The simulation hypothesis: a cycle of 1 or 0. (#1)

Rui Vaz
Jul 21 · 8 min read
C. Allan Gilbert: ‘All is Vanity’

Even if you have never heard about the simulation hypothesis, you probably have had those moments where unexpected things happen out of apparent coincidence, like thinking about how much you miss someone and suddenly getting a message from that person; or having a terrible day and suddenly being rescued by an unexpected conversation with a stranger; or casually talking about a certain topic with someone and moments later seeing a picture of that topic on a bus crossing the road — or more recently, seeing it on the first social media post you see. (spoiler alert: no, this article is not about social media listening to your conversations).

Skeptics would call it coincidence, religious people would say it’s God, superstitious people would say its serendipity, but for those who believe reality is a simulation, it is simply an algorithm adjusting reality to help you accomplish your task, whatever it might be.
If you go down this rabbit hole, the whole idea may seem either incredibly amazing or absolutely terrifying, because it means that reality is either a surrealistic nightmare generated by powerful overlords that make The Matrix movie tentacle robots look like kindergarten nannies, or that reality is a beautiful dream created by a benign entity that granted us the freedom to do and become anything that we can possibly imagine. Or you may even refuse to see reality in either way, and during the endless existential debate that can last your whole lifetime, you will rationalize your emotions, debate your opinions, accept religion, rebuke religion, accept science, refuse science, and ultimately build your own beliefs in a desperate attempt to find some closure to those ever eluding questions: How am I here? Why am I here? What happens when I die? What is the meaning of life?

If you want an answer that does not involve the simulation hypothesis, you can read this final paragraph and carry on with your life:

Regardless of the questions you may ask and the answers you may find, if you accept two premises about reality: asking questions is a search for answers; there are infinite questions and infinite answers; then no matter how many questions and answers you find, you will never reach the one true question and the one true answer, because considering the two premises, there is no absolute question and no absolute answer. There is only a moment of peace after we find the answer to our current question, until a new question comes. As such, if you want lasting peace and live a beautiful and fulfilling life, stop asking questions and enjoy life.


“What if?”: the inescapable loop

If you have chosen to read on, then consider that no matter what you believe, or how many questions you ask, how many answers you find, ultimately there are only two ways you will experience reality. Either you will or you wont. There is no in between.

Humans perceive this mutually exclusive duality in seemingly infinite ways, the most common being happiness or sadness, love or hate, courage or fear, life or death. But any of these can be simplified into a computer analogy: 1 or 0.

Regardless of the path we take, regardless of who we are, where we were born or how wealthy we are, there are only two ways to answer each and every event. For example, you either get up from bed in the morning or not, you either go to work or not, you either go on that date with that interesting person or not, accept a heartbreaking loss of a loved one, or not, accept the explanation someone gave you about something, or not, and so forth and forth, carrying on in the endless stream of 1's and 0's that we call reality.

Until you answer, you are stuck in the cycle — “I’ll stay in bed for a while longer.”.

If you answer 1, you move forward — “Time to get up.”.

If you answer 0, you move backwards and may even begin a backtracking process of converting all the 1’s that structure your existence into 0's, — “Maybe I should just quit my job.” — until all your existence reaches a stable plateau where you can reconstruct reality by once more filling up those 0’s with 1’s — “I’m going to find a better job.”.

So, no matter the question, if the answer to your “what if’s” translates to love or excitement or any other positive emotion, you fill your existence with 1 and move forward.
If your answer was 0, don’t despair. No matter how many 0’s you backtrack into, you will inevitably hit such a strong foundation of 1’s — what people usually refer to “rock bottom” — that you will eventually bounce back.

Breaking down the code: a stream of 1’s and 0's.

If everything is binary, then there are only two options: an event either becomes one or becomes none.
Think about it. You either believe me or you don’t. So this event either becomes 1 or 0. If you believe me, we both carry on with our lives and may eventually have this conversation with someone else.

That person either agrees, disagrees, or you decide not to agree with anyone anymore. In binary terms, this event can either become 111, 1101, or 10101.

The 0’s, are nothing more than the differences that separate us. Disagree enough with everyone around you, and the 0’s eventually become the emptiness that surrounds you from others and the 1’s become your identity. Without emptiness around you, you inevitably become one with another.

The fundamental question: to become or not to become?

As you carry on in the endless flow of questions and answers, you may stumble upon one of the scariest questions in existence: what if everything and everyone around me is not real? Or, more commonly, what if I am alone?

It’s simple to understand that this is one of the fundamental questions since it is a more elaborate form of the question to that awful answer we all eventually find out alone: what happens when I die?

Like every event, you can break it down to its binary expression:
If your answer is becoming one with God — or absolute unity — then you are not alone.

If your answer is emptiness — or absolute loneliness since there is nothing more lonely than emptiness — then, do not despair, you are also not alone.

In some essence, we are alone and we are not. We are alone in the sense that we are individuals. We are not, in the sense that we are individuals in the collective whole that is the Universe.
And when we die, we are alone in the sense that we cease to exist as individuals, and we are not alone in the sense that we continue to be part of the Universe.

Scientists have a famous thought experiment that addresses this matter: Schrodinger's cat in a box, which is both alive and dead until we look inside. In some sense, we are all Schrodinger’s cats stuck in a box, both 1 and 0 until we ultimately become one or the other by experiencing reality with each other. If you take this thought even a bit further and consider the Universe as an individual, the Universe itself might be someone or something’s ultimate Schrodinger's cat experiment.

The fundamental answer: to become.

Have you ever had a beautiful conversation with a stranger that you just don’t want it to end?
Sometimes you even loose track of time and minutes turn into hours.
You will notice that as you progress in your conversation, no matter how it starts, either with a “Hi!”, or “Mind if I join you?”, or “That last football game was amazing.”, the deeper you dive into the conversation, the more you realize that you are either enjoying it or you are not.

Again, if you break down the conversation to a stream of binary events, each and every moment of the conversation translates into an ultimate binary question: do I want to continue this conversation?

If you are not enjoying it, often experienced as boredom, fear or general discomfort, you end the conversation and merrily go about your life.
If you are enjoying it, often experienced as excitement and joy, you carry on and continue to lose sense of self as you become more connected to the other person, often experienced as trust, empathy and ultimately love.

This experience, in binary terms, is the act of becoming one with the person, because the stream of 1’s and 0's that defines you as a person merges with the stream that defines the other person. Disagreements disappear, peace and calm settles in, and eventually you don’t have to ask any question anymore. You just experience life together.

It is often perceived as a feeling that you understand that person and that person understands you, which is colloquially referred to as “thinking the same thing”, and is often expressed as “I was just going to say that!”. It feels like you know the person for a long time, or simply, that you like that person so much that you can sit peacefully next to her without saying a word.

It is the experience of unity, or becoming 1.

Why is it so hard to become one?

The thought of losing our own identity is a terrifying prospect and more often than not, it leads us to a path of self-destruction. Humans simply cannot bear to accept everyone around them. Merely out of a sense of self-preservation, we tend to disagree with others. When these disagreements escalate, wars are fought and thousands of people die. It seems that we are stuck in an endless loop of identity vs collective from which we cannot escape. Eventually, we avoid self-extinction when we have had enough suffering and choose to live with each other by believing in something we both have in common. That something is peace. When peace becomes the common belief, wars end and people “agree to disagree” on their differences.

Ultimately, the choice to believe is ours. We are entitled to it. If reality is indeed a simulation, then we are not helpless pawns doomed to live at the whims of someone or something. We are its actors and can choose between 1 or 0 at any and every moment. If reality is a simulation, it is most surely built for us, regardless of the reason, and when we choose together and share a common belief, the beauty of life begins.

End of part one: catharsis.

As we approach the end of this article, it is now a good time to remember the two premises: asking questions is a search for answers; there are infinite questions and infinite answers.

If there are infinite questions and infinite answers, all it takes to become one with another is to choose to accept a common answer, or belief. Because becoming one is not about finding the right thing to believe in, it is about believing in something in common. Unfortunately, belief is used in the wrong way. Instead of choosing to believe in each other, we chose to believe in ourselves. Through this individuality, religions are born, nations rise, wars are fought and the endless cycle of 1's and 0's is allowed to endure.

How sad it is that many believe that 0 is sometimes the answer.

Imagine how truly beautiful reality would be if we all believed in the thing we all have in common: each other.

Instead, we run and run in circles in the wheel of reality without understanding that we are all going through the same things, all experiencing the same happiness, the same fear, the same passion, the same love, the same oneness.

The reason why it is so difficult to believe in each other is not so hard to understand and yet every day we make it so much harder than it needs to be…

Rui Vaz

Written by

Rui Vaz

Compulsive thinker. Passionate about the Universe. Above all, human.

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