“Reality is an illusion, albeit a persistent one.” Albert Einstein
Ok, before we plunge in, I would like to lay out a couple of terms and working definitions: 1) Intelligence-the ability to acquire and apply information. 2) Artificial intelligence– a creation of humans that has intelligence.
Computer programs are now using very advanced artificial intelligence to simulate every aspect of what we commonly refer to as ‘reality’. These programs are capable of creating ‘worlds’, which contain individual A.I. driven artifacts. Simply put, programmers make people and animals within these simulations that possess basic ‘knowledge’ or artificial intelligence. Initially, the level of this intelligence was limited and we could only program for small worlds with simple needs. With continuing advancements in programing, we are creating increasingly complex needs and environments for these simulations. The current level of artificial intelligence is roughly equal to that of a 4 year old!
The computer game, The Sims, is a great example of this. In The Sims, digital people experience aspects of life that parallels our experiences in the real world. These people need food and shelter and they secure jobs to acquire the resources necessary for sustaining their digital lives. The characters in this world do all the things that we do to provide for their progeny, including putting their child through college. Furthermore, these people are capable of learning and adapting, changing their behavior to optimize their lifestyle within their environment.
So what am I getting at? If I had introduced this article with the last three sentences from above, without any reference to a digital game, you would have thought I was talking about some family, possibly yours. And that is the point, I am not talking about a game. I am talking about the way that life works – all life is essentially created or designed as a kind of ‘program.’ As the story goes, God, initially created people with limited knowledge and intelligence. These people were programmed with very few needs and required only a small environment “a garden.” But as their intelligence grew and they acquired the “knowledge of good and evil”, God pushed them out of their small, simple and ideal “garden world”, out into a larger more complex world. God did not abandon the people he created, for he provided for them with the inherent skills or “intelligence” needed to adapt to their “strange new world.” In the God story, human beings are essentially simulations that are uniquely designed to inhabit a certain program. What is the real difference then between God’s world and a simulated world, is it something in our humanity?
Like Morpheus says, all our “human” perceptions can be boiled down to electrical and chemical impulses in our brain, which means that everything you perceive can be easily expressed in terms of a digital binary code. Human beings share the same basic programming as digital simulations: they respond to information and take actions based on prior knowledge. If simulations possess intelligence and the electrical sensory apparatus necessary to engage and interpret their world (simulations can be programmed with touch, sight, hearing and smell), we must ask ourselves the question, what is the essential difference between ‘the real’ and ‘the simulation’?
Just as we have adapted to perceive our own world, much in the same way, these advanced simulations possess the ability to perceive the world around them. As we read the ancient creation story, this is exactly what we would expect from a master programmer. The programmer sets up certain events in the simulation that are fixed and in the same way, the programmer God, has a plan and some of the events, which we encounter are fixed parts of the plan. Furthermore, a program that does not work as intended is either fixed or deleted (converted and “updated” or sent to hell and “deleted”). If all of life is a simulated program, what do we mean when we talk about “the real”? How does this reflect on the existence of a god? If you created a simulated world would you not be a god yourself?