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February 1st, 2020
The Simulation Hypothesis holds that given all possibilities, it’s likely we are in some sort of simulation, like The Matrix.
This is about as far as our conclusions can go given our current information and evidence on the subject. However, there is a simulation that we can be certain about.
As a matter of neurology, everything that we see, hear, taste, touch and otherwise sense is the result of a simulation that our brain is running for, what amount to our conscious experience.
This isn’t too difficult to deduce on one’s own. Take vision for example. Light somehow enters your immediate environment either from a lamp, a fire or after it’s 8 minute trip from the sun. Then it bounces off of everything and the receptors in your eyes get hit by all that bouncing light and cause chemical reactions which then activate neuronal pathways that send the specific signal of those chemical reactions all the way to the back of your brain where they are processed by your visual cortex, and the results of that processing are then shuttled up to the neocortex where you can make some thoughtful deductions about what you are seeing.
That’s a lot of stuff to happen between something happening in front of us and our register of that change. Of course all of these processes happen so quickly that we don’t notice any lag, but the fact that we’re certain these processes do take place requires that it must take some time.
This means our experience of the world is on a delay.
More specifically a processing delay. In some sense we only have access to the world as it just occurred.
Now what does that mean? In some sense it’s like a memory. We are experiencing something that has already happened. And what exactly are we doing when we try really hard to remember something that happened yesterday? or a week ago? or many years ago?
We are trying to use a mental space to simulate the events of that past time. Memories, for all their flaws, are merely poor simulations of what our sensory experience was at some past time.
But our experience of the present moment isn’t terribly different, even if it has a much higher resolution. It’s still a separate creation, not a recreation of what’s going on, but a creation. Our brains have figured out a useful way to make sense of all the information that’s incoming from all ur sense organs and it generates this constant dream with constant input from our environment.
Another way to approach this is to think about senses that we know exist but that we don’t have. Electroreception, for example, is an interesting one. It’s used mainly by aquatic animals like sharks, and they use this as their primary source of vision, but it has nothing to do with light. Electroreception gives the animal an understanding of what is around them by generating an electromagnetic field and then noting disturbances to this field.
Imagine closing your eyes and still having a completely intuitive understanding of where everything in the room is and an accurate idea of how far away everything is.
We do this effortlessly with vision, and it’s a fun, albeit potentially dangerous exercise to try and make your way around well known spaces like your bedroom with your eyes closed. It’s amazing how poor our conception of our environment is the moment we turn off the datastream.
All of these alternative senses are simply ways for brains to gather data from the environment and process it in a way that allows us, or an animal to have an effective interaction with that environment.
Think about this a second. Our whole sense of reality is something our brain has generated simply so that we might have an effective interaction with our environment.
This begins to be reminiscent of something like User Interface.
When we use a piece of software, or an app, there is almost always some sort of database behind the scenes. But we don’t see it. We see some sort of fancy (or terribly ugly and frustrating) User Interface which is designed so that we can interact with this database. We either need information from that database or we need to see what the information looks like when combined or processed in a certain way, and it’s through the User Interface that we do this.
That User Interface, is in some sense, a simulated version of the database. It’s one way of looking at it.
We might think of different senses as different features of an interface that allow us access to the database in some way.
Whatever reality is, we only have our senses to get an idea of it. We can think of base reality as the database, and our conception of the world that our minds have created through vision, sound, touch and taste comprises our personal interface about how we interact with that database.
Now here’s the truly wild thing about all this. We have the ability to change our User Interface. We cannot yet add senses, but we can change the way we’ve simulated the world in our mind.
The most basic and fundamental way of inducing changes in this simulation is to crack it with questions, and then ping reality with actions that give us more information from the database that can then be used to update our simulation.
The key here is to think of the simulation we have of the world in our mind as the User Interface, and to think of our senses as some of the features on offer automatically by this User Interface. The other, incredibly important aspect of this User Interface that might be easy to overlook is our ability to create stories and fictions that can then be tested, rejected, iterated and honed into theories that become extremely effective models for further interacting with our environment.
As mentioned before, the mind sort of hallucinates a world based on what we get from our senses. It’s given us this base experience, but the conjectures that we can make about how it works is a completely new layer of simulation that we have far more control to grow with flexibility.
Regardless of whether the world at large is running on a giant simulation, we are already doing it on a solitary, individual level.
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