A hot topic amongst science geeks for the past several decades is the idea that the universe we live in is actually a fancy computer simulation. This is a concept delved into in such cult classics like The Matrix or The Thirteenth Floor. That second movie you may not have heard of, but is well worth a gander. Several famous science promoters have also come out to promote it as the bee’s knees of hypothesises. The reality is that this concept is actually a few ten thousand years old… as old as religion itself. Lets look at the reality of this simulated concept.
To summerise in a simple form, the Simulated Reality Hypothesis is based upon the concept that we are artificial constructs in a simulated reality, possibly as a piece of software designed for some purpose we do not comprehend. To put it in perspective, imagine playing the popular game ‘The Sims 3‘ (the best one of the series) where you control a family in a small town where other families interact and live out their lives. Simulated Reality Hypothesis suggests that we are in a ‘The Sims 3’ game, but this version is so well designed that we are not aware we are in such a simulation. We are artificial intelligences enacting out our lives in a universe designed by some all powerful level designer. This ‘level designer’ might be in a universe very different from us, or they might be in a universe that is almost exactly like ours (except with the ability to make an awesome simulated reality). It might even be possible we are in a simulation within another simulation and our ‘level designer’ is not actually aware that they themselves are in a simulation which has sprites that have simulated another simulation.
There is another idea in human thought where simulated reality is constructed with intelligent sprites: A universe created by a god or gods.
In many religions the world is created by a ‘level designer’ who constructs the rules and dimensions that their newly created beings must then follow in order to achieve a goal. Exactly like a simulation or game. The goal may be to achieve a sort of ‘goodness’, or adhere to a belief, or improve the world, or even to just worship the ‘level designer’. These are all things that players get non-player characters to do in games every day, some are not even hiding it. The 1989 game ‘Populous‘ was quite blatant about you being a god in a pantheon of gods that had followers worshipping you and giving you the ability to fight other gods using their worship.
We can go several more steps in this idea. Several religions state that there is an afterlife. Now obviously the simulated games mentioned previously do not prepare their sprites for any sort of after life… but that may not always be true. With a heightened artificial intelligence then it might be wise to ‘train’ it in a simulated reality in order to prepare it for its job or position outside the reality. Would not the designers of such an intelligence want to select the best of the bunch, the most loving, the most obedient to populate their systems? Is it not easier just to populate a simulation with creatures that are capable of emotion then selecting the best, rather than programming one and ‘hoping’ it can deal with the emotional strain? Would not a simulation be the best way to generate artificial; intelligences with free will, yet also avoid the messy consequences of letting evil ones loose on the world?
So is not Simulated Reality Hypothesis just an exact copy of every religion in history? The only difference is that it does not explicitly state who the ‘level designer’ is, nor does it tell you what the eventual goal is. Essentially the hypothesis is just a blank slate of religion where you can fill in the blanks. It is an attempt to generate a religion without all the annoying arguments about the theological and ethical details. But is this the best way to approach such a situation?
Let us presume that the universe (or at least the world we are aware of) is a simulation designed to produce viable intelligences for a purpose. This purpose might be anything from generating intelligences for reality, to just enjoying watching in the simulation. We can approach this in several ways.
- Despair or Naivety. As a simulated intelligence we decide we do not have limited ‘spiritual’ value outside the simulation and so therefore care little about the purpose or the level designer.
- Curiosity. We seek a desire to find out what the level designer wants of us in order to result in a ‘success’ of that simulation.
- Rebellion. We identify that while we may be important, we do not desire to be a success and so therefore work to thwart the purpose of the simulation.
What is quite plainly obvious is that all of these approaches are very similar to how people approach religion, in fact one could say it is ‘exactly’ how people choose to approach religion.
Let us now refocus on the situation that encouraged this article: It is a hot topic amongst science geeks. one would therefore determine that if these people who are so into the Simulated reality hypothesis as a possible situation then they would fit into one of the three approaches… but which ones do they fit into? One would think that if they were taking Simulated reality hypothesis seriously then they would act as if there was a ‘level designer’. Which would be similar to the way theists behave (even theists can fit into approach 1 and 3). In fact, replace ‘level designer’ by ‘god’ then you are in fact talking flat out as a theist.
It is quite clear from this reasoning that there is a simple conclusion anyone can arrive at when considering Simulated Reality Hypothesis… it is a religion, and belief in it is equatable to theism… at least as long as you are in the simulation.
Of course, if the ‘level designer’ of our universe is our ‘god’ then do they have a creator ‘god’?
Well that depends on whether they are also in a simu… I mean, created world.