We do NOT live in a virtual reality!
We love tricking ourselves with what we know.
The theory that we all live in an virtual simulation is booming. The evidence seems to grow day by day and youtube offers a host of video’s to spread the meme. But is it true? I think it’s not, for one huge, and, in my mind, compelling argument: We keep on projecting our (desired or feared) reality onto the universe. And in our descriptions, we’ll use metaphors referencing our own understanding. We see, what we expect to see. No wonder the flat-Earthers can believe so deeply in their ‘proof’, while ignoring counter arguments. No wonder racism is so hard to overcome.
How does this work?
I want to propose the “Self-referential Projection” principle. We tend to discover the reality of world fits the way we see it. Yes, there’s a mistake at the core of that logic. Like when I’m a fearful person. Lo, and behold, I discover everywhere in the news: “Life is scary and bad people are out to get us.” So we always tend to see the world as we personally experience it, mixing this mostly a bit with what helps me to fit in, be accepted by my (sub)culture. Our personal system hungers for explanations of reality that fit our personal experience and mindset. We can even become deadly (mostly for others) serious about defending such concepts. “Become Christian or die!”
God, the Clockmaker
When you look through the lens of your time and culture it’s easy to see how this works. Let’s take this grander and, I must admit, not very nuanced view over time. First God made man the center of the universe. What a shock it was then to see we revolved around the sun, not the sun around us. ‘We aren’t the center, shit, then what is true?’, people wondered. Then when science had its lift off, around Newton’s period, God became the ‘clockmaker’ who created a perfectly set universe with precise rules. We can even wonder if Marx wrote his theory attacking this concept, by challenging the rules of the game. He made clear: the clock or rather our man-made clock is flawed.
Survival of the Fittest
Then when Darwin’s findings became accepted we got to live in a world of principles that seemed to favour the fittest. And whaddayeknow, exactly around that time the British colonization machine was showing the world who was the fittest and thus had the ‘highest civilization’; according to the British that is. Model and culture fit each other smoothly.
Chaos and Complexity
Then came chaos and complexity theory. Born shortly before WWI, but going in overdrive after. Here we lived suddenly in an expanding universe, where chaos ruled. Because we, still lingering in ‘survival of the fittest’ model, wanted to understand the most essential laws of nature so we could use them to rule. Or if shocked by the war, find how order comes out of chaos? Nietzsche must have felt this time coming when he wrote ‘God is dead’, because this was the time the universe was all mathematical principles we just needed to understand. And it felt like a machine believe with a lack of meaning.
This theory then evolved to an evolving consciousness model. First churches due to increased mobilization started to empty. Many felt they didn’t need Church as safeguard community anymore and the age of individualism and consumerism started. Still many needed some afterlife principle and God wasn’t yet back in the picture, (Of course also many never left the God belief, but we are interested in those opening up the projections of their own time) Then also slowly the discoveries of the spiritual explorers of the early 20th century, who studied Sufism, Guru’s, and such became slowly more main stream. Hence this calming theory of expanding consciousness. ‘See we are growing all the time’. Can you feel the era this fits best? Yes, babyboom time. Right after WWII everything seemed to grow just fine and without limit. This also fits consumerism. ‘See, we are the center of the expanding universe’.
Law of Attraction
Then we saw the hippy church, going to India a lot, brought back reincarnation. What a relief for all those missing an afterlife, when there’s no heaven. This mixed so nice with the half understood truths of before. We now found we live in an expanding universe that shapes itself to how we perceive it. Oh my, the Law of Attraction happened! This is a kind a hopeful ‘Self-referential Projection’. ‘I can order what I want, because I’m the evolving center (preferably in wealth, health and spiritual consumerism) and I understand the laws of nature.’ (read a watered down version of these laws fitting my self centric convictions)
Rise of Virtual-Reality Reality
So recently the youth that was raised on video games grew up. They all saw the Matrix. They all had avatars they steered run around virtual game universes. So, guess what they see? Exactly. We all live in a Matrix, simulation. And from the old believes we keep: there’s an afterlife (‘I expect to return to my higher self who played me’). There’s higher laws (‘See, quantum physics exist because we’re in a super computer’). There’s no need to be too responsible with nature (‘We’re in a game, so why should I stop playing me to help the rest of the world?’). And in this last conviction we also see the self-centered consumer philosophy.
We now live in a time of making theories bitesize pop culture.
I discovered this idea, when I read for a while about the latest theories in physics. Somehow they always end up in the speculative realm, which reads more like a novel than science. Here scientists project their ideas, based upon their into the world. And what happens, like with the Law of Attraction, some normal people will pick up the speculative projection and make it bitesize and popular according to their convictions, hopes and cultural reality.
Using this view you can see it everywhere. One day our dead hero, Jesus, Arthur, will come return. Who believes that? What about endangered cultures threatened by others? These are the peoples longing for a supernatural answer, who’ll help overcome something they themselves have no power over. The Jews in their time dealt with the Romans and many neighbours. ‘Jesus come back please?’ The, just turned Christian, pre-English, dreamt of Arthur, during the Saxon and not long after the Viking invasions.
Are we part of nature?
It has been found that the hero returning from the dead myth is way more ancient than the Jesus story. It’s a trope that’s rediscovered over and over again, when certain troubles happen. Our biggest trouble now is climate change. No wonder the Churches are talking about end times and yes, there he is, ‘Jesus will be back soon’. Gaining in popularity is also the indigenous belief, ‘we’re part of nature’. I think that’s a fact. And if not, it feels like the best realization, to help us stop destroying our own environment. It’s probably the best paradigm: ‘we need to start fixing nature, by fixing ourselves’.
So can we see beyond our biases? Can we see beyond our culture? It’s hard. But we must try. With a general decrease in people having any intellectual skill, critical thinking education, we have more and more big decisions being taken by morons with a lack of true understanding. Sometimes they lie, ‘Climate change isn’t real! So, invest in oil.’ Sometimes they are too bloody ignorant. ‘Climate change isn’t real because my TV station, sponsored by big oil, says, “science sucks”.’
The Future of our Understanding of Reality
But, hey, the Quantum Computer is around the corner ready that change the playing field again. Once again it will seek to integrate all previous ideas, while mirroring cultures. I predict the ‘virtual reality’ believe will stay, but claim we are both virtual reality and reality. It will focus more on maintaining both flux and balance in systems. Because we’ll see way more unrest, big shifts around the world and no power being able to control it. We’ll rather feel part of the machine then in control, as we lose control over our own next advances, when they start thinking for us, or themselves. And finally people will predict the ‘end-game’ is on, because man, is shit complex and little nature left to go silent in.
Hope and Warning
So my guess is that the next iteration to mirror our society will show a lack of comforting higher meaning, and more surrender to higher principles ruling us. And this time to get control back, more voices will demand we use these principles to shape our laws by, in order to survive. I hope it will restrain the power of the corrupting corporate lobbies who for profit keep on destroying the environment and people, like the oil and arms lobbies. Remember that when those laws will written, they’ll not be the truth, they’ll be the truth of those who write them and their interests. And when those in power still prefer their own interests over the collective health get to write those rules, we know it’ll end up being a new way to suppress change and won’t give nature space to heal the planet. Better be awake when that happens.
Where To Go From Here.
And for those that hope to find the absolute truth. Sorry. I have no clue. But I do know the following: find ways to be aligned with your environment. Be a healthy part of it. Destroying more nature than can regrow because of your actions makes no sense, however slow the damage is done. It’s not for nothing that lions kill to eat, and don’t seek to perfect their kill production and kill as much zebra’s as they can. Destroying other cultures makes no sense either. We need a health ecology of diversity in nature, in cultures and approaches. At heart we can know one thing: Our ecosphere developed as a balanced culture of millions of interactions and creatures all interacting with each other.
I think forests are communities where species intermingle and have century old dialogues we can’t yet understand. Better have respect for all we don’t know yet, rather than destroy of create watered down versions out of arrogance. Yes we can, but we shouldn’t. Jesus said, “Forgive them, lord, for they don’t know what they are doing.” 2000 years later we still don’t know. Acting as if we do has shown to end up in robbery, plunder and destruction of our eco-sphere. We should start listening to scientists who know at the least a little bit more, let alone listening to indigenous people living amidst nature who know best, Not doing so is becoming a crime against life on this planet, even when the laws of the land seem to prove it is all legal. Our hearts know different.
And that story, my friends, of importance of keeping real nature high in esteem is indeed ancient, and for good reasons. We need to come back of the arrogant idea, we’re above nature. It is literally killing us. We need to reconnect to our softer, humbler, nourishing side.
Can we learn the humility and care needed to be part of, in service of the living web we are part of? I dearly hope so.