With the popularity of the Matrix movies the possibility that our reality may not be all it appears was commercially delivered to the masses.
Although this idea is not new (scientists have long argued the case for a holographic two dimensional reality with a referred third dimension which would not be entirely incompatible with the simulation hypothesis) it has been more firmly entrenched into pop culture.
The movies were so jam packed with ideas, pseudo philosophy and ambiguous technical theories and exposition that you can now take courses on the philosophy of the Matrix and its various interpretations. This has certainly given the mainstream everyman something to get his intellectual teeth into and the meaning of the cyclic nature of the Matrix itself and its various systems and subroutines (of which Neo may or may not have been one of) and their metaphoric counterparts in the real world are still hotly debated.
Was Neo’s anomalous nature a glitch in the system or a deliberate design choice from the Architect to take the cycle to its inevitable conclusion so it could begin again, an endless circle of test beds and computational evolutions pulling the system toward its optimal form.
Or was Neo merely an unforeseen product of a system designed by machines but still dependant on an unpredictable, if broadly funnelled, human element.
Was the whole thing merely created as a distraction to keep us busy in order to provide the energy the machine civilisation needed to live.
The variations on a theme are endless.
If the world were to discover it wasn’t real most people would likely fall into one of three camps :
1) People who would totally lose their shit. Freak out. Have their paradigms completely destroyed though some may first try to integrate the revelation into them with varying degrees of success if at best only temporarily. Most of these would likely be your vanilla brigade, those that live their lives never questioning their reality or the status quo. It should be said there’s nothing wrong with this way of life per se but it doesn’t always promote innovation or advancement of the bigger picture and can give rise to social aberrations that may eventually become destructive. It’s also likely this would be most people’s initial reaction with suicides and further religious dogma popping up all over the place.
2) People who acknowledge the truth but would rather continue with their way of life and not know or care to know what exists outside of their world perhaps fearing what that may be or that it might mean the loss of everything they have built up in this existence (I would like to think that materialism would be long gone in the realms beyond the simulation) These people may start out in the first category and would end up taking the blue pill.
3) People who will seek out the truth no matter what that might be. Personally this would be my choice as I’m always in favour of exposing the ugliness first and then dealing with it from there. Once you know where you’re at you can make a plan right? In the words of Transmetropolitans embittered Journalist Spider Jerusalem “The Truth No Matter What!”.
Again the first group of people may initially contain this group. These people would choose the red pill.
Of course all of this would also depend on whether we were avatars operating within the system from a physical anchor outside of it or whether we were generated by the system operating only from within it.
I find the latter more worrying as it means we are operating more within the limits and rules of the system, with the system itself being even more of a definitive prison, rather than having our senses channelled into a different reality from somewhere beyond. This would make escape a lot more difficult if not impossible.
Which raises another question.
With such lengths being taken by someone or something what could possibly be the purpose of such a simulation?
Possible explanations could include :-
1) The Generation of Resources – as in The Matrix though this seems to be a hugely elaborate resource hungry scheme in itself requiring huge resources to even run before any gains are made. Of course I’m thinking about logistics here in humanistic terms without knowing anything about the world outside of the simulation or the available methods that might be available. This also begs the question of what kind of civilisation would do this and what has to happen to get to the point where it’s ethical or necessary (again said in context) to enslave a species for some kind of material gain or wealth. This is assuming that the human existence is a known variable in the process and not some possibly undiscovered side effect or internally generated phenomenon.
Fritz Lang’s classic Sci Fi Metropolis depicted the system as the God Moloch who in Canaanite times lived off the sacrifices of the masses. The Matrix depicted this force as the machine civilisation that enslaves us.
What’s interesting here is that both were man made. Relevant? Maybe not but something to think about perhaps.
2) The Collection of Experiential Knowledge – in the movie Dark City an alien species runs a siloed experiment where human subjects are imbued with various different personality traits for the purpose of observation and learning presumably about the human race, though maybe the aliens were trying to learn more about their own spiritual pathways without having to indulge in the semantical (sic) dangers to true identity that such a concept might invite.
Individuals were loaded up with the traits of murderers, rapists and other extreme psyche types to see how social and individual paradigms reacted and adapted.
Seeing as there is much about our behaviour and the human condition in general that seems counter productive to the advancement of humanity as a species this ‘truth’ would make sense.
Why would people choose to focus on the comforts of wealth and the stockpiling of material trinkets (I was going to say both virtual and real but of course if we’re in a simulation then technically nothing would be real. Well except the experience itself which relies on the belief that it’s real) over and above the welfare and development of the species as a whole?
Now its worth noting that some of these ‘experiential’ scenarios, especially those of a larger scale ‘ may overlap with others inhibiting or influencing their output (those incurring global repurcussions for example or beyond) therefore some scenarios may need to be run in a separate instance.
To give an example of how this works imagine your favourite MMO, World of Warcraft or something similar. Most of these games once you have partied up with your buddies will, on entering a quest dungeon that’s set outside of the world hub, generate an instance of the dungeon exclusively for your party alone. Other parties get their own exclusive version of the quest.
Most people will be familiar with the theory of alternate realities and shows like Sliders go so far as to illustrate what these might look like with some realities only having a few minor differences where others might be completely unrecognisable.
If the reality we lived in followed this model there would be plenty of societal tropes to support it.
What if every time we thought about doing something and our mind ran through the possible outcomes and consequences we are in fact just receiving information from other instances where these different choices were made. What if the most alien of our dreams are actually the product of a far removed reality whose denizens evolved down a different path via their choices or scenarios?
What if memories of past lives as experienced by some people are in fact just events experienced by our alternate selves in other instances. This would be a more efficient method of testing. Maybe this link to the events of other realities is only exclusive to one particular simulation and others operate in isolation.
The reasons behind wanting to amass such a wealth of experience are not clear but could be to cherry pick those experiences which would better suit their spiritual and /or physical evolution and avoid those that would lead to their destruction or other undesirable outcomes.
3) Fuelling a Fungal Mass – ok this one is highly unlikely but is instead based on a fucked up recurring dream I keep having whereby a gargantuan fungal mass has enveloped most of the planet including lifeforms and this existence is a symbiotic delusion induced by the digestion process of the fungus as we are slowly consumed by it. My visions are filled with the open mouthed death masks of humanity their eyes white rolled upwards as their lifeless limbs protrude from its translucent bulk their lungs filled with its substances, it’s tendrils burrowing into their forms gorging on marrow and nerve endings alike. All while the earth’s population fades away completely oblivious to its fate.
All theorising aside though we can’t discount the possibility that everything we are experiencing is due to the resulting reaction of some external biological or chemical process that we just take for granted. Much like bacteria in a Petri dish.
4) Some kind of Prison – The notion that we are here to atone for past sins is a cornerstone in many philosophies and spiritual disciplines and with the way things are at the moment it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that life consisted of a series of tests designed to teach and strengthen, and in some places even correct, purity of spirit. Do your time and learn your lessons and it’s back into the great beyond whatever that may be. Fail and it’s back round for another go until you get it right. Kind of like a lifelong groundhog day. Whether this spiritual training program is targeted for the individual or for the species in general who can say. Could be both with various stages and instances used depending on the scale of the crimes committed and lessons to be taught.
5) We are components of a specifically engineered system – Well it took supercomputer Deep Though millions of years to work out the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything was 42 but what about other questions?
From a sociological standpoint of you look at the various structures of society peppered around the globe and how they develop both independently and as part of a larger system it wouldn’t be hard to imagine them as siloed subroutines crunching numbers and solving problems that then contribute toward a larger stage to a universal issue. The pull of power around the world and its machinations and revelations have certainly advanced the great design, whatever that may be, as well as rooted out those routines or processes that maybe weren’t as efficient. Sure things aren’t perfect right now but we’re still computing and collating and solving problems are part of the evolving nature of systems and programs.
The end goal of such a system is anybodies guess especially since we have no clue as to the nature of its creators or their existence and the challenges they might face.
So in general what arguments are there that we could be living in a simulation?
Well Trump as President is surely the best evidence ever that this is surely the case.
But for one the notion that time may be cyclical allowing some people memories of a future that has occurred many times in past cycles but has yet to happen in the current one. Cycles are how computers operate and, in the case of artificial intelligences, learn. Sure there are plenty of arguments for linear time such as methods of dating various phenomena and cause and effect, decay and entropy etc but what if when a cycle resets the stage remains the same leaving relics of past cycles where they fell to be pondered by the occupants of the new cycle. This would certainly lead to a sense of history as well as provide a great number of mysteries that may not make much sense.
I challenge you to read a book by Julian Barbour called The End of Time where he presents a compelling argument that time doesnt exist and is in fact an artificial construct manufactured by our brains to make sense of things.
As Morpheus said to Neo in The Matrix ‘There’s something wrong with the world but you don’t know what it is!’
Well one day, especially if Elon Musk and his billionaire think tank succeed in proving we are in fact inside a simulation and get us out, one day we may know for sure….
…… or not.
…. and think.