"Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me."
Do you know what I'm talking about? Yes, of course you do. Those were the words spoken to Neo by Morpheus the first time they meet in "The Matrix". The true brilliance of the film "The Matrix" is that the red pill doesn't show Neo "the truth about reality", it doesn't take him out of a simulated world and into the physical reality of the real world...
Even though you, the viewer, is led to believe that, it actually removes any distinction between "real" and "fake". Because who can prove that what he experiences after taking the pill is real? Who is to say that he didn't land in yet another simulation within a simulation? Chinese philosopher Zhuang Zhou once wrote that one day he dreamt about being a butterfly and upon awakening he didn't know if he was a man dreaming he was a butterfly, or a butterfly that dreamt about being a man. In "The Matrix" this same idea is conveyed by this question Morpheus asks Neo this:
"Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?"
However mind-blowing the movie, and however wise the insights of Zhuang Zhou, I have this unshakable tendency to ask what science has to say about the deeper questions in life, if anything at all. Well, for the longest time now we've been caught up in an almost completely material worldview, so much so that even the Catholic Church now admits to the validity of both Theory of Evolution and the Big Bang theory. In fact, the Pope was even relieved when learning about this Big Bang; it collaborated the Church's belief that there truly was nothing in the beginning.
Science has gone down the material rabbit hole so deep, that even consciousness is explained as something emergent from elecro-chemical processes in our brains; thoughts, emotions, reasoning, they are all explained as the result from cause-and-effect driven interactions between tangible material agents. Matter gives rise to consciousness.
But in our dreams, consciousness gives rise to matter! I'm fully able to pick up a rock in my dream and throw it in a pond where real ripples distort the surface and my dreamy reflection (no, not a narcissist at all... even if that is the exact moment I wake up... believe me). It's getting a bit confusing already, and we're not even halfway there yet; this rabbit hole provides a lengthy free-fall and we have no parachute. Or at least, if calm reasoning and scientific certainties are the fabric of this parachute, it is full of ever bigger holes and won't slow our fall in any helpful way.
Because since the introduction of quantum mechanics, the so called "hard sciences" are rapidly losing ground. Literally they have less and less ground to stand on, to the point where the most recent scientific developments point in a direction every physicist fears and embraces at the same time. Physics is wholly based on the interactions of particles and matter through space and time, neatly wrapped together as "spacetime" since Einsteins papers on General - and Special Relativity. More and more evidence points to the unsettling truth that matter and spacetime, are nothing more than illusions conjured up by our brains in order for us to survive long enough to reproduce in this perceived material form.
Our brain is essentially a prediction machine that tries to build a model in our mind of the outside world, by comparing sensory input to what it already knows. "Seeing is believing", is in many cases actually "believing is seeing". But this still assumes the model to be fairly accurate; we need to interact with the physical world through the dimensions of space and time to survive. But recent scientific insights lead us to believe that the model isn't accurate at all; reality is nothing like the world our brains paint in our minds.
To explain why, a comparison with a computer desktop is helpful. The items we see in the 3D world can be compared to the icons you click on the desktop. The icon for your e-mail client is not the program. The icon is just a handy shortcut for you to reach the real program, consisting of a highly complex web of electrical currents that cause bits and bytes to be flipped and manipulated, in order to light up singular pixels in a variety of frequencies that eventually results, in a matter of nano-seconds, in an easily interpreted visual change on the screen.
Physical objects in the "real" world are akin to the icons on your desktop; they are not there to reveal reality, but to obscure the intricate complexities of reality, so we can literally "get a handle on it"... Watch and listen to cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman as he asks "Do we see reality as it is?"
Do we see reality as it is? | Donald Hoffman
So... Are you still with me? Yes? Good; I needed confirmation we are both still experiencing the same reality, whatever that may be. Let's sum up what we think we know so far:
Yes, that's about it I guess. Or not? Because "The Matrix" isn't about a dream, reflections in imaginary ponds or desktop-icons. This masterpiece of a film is about humans being trapped in a simulation, and we are led to believe that Neo enters the real world after swallowing a simulated red pill. So, are we? Is our life but a simulation, a holographic projection originating from nothing more than information on a 2D surface?
"Yes" is the short answer according to Digital Physics
"In physics and cosmology, digital physics (also referred to as digital ontology or digital philosophy) is a collection of theoretical perspectives based on the premise that the universe is describable by information. According to this theory, the universe can be conceived of as either the output of a deterministic or probabilistic computer program, a vast, digital computation device, or mathematically isomorphic to such a device."
In 2003, philosopher Nick Bostrom proposed a trilemma that he called "the simulation argument", and from there the idea that we live in an ancestor simulation was developed. Though the underlying theories are full of mathematical proves, this is quite simple to imagine by looking at our current technological development. If we assume we survive long enough, than our computer-simulated worlds will eventually become real worlds for the simulates inhabitants, provided we can make them have self-consciousness. The ultimate consequence of that theory is that there's very little chance we are the originals; the sims would evolve and build their own virtual worlds, thereby revealing this rabbit hole does'n't seem to have a bottom at all and our parachute to be useless from the beginning...
Nick Bostrom - The Simulation Argument (Full)
Which brings us back to the red pill we started with in a nice circular fashion. And we still know nothing. Didn't I mention nothing before? I did; another scientist, Lawrence Krauss wrote a book and gave several lectures on "A Universe from Nothing":
"The important elements for our existence, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, all of those things were created in the cores of stars. And the only way they got into your body is because they were kind enough to explode. So forget Jesus; the stars died so you'd be born!"
And that's not all he had to say. We all remember Einstein I hope? He showed that mass = energy with his world famous E=MC2 equation. Nor Lawrence here tells us that when you sum up all energy in the observable universe, the grand total comes to zero. ZERO!! Everything = nothing. Nothing = everything...
A Universe from Nothing
And we still know nothing. Good thing we've established that we know everything then. We still are nothing. It's good to know then that Lawrence has us covered: we are everything. There is no spoon. There never even was a red pill. But you were and still are. And you have my gratitude for hanging on, even if the parachute was as real as my dreamy reflection... Okay, I'll stop it now.
Just kidding. There is one last little tidbit I want to share with you. We all like a good conspiracy theory I hope? This one you'll like. "The Matrix" was released in 1999. When Neo is interrogated by agent Smith the latter throws Neo's file on the desk between them an amidst the papers lies Neo's passport. Now look at the expiration date on that document:
It's 9/11! September 11th 2001! I have the DVD, and I checked myself: this date is not photo-shopped. What is possible though, is that it's a prank by someone related to the creation and / or release of the DVD and blue-ray versions that were released long after the film was released: they could have "photo-shopped" the date. And it doesn't matter. What matters is that I just used a bloody conspiracy theory to get myself and you back to reality...
Ignorance is Bliss
I'm out! And please, enjoy your steak!
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