Are We Living In “The Matrix?”
“Have you ever had a dream that you just knew was real… and then you woke up? How would you know the difference between the Real World, and the Dream World?”
These words spoken by Morpheus in the movie “The Matrix” has been a long held fundamental question in philosophy. Getting to the core of our nature and who we really are have always fascinated the mind of man.
I believe that the concept of “being human” has evolved over time. While I certainly am no expert, it just seems this way to me. For example, as a humanity, we haven’t always believed in a monotheistic god. Our earliest ancestors were animists, polytheistic, praying to rocks, trees, and practically anything that they felt would help give them the “upper hand” in life.
The Sun obviously would be a logical choice. Gave light, life, warmth, and was able to make things grow. As a god, the sun seems like a pretty good place to start. However, over time, mankind evolved, in both humanity and thought. We created civilizations, adopted laws, all based upon a few central thematic figures.
Religions formed through patriarchal figures like Jesus, Jehovah, Muhammad, and Buddha; all in many ways had some basic similarities. Obviously, there are some dramatic differences as well, but for the point of this discussion, the idea that there is a “God Above” in some form (or no eternal diety if Buddha was asked) was the evolution of belief.
According to a 2005 poll, approximately 88% of the world believes in a form of eternal being. Or in other words, God.
Enter “The Construct”
In Nick Bostrom’s Simulation Hypothesis. Essentially, the idea is that at least one of the following propositions is true:
(1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage;
(2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof);
(3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.
“It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor-simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation.”
What this essentially means to you and I is that if our species (humanity) has still yet to “evolve” in our mentality and become “posthuman” in other words “exists in a state beyond being human.” then we have yet to go extinct.
Since we currently run simulations of what “evolutionary histories” (Think the Sims!) and currently have minimal “artificial intelligences” (when was the last time you won against your computer in chess?) It’s not hard to see how a “simulation” would be something that a “PostHuman Evolved Society” would want to do… or have the ability to do.
Then that leaves the troubling thought… What if we are the ones living in the simulation?
It’s not that hard to believe now is it? In the world of “The Sims” being such a success, the thought that an advanced society, with sufficient computing power, could create beings in artificial worlds… simulations if you will.
Completely indistinguishable from what you would consider “Real Life.”
Why Reading This Could Unplug The Universe
Once a sufficient number of the citizens of this simulated universe believe that they themselves are “not real” or that “It’s not real”, then the need for that experiment is over.
No need to play that game anymore! What is the point of playing the game, or watching the Sims in their simulated life if they know you are watching them?
What would it mean if tomorrow, the Universe itself was “unplugged” and you ceased to exist? It’s an interesting dilemma isn’t it?
There are a lot of scary potentialities if you take that train of thought too far.
You could find yourself in a very dark place thinking that “Awww hell. If this is all a simulation, then what’s the point!” Put down the gun!
The honest reflection is, no matter where, or what would happen in a simulated reality, or a “real” one, is given to us by Earnest Hemingway…
“Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another”
Knowing this… let us go into the New Year with a renewed sense of how we can live… so that we may die well. Simulated, or not.