“If it turns out we really are living in a version of “ The Matrix,” though—so what?” 1
Scientists are not without their sense of humor. One advised:“My advice is to go out and do really interesting things… so the simulators don’t shut you down.” 2
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Pondering the possibility that we are living in a simulation of some kind raises weighty spiritual questions, particularly relating to immortality. After all, if you and I are no more than programs on a computer then it would stand to follow that we could reboot ourselves endlessly. As long as the hard drive worked and the files were still there, we would remain “ alive.”
Some scientists speculate that our great, great grandchildren will progress to the point of being able to create simulations as research projects. They might be curious about their ancestors and create games they populate with beings (us) to observe and learn from. Another proposal is that Earth is a learning system, that it is used to run personal growth experiments, for what purpose we’re not sure. Another theory casts earth as a transformational cauldron where humans can replay past life debts, clear off negative karma, and incarnate in a more evolved situation.
What kind of game do you think this is?
I propose that it is unique to every individual. Provocative as these and other theories are, the reality for each of us is days of life filled with challenges and opportunities and relationships. Regardless of our philosophical bent, let’s agree, then, that life is a gift, that being alive gives us the opportunity to experience, and that our responses to what life brings us determines in large part the nature of the experiences we have.
And, back to the simulation proposal, the idea of becoming enlightened might actually be the urge in an artificial intelligence creation to achieve consciousness. How different is that from the traditional spiritual search? Isn’t the point to become one with God, the creator who made us? Languaged slightly differently, our goal would be to graduate from this condition of experiencing ourselves as having been created by an outside force to be a player in some kind of life game, to becoming a creator / programmer ourselves.
It’s an easy association to recall The Truman Show, a fanciful film about a man, Truman, who lived inside a fabricated world, a TV set, while millions watched his every move. He becomes suspicious and finally figures it out. Imagine doing the exact same thing? What proof would it take? In the film, Truman’s boat hit a wall! He bumped into the end of his simulation.
Some of us know that feeling!
Many of us have bumped into the limitations of “normal,” and then broken through into novel territory. It can happen in relationships, where the whirl of romance catapults us out of routines. Intoxicated with love, the entire universe seems different. Other peak experiences can do the same thing, proving that life is largely subjective. We make meaning of it for ourselves and, in that sense, each of us lives in our own universe and each of us already is programming our own experience, within certain limitations.
We could say that each of us is playing this game in our own way. For some, life is a horror show and they can’t wait to get out. For others it’s a playground and their bucket list is endless. For yet others life is a tour of duty; they are here to achieve something specific. Some experience life as a pilgrimage from birth to death with the goal being full assimilation into the Divine.
The article I’m referencing continues: “ … if someone somewhere created our simulation, would that make this entity God? ‘We in this universe can create simulated worlds and there’s nothing remotely spooky about that,’ said David Chalmers, a professor of philosophy at New York University. ‘Our creator isn’t especially spooky, it’s just some teenage hacker in the next universe up.’ Turn the tables, and we are essentially gods over our own computer creations. ‘We don’t think of ourselves as deities when we program Mario, even though we have power over how high Mario jumps,’ Tyson said. ‘There’s no reason to think they’re all-powerful just because they control everything we do.’ And a simulated universe introduces another disturbing possibility. ‘What happens,” Tyson said, “if there’s a bug that crashes the entire program?’ ” 3
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