20 September 2016

You Don't Know If I'm Real

Anyone who's ever seen The Matrix has wondered. What if we are not actually living here, but just plugged in some computer and this is not real? What if we are actually insane and stuck in some madhouse talking to the wall? What if the universe is just a computer simulation by some evolved being (a god)?

Many people have discussed these topics, from comedians like Jim Jefferies:
Right now, I think I'm in Boston talking to 1,200 people. That's what I think I'm doing, but there is a good to fair chance that I'm in a mental home, standing in front of a white wall, going, "I hate guns. I hate guns. I hate guns."
 ... to renowned scientists like Neil Tyson and Elon Musk. And the thing is, they're right! We have no idea whether this is real or not. I read somewhere (can't remember where, sorry!) an argument about the perfect simulation. If we are in a perfect simulation, then there is no way (remember, it's a perfect simulation), just no way, to understand if something is real or just our perception.

Our philosophy teacher taught us that the only absolute truth winds up being "I think, therefore I am", which is not true, since you also know that you are perceiving the things you are perceiving. But still, there is a famous set of experiments to prove you can't know anything for sure:

  • The circular argument, in which theory and proof support each other
  • The regressive argument, in which each proof requires a further proof, ad infinitum
  • The axiomatic argument, which rests on accepted precepts
Ok, so, circular arguments, those are retarded. Common Internet jokes include "Circular reasoning works because circular reasoning works", among others. Regressive arguments are the basis of science, you stand on the shoulders of giants. I don't see how you can prove things until forever, since, eventually, you reach the base laws, or the axioms of science. This gets us to the third argument, and the problem I have with people that claim it doesn't work is simple, and also the reason why this argument is mostly pointless.

Let's start with 'why (some) axioms actually work'. There are 2 major types of sciences: formal and empirical. Formal sciences, like mathematics, are logical, rational. You just think and work on a pre-defined set of logical axioms (e.g, 2+2=4). Now, these axioms were invented by us, surely, but they are abstract and, as such, are true. If you consider any abstract concept, because it only exists in your mind, it is true there, and any logical deductions from there are also true. You may apply your axioms and deductions (or not) to the real world (math does), but the matter of applicability is not the same as truth. Mathematical axioms are applicable to the real world, which is why math actually makes sense, and is used in our lives, so it's a win-win situation.

Now, for the second reason why the axiomatic argument is cool. People argue that since we can live in a perfect simulation, then all your axioms are essentially abstract, since you can never know if something is true. And that's fine, I agree with that. However, consider that argument that they just made. It is based on us living in a perfect simulation. So, in other words, all our axioms are derived from our interaction with reality. Therefore, if you conclude based on what you observe, then, in YOUR reality, the one you observe, your deductions are also true. It means the argument of whether reality is true or not is actually pointless. 

Act on your reality, it's not like you can move to another one, and just assume everything is true. The other option would be to just lie down and wait to die, maybe that would take you back to some other reality. But why not take advantage of this one? If this really is a simulation, then it's a great one. Explore, live, study, do whatever the fuck makes you happy, and if someday Morpheus comes up and gives you two different pills, then you can reassess your situation, and (if possible) tell him to come get me too.

Well, all the best,

(david@follow.the.white.rabbit.com) Quit (Ping timeout)