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?

How Can We Turn Sadness Into Constructive Action?

Sadness is paralyzing. And there are so many problems we face, including problems of great depth and wide variety, that sadness is almost inevitable.

The scope of issues like climate change or political corruption are so large that it seems like one person cannot make a difference.

On top of that, some issues can be downright heartbreaking. Seeing images or video of suffering refugee children, or abused animals in pain, is difficult. Entire towns have been destroyed following hurricanes, earthquakes, or wildfires, which is unspeakably sad.

When thinking about these and other obstacles we face, the urge to curl up under a blanket can be tremendous.

And yet, these problems call for action. Devastated towns need to be rebuilt. Injustice needs to be confronted. Sickness needs to be treated or cured.

Can these disparate realities be reconciled? Can we keep from being overwhelmed by despair, to do what needs to be done to make the world a better place for all of us?

How can we turn sadness into constructive action?

Related questions: How can we turn ideas into actions? Why do we put up with unhappiness? When do you need inspiration? How can you help? Is it a cruel world?

 

What Is The Right Amount Of Emotion?

Emotion can be good; emotion can be bad.

Being emotional is what makes life worth living. The happiness you feel in the presence of a loved one. The satisfaction of a job well done. The beauty of nature. The awe-inspiring stars on a clear night.

All of these experiences are dependent on emotion. You can be inspired, feel joy, suffer from heartache. Without feelings, life would be dull and uninteresting.

And yet, emotion can also lead us astray. Being passionate can blind you to a necessary choice. Grief can overcome you and lead to depression. Extreme feelings can make you easier to manipulate.

It’s not about “good” feelings, like love and joy, vs “bad” feelings, like anger and fear. You will experience negative emotions over the course of your life. It is not practical to pretend they don’t exist. Negative or bad emotions are just as much of a fully-realized emotional life as positive ones are.

No, the real trade-off is between emotion and logic. Logic might help make better decisions, but feelings give flavor to existence. There must be a middle ground. It is important to balance some emotion with some reason.

But how can you find the right balance? How can you make the most of your feelings and fully live your life, but also make rational decisions and think analytically?

What is the right amount of emotion? How can you tell if you have too much? What mechanisms allow you to increase or decrease the emotion you feel every day?

Related questions: Why does music evoke emotion? What is necessary to change your mind? What do you do that you shouldn’t? How does creative expression help us to know ourselves better?