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Are we living in a simulation?

The question of whether or not we are living in a simulation is not new, not by a long shot. In fact the question is as old as mankind, but it just keeps being re-phrased. Early examples of people pondering this question include Plato’s cave, Dreamtime and let’s not forget about the afterlife inherent in every religion that ever existed. To question reality is to be human and the concept of a reality beyond our reality appears to be ingrained deep in the human psyche. Recently this topic has gained new momentum with the upcoming computing revolution, the possibilities of automation and AI are so vast that the sky appears to be the limit and it could usher in a new reality for humanity (provided we don’t spiral down into a dark age again). There have even been scientists recently claiming that it’s inevitable that we might at this very moment be living life through a computer simulation and there’s really no way of disproving it. It sure tickles the imagination and this premise was also the bases for works of fiction like 1999’s the Matrix which itself was partly inspired by Simulacra and Simulation by Jean Baudrillard. Like I said, this idea, at its core, is nothing new.

This article took a long time come together, since it’s such a complicated and extensive topic. So much has been said on this topic already, but still I hope to add something new to the conversation. For the sake of clarity, in this article I will be referring to the hypothetical reality beyond our current reality as actual reality.


Do NDE’s prove we live in a simulation?
What I’ve been thinking about for the last couple of years is if and how this idea of simulated reality relates to near death experiences (NDE’s). What brought that question on was reading two books by Eben Alexander; Proof of Heaven and The Map of Heaven. In these books a neurosurgeon describes basically dying and experiencing the afterlife, in his follow-up book he goes into a bit more detail about his experience and includes anecdotes from other people with similar experiences. If anything, it’s quite interesting, perhaps the whole concept of reality beyond our reality in whatever form comes from people having NDE’s and sharing their experiences? Naturally it’s easy to cast aside these experiences since it’s all anecdotal, but I think we’re really missing out by refusing to explore the topic.

What makes the story of Eben Alexander’s experiences so interesting is that he more or less describes life outside the matrix or beyond the simulation. In this afterlife he did not have a body as such nor did he have his human identity, he was just a being among many other beings in a world that could best be describes as hyper-real, so more real than our current reality. The idea that the afterlife. or actual reality feels more real than our current reality fits in nicely with the idea of living in a simulated reality. Look at it like this; these days we have very realistic video games (a.k.a. simulations), but no matter how realistic they get, ‘actual reality’ is always more realistic, now imagine turning off your x-box and returning to real life, then imagine turning off a bigger x-box and returning to actual real life, what would that actual real life look like?

On the Joe Rogan podcast

Elon Musk claimed that actual reality would be boring as all hell and he makes a strong argument that in this reality we make games that are more exciting than our real lives, or in other words; real life is more boring than the games we play, therefore ‘actual reality’ will be more boring than the simulation we’re supposedly experiencing now. Musk’s claims, while interesting, are not very fulfilling, Would a race of super beings made of pure energy (or whatever) create a simulation we call life just because they were bored? I’d hate to think so and I highly doubt it.

Back to dr Alexander, as he explains it the human body is like a biological avatar that gets loaded up with your consciousness, so your consciousness is not the product of the human brain, the human brain is just a receiver of sorts and your consciousness, or soul if you will, exists outside this reality. Beyond that he describes seeing the multi-verse (something Musk also spoke of), seeing the core and meeting his lost loved ones etc. The reality he describes is so bizarre that it’s kind of scary, but also really fascinating. Alexander claims to know why this simulation was created, namely to enrich the soul through learning and experiencing. As he describes it life beyond our reality is so overwhelming and interconnected that it’s quite impossible to focus on any one of life’s lessons. Therefore our reality is designed to focus the mind into a more controlled setting by cramming it into a flesh based virtual reality suit, thus enabling you to focus on what matters. It sort of makes sense I suppose, if your life is everlasting bliss it’s gonna be pretty hard to study math or learn a foreign language.

Now I’m not saying that Alexander’s work is holy gospel, but I don’t think that NDE’s should be discounted too quickly either. If one is hypothesising on the nature of reality things like NDE’s, the afterlife and spirituality could also be taken into account and true or not, his work is at very least thought provoking in this context. The different schools of thought are basically all asking the same question, but they’re not talking to each other to find the answer.


Building the ultimate simulation.
Let’s assume you would want to build a very complex VR simulation, I would put it to you that using a biological android a.k.a. human as a vessel for the user is something you would want to do. I’ve often thought that biological engineering is the next step in technology since metal and circuit boards can only take you so far. By using biological androids you wouldn’t even have to build that fleshy android yourself, because the androids build each other, machines building machines a.k.a. procreation. This fleshy android comes built with all sorts of sensory devices such as 3d vision, smell, touch etc. and even a very handy firmware package known as genetic memory, so no setup is required, just log in and have ‘fun’ in this immersive interactive IMAX 3D Dolby surround sound experience.
Looking at the list of available game genres on Wikipedia I’m willing to state that life is the ultimate game, there isn’t one on that list that doesn’t somehow relate to our current reality, which is logical of course, since creation is a product or reality, but that begs the question, does art imitate life or the other way round? An RPG for instance is much like real life and maybe real life is much like an RPG where you can level up your character (in this case your human body) if you’re willing to spend the time and effort to do it, increase your speed, agility and strength through training. And talk about a sandbox, Earth and the universe beyond is the biggest sandbox you could ever imagine! Survival game? Check. Stealth game? Check. First Person Shooter? Well I hope not, but for some people, check. And on and on.


An interesting addition to this concept of life as a game is the recent NPC meme. On the surface it’s just a way to put down people with no apparent presence of ‘self’ or critical thoughts. This meme was created after articles came out describing the phenomenon that a certain percentage of the human population lacked an ‘inner voice’ and thus some readers concluded these people had no consciousness and eventually called them NPC’s. The term NPC stands for Non Player Character, so an in-game character that you can interact with, but considering it’s just a programmed character with no actual player controlling it your interactions will be limited. This concept is also not new and has been dubbed the ‘philosophical zombie’ in earlier discussions, a human being without an actual consciousness, or as I like to say; the lights are on, but there’s nobody home. From a spiritual point of view NPC’s are described as vessels without a soul, the thinking behind is that there are but a limited number of souls and at times there will be more bodies in the world than souls to inhabit them, so some will be wandering through reality without. Again we see that three schools of thought; technological (scientific), spiritual and philosophical are more or less saying the same things, but each from their own frame of reference.


Incarnation seems to be a given
Another aspect of the concepts featured in this article is the implied existence of incarnation and most of the times even reincarnation. Reincarnation as you will probably know already is the mechanic of souls escaping to the afterlife after the host body dies, only to inhabit another body later on. There’s more to it, but that’s the short version. Whether you look at life as a technological simulation, a spiritual/religious construct, or just a game, all those discussing the matter seem to agree that you can always restart after the game over screen. The reason I bring this up is simply that, like I mentioned before, we all seem to be having the same conversation without realising it.


Another thing I would like to bring up in the context of questioning reality is a short movie called Rarg. I won’t go into it here, because that would spoil the ending for those who haven’t seen it yet, but it’s really cool. Seeing this cartoon as young child really messed with my brain and it stuck with me all these years.


So now what?
Are we living in a simulation? Is there an afterlife? Do we all live inside the eye of a blue-eyed giant called Macumber? Well maybe, who knows right? Personally I’ve become more or less convinced that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to this thing we call reality, but the real question is: Does it matter, honestly? Let’s say we can somehow prove we live in a simulation/matrix/game, can we do anything about it and would we want to? Apart from ending our lives, can we just stop playing? No, no and no. Your life is your reality for as long as it lasts and what is beyond we can only guess. Let’s say you were stuck playing some MMORPG, you couldn’t leave, reset, pause or turn it off. What would you do? You’d basically try to enjoy the game as much as you could by exploring the world, killing demons and collection points… and fishing, lot’s of fishing.

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