You Are Living in a Simulation
Everything that you experience is actually a simulation running inside your brain.
Yes, like The Matrix. But you are not a battery for a machine intelligence. The Simulation is for your benefit, and you are The Architect.
Your Simulation is a biological adaptation that allows you to master a complex and uncertain world. A miracle of computation, all running on the wetware inside your skull.
The Simulation is based on all your experiences, and the experiences of your ancestors that have been encoded into genes.
These past experiences inform an expectation of what the world is like right now. Expectations for what you perceive in the world around you, and what you feel on the inside.
Sense organs plug into The Simulation. Some of them send signals from outside the body: light, pressure, chemicals. Some of them send signals from inside the body: heart-rate, hormone concentrations, blood sugar, bowel movements.
But so many signals just make noise and aren't useful all at once. The brain is concerned with your survival and success. It is not concerned with complete accuracy (even if this were possible). So it filters the signals down to what is relevant for the moment (or at least what it expects to be relevant).
Most of the brain's activity is concentrated on running The Simulation based on expectations, and not from processing all the signal input.
The signals from outside and inside the body are used to make adjustments to the Simulation. Signals from the senses are nothing more than the ripples of a stone skipping across the pond that is The Simulation. Only sometimes do they make a splash.
We are blind to The Simulation. What we experience appears realer than real. But reality is just electromagnetic waves, variations in mass and quantum forces invisible to us. What we experience is a simulation of these phenomena constructed by our brain.
If a tree falls in the woods, and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?
No. The tree falls, kinetic energy is transferred to air molecules and a pressure wave ripples outward.
Sound occurs when tiny hairs in an ear oscillate along with those pressure waves, sending electrochemical signals to a brain. Sound is the brain's interpretation of those signals from electrochemistry to conscious experience.
We may be blind to The Simulation, but we can take a peek behind the curtain.
Consider the McGurk effect...
In the video, our Simulations override the audio signals because visual signals change our expectations for the sound.
Now consider this bunch of blobs. What are they? Just a bunch of blobs.
If we took a scan of your brain, we would see it struggling to make sense of what it perceives.
Now scroll down.
If we were to scan your brain, we could detect similar patterns for both images. Even though one is a clear image and the other blobs.
These examples reveal what your brain is doing all the time, for everything that you experience both big and small.
Imagine biting into a juicy, red apple.
Imagine punching a heavy bag.
Imagine a Beethoven symphony.
Your brain just simulated these events.
If we could peek inside your brain, we would see the signatures of eating apples, punching and listening as if you were actually doing these things. There was no signal from the senses, but your brain simulates their effects all the same.
Some people may find these ideas offensive, even damn-right heretical. We want to believe that we experience true reality. But true reality is alien to us, far beyond what our senses can capture. Still, we cling to our experience as the benchmark for what is real. The ultimate trick of The Simulation is to hide its own operation from itself. It constructs a world that is so convincing that the thought of it being an illusion is preposterous to the extreme.
But for those that take the idea onboard, it is a liberating position. We each live in our own personal Matrix, but we are each our own Architect. We construct our own world.
This is the beginning of self-understanding, the foundation for self-esteem and the root for empathy and compassion. The more we accept the idea that we each live in our own dream-world, the easier it becomes to accept ourselves and to accept others.
Do you choose the red pill, or the blue pill?
Deeper Down the Rabbit Hole…
The Matrix (1999)
How Emotions are Made by Lisa Feldman Barrett
A neuroscientist explains how sensory signals are translated into emotional experience through Simulation. This idea of constructed emotion is overturning the classical view that emotions are hard-wired trigger-response mechanisms inside the brain.
The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self by Thomas Metzinger
A philosopher looks at the latest neuroscience to explore how our sense of self is constructed through Simulation.
You are a Strange Loop by Will Schoder (Summary of I Am a Strange Loop by Douglas Hofstadter)
Just how deep do you want this rabbit hole to go…?