Like many people, I’m sure, I had somewhat of an epiphany in the late 90s/early 2000s after The Matrix film was released. There was the movie itself, which boasted visual effects and action that really hadn’t been seen up to that point in cinema. But beyond that, there was a lot of philosophy embedded in the film, lots of names and references that caused people to start looking in various directions. To someone who was not a historian or familiar with the Bible, having a ship called the Nebuchadnezzar might’ve caused them to look further into that name. Or maybe it was Morpheus the Greek god of dreams that caught their attention. The examples are myriad.
For many, including myself, it was not so much any of the obvious references, winks or nods, but the revelation that our world, in a sense, is a matrix of false beliefs, systems, contracts and traditions. The world truly is not what it seems. The metaphor has been extended so far that many people in the truther community or “awake” people use the term red pilling as a verb or action of waking someone else up.
Interestingly enough, it would be twenty years until advances in technology, physics, astronomy and other fields would finally bring the idea of the matrix to its logical conclusion.
That idea is typically dubbed The Simulation Theory. It was first written about in 2003 by Nick Bostrom at Oxford. The premise stands on the assumption or idea that as our technological advances increase, the amount of computing power will likewise increase to the point where we will be able to make photo-realistic simulations of our environment, other humans, and interactions between the two. Hence, we would be able to simulate what we would call reality. The paper theorizes that if the power and technology required to run that kind of simulation is available, then what are the odds that some sort of an “ancestor simulator” wouldn’t be created. Or perhaps multiple simulations.
In 2003, video-game graphics were not nearly close to photorealistic nor was the computing power required more than just a pipe dream. And while we’re still not there yet, the increases we have seen up until today have given rise to the speculation that we could get there by as early as the 2030s to sometime in the 2050s. Other more skeptical pundits hedge their bets at within one hundred years.
Well known figures like Elon Musk and Neil DeGrasse Tyson have continued to popularize the theory and push it in the mainstream. So even though Bostrom himself has stated that he puts the probability at something like 20% that we’re actually living in a simulation, the popular notion that we continually hear now is that “we’re probably living in a simulation.”
New technologies such as the Oculus Rift virtual reality device along with augmented or “mixed” reality platforms such as Microsoft’s Hololens continue to push towards the seemingly inevitable conclusion that one day we’ll all be hooked up to some sort of device to interact with society, do our jobs and conduct business. Think Spielberg’s recent film Ready Player One.
This gets back to Bostrom’s thesis that if a civilization has the kind of processing power to create a simulation that mimics reality, then why wouldn’t they? Not only that, but the civilization itself would be post-human so as to be supposed to be able to replicate or at least store a human mind on silicon in the first place. See Altered Carbon.
A computer scientist and videogame designer, Rizwan Virk recently wrote a book called The Simulation Hypothesis where he goes into more detail about the likely path technology will take to get to what he calls the “Simulation Point,” which is where we would realistically be able to make a simulated world that is indistinguishable from our reality.
Now Virk, and really all the others, get into a lot of gobbledygook and mumbo jumbo when it comes to all of the supposed science and big maths associated with the theory, but at the end of the day he is at least honest enough to admit that the reason the idea is so compelling is that there is so much about reality that we just don’t understand.
Most people do not realize—even though they may hear it spouted about—that the reason science is looking for the Holy Grail called “The Unified Theory of Everything” is because at basic fundamental levels the equations and theories that supposedly work for astrophysics do not jive with the ones for quantum physics. And since in reality—real reality—none of their theories are true outside of elegant mathematical equations, it poses a huge dilemma.
I guess I shouldn’t say they are flat out untrue. But they are all skewed or based on presuppositions that are false and therefore lead to false conclusions. Bits and pieces of truth are intermixed and scattered throughout, but funnily enough those things are either regarded as the anomalies in their theories or discarded because they just don’t make sense to the holder of the theory.
Humanistic Naturalism informs them that any explanation has to be purely material in concept and any invocation of a higher power or the supernatural is thrown out a priori. With basically only three possible premises behind the “universe”—or it could be said about the nature of reality itself, while sort of bypassing the beginning argument—the atheist or skeptic is left with scant little options from which to choose. The three basic premises are that reality, or at the very least, the universe:
- Has existed infinitely
- Is an illusion
- Had a beginning
Most scientists and skeptics are intellectually honest enough to rule out the first option because things like the 2nd law of thermodynamics indicate that everything is dying a heat-loss death. So their equations point out that if everything isn’t dead yet, it someday will be. So that rules infinity out.
That really only leaves 2 and 3 as valid options. The third option is the obvious tack that Big Bang proponents take. Silly Creationists and most mainstream churches that are in bed with scientism will just take the Big Bang and point out that if there was a big bang then it had to have had a “big banger,” which, from a technical standpoint, I would agree with at least in principle. However, Big Bang cosmology is a great deception on its own and does not in any way, shape, or form line up with Biblical Cosmology as it has been explained to us in scripture. But for naturalists, even that option presents a larger problem because if they assert, and they do, that the matter that was present at the Big Bang, along with the energy was even only a pinpoint in size, then it means that the matter and energy pre-existed. Something cannot come from nothing from a purely naturalistic worldview so the conundrum remains.
This leaves the second option as one that is highly desirable. If our reality or universe is some kind of illusion or in this milieu, a simulation, then it allows them to sidestep a whole host of problems and questions while simultaneously continuing on the quest for that theory of everything.
The other thing it does, if taken to the ultimate logical conclusion, is make everything have a value of zero. It makes worth completely subjective. What would we call good? What would we call evil? How could we determine either of those things?
One could argue abstract things like love or perpetuation of species. Social constructs might tell us that working together could help us achieve goals for the community at large. But who is to tell someone that it’s wrong if they don’t want those things? If we’re saying this is a simulation, then who really gives a lick about anyone or anything else? Why should we? The warlord, rapist, or murderer should be held in the same esteem or possibly higher than someone who doesn’t do those things. Who is to say that the one who rules the world by any means possible isn’t the “winner”? And if there’s no obvious way to play the simulation then the best we could say is that there are many different, but equally valid, ways to do so. Death, destruction, carnage, use, and abuse should make no difference.
I’ve had several conversations with atheists in the past that inevitably led down this road. When confronted with why they live a vanilla, mundane life they typically don’t have a great answer. I mean, for me, if there’s no penalty for our actions—I mean real penalty—death could just be an illusion after all, then why live any kind of “normal” existence? This actually ties in quite nicely with most Eastern religions. There is no good or evil, the body is a prison, and the world is illusory. In fact, Rizwan Virk’s book has a blurb on the front that reads, “An MIT computer scientist shows why AI, quantum physics, and Eastern Mystics agree we are in a video game.” Emphasis mine.
Virk, in an interview with Vox, stated that he suspected most people would want to stay blue pilled out of fear that they might discover they are an NPC. “NPC” is a videogame term meaning Non-Player Character. Basically you’re just background noise, a bit part. It is a scary thought indeed to think that maybe the reason most everyone wakes up in the morning and goes to work for 8 or 9 hours a day at a job they hate is because they’re just running their pre-programmed loop in the simulation. And what of an NPC’s death? It’s of little consequence. Either another NPC can step in and take the place of the old, or the original NPC’s value to the world was so small as to be nil.
He cites a well-known episode of Star Trek where a character inside the holodeck—a room sized virtual reality simulation—realizes that there is a world outside the holodeck where he cannot go. In that episode Captain Picard promises to save the virtual program for the day when he would be able to make him a physical person.
This is the same existential question that Westworld deals with, albeit not in a virtual environment, but in a curated habitat with pre-programmed androids. You can read more about that in my paper on Westworld and AI. Escaping from Westworld
The problem is that we like to twist everything. Whereas the Most High created us in His image and created us for worship and for glory, we create things in our own image to use for our base instincts. For vanity. For evil.
We create simulations where the goal—or at least accepted behavior—is to hijack cars, bed prostitutes then turn around and shoot or stab them to get your money back. This passes for entertainment, and parents let their ten year olds play it. We create 24/7 warzones where we try to “win” by racking up the biggest body count. Having a positive kill-to-death ratio is a sign of player skill in shooter games. Life and death no longer really matter because the character in the game just respawns again and again. A bullet to the head is no more an evil act than giving someone a flower.
Some of the foremost work being done with robotics is to make sex robots. Willing “partners” who we can repeatedly use for our own pleasure without any fear or repercussions. The porn industry is on the leading edge of virtual reality along with haptic sensory feedback technology. Think look and feel.
I believe that what the scientists, philosophers, and technologists are doing is projecting their own fears, desires, and shortcomings onto a grand stage. To admit that a loving, set apart, and righteous Creator made us and everything we see and interact with is to also admit guilt and shortcoming.
But to say that we’re just running as a simulation on some posthuman kid’s computer in his cyborg grandma’s basement? Well…then that’s just fine with them. Let’s test the bounds of the simulation and not worry about today or tomorrow. It’s some quaint mental masturbation for sure.
Interestingly, Virk and others now try to tell us something that we’ve always known. In the same interview with Vox he says in response to the question of why we don’t just assume the most likely and simple reality of flesh-and-blood:
“I’ll bring up a very famous physicist, John Wheeler. He was one of the last physicists who worked with Albert Einstein and many of the great physicists of the 20th century. He said that physics was initially thought to be about the study of physical objects, that everything was reducible to particles. This is what’s often called the Newtonian model. But then we discovered quantum physics and we realized that everything was a field of probabilities and it wasn’t actually physical objects. That was the second wave in Wheeler’s career. The third wave in his career was the discovery that at the core level, everything is information, everything is based on bits. So Wheeler came up with a famous phrase called “it from bit,” which is the idea that anything we see as physical is really the result of bits of information. He didn’t live to see quantum computers come into reality, but it’s looking more like that.”
We know that everything was created by the Word. Everything we can interact with using our five senses contains information. There’s no need to assume a computer program. This is no different an argument than Richard Dawkins stating that he doesn’t believe in a god but that we could possibly have been seeded here by hyper-intelligent alien life forms. At what point do we get to absurdity? The Creator is the un-caused first cause. Appealing to a middle-man is not intelligent; it’s just lazy. Likewise, a computer and a program are purely humanistic inventions. Yahuah has no need for such things.
So while on the one hand our reality is veiled from other parts of reality, that does not logically extend to the idea that where we are physically is bad. We were not made as platonic beings. We were always made to exist and live here. Many believers are often disheartened to realize that we do not “go to heaven” either when we die or when the Messiah comes to renew all things. New Jerusalem comes down to us. We are resurrected to a physical life. Who knows what the 8th day entails. Perhaps someday we will be free to descend to the lowest depths and ascend to the highest heights with Yahuah’s permission.
What we do know is that He created a special domicile for us. We don’t have to specifically test the boundaries because he’s already told us what and where they are. We cannot measure the highest heights or the lowest depths. Nor can we measure the breadth of the earth. The firmament bounds us in.
It seems that, if you care to read any extra-biblical works, that there are multiple layers of firmaments, each housing or containing something specific. At the top is the throne of the Most High. Do we ever stop to wonder why He is called by that title? It’s because he’s the One at the very top. He does know the end from the beginning. So in a sense, yes everything has already played out. But does that make it merely a simulation to Him? That’s not what is indicated to us. Our decisions, our actions matter. How we interact with the creation matters. Consider the ramifications that Yahuah knows what decisions we’ll make ahead of time and then extrapolate that to all living beings. It is mind boggling.
It’s helpful to look to the example of King David, when he inquired of the Father to ask if Saul would find him and if the people would surrender him up in 1 Samuel 23. If David had stayed, a certain set of events would’ve transpired. Yahuah could clearly see this. But because David was let in on the future, he changed his mind and fled the town with his six-hundred men. The events told to David never happened because he—David—chose otherwise. Yet would the Most High have allowed Saul to kill His newly anointed king? Would the Father have intervened in some other way? If the Messiah was to come through David’s line and David died, then what?
What changes take place if you decide to eat a burger versus chicken for lunch? What happens if you decide to take the scenic route home instead of the most direct route? Are any of our decisions really mundane in the grand scope of things? Think of all the different outcomes based upon people dying in wars or due to murder. Think of all the babies never born because their mother or father didn’t live to see their conception happen. Or the babies themselves that are killed before they can take their first breath. Yahuah has seen all the possible worlds where those choices didn’t exist. Have we ever stopped to consider why sin grieves Him so? His creation is not some stupid videogame to Him.
But alas, at the end of the day this idea isn’t new. Just repackaged. There truly is nothing new under the sun. The French philosopher René Descartes has said, “It is possible that I am dreaming right now and that all of my perceptions are false.” Plato also waded into this arena with his allegory of the cave.
If you ask me, the conclusion to all of this is the same as what we read in the extended tower of Babel story as found in the book of Jasher:
“And they began to make bricks and burn fires to build the city and the tower that they had imagined to complete. And the building of the tower was unto them a transgression and a sin, and they began to build it, and whilst they were building against the Most High Elohim of heaven, they imagined in their hearts to war against him and to ascend into heaven. And all these people and all the families divided themselves in three parts; the first said We will ascend into heaven and fight against him; the second said, We will ascend to heaven and place our own gods there and serve them; and the third part said, We will ascend to heaven and smite him with bows and spears; and the Most High knew all their works and all their evil thoughts, and he saw the city and the tower which they were building.”
Make no mistake. He still sees the towers we are building today, both physical and virtual. He knows the vain things we imagine in our hearts.