The scene is movie legend: Morpheus sits with Neo beside a fireplace while a storm rages outside, and tells him that the world he calls reality—what he sees when he looks out the window or turns on the television, when he goes to work—it’s all an illusion. If he takes the blue pill, Neo can remain comfortably in the illusion—you know, “The Matrix.” But if he takes the red pill, he will wake up to a very uncomfortable real world.
It’s a cool movie, but some scientists are entertaining an idea almost exactly like its premise. The “simulation hypothesis” proposes that the world around us, our bodies, and even our own minds might not be real. Instead, they could be the illusions of a sophisticated computer program created by a super-intelligent being or beings.
In fact, writing at NBC, Dan Falk quotes top scientists and philosophers who think that it’s not just possible, it’s likely. They think we could exist in some version of the Matrix. “If we are living in a simulation,” writes Oxford philosopher Nick Bostram, “then the cosmos we are observing is just a tiny piece of the totality of physical existence.” The world we see, hear, taste, touch, and smell, may not be “located at the fundamental level of reality.”
Before you laugh: This idea is surprisingly hard to disprove—at least on secular assumptions. One M.I.T. scientist and author of the book, “The Simulation Hypothesis,” recalls playing a virtual reality game and forgetting he was alone “in an empty room with a headset on.” The game was just so realistic, it became his reality.
If it’s that easy to get lost in a simulation we’ve designed with our limited technology—or so goes the thinking—what must it be like in a simulation designed by an advanced race? We could live our entire lives in such a simulation, and never know it.
And what would be the purpose of such a virtual-reality reality? The answer in “The Matrix” was sentient robotic overlords who kept us distracted so they could use humans to generate energy to survive. Believe it or not, some who seriously argue for the simulation hypothesis have similarly outlandish guesses as to the identity and intent of the programmers.
Some suggest a race of extraterrestrial beings running a kind of experiment on us. Rich Terrile of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory thinks the programmers could be us—that is, future, highly-advanced (read: further evolved) humans who have decided to create a simulation of an earlier stage of their own civilization.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, John Stonestreet and G. Shane Morris