Afterlife Simulation

Sulphur

Konrad Zuge, pioneer in computing science, imagined the hypothesis that the Universe was digital computer (1967).  That theory, later developed, proposed that all reality, the Earth and the rest of the universe, could be artificial just like a computer simulation.

Could we be living within a computer simulated life controlled by someone else? Is this reality or an illusion?

“An illusion, no matter how convincing, is still just an illusion” – Total Recall, 1990.

In Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” we face the same dilemma, defending that our reality could be just an illusion. Similarly, in ancient China’s Zhuangzi texts we find the passage:  “Zhuang Zhou Dreams of Being a Butterfly”. 

The author wonders if he was the man dreaming of being the butterfly or the butterfly dreaming of being a man.

“Once, Zhuang Zhou dreamed he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering about, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn’t know that he was Zhuang Zhou.

Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Zhuang Zhou. But he didn’t know if he was Zhuang Zhou who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming that he was Zhuang Zhou. Between Zhuang Zhou and the butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things.” 

Some other theories defend the possibility to upload our minds to a computer system with the ability to simulate lifelike behaviours through mathematical rules. The idea itself highlights the concept of immortality, transferring our thought and memories  to an online “cloud”, saving our “data” for an unlimited time. The theory, unlike the Simulation Hypothesis described before, assumes that we can be partially/ total conscious of the entire process. 

“Man as the center of the universe” from “De Operatione Dei” - Hildegard of Bingen, c. 1200

Some other theories defend the possibility to upload our minds to a computer system with the ability to simulate lifelike behaviours through mathematical rules. The idea itself highlights the concept of immortality, transferring our thought and memories  to an online “cloud”, saving our “data” for an unlimited time. The theory, unlike the Simulation Hypothesis described before, assumes that we can be partially/ total conscious of the entire process. 

This kind of theories had a lot of influence on the pop-culture, specially in Sci-fi novels, videogames or movies. One of most famous examples were created by the Wachowski brothers/sisters: “The Matrix”. We believe the original idea was transposed into movie in a very interesting and captivating way. It shook us with questions and open the door to concepts and theories that were in the shadow for most of us. 

The movie speaks about a new technology that allowed the creation of an “Experience Machine”. The concept was created by the philosopher Robert Nozick in his book “Anarchy, State, and Utopia”. Nozick invites us to imagine an ideal world, the most pleasurable and satisfying possible life. Now see yourself in a pitch black room connected to a machine with thousands of electrodes covering your head. You will experience your perfect life but you are totally aware that is all fake. As a conclusion, he asks us “ if given the choice, would we prefer the machine to real life?”

“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.” – The Matrix, 1999.

Our personal depiction of this themes portrays a man uploading his mind to a huge Experience-Machine. The multiple vein-like electrodes are attached to his head and we watch his body been reduced to his essence, like a physical deterioration. The body seem to perish but the mind still lives in digital support, transcending all materialism to find his new identity as a post-human. 

Opting to live an artificial life of pleasure, the figure resembles most of us in the present time, reaching the same illusion of reality and egoistical gratification. 

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one” – Albert Einstein.

“Plato's Allegory of the cave” - Jan Saenredam after Cornelis van Haarlem, 1604.
frontispiece from "Utriusque cosmi Historia" - Robert Fludd, 1617-19.
“Zhuangzi Dreaming of a Butterfly” - Lu Zhi, Mid-16th century.
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