One might try and think of our Universe as just a big version and variation of “Star Trek’s” Holodeck but programmed from the outside like a computer simulation or a computer / video game. Perhaps like in the “Star Trek” Holodeck, the characters who did the programming can also enter their creation and interact with their creations much like our relatively primitive (in comparison) virtual reality setups. This is known as “The Simulation Hypothesis”. Is there any evidence at all for this scenario?
The Simulation Hypothesis: The Eight-Fold Way of Reasons
*Probability. The Reason: Really real reality is a one-off / a one-and-only. Really real reality can however contain multi-millions / billions of virtual realities / simulations. Place your bets.
*The Accelerating Universe (and associated notation that the energy density of the Universe remains constant thought the Universe is expanding). The Reason: This implies a free lunch / getting something from nothing. Simulations can of course create this illusion.
*The “Observer Effect” (especially the delayed Double-Slit experiment). The Reason: There’s no known, natural, or rational explanation or mechanism apart from introducing virtual reality’s special effects.
*Radioactive Decay. The Reason: No causality. Again, this is an illusionary effect that can be programmed into computer software.
*Mathematical Equations. The Reason: If you were to ask one of our video game characters what their ultimate reality was, they would, on reflection, and being smart little buggers, have to answer “mathematics”. Now fast-forward to your reality, which is ultimately what? Mathematics. All of physics – the bedrock in thinking about and describing reality – is describable as or in mathematics. Now the really interesting thing is when you examine the mathematical equations that describe the laws, principles and relationships of the physical sciences, against all expectations, the exponents and coefficients nearly always tend to be low value whole numbers and simple fractions. These equations are not human inventions. Mother Nature dictates what they must be – or perhaps they are written into the software that determines those laws, principles and relationships of the physical sciences.
*Fine-Tuning. The Reason: Now it is not enough to design and give properties to each of the bits and pieces that collectively make up the Standard Model of Particle Physics. They have to be fine-tuned to fit together. Just like Lego Blocks, you can intelligently design thousands of types of Lego Blocks, but if they can’t or fail to snap / fit together then what’s the point? Simulations and the software that programs them into existence have to be fine-tuned in order to make any sense of the simulations in and of themselves.
*Mind – Body / Brain Dualism. The Reason: The physical is affecting the non-physical and vice versa. This defies common sense as well as any sort of explanatory mechanism. Again, one can call on special effects to create this illusion.
*There’s also the category of things seen but always elusive and never substantiated: ghosts; UFOs; Bigfoot / Sasquatch; Loch Ness Monster (and other lake / sea monsters). They tend to all fall under the category of “It can’t be therefore it isn’t” versus “I know what I saw”. The reason for the paradox: This contains inherent inconsistencies and contradictions. And there are numerous examples as suggested above: UFOs, alien abductions and ancient astronauts; mind over matter from ESP to telekinesis to remote viewing to the placebo effect; accepted miracles (by the Catholic Church for example); supernaturally themed visions; ghosts, hauntings and poltergeist; phantom objects (i.e. – trains); anomalous disappearances; OBEs and NDEs; past lives and reincarnation; alternative medicine from copper bracelets to acupuncture to use of crystals to the power of positive thinking; the wee-folk like leprechauns, elves and fairies; the not so wee-folk as in the Amazons or those Biblical giants in the earth as well as Goliath; and one should honestly also include quantum physics here. There almost seems to be way more things to disagree on than agree on. [See also section on “Cryptozoology” below.] It would appear that since the dawn of recorded history, in all cultures and societies, across the gender, age, racial, etc. boards, multi-millions of people have had “it can’t be therefore it isn’t, but I know what I saw” experiences. However, as you would be well aware, Hollywood’s special effects can create all sorts of things that can’t be yet things that you see!
The Simulation Hypothesis and Cryptozoology
Can the Simulation Hypothesis help explain the ins and outs of cryptozoology? Crypotzoology itself is the investigation of anomalous animals that have been witnessed, yet which remain outside of the realm of normal zoology.
*Cryptozoology is yet another example of [Con] “It can’t be therefore it isn’t” versus [Pro] “I know what I saw”.
[Pro] The sightings of anomalous animals are geographically unique and pretty consistent.
[Con] These animals shouldn’t / couldn’t exist.
[Pro] But ordinary people with no ulterior motive have reported seeing them.
[Con] There are however no bodies and by now there should have been bodies found.
So why just plesiosaurs at Loch Ness? Why not other extinct ‘marine’ reptiles like the ichthyosaurus, or the tylosaurs or even the mosasaurs? And why just a very select few of Scotland’s lochs are home to plesiosaurs? And why is a marine reptile in fresh water anyway?
In Africa there’s the ‘dinosaur’ Mokele-mbembe. But why not the Dodo or Pink Elephants?
So why just huge hairy man-apes in the Pacific Northwest? Why not woolly mammoths or sabre-tooth cats?
In Australia we have the Yowie. But why not killer koalas or moas?
In the Himalayas you have the Yeti. Why not dragons or the wooly rhinoceros?
In Mexico / Latin America there’s the Chupacabra. Why not unicorns or centaurs?
Then there’s the Jersey Devil; Mothman; the Beast of Exmoor and on and on it goes. “It can’t be therefore it isn’t” versus “I know what I saw” is easily resolved as noted above by special effects technologies, like programmed software.
The Simulation Hypothesis and the Hard-Wiring of the Brain
*When you were conceived there was no neural you; no brain, no hard-wiring. Hard-wiring fell into place as you developed in order to successfully carry out the physiological functions that would keep you alive and kicking over after you were hatched. However, in the absence of learning and experiencing your environment, either formally or just through living day-to-day, it’s difficult to explain where your visions of immaterial concepts – those Carl Jung “collective unconscious” archetypes for example – come from. If you do come pre-equipped with innately derived immaterial concepts then there is programming separate and apart from your initial genetic programming that’s going on. Concepts like Carl Jung’s “collective unconscious” archetypes cannot be hardwired into the brain from conception on down the line unless they were actually programmed by external influences to be there. I’m just going to substitute Jung’s “collective unconscious” – which has no real explanatory mechanism – for programmed software.
The Simulation Hypothesis and Consciousness / Free Will
*An interesting question is, how can you simulate consciousness? How can you give a simulated virtual reality character free will? Now if we are virtual reality does that mean it is possible to create Artificial Life with consciousness and free will? Will Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) have free will and consciousness by our design? Probably not in both cases. Take one of our space probes that lands and roves around and explores the surface of a distant planet. That space probe cannot rely on instructions from say NASA’s Command Centre back on Earth due to the time lag in communications. The space probe has to make its own decisions in an emergency; when crunch comes crunch. But does the space probe – with limited A.I. – really have free will? No. It has been pre-programmed to do A, B or C whenever X, Y or Z arises. Even if it could be done – not a given – the last thing we’d probably want to do is give A.I. free will and the keys to the city – just saying. Better to be safe than sorry.
You probably wouldn’t want to create a video / computer game where the characters had free will / consciousness as that would spoil the fun of playing the game. The point is that you are in control, not your simulated characters.
So in the Simulation Hypothesis, your apparent consciousness is just programming and of course you have no free will. You can program a computer to display “I think, therefore I am”, but the computer doesn’t really have consciousness nor free will.
The Simulation Hypothesis and Mind Over Body / The Placebo Effect
*The ordinary run-of-the-mill Placebo Effect is one thing (one mind; one body), but when mind-over-body gets taken to extreme and even ludicrous lengths (many minds; one body) then special effects programming seem like a logical requirement.
Now you would no doubt believe that if a body has a medical condition then that body has that medical condition. But one body can have more than one mind and such a condition is often referred to as multiple personality disorder. Now each mind will have in the same body its own unique set of medical conditions which will come and go; appear and disappear as that personality comes and goes. So say you have this body and personality A has associated with it medical condition X (but not Y or Z); personality B has medical condition Y (but not X or Z); and personality C has medical condition Z (but not X or Y). But as personality A becomes personality B, malady X disappears and malady Y appears then in turn disappears as personality C comes to the fore along with malady Z. This is totally crazy but also totally verified.
There are of course some limits (like death – see below). One’s body doesn’t become pregnant then not-pregnant then pregnant again as the body’s personalities come and go. Bones aren’t broken for one personality and unbroken when there’s a change to the next personality. But any medical condition that the real Placebo Effect can have on a body just inhabited by one mind equally works for any one mind (at a time and in turn) that’s part of a multiple collective of minds – dual personalities in one body.
Here’s another extreme illustration of the Placebo Effect. We’ve all seen pictures of those rather strange and unique individuals who can embrace all manner of self-inflicted tortures without pain or suffering or experiencing injury; individuals who survive (even thrive) being hung by meat hooks through their flesh, who seem to be nearly immune to intense heat or who have swords run through them – no blood; no medical condition results. Then too we’ve seen karate experts who can punch through solid bricks and boards without flinching or even feeling a thing – as in severe bruising or broken bones. Initiation ceremonies in lots of tribal cultures are another example of mind-over-body – the Placebo Effect.
But if the Placebo Effect is so effective, then why do we ultimately die? Even if you took a daily anti-death pill that you were 100% convinced would prevent your demise, you will still eventually kick-the-bucket. It seems as if not even the Placebo Effect can overcome death and therefore might there be something else going on behind the scenes – like programming.
The Simulation Hypothesis and Death
Either there is an immaterial / non-physical component to the human species or there is not.
If there is not, there can’t be any such thing as an afterlife, near death experiences, out of the body experiences, death bed visions, reincarnations, past lives, etc. Yet these aspects part and parcel to the death and dying process have been postulated and recorded by nearly all societies / cultures over nearly all of recorded history (and probably well before that at least in terms of the afterlife concept – grave goods found in very ancient burial sites). How does that make any sense?
If there is an immaterial / non-physical component, even after your death (or the death of others), for there to be such things as an afterlife, death bed visions, reincarnations, past lives, etc. that immaterial / non-physical component has got to operate and navigate around in space and in time in the absence of any sensory apparatus (eyes, ears, etc.) and an organ (i.e. – the brain) that can perceive and interpret those sensory aspects we call vision / sight, hearing / sound, taste, touch and smell. How does that make any sense?
There seems to be another case here of “It can’t be therefore it isn’t” relative to one of “I know what I saw / experienced.” No matter what side of the fence you’re on, you’re damned if you’re on one side and you’re damned if you are on the other side. That said, the obvious alternative explanations are 1) experiences are all in the mind and just mental delusions, or 2) people are deliberately perpetrating frauds and hoaxes. IMHO I don’t think either one of these explanations are entirely credible.
Let’s examine each of the death-related categories in turn and ask whether or not special effects might be in play here.
Death Bed Visions: It seems highly improbable that someone, especially a quite elderly someone just hours away from the finality of death is going to hoax death bed visions. Delusional mental states are far more probable an explanation except you’d think that death bed visions would cover or incorporate a very wide, wide, wide variety of visions, not just visions of already dead relatives and friends.
Near Death Experiences (NDEs): The eyes may be the visual organs but it’s the brain that does the actual seeing. Neither eyes nor brains are present and accounted for in NDEs. Nor are any other sensory organs. So how can a person relate an NDE if that person in that immaterial state can’t experience anything external reality, being 100% deaf, blind, etc.?
Out of Body Experiences (OBEs): As with NDEs, and closely enough related to NDEs to include them here, OBEs suffer from the exact same sort of impossibilities that NDEs suffer from. In an OBE you are in a non-physical state and lack any and all of the sensory organs and sensory processing abilities that would give you the ability to actually relate your OBE to others after-the-fact.
Reincarnations: If you have been reincarnated, that implies that some sort of immaterial part of you survived death, wafted around the Cosmos for a spell, then got incorporated into another biological body. What would be the ultimate purpose I know not since it would seem logical to have the concept of just one immaterial part inhabiting one and only one material body. If the immaterial part of you survives your body’s death, all fine well and good, but why not just enjoy the immaterial afterlife instead of coming back for another round(s) of enduring physical existence? But like all things immaterial, the best explanation is the Simulation Hypothesis explanation.
Past Lives: There is no possible way that you can go from a past life to your present life without going through an immaterial / non-physical stage. If you remember a past life then this immaterial “you” that went from past body to present body contained memories which suggests that memory is immaterial. Yet can you really conceive of having an immaterial basis for your memory since your memories can obviously be affected by physical mechanisms – disease, injury, drugs, lack of sleep, the ageing process, etc. So in this case the more obvious explanation or conclusion is that people recalling past lives; past memories are delusional or outright hoaxing. Special effects to the rescue?
Afterlife: To start things off, the concept of an afterlife is a nearly universal one, and when concepts cross nearly all cultures and societies, and all eras, then one has to sit up and take notice, for there’s some explaining required. Since there is no solid or actual knowledge that people possess regarding an afterlife (belief / faith – yes; knowledge – no), we can neither conclude the afterlife is real or just wishful thinking and a self-imposed delusion reinforced by the collective wishful thinking by the rest of humanity. What probably can be said is this: if there is an afterlife you’d have to experience it in an immaterial / non-physical state without any sensory apparatus or the means to process any sensory data. That’s a concept that makes no logical sense at all. But all is not lost in you invoke simulated special effects. If your life is just virtual reality then your afterlife can also be just virtual reality.
The Simulation Hypothesis and Religion
*Is the Simulation Hypothesis up to explaining theological themes? Consistent themes in religions include:
Concept of the Supernatural: The concept that there is a supernatural almost (but maybe not quite) seems to be written / programmed / hard-wired into the psyche even before the dawn of civilisation that is during the hunter-gatherer stages and prior to numeracy / literacy and the rise of agriculture and farming. This has resulted in near compulsory if not downright obsessive behaviours, ritualistic and otherwise. However, immaterial concepts cannot just be hard-wired into the brain without external input. There’s no gene for the supernatural. Thus, I have to go along with the idea that this is a form of special effects programming.
Concept of Creation: Why the concept of creation at all is a big mystery (to me at least) since we’ve never witnessed the creation of the Cosmos, of the Sun, or of Planet Earth, or of the origin of life or of basically anything. What we observe tends to be cyclic and so we have no real need to conceive of any creation on the grounds that it makes a lot more sense to just think that all we see has always been here, and our ancestors would back up that idea since they had to deal with the same cyclic stuff that we do. No one has ever known anything different. Again, the concepts central to creation are perhaps hard-wired and thus programmed software.
Concept of Supernatural Deities: There’s hardly any religion anywhere, that existed at any time, that didn’t include the concept of supernatural deities, usually many (covering all the bases and the basics); someone just a loner god. The reasons why aren’t too surprising. You need an agency to explain the unexplained; the good shit and the bad shit. That too appears to be a hard-wired need. However, since there aren’t any supernatural deities, any actual evidence for them and knowledge of them must be the result of programming.
Concept of Anomalies / Miracles: All religious texts are full of unnatural anomalies. The best way to explain the unexplained is to look at those special effects generated by the film / TV industries. There’s nothing so miraculous that programmed special effects can’t create.
Concept of the End Times: Much like the idea that there was an origin; a creation, there tends to be a near universal belief that all things will come to termination, either in fire or in ice; either with a bang or with a whimper. Again why, I’m not sure. There seems to be little logic in assuming this. Maybe it is because we ourselves terminate that we think it only fair that everything comes to a grinding and deadly stop. Still, all good computer simulations / software programs have to end sometime, and this inkling of that finite duration is what we envision as the End Times – the end of days; the end of the computer program.
More About the Concept of an Afterlife: The only part of you that could in any way survive into an afterlife would have to be an immaterial part of you since when you snuff it, your material remains go nowhere. But any immaterial part of you would have no sensory apparatus so how could you enjoy an afterlife when you couldn’t experience it? On the other hand, if your life is but a computer simulation, then equally so could your afterlife be another simulation. One software program ends (death) and another begins (afterlife).