Is reality as we know it a computer simulation ? This idea has been evolving for a long time and I just watched Elon ‘Ironman’ Musk answer that he thought almost definitely. I’m not so sure as he is & I think there’s a bit more to reason with deeper in the recesses of our collective psychology. I’m quite sure however, that whatever the answer to reality is.. it’s a bit more subtle than a linux server based reality.. on a really big Xbox.. ughhh.
Here’s the link that includes the video below on the Independent website. Apparently a report by those oh so philosophical folks at Bank America wrote a report for their clients ?? suggesting that there’s a high probability we do live in a MATRIX style simulation.. Sounds to me, like they’re getting ready to do a massive, ‘pull the wool over the eyes of gullible investors and inadvertently lose their money accidentally on purpose’, type gig ! :~wink)
For me the clue is in Elon’s last comment.. (which I’m badly paraphrasing here).. “let’s hope we are, cos’ either we’re in a simulation or civilisation will come to an end” so there you go (kids).
The simulation theory seems an extension of humanist 21st Century existential fear..and one of the Titans of the technocracy would be an interesting psychological study. He lives in a virtual world already. One that is fabricated, synthetic (and of his own making). It sounds very much like the idea of Nirvana or Heaven, except it’s invoked by technology and is present in the here and now, not the ever-after !
It’s quasi religious in it’s attitude and all belief systems which rely on greater powers tend to have a similar flavour.. (basically, we’re not responsible for the bad things which happen / we make happen / happen to us.)
However, I could ‘imagine’ that we live in a simulation.. there are tantalising clues in science; something akin to error correcting hidden deep in equations relating to quantum theory and computer simulation experiments of a 2D Universe, which easily hold up as viable, when reality is holographically projected in 3D
The Matrix hit a nerve when it came out. Awhole generation feeling that something wasn’t quite right.. that it all felt a bit ‘wrong’. In the 90’s, people were waking up to the fact that all the institutions which we instinctively (no choice really) put our trust in, were beginning to be shown to be corrupt at all levels and there was often nothing anyone could do about it, from politicians, to law enforcement, the judiciary, corporations.. and so on.
The omnipotent ‘programs’ in The Matrix were, I think, were intentionally written and described as faceless, corporate, intel, security type people with unfetters access to everything. A thing called subplot and in this screenplay, very effective, if not subtle. While I thought The Matrix at the time had some great science fiction ideas, even though the sequels were a bit naff, like all sci-fi, it’s deeply political at it’s heart. The genre always has used metaphor for the here and now, the just around the corner.. it almost always contains a conspiracy; a thriller, a warning.. almost always a ‘what if’ caveat written to the future.
So in conclusion, although it may be possible that we do in fact, live in a computer simulation which is so real that it’s indistinguishable from reality.. (which is ridiculous, cos how would we really know what reality tastes like anyway ? in the same way as the Matrix asks, how would computers know what chicken tastes like, thus everything tastes like chicken.) I don’t agree with Elon’s ‘it’s 1 in billions that we’re not’. It’s a bit of a cop out I feel and belies a simple denial of the self; the individual self & the collective self
The world is real, whether we think so or not, it’s all we’ve got & It’s definitely not a computer game written by EA Sports Universal division. it’s our collective lives, our history and our future and it’s inhabited by many other creatures who unfortunately depend on our clarity of thinking just to survive, as oblivious to our intentions as could be possible, and not always oblivious to us either.. We are on the brink of a major man made extinction, it is our collective fault. Not you and me personally but the actions of major stakeholders who have not taken us in the right direction mainly because of game currency (sorry, I meant money) and their own short sighted self interest.
Global warming and pollution threaten to ruin the future for almost everyone and everything, everywhere. Millions of people live in abject poverty and lifeforms existing for millions of years, hang in the balance of a spreadsheet on someone’s desk, on the other side of the world, while a few have personal wealth & resources beyond the imagination of ordinary people: i.e, they access to their very own personalised virtual cheat sheet.
I do actually quite like the idea that the Whole Universe is 2 dimensional and we’re experiencing a holographic 3D projection of it. It’s neat, compact and a very efficient explanation for the seemingly indescribable effects of life, consciousness, cause & effect. It also would simply explain away a lot of anomalies that we can’t really reliably account for (yet), like time slips, synchronistic events and things like telepathy, seeing future events in our dreams.
Although I think that’s due to a potent mix of one part lack of sensitive equipment and 2 parts the willing & stubborn, steadfast nature of mainstream science to continue to live in a rigid, Victorian-esque world of material reductive glibness, (we’ve got an answer for everything so be quiet, anyone who thinks differently or dares to imagine.) In this respect at least Elon Musk has a fertile imagination and thinks somewhere alongside the outer edge of the proverbial box.. The one we supposedly / might all live in on someone’s shelf tucked away in a distant dimension.. (flatland)
On the whole, I’m inclined to think that the computer simulation idea is a bit of a cheap idea, reflecting our current ideas about how we see and think about ourselves and our sometimes unhealthy relationship with technology and it’s effects on the ‘real’ world’.
I can’t help but see quite glaring & obvious human philosophy of invoking a higher power and taking no responsibility for our actions, particularly in regards to our unending dichotomy of thought and often moral indifference over actions which as individual citizens, we have no say in, like war, famine, degradation of the environment.
I believe that for humankind to really advance and secure a place for future generations, we have to get past this slightly infantile stage of our collective psychology, own up to a few home truths about our own history as a species and start acting like proper grown ups.. which I doubt is going to happen anytime soon !
however in saying all that, I have been working on a story idea which discusses these issues, and there’s a corker of a twist in the plot.. which I shall not spoil yet.. I’d like to think it’s quite a profound take on humanity and offers some redemption for our existence as all good stories should.