In the most recent episode of Judge John Hodgman, he rules on a case where a woman wants her husband to stop talking about how we all live in a simulation. It brings up existential angst in her.
We already live in a kind of simulation, in a couple of different ways.
We know from science that our physical sense organs only receive a very limited type and amount of information, this is organized and put together in the brain, and we add a large number of labels, interpretations, and stories to it. Our senses, brain, and consciousness work together to create a kind of simulation of the world that helps us navigate and function in it. It’s not absolutely real and it doesn’t reflect reality accurately, which is OK since it works well enough.
Many take themselves to most fundamentally be this human being in the world. But when we look, we may find that to ourselves, we are capacity for the world. We are what the world – the world as it appears to us, the world of phenomena – happens within and as. In that way, our waking experience is very similar to a dream. A dream happens within and as consciousness. And the world as it appears to us happens within and as consciousness. Here too, we find that the world to us appears a kind of simulation.
And ultimately, our true nature is what all our experiences happen within and as. If we take our most fundamental identity to be this human self, then it matters a lot whether we live in a simulation or not. It’s a question of our fundamental identity. If we find ourselves as capacity for it all, it matters less and it’s something we hold more lightly. It may be an interesting question, but it’s not a matter of what we fundamentally are to ourselves.