A popular topic today1 is whether we live in a Matrix-like simulation or not2.
As usual, there are several answers.
AN EXISTENTIAL QUESTION?
If we take ourselves as primarily this human self or something else within the content of experience, then it becomes a vital and existential question. It becomes a matter of what we most fundamentally are.
Whether we’ll ever be able to find an answer is another question. I somehow doubt it.
OUR NATURE IS THE SAME IN EACH CASE
If we take ourselves as primarily what our experience happens within and as, it may still be an interesting question but it’s not existential in the same way.
Our nature is the same anyway, whether it’s a simulation or not.
To myself, I am what the field of experience happens within and as. To myself, I am consciousness, and this consciousness forms itself into any content of experience.
THE SIMULATION IS ALREADY HAPPENING
As many point out: we already live within a simulation.
The consciousness I am forms itself into any and all content of experience. It creates a simulation of the world, and that simulation is all I ever know.
Said in a more limited and biological way, the brain takes sensory input and creates its world. We never experience the world directly. We experience a kind of synthesis created by our brain based on very limited sensory information.
A POINTER TO OUR NATURE
Do we live within a Matrix-like simulation?
To me, what’s most interesting and useful about that question is that it can serve as a pointer to our nature.
Everything we know may be a Matrix-like simulation. We may not fundamentally be humans at all. That is a very real possibility.
In either case, we know that the world we experience – including this human self – is created as a kind of simulation by the consciousness we are. (Or the brain if we like more biological language.)
What does that say about what we more fundamentally are? This helps us open the door for the possibility that we are not fundamentally this human self or anything within the content of experience, including a doer or observer.
So what are we, more fundamentally?
At a thought level, we may realize that what we are is consciousness – independent of any particular content of experience.
That may lead us to explore it in direct noticing, and explore how it is to live from and as it, and also getting and living from it more viscerally.
MAKING USE OF THE QUESTION
Questions like these can remain an intellectual curiosity. Something we cannot find any conclusive answers to, and they may seem removed from and irrelevant to our daily lives.
I prefer to make practical use of these questions. I know I cannot know the answer to whether I live in a Matrix-like simulation, and it doesn’t matter so much. Other sides of that question are more important to me. For instance, it’s a pointer to and reminder of my more fundamental nature.
I should mention that there are different variations of this question.
For instance, when Chuang Tzu asked his question about butterflies and dreams, he pointed to our nature as consciousness. Night dreams and waking life both happen within and as the consciousness we are to ourselves.
When some today use the Matrix analogy and computer simulations, that’s a more updated version specific to our times and culture. It likely says more about us today than the nature of our world. And it too can be used to point to our more fundamental nature. (I suspect the Wachowski siblings were quite aware of that when they made the movie.)
(1) Among the few of us privileged enough to have the life and relative comfort to consider these things. Most people around the world have more immediate and important things to take care of.
(2) I regularly see articles on this topic even in mainstream media. The most recent one is from NRK in Norway: Flere anerkjente fysikere: Mener det er sannsynlig at vi lever i et dataspill (Several physicists say it’s likely we live in a computer game).
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