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.