Yeah but what if we are?

Simulation theory, the idea that we’re all living inside a supercomputer is pretty far-fetched, to be sure. But no one really believes it, right?

Of course we’re living in a simulationWIRED
In other words, yes, and with sincere apologies to Tonelli and most of his fellow physicists, who hate it when anybody suggests this: The only explanation for life, the universe, and everything that makes any sense, in light of quantum mechanics, in light of observation, in light of light and something faster than light, is that we’re living inside a supercomputer. Is that we’re living, all of us, and always, in a simulation.

Jason Kehe presents an interesting case (one that I really hope is more than a little tongue-in-cheek) in his review of David Chalmers’s new book, Reality+: Virtual Worlds and the Problems of Philosophy.

Over the course of writing this essay, I must confess that everything seemed to confirm the truth of the simulation. Every impossible coincidence I experienced or heard about—simulated. The stranger at the café who quoted practically verbatim a line I was reading in a book—simulated. Every new book I picked up, for that matter—simulated. Seriously, how could every book one reads, in the course of writing about reality, be about reality in such a fundamental way? […]

This, it seems to me, is what the physicists, and simulation skeptics of all sorts, are missing. Not a belief in the simulation, per se, but the irresistible possibility of it, the magical conspiracy. It doesn’t diminish or undermine their science; quite the opposite, it enriches and energizes it. How many people, generally unmotivated to learn, find their way to a concept as intimidating as, say, quantum indeterminacy by way of the (far more welcoming) simulation argument? I’d guess a great many, and physicists would do well not to belittle that entry point into their work by calling it fluff, nonsense, the sci-fi pursuits of littler minds.

I get that it’s hard to prove a negative, that we can’t prove that our reality is not virtual, but does the inverse follow? Are our virtual worlds really real? Here’s an interview with David Chambers.

Can we have a meaningful life in a virtual world?The New York Times
I think what moves a lot of people is the idea that somehow if you were in a virtual world, it would all be fake, it would be an illusion. Maybe the virtual worlds are like video games: Nothing that happens there really matters; it’s just an escape from the issues in the real world. Whereas I think what happens in virtual worlds can, in principle, be very significant. You can build a meaningful life in a virtual world. We can get into deep social and political discussions and decisions about the shape of society in a virtual world. Rather than living in a video game, my analogy would be more like we’re moving to a new, uninhabited country and setting up a society. The issues will be somewhat different from the issues where we came from, but I wouldn’t consider that escapism. Also, I’m not saying abandon physical reality completely and go live in a virtual world. I think of the virtual world as a supplement to physical reality rather than a replacement, at least in any remotely short term.

That sounds very familiar.

Author: Jerry McNally

SL cybercafé manager, keen reader, occasional blogger

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