Well, Elon Musk has really done it this time.
I’m all for Space X but, apparently, that wasn’t enough for him. He had to go and strike fear into the hearts of the public. Musk is trying to disassemble your reality so that you don’t have to. He doesn’t feel like the daily stresses of modern life are doing this fast enough. So what did he do? Well, he announced that we are living in a simulation.
In all honesty, this isn’t really dismantling reality. This is taking the reality part out of the equation altogether. Sorry. Maybe when you’re good you can get your beloved reality back.
A side-effect of hearing the dreaded ‘simulation’ word is usually moral panic. Dear reader! I advise you not to go out and start looting and rioting straight away! If you’ve already gone then have an interesting pillage but for the rest of you, I have a question.
Would it really matter if we were in a simulation?
Well, let’s see where this theory came from first. Musk was’t the first to mess with people in this way. Not at all. This has been a very well-researched practical joke, sitting on the shelf alongside the classic whoopee cushion. René Descartes is the man you should be thanking. He’s the one that’s bruised your sense of purpose.
He didn’t specifically mention a simulation and if he had I would be very impressed because he lived around the 1600’s. You should be glad. Descartes was the sort of person who trusted no one. He took this one step further than your back-stabbing boyfriend, however. He decided that his own senses weren’t trustworthy enough. Maybe, they cheated on him with his own best friend.
Whatever the case, René began to question reality and his perception of it. If you’ve ever done this yourself, you know that this isn’t a warm and pleasant thing to do. It’s the polar opposite. Unfortunately, he wasn’t a teacher or a librarian so he couldn’t just shelve these thoughts. He was a philosopher and as a philosopher should, he began to delve deeper into the subject of reality and himself.
The basis of his thought experiment was that there was some Rumplestiltskin motherfucker implanting thoughts into his brain without his knowledge. These thoughts would make him think that what he saw and sensed was reality. But really it was just the demon’s manipulation.
Now, this prank would definitely be a hit amongst the demon’s friends but, as the victim, Descartes didn’t feel too happy. Unhappy and frustrated. Why frustrated?
Well, he found a way to prove that he was real but he couldn’t prove that he wasn’t being deceived. He was the person to coin the phrase ‘I think, therefore I am’. He knew from his self reflection that he could think and inspect but that didn’t prove that his perception was truthful. He was most certainly a thinking thing but… what was to stop him being a brain in a vat. The same goes for you and I.
We think but what’s to stop us being in a simulation?
Not much at all, according to Nick Bostrom. He laid it out very plain and very simple, the snide bastard. Basically, there are two options. Either we are most certainly in a simulation or we are not. Now you may think this is where we started off but hear me out.
Let’s take a look at future humans. Yes, they’ve transcended the need for bodies. That is not the important bit here. They can make simulations. Very, very realistic simulations. Simulations that have the capability to create the reality that we are standing in. With this power, these humans have a choice. Whether they should create one or not. They’ve already passed out the other hypothetical future humans because they have the ability to make this simulation. The other possible humans didn’t have the expertise or went extinct before they could. Pesky humans.
Now, this choice brings into mind some ethical questions.
Is it morally correct to create ‘life’ but, in doing so, create suffering?
These ethical questions might have prevented them from creating it. And if they were fine with the ethically issues they could simply be disinterested in its creation. Being an ethereal being is much more current and hip then technology. What happens if all the conditions were surpassed? If humans survived, created simulation technology AND decided to use it. Well, if this happened then we are almost certainly in a simulation.
Think about it. There can only be one base reality.
And there’s the possibility of millions of … non-base realities. Why millions? Well, what would they be using the simulations for? Let’s say there was a World War and for educational reasons, they wanted to see what would have happened if the other side had won. Newsflash. This could be our reality. The reality where the Allies won. Keep your mind intact because we are going deeper. Now, let’s say these people were careless and left the simulation running? Well, we could evolve far enough to create our own simulation and the cycle continues. There would be no limit to the amount of fabergé fabrications with more than one simulation running.
Here’s an even scarier thought, what if we are the product of a negligent student who forgot to turn his “project” off after getting it graded by the professor.
“Sir, this is my simulation where this really shitty reality tv star becomes president of the United States.”
So, like any machine, our reality could simply have an off switch. Hopefully, not a big enticing red one. That’s all I hope for.
Let’s return to the question I posed at the beginning. Would this really matter? If you found out for absolute certain that you lived in a simulation, would you do anything? Well, think of it like this. It would solve a couple of our core problems as human beings. You’d know that we have a purpose. Even though being a little experiment for an advanced human race seems distressing, it’s better than nothing. I’ll take what I can get, thank you very much. It would also show that we have a creator. Which, on second thought, could be just a middle aged man. These aren’t too convincing. Ok, what about this? The more you zoom out of this world and the human race, the less significant we are and feel. If we were created in a simulation, however? We would be the only significant thing. There’s comfort in that.
In reality [or not reality], life wouldn’t change. This is the planet and reality we’ve lived in and will always live in. Sorry Elon.
Base reality is over-rated. If we are made out of ones and zeroes, it doesn’t matter. We’re here for the experience. And if there’s someone watching? Well then, let’s put on a show.