could conceive. And after several nights of 75 years of total pleasure each, you would say “Well that was pretty great. But now let’s have a surprise, let’s have a dream which isn’t under control, where something is gonna happen to me that I don’t know what it’s gonna be.”
Then you would get more and more adventurous and you would make further- and further-out gambles what you would dream. And finally, you would dream where you are now. You would dream a dream of living the life that you are actually living today.”