The following was the first sentence from a recent article in INC Magazine:
"Elon Musk thinks it's almost certain that we're living in some version of The Matrix. In fact, he believes that there's a "one in billions chance" that reality as we know it is NOT a computer simulation."
So what do you think about that? Do you think that our "reality" is in fact a Virtual Reality, which implies that we may actually be self-aware Artificial Intelligences (AIs) in a massive computer of some kind?
In June of 2009 I published the first edition of my novel, The Genesis Generation. In the chapter titled "Caitlin's Salon", one of my characters (a young man called Stein who is about 20 years old) describes a world such as the one that Elon Musk thinks we must be involved in. I'm going to post that part of the chapter below, but to let you know that my intention here is not to sell books, at the end of this post I have added links to both Kindle and PDF versions of my novel that you may download for free.
[EXCERPT FROM THE GENESIS GENERATION - Stein is speaking]
“Here is my idea in a few words: We are somehow stuck in a vast and very complex computer game, and we've forgotten that we're in a game.” A stillness came over the room as Stein continued, “I think that it is possible that the underlying reality for all we take for granted in this material world, including our own bodies, is that everything is code, simply code, in a vast quantum computer. We just may be right in the middle of the most realistic computer game imaginable. I call it The Earth Game.”
“Come on, Stein, get serious,” came a voice from the dining room.
“I am very serious,” Stein replied. “And if you give me a few uninterrupted minutes, I'll present my case.”
Instead, the next few minutes reverted to a verbal free-for-all, as it seemed that everyone there had an opinion that they wanted to inject at that point. I was beginning to get the feeling that my idea of this salon being some kind of fancy intellectual party was about as far off the mark as could be. The picture that was now coming into focus was one I recognized from my college days, where we would stay up late into the night and solve all of the world's problems. The only difference was that many of the people here had already reached prominence in their careers and had a lot more experience behind them than we did back then.
As if some invisible signal had been flashed, the buzz in the room came to an abrupt stop, and Stein continued, “As I was about to say, even if you just treat this as a new metaphor, I think you will find that it can prove very practical in dealing with the everyday affairs of life. But first let me give you a scientific peg to hang this on. Granted, it's a pretty thin peg, but try to ride with me on this for a bit. If you look back to around the year 1500, you find that most people thought the Earth was flat and that the Sun revolved around us. But over time, the Copernican world view took over and Newton's laws became the bedrock of our thinking. Then, a few hundred years later the world of science springs quantum physics on us.”
Just then, a small, dark-haired woman sitting next to Caitlin spoke up and interjected, “I believe it was Nick Herbert who once said, 'Humans can never experience the true texture of quantum reality, because everything we touch turns to matter.' ”
“Yeah,” came a voice from the big couch, “Quantum mechanics in layman’s terms: Reality is in the eye of the beholder.”
“True enough,” said Stein, “but there's more to it than that. I'm not going to try and explain how a quantum computer can work, but there is already more information about quantum computing on the Net than you'll ever have the time to read. Besides, we've got a few experts on the subject who are here, and maybe we can have them add some more detail it in a few minutes. But for now, you're just going to have to take it on faith that there are serious scientists who are postulating that all of this flickering in and out of material reality that quantum physicists talk about can also be intertwined with some of the ideas surrounding quantum computing. For me, The Earth Game is a good description of what underlies physical reality,” he went on. “But let's leave that aspect alone for now, and just think about this idea as a new myth, or a new metaphor for life on planet Earth.”
“That's one of the things I like about this idea,” added Al. “Rather than trying to reshape society through new laws or through violence, why not simply change our myths. I know that I for one am sick and tired of some of our current governing myths, like the one that says alcohol is good for us and marijuana is bad for us.”
“Well, I was actually going for something even deeper,” Stein said. “I'm thinking about the underlying myths that we build our views of the world on. For some, it's the Christian myth, or the Jewish or Muslim myths. A huge number of people have staked their lives on the myths of science.”
A tall blond woman in the back of the room added, “Yeah, but the fact is that right now scientists claim that 75% of the universe consists of something they call dark matter and dark energy. What kind of weasel talk is that? Why can't they just say they don't know what the fuck most of the universe is made of instead of coming up with this dark matter B.S.”
“I agree,” Stein said. “But before we head down that trail, let me get back to a nonscientific look at the idea of treating this life as if we were in a computer game. The more scientific details you add to it, the more you'll convince yourself that this is something other than just a new myth or metaphor, but that's not really important here tonight. So just think about this for a minute. All of you have either played a video game or you've seen people playing them in theater lobbies and places like that. Have you noticed how intent the players are? How focused? If they're real gamers you can hardly get their attention while they're playing because they are that avatar. They aren't in some theater lobby. They are an avatar that is usually fighting for its life. While that game is going on, that game is their reality, their only reality. Now what if there was a computer game in which, once you put on a headset and picked up the controller, you were somehow prevented from remembering that you were just playing a game. What if we had games where until someone takes your headset off for you, there is no way you can tell that the game isn't your only possible reality? Well, that's what I think is happening to all of us right now. Our spirit, or our mind or intellect, or whatever you want to call it, is controlling an avatar as it moves through a cyberspace construct we call Earth.”
“So what's the point of The Earth Game, then?” asked Ralua.
“That depends on the player,” Stein answered. “For me, it's to get to the next level. Right now it seems that a lot of people are still stuck on the Medieval level, some are even back on the Stone Age level, while most of Asia and the West seem to be on the dominator, war-loving level. Personally, I'm doing all I can to make it up another level, to the paradise level. But the complicating factor in this game is that even though the players aren't all playing on the same level, we're still somehow physically in the same space. Our levels are all merged together.”
“How is this any different from the religious belief in seven levels of heaven, or just in heaven and hell for that matter?” asked Al.
“It isn't, actually,” Stein said. “But religion leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and this seems more realistic to me. Just try this for a while. Try fitting everything that goes on, everything you read, everything you see, into the concept that this is all taking place in some big VR simulation. Start asking that question at least. Ask yourself how you can prove that something you experienced last year wasn't actually a computer simulation that you remember. But don't worry, you'll figure it all out as soon as you take your headgear off,” he laughed.
“Yeah, and the best way to do that is with a little acid. That'll dissolve your helmet right off,” called out a voice from the dining room.”
“I can see one nice advantage to looking at the world as a gigantic computer game,” added Tiger, “and that is the fact that old, long-standing grudges, like the Catholics versus the Protestants in Ireland, the Jews versus everyone in the Middle East, the old wounds from slavery and the decimation of indigenous populations everywhere, all of those old grievances would become nothing more than episodes in a computer game that has already moved to its next level. Once you leave a level, it is easy to leave the memories of old battles behind and concentrate on whatever new conflict has taken center stage.”
Just then, a bearded man wearing very thick glasses spoke up in a German-sounding accent and said, “Are you aware, Mr. Stein, that there is serious research into quantum computing now going on at various universities around the world? And that some scientists now claim that you cannot prove that we are not actually in a computer simulation of some kind? And these same scientists calculate that there is a twenty to fifty percent chance that this is so? Did you know that, Mr. Stein?”
“No. Wow. No, I didn't. In fact, the truth is that I almost didn't show up tonight because I'd started to think that I was too far out for you guys,” Stein said.
“I know that reading isn't very popular any more,” Old Joe suddenly said as all heads turned his way, “but almost a decade ago Greg Egan published Permutation City, and what you're talking about is essentially his story line. You know, I can remember as a boy being astounded at how many of Jules Verne's science fiction fantasies had already come to pass. Maybe your grandchildren are going to think the same about Egan.”
From there, the conversation moved to a discussion of the work of several other science fiction authors and then on to the implications of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, Bell's theorem of action-at-a-distance, and several other things that I didn't understand and so held little interest for me. But I did like Stein's idea of treating life as if we were in some grand computer game. While Fig and Ralua joined in the group discussion, I lost myself in thinking about some of the implications of what the old professor had said about Stein's idea being possibly more than a myth or metaphor.
[END OF EXCERPT]
Copies of The Genesis Generation free to download:
PDF VERSION: http://lorenzohagerty.com/free/GenesisGenerationPDF.pdf
KINDLE VERSION: http://lorenzohagerty.com/free/GenesisGenerationKINDLE.mobi