Join us as we discuss some alluring concepts which question the very essence of your reality. Whether you’re relaxing in bed, sitting on the toilet or killing time at the park. Sit back and enjoy an assortment of hand-picked thought-provoking concepts for your mind's pleasure.
Dr. Nick Bostrom, a philosopher and the director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, has made the prediction that there is possibly a 20 percent chance humanity is a simulation. Woah? What sort of science-fiction, Matrix inspired crap is this? This my friends is simulation theory. A wonderful, thought-provoking idea that our entire existence sits within a simulation that is indistinguishable from true reality.
This theory is built around the idea that a technologically mature civilisation would have enormous computing power. Based on this pragmatic fact, the simulation theory shows that at least one of the following propositions is true:
- The fraction of human-level civilisations that reach a post-human stage is very close to zero;
- The fraction of post-human civilisations that are interested in running ancestor-simulations is very close to zero;
- The fraction of all people with our kind of experiences that are living in a simulation is very close to one.
Do you think it’s unlikely we’re in a simulation? Why? Is it because you don’t expect our species to endure long enough to reach the technological criteria required to produce a simulated world? Or is it because you have consciousness? Well what is consciousness? Throughout time, many civilisations have believed in the spirit, the magical soul that makes each and everyone of us unique through a ghostly entity that gives our life a unique occupancy. But what makes this any more real than an information system that truly believes he is unique through advanced programming? What is the true difference between a simulation and a reality?
Take the the video game The Sims - A life-simulation game created for us all to dabble into the realm of a virtual world. Like gods we modify the Sim’s virtual world for our entertainment and curiosity. They roam their world seeking their needs like food, love and entertainment. From time to time they raise a fist into the air and direct their anger towards YOU, the player, their god; as they get visibly frustrated at the terrors of pain and suffering falling before them. Sound familiar?
Ok calm down, I’m not actually making the case that the Sims have a self perceived consciousness. But this is 2016, we’ve literally gone from Pacman 36 years ago to full blown, virtual environments with ever increasing complexity. Artificial intelligence continues to make strides and only a few years ago we made the first computer simulation of a complete organism. The entire organism is modelled in terms of its molecular components, integrating all cellular processes into a single digital model. DNA, RNA, proteins, and metabolites, and running on a 128-core Linux cluster, the simulation takes 10 hours for a single M. genitalium cell to divide once — about the same time the actual cell takes — and generates half a gigabyte of data. Still doubtful?
The Fermi paradox
Do you think the collective awareness of an ant colony could comprehend the vast world going on around them? Do they perceive the vehicle that has just passed them as a transport system developed by humans? Do they even understand the technology or the behaviours of the human world around them?
Now imagine the human race has a similar limitation to the perception of reality. An advanced world potentially surrounding our realm in this very moment with no way of us understanding what is going on. Welcome to one possible explanation of the Fermi Paradox, a fasinating contradiction between the lack of evidence and high probability estimates for the existence of extraterrestrial civilisations in the universe.
The Fermi Paradox explicitly outlines the fact that our current mathematical estimates of earth-like planets that should be able to harbour intelligent-life are so vast that Earth should have encountered an advanced civilisation by now. There have been many attempts in the scientific community to explain the Fermi paradox, one of which is that intelligent extraterrestrial life is so extremely rare and that we’re kinda special…
For those that can’t possibly agree that we’re special. Here are some alternative attempts to explain the Fermi Paradox:
- Alien civilisations are fully aware of Earth and are observing us (Zoo Hypothesis) think of Humans filming animals in the wild and potentially protecting the habitat in a cosmic national forest.
- Alien civilisations may have already visited Earth, potentially before Humans or recorded history.
- Ever taken a look at our cosmic neighbourhood? Earth could be sitting in a desolate section of the Milky Way. Perhaps a specific section of the galaxy is inhabited with many intelligent life-forms that have had little to no desire to visit our section of the cosmic neighbourhood.
- Predator civilisations exist in the universe, and higher intelligent lifeforms are well aware of them. Perhaps the lack of messages floating around the cosmos is the strategic normality for survival. (I mean it wouldn’t be a good idea to be giving your location away to hostile group, right?)
- And finally, maybe we got everything wrong about our reality. Perhaps we’re in a simulation like we mentioned above or perhaps our existence is explained by…
The philosophical concept that your own mind is the only thing that is sure to exist. Knowledge of anything outside one's own mind is unsure; the external world and other minds cannot be known and might not exist outside of the mind.
- Epistemological position: Anything outside one's own mind is unsure.
- Metaphysical position: That entire world and other minds do not exist.
There is no real rebuttal to a Solipsist argument. One factor which makes this idea an unpopular concept is the very fact that any serious discussion will end with somebody getting told they don't really exist. Ouch.
I wrap up our thought-provoking piece with a short story:
The Egg - Written by Andy Weir
You were on your way home when you died.
It was a car accident. Nothing particularly remarkable, but fatal nonetheless. You left behind a wife and two children. It was a painless death. The EMTs tried their best to save you, but to no avail. Your body was so utterly shattered you were better off, trust me.
And that’s when you met me.
“What… what happened?” You asked. “Where am I?”
“You died,” I said, matter-of-factly. No point in mincing words.
“There was a… a truck and it was skidding…”
“Yup,” I said.
“I… I died?”
“Yup. But don’t feel bad about it. Everyone dies,” I said.
You looked around. There was nothingness. Just you and me. “What is this place?” You asked. “Is this the afterlife?”
“More or less,” I said.
“Are you god?” You asked.
“Yup,” I replied. “I’m God.”
“My kids… my wife,” you said.
“What about them?”
“Will they be all right?”
“That’s what I like to see,” I said. “You just died and your main concern is for your family. That’s good stuff right there.”
You looked at me with fascination. To you, I didn’t look like God. I just looked like some man. Or possibly a woman. Some vague authority figure, maybe. More of a grammar school teacher than the almighty.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “They’ll be fine. Your kids will remember you as perfect in every way. They didn’t have time to grow contempt for you. Your wife will cry on the outside, but will be secretly relieved. To be fair, your marriage was falling apart. If it’s any consolation, she’ll feel very guilty for feeling relieved.”
“Oh,” you said. “So what happens now? Do I go to heaven or hell or something?”
“Neither,” I said. “You’ll be reincarnated.”
“Ah,” you said. “So the Hindus were right,”
“All religions are right in their own way,” I said. “Walk with me.”
You followed along as we strode through the void. “Where are we going?”
“Nowhere in particular,” I said. “It’s just nice to walk while we talk.”
“So what’s the point, then?” You asked. “When I get reborn, I’ll just be a blank slate, right? A baby. So all my experiences and everything I did in this life won’t matter.”
“Not so!” I said. “You have within you all the knowledge and experiences of all your past lives. You just don’t remember them right now.”
I stopped walking and took you by the shoulders. “Your soul is more magnificent, beautiful, and gigantic than you can possibly imagine. A human mind can only contain a tiny fraction of what you are. It’s like sticking your finger in a glass of water to see if it’s hot or cold. You put a tiny part of yourself into the vessel, and when you bring it back out, you’ve gained all the experiences it had.
“You’ve been in a human for the last 48 years, so you haven’t stretched out yet and felt the rest of your immense consciousness. If we hung out here for long enough, you’d start remembering everything. But there’s no point to doing that between each life.”
“How many times have I been reincarnated, then?”
“Oh lots. Lots and lots. An in to lots of different lives.” I said. “This time around, you’ll be a Chinese peasant girl in 540 AD.”
“Wait, what?” You stammered. “You’re sending me back in time?”
“Well, I guess technically. Time, as you know it, only exists in your universe. Things are different where I come from.”
“Where you come from?” You said.
“Oh sure,” I explained “I come from somewhere. Somewhere else. And there are others like me. I know you’ll want to know what it’s like there, but honestly you wouldn’t understand.”
“Oh,” you said, a little let down. “But wait. If I get reincarnated to other places in time, I could have interacted with myself at some point.”
“Sure. Happens all the time. And with both lives only aware of their own lifespan you don’t even know it’s happening.”
“So what’s the point of it all?”
“Seriously?” I asked. “Seriously? You’re asking me for the meaning of life? Isn’t that a little stereotypical?”
“Well it’s a reasonable question,” you persisted.
I looked you in the eye. “The meaning of life, the reason I made this whole universe, is for you to mature.”
“You mean mankind? You want us to mature?”
“No, just you. I made this whole universe for you. With each new life you grow and mature and become a larger and greater intellect.”
“Just me? What about everyone else?”
“There is no one else,” I said. “In this universe, there’s just you and me.”
You stared blankly at me. “But all the people on earth…”
“All you. Different incarnations of you.”
“Wait. I’m everyone!?”
“Now you’re getting it,” I said, with a congratulatory slap on the back.
“I’m every human being who ever lived?”
“Or who will ever live, yes.”
“I’m Abraham Lincoln?”
“And you’re John Wilkes Booth, too,” I added.
“I’m Hitler?” You said, appalled.
“And you’re the millions he killed.”
“And you’re everyone who followed him.”
You fell silent.
“Every time you victimized someone,” I said, “you were victimizing yourself. Every act of kindness you’ve done, you’ve done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you.”
You thought for a long time.
“Why?” You asked me. “Why do all this?”
“Because someday, you will become like me. Because that’s what you are. You’re one of my kind. You’re my child.”
“Whoa,” you said, incredulous. “You mean I’m a god?”
“No. Not yet. You’re a fetus. You’re still growing. Once you’ve lived every human life throughout all time, you will have grown enough to be born.”
“So the whole universe,” you said, “it’s just…”
“An egg.” I answered. “Now it’s time for you to move on to your next life.”
And I sent you on your way.
The founder of Capable Men.
Currently operating personal projects while he simultaneously attempts to develop the Capable Men platform. John served five years in the British army, with a tour of duty in Afghanistan before eventually departing the forces to begin a career in the private security sector.
John attended several private protection courses dealing with security strategy, close-quarters combat training, firearms and advanced driving. This new profession took him worldwide Including the protection of government assets in South America, VIP tasks on the Côte d'Azur and security work within the French Alps.
His interests include global affairs, philosophy, hiking, sports and fitness.