What is real and what is not?
The physical world we live in may be nothing more than an advanced piece of software.
Is it possible to have an objective, unbiased view of reality while being immersed within it? Science says no, that essentially our entire universe could be a holographic simulation and there’s no way we could know this while existing within it. We’d have to somehow escape from it so that we have an outside frame of reference (perhaps this is what death is). To get an outside view on what is really going on here and what the limits are, we have to leave or step outside, but perhaps only temporarily… It’s not impossible to return to a simulated universe and in fact it should be easy, which is a unique aspect of one that you can’t do with a real universe where death is death.
These same Flatland limitations of perspective hold true for animals as well, or at least we think so. From an ant’s point of view, the entire world might consist of five square miles of jungle floor deep in an unexplored region of the Amazon. But from our perspective we know that the planet is actually much larger and more diverse than that. If you were to become an ant for a short time, would you be able to convince the other ants of the larger world around them, of the existence of human beings, house cats, mint-chocolate chip ice cream, and the planet Saturn?
Would such an ant colony just think you were insane and kill you when you presented your ideas, like they did to Giordano Bruno in the year 1600 when he claimed that the stars had planets with other beings on them like us? Or would the other ants abandon you so that you starved to death and died an untimely ant’s death (and would that even matter)?
Is this the true perspective as well of people we abandon in our society as insane, the autistic savant, the schizophrenic painter who creates crazy, unfinished canvasses that no one wants to buy, the writer who writes things that never find an audience, or the PartyBurger fast food worker who claims to have cloned herself 19 times and has each clone working at a different branch of PB across town so she can save money to buy her own private yacht and go discover what really happened to Atlantis?
New-age and scientific books that deal with the nature of reality, the possibility of the universe being one of an infinite number in a multi-verse, all suggest that the existence we have may in fact be entirely artificial. (Its much easier to create artificial realities than real ones, so the odds are that many more of these exist “out there” than there are real ones. You’ve played World of Warcraft before right?) If the universe we live in is in fact simulated, then we don’t have any access to true objective reality. Like the Oracle told Neo in The Matrix, whenever you see or hear talk of werewolves, vampires, ghosts and aliens, they are manifestations of a break in the simulation (in her case, programs doing what they’re not supposed to).
If we don’t have access to objective reality in any respect, that opens up all sorts of unique possibilities for life. It means that all the physical laws we live by are arbitrary creations of the simulation “programmers” and can in fact be violated or broken. It means magic is really possible, even ludicrous, Terry Pratchett, Discworld style magic. In fact, such feats should be easy. The only limitation is one that the Bible has been telling us about for thousands of years, a limitation of faith or belief. If you “believe” in the impossible, it becomes possible. And this makes logical sense in a simulated universe. Think of World of Warcraft again, only on a grander, more realistic scale. All you need to perform magic there is to believe that you have the spell capability to do so, then…you just use it.
Perhaps this explains all the “miracles” that have been recorded in human history as well. These were acts by individuals who were able to break free of the simulation's arbitrary rules. Or they may have in fact been programmers from a higher level of existence, real beings, walking among us, observing us, and examining the simulation first hand.
The problem with the idea of simulated reality however is that there’s no way to know when you’ve finally reached the top layer of the onion. Simulation may be built upon simulation to a point where objective reality is always illusive, even if you were to live forever and have the ability to travel any distance in space and time… So what is the meaning of life in this respect? The popular physicist and author Brian Greene suggests that if the universe is simulated, your core purpose changes from one of survival to distinction, so the overlord programmers don’t decide to delete your character because its just too boring.
Some scientists have estimated that there’s a 60% chance that we are already living in a simulated universe. Others have said that in about 100 years, computer systems will be so fast and powerful on Earth that we should be able to model the entire Solar System down to every individual atom (meaning that we could create our own simulated universe at such a scale that the beings confined to it on a simulated Earth could never escape or know the true nature of their plight).
I think there’s a greater purpose to life if we live in a simulated universe and everything is subjective and malleable however, other than just trying to distinguish ourselves so our capricious overlords don’t delete us. If the physical laws we know of are arbitrary constructs and can be broken, then we should dedicate our lives to breaking them. Once we’ve made this routine it should then be possible for us to create our own individual simulations that reflect our highest aspirations for life. You like Star Trek? You can live there for real. Harry Potter, the Twilight saga, Lord of the Rings, Gilligan’s Island, you name it, you’d be able to build an entire simulated universe of your own based on whims and fantasies. You could even create an entire universe with its primary feature being that Michelle Rodriguez thinks you’re the greatest thing to come along since sliced bread. (Okay, that’s a personal favorite of mine, but you get the idea.)
These creations would easily be compiled on your futuristic computer, and you could have endless varieties of them you traveled between. They’d be universes you could actually live in for as long as you liked, not just imagine in the dark recesses of your mind.
Another interesting side element to the simulated universe idea, is that, if it is in fact true and we are living in one now, the idea of immortality opens itself up to all sorts of amazing possibilities, including those that forgo the needs for religion, politics and common sense.
Ultimately, it's always better to simulate, than to be simulated, That is, as long as I'm not one of your creations and you become a tyrant in the process of managing my little corner of reality.