Post No.: 0045
Here’s a classic thought experiment in philosophy for you…
Regarding us getting closer and closer to being able to create more and more believable virtual worlds – chances are that, arguably, we are living in a sub-layer realm of reality – an artificial creation made by another species of higher intelligence; or we could even be living in a sub-sub-layer realm of reality – an artificial creation of an artificial creation, and so on and on. For the potentially infinite sub-layers and sub-sub-layers etc. of reality there could exist, it is argued that we are therefore not statistically likely to be existing in the, or a, top or original layer of reality and therefore we are not statistically likely to be a top or original layer species or sentient life form!
But this entire extrapolation of suggesting that we are likely living on one of these sub-layers or sub-sub-layers etc. of reality is based on being able to create perfectly-convincing simulated universes – until we ourselves can create a sub-layer reality virtual universe that fools brains in vats (I’d rather the question be about entire nervous systems in vats, not just brains, due to cognition being embodied, but anyway), I wouldn’t personally conclude that we are likely to be living as ‘brains in vats’ ourselves (kind of like in The Matrix) as a result of some higher beings (or essentially gods) having created this simulated world for us. But if humans, cats or some other species do one day create a perfectly-convincing simulated world then this conclusion might change.
Some may argue though that one wouldn’t know what’s a perfectly-convincing simulated universe if one doesn’t know any other or different universe than the one that one is in and has only ever known. Who says this universe is perfectly-convincing anyway? We have trouble really understanding the quantum domain for instance – maybe this is an oversight or glitch of our creator or creators’ programming of this simulated universe?!
Now even if there aren’t enough atoms in this universe to create a computer that can create a simulation of such complexity as this universe, it doesn’t mean there couldn’t conceivably be such a large enough universe out there. It’s like if one creates a simulation of a virtual universe with this computer (e.g. by playing an offline game of The Sims or Minecraft on this computer), it doesn’t mean that this computer is all there is – in this case, we know there is clearly and evidently a much bigger universe that encompasses this computer and therefore this simulation (for which the digital inhabitants of this simulation within this computer are not aware of this much bigger universe around this computer that they call their universe). There are also the possibilities that quantum computing provides.
But indeed, the thing about this staple thought experiment in philosophy is that it’s unfalsifiable – we may never know whether we are just ‘brains in vats’ experiencing ‘life’ in a simulated universe. But René Descartes would say “cogito, ergo sum” – “I think, therefore I am” i.e. whatever I am, all I know for sure is that I exist in some form or another because I can think. Meow.
And I seriously don’t think our dreams are the reality and our waking lives are the simulation because the content of our waking lives shape our dreams, not the other way around. It’d be to say that the simulation has more fidelity and detail than the reality if our dreams are the reality. But I suppose some may argue why not? Couldn’t a video game be more imaginative, fantastical and richer than the real world it was programmed in? Then again, some dreams are quite imaginative, fantastical and rich too.
The subject of philosophy can bring about hugely lengthy discussions that can blow the mind or shake the very foundations of what we believe we believe. Furrywisepuppy and I are not proficient out-and-out students of philosophy but we like to give it a go now and again. Due to the growing number of posts and the diversity and types of subjects covered within this blog, there are bound to be some controversies and no one expects everyone to agree with us on everything. This blog doesn’t exist to provide answers but to provoke thought and healthy discussions (hence a lot of ‘arguably this’ and ‘arguably that’!)
Many people effectively subscribe to a ‘shut up and exist’ attitude to life – never questioning life, metaphysics, ontology, epistemology, phenomenology and other such areas of philosophy. There may also be an element of ‘ignorance is bliss’. But for the foreseeable meantime, we have each only one life so I’m going to explore with mine, not just accept (even though I am a cat and supposed to have nine lives – I ain’t taking a chance!) We’re also children of stars; products from the Big Bang itself – so we are arguably the universe’s consciousness, trying to understand itself. So for me, it’d be sad to go through life just existing and never pondering, questioning or seeking answers of a philosophical nature. If we don’t use our ability to think, we might as well just be without consciousness or sentience.
Fluffystealthkitten hopes that thinking about deep questions about life and this universe appeals to you and will enrich your life too! But please don’t think too much that you forget or miss the here and now.