Are We Living In A Simulation?

The idea that our world is just a computer simulation was popularized by the movie The Matrix. But the idea itself is much older than that.

Over 2000 years ago, Plato suggested that we are just people chained in a cave, and what we think of as reality are just shadows on the wall. That’s fairly close to the idea of a reality that is generated by a giant computer.

While our experiences certainly seem real to us, it’s not too hard to imagine a different scenario. Computer graphics, like in common video games, are getting more and more realistic. Virtual Reality headsets are commonplace. And while the graphics they use are still somewhat rudimentary, users often comment about how they quickly come to accept the false world.

In addition, games like The Sims, which place a computer-generated person or family in the hands of a video-game player, have been around for decades. Artificial Intelligence is getting better and more capable every day. We carry them around with us wherever we go on our smart phones.

Putting all that information together, and in just a few years we can imagine a completely immersive experience where you plug in to the internet and lose yourself as another, computer-generated character in a completely modeled world.

What is real?

How can we be sure that’s hasn’t already happened? Perhaps we are laying on a slab somewhere, with what we think of as the world around us being beamed into our brains. Moreover, maybe we don’t even have a body in the “real” world. Everything we see, everything we experience, could all be algorithms in a complicated computer simulation. Each one of us might be a Sims character.

In some ways, that would explain the universe as we understand it. There are certain physical laws, like the speed of light beingĀ  the fastest speed possible. Laws like these could just be the parameters of our simulation.

That, however, just opens up more questions. If true, what about the world that houses the computer where our simulation exists? How did it come about? What are the physical laws there?

What difference does it make?

If we entertain this idea of living in a computer simulation, does it make any difference to our everyday life? If the emotions that I think I experience turn out to just be some lines of code in a complicated computer program, does that invalidate them in any way? Does it ultimately remove the meaning from my decisions and actions, or does it add meaning? If I feel pain, or experience joy, or have my heart broken, does it matter if it originates from neurons firing in my brain or the spinning of a hard drive?

It’s difficult to imagine any way of actually testing this hypothesis. We may never know if our universe started with a Big Bang or with a coder writing a program to test out some advanced scenario. The idea, though, is a fascinating one. Are we living in a simulation?

Related questions: What is unknowable? How much of our thoughts are our own? What is time? What beliefs do you have that might be wrong?

Free Will Or Predestination?

The past is fixed. Is the future flexible? Or are we locked in to a certain path, unable to escape? Can we use our free will to make our own choices, or is the universe a giant game of billiards, with the final outcome determined by the initial set-up?

Share why if you wish.

What Do You Revere?

The positive emotions we associate with the people or things in our lives can vary quite drastically. We might feel love; we might feel fondness. Desire, kinship, envy, even respect. Beyond all of those feelings, however, lies a deep and powerful feeling of admiration bordering on worship: reverence.

The things we revere can tell us a lot about ourselves, about what we value and who we want to be.

For example, if your reverence is to a deity, you might be a deeply religious person, which can shape your social circle and your views on others. If you revere an idea, like equality, that might influence your political views and actions. Those with reverence for money might seek out high-paying careers.

It might seem illogical, but you can even revere irreverence. Someone who is an iconoclast, who bristles at authority or expectations of normality, irreverence may be held up above all else.

What do you revere?

To figure this out, you might think about what you have been drawn to your entire life. What books you read, what topics of conversation come up again and again. Think about what ideas resonate with you.

Do you think you share this with the people you spend time with, either your family, your friends, or your co-workers? How important is it that you revere the same things as the people around you? How important is it to find a group of people who revere the same things as you?

Related questions: What is important? Why is love important? What humbles you? How important is respect?

How Has Luck Shaped Your Life?

When we think about the events in our lives, most people do not acknowledge the role of luck in what has happened to them.

If something good happens, you may be tempted to ascribe it to something that you did, or something that you earned. Good things happen because you worked hard. Or because you planned. Maybe you were smarter than others, which allowed you to succeed.

Similarly, negative events can often be blamed on a conspiracy against you. If you don’t get that raise at work, it is because your boss doesn’t like you. Even if you accept the blame — you didn’t get the raise because you didn’t work enough overtime, for example — that may not be accurate.

Luck plays a larger role in our lives than many admit. Most of the big decisions in your life, like where you live, what company you work for, who you are married to, where you went to college, etc. often come down to luck.

Maybe you chose to look at one open house and not another, and the one you picked is the place you currently live. Why did you choose one over the other? You got lucky.

You might have selected one party instead of another, and at that party you met the love of your life. In hindsight, it was a wise choice. But at the time you made it, it was the equivalent of a coin flip.

This is not to say that no one deserves anything in their lives, good or bad. People make bad decisions. Then they must live with the consequences of those bad decisions. But not every bad outcome is due to a bad decision, and not every benefit in life comes from merit.

How has luck (good or bad) shaped your life? Do you think you have had more good luck, or bad? Or is it about equal?

Related questions: What is luck? Can you make yourself luckier? How do you define success? When is doubt helpful?

A special thanks to Meagan O’Brien, who suggested the question.