Saturday, 11 June 2016

Are we in the Matrix? Thoughts on God and Simulation Theory

When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.
G.K. Chesterton
Human beings constantly ponder on their existence, theories of creation/evolution, our potential, development and future. We have always been fascinated by the notion that the world as we experience it; is not an ultimate reality. For example many religions give us various metaphysical concepts/speculations for life and earth. Hinduism describes this world as 'maya' an illusion and along with Buddhism ascribes to reincarnation. Abrahamic traditions especially Islam point to a final abode in Heaven, or a reckoning in Hell, and this world as merely a test:

“Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: ‘We believe,’ and will not be tested.
And We indeed tested those who were before them. And Allah will certainly make (it) known (the truth of) those who are true, and will certainly make (it) known (the falsehood of) those who are liars, (although Allah knows all that before putting them to test)”
[al-‘Ankaboot 29:2-3] 
More recently simulation theory: the idea that the universe is a simulation like something out of “The Matrix has become a provocative discussion topic especially since Elon Musk has said that the chances we are not uploads in a virtual world are billions to one against.
Our own video games/simulation capabilities have advanced at rapid speed, from Pong in the 1970s to immersive virtual reality today, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO noted in a Q&A session at Recode’s Code conference:
"So given that we’re clearly on a trajectory to have games that are indistinguishable from reality, and those games could be played on any set-top box or on a PC or whatever, and there would probably be billions of such computers or set-top boxes, it would seem to follow that the odds that we’re in base reality is one in billions."*
Many might find his statement laughable but Musk’s theory has already been well articulated by respected philosopher Nick Bostrom. A professor at Oxford University, he published his computer simulation argument in 2003. He actually argues that one of the following three propositions is true:
  1. Virtually all civilizations at our pace of development will go extinct before they reach the technological capability of creating ultra-realistic video games.
  2. Civilizations with such technological capabilities are uninterested in running such computer simulations.
  3. We are almost certainly characters living in a computer simulation.*

Some like Lisa Randall, a theoretical physicist at Harvard University have argued this premise; “It’s just not based on well-defined probabilities. The argument says you’d have lots of things that want to simulate us. I actually have a problem with that. We mostly are interested in ourselves. I don’t know why this higher species would want to simulate us.” Randall admitted she did not quite understand why other scientists were even entertaining the notion that the universe is a simulation. **

While for others especially those with religious beliefs like myself the simulation hypothesis could lead to significant spiritual questions about eternal/afterlife and resurrection. If this is a program it can always be re-run. Is rebirth a form of re-boot? Is God the ultimate designer/programmer? One of the names of Allah in Islamic tradition is Al-Musawwir 'the designer/fashioner'.
Are we continually evolving as more advanced subjects within this program? Why make a universe so flawed and with so much suffering? And what happens if a bug crashed the entre program? :)
Of course there is no way of proving that we are not simulated characters in an advanced civilization’s computer just as we cannot prove or disprove the existence of God.  Although the theoretical physicist Michio Kaku claims to have developed a theory that might point to the existence of God.  Another very interesting discussion.
I found this to be fascinating subject, what are your thoughts? :)

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