Another recursive thorn in the human mind disguised by the cultural zeitgeist’s attire. Of our time it’s a horrifying epiphany perhaps, but are there glimmers of parallel ideas echoing from the past in more benign and even divine semblances? And what if? What are WE to follow if this realisation reflects reality? All hope disgraced and meaning destroyed, trivialised in our glorified petri-dish grid-world. This shapeless beast of an idea, felt in the depths of the body, base and formless… this concept allowed to bloom as a flower, feelings to thoughts as so many before. From the chaos sea of all in all, to the meticulous intricacies, the gold enamelling, the placement of jewels, the explicit intention, crafted by the master craftsman, the higher mind, cognised and brought into our shared world as a form for all to see and all to relate. But our wild idea-spirit of the fathomless ocean becomes hidden, displayed as a ripe fruit or a heavy stone. A dream within a dream, a level of the cosmic computer game, a cycle of Samsara, a progeny universe. Watched by the gods; played by the puppeteer; controlled by the machines; a self reflecting fragment of a living, evolving reality. Reverence or suspicion coats these works wrought in plated lustres reflecting ourselves and our minds. Are they the reflections of a fundamental truth? What is it? A fractal echoing of nature’s fabric: as above so below? Creation creates creation, levels upon levels of worlds.
I’m talking about the simulation argument, conveniently articulated by philosopher Nick Bostrom. Here it is, simply: if a civilisation were to become sufficiently advanced (without becoming extinct) and had the power to do so, they would almost certainly run ancestor simulations, and many of them. If the constraints are met, then considering the possible number of simulated worlds (millions?) compared to “real” worlds (1), in probabilistic terms we are almost certainly living in a simulation. What is your reaction? Horror? Suspicion? am I the one!? Denial? This isn’t a new idea, even in the modern sense. I recommend Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1973 film “Welt am Draht” for the first cinematic exploration of the concept, based on the 1964 sci-fi novel “Simulacron-3” by Daniel F. Galouye. The Thirteenth Floor is a good American remake, and from there Dark City, eXistenZ (careful), and of course The Matrix do a good job of banging the same old drum. The horrifying realisation in Welt am Draht and The Thirteenth floor that the characters are living inside a computer simulation follows the creation of their own simulation, where they–predictibly as humans would–tinker with their creations, then think “wait a second…” it turns out they have created a simulation-within-a-simulation.
Bostrom also suggests that if we are indeed living in a simulation, then it’s also highly likely that we are living in a simulation within a simulation within a simulation….etc. These portrayals remain peppered with modern cultural flavours: computers and technology as we know them, or imagine them in the future. But one-thousand years from now who can tell what gildings wrap the inner sanctum of this timeless idea? We could very well shoehorn into the same umbrella of ideas the “illusory world” concepts: Gnosticism, Platonism and Buddhism come instantly to mind. When these ideas were spread technology and the world in general didn’t look like it does today, therefore instead of simulations created by highly technologically advanced civilisations there were illusory worlds created by the demiurge, spirit worlds, etc, etc, same-same-but-different~.