The idea we have free will is an illusion inside the illusion.
If Reality is a Computer Simulation — What Happens if I Hack it?
by Shelly Fagan
I set out to hack the computer simulation that controls our reality. Spoiler alert, it went much better than I anticipated. Yes, you can try it, too.
In 2003, Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrum proposed we may be existing in a virtual reality orchestrated by our descendants who wanted to recreate their ancestors. He suggested that if technology advanced to the point where we could create such a virtual world, we would likely create multiple copies.
If our descendants managed this feat sometime in the future, Bostrum argued, then the odds were that you and I are one of many copies living in a simulation rather than the base reality.
If Bostrum is correct, this implies we are simply reliving an earlier existence. Our lives, or at least the major milestones, are predetermined, our choices already made, and our decisions only seem to be spontaneous.
Others propose we are living a computer game where we have little control. Our choices do not change those events we are destined to experience.
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson thinks the odds are 50–50 that we are living in a computer simulation. Others think it is pretty much impossible that we aren’t.
What Religion Tells Us
The idea of this is hardly new.
The ancient Gnostics believed we were under the control of malevolent Archons. These beings were minions of the Demiurge, a kind of false god who stands between man and the transcendent God of the universe. Archons rule mankind through eons of devious trickery. Our souls are trapped in a kind of prison on this planet until we gain sufficient knowledge to free ourselves from the cycle of control.
In many eastern philosophies, the world is considered to be an illusion, or maya. Whether you call it a computer simulation, or something else, the dynamic is the same.
Reality is not what it appears to be and we are being duped.
What Can We Do With This Intel?
I wondered if that was the case, could we disrupt the simulation — if even for a moment.
If everything is predetermined, then any attempt to disrupt the illusion from inside a simulation is also predetermined. My ancestor may have tried this same trick and this would be anticipated by the program.
We have no way of knowing if our choice is truly a rebellion or something we were destined to try.
If we are merely playing roles in a computer game, then the program knows what I am going to do and is able to sabotage my efforts. Or, choices are the natural extension of our biology.
In other words, the simulation would have already anticipated my attempts because it has a godlike view of all my actions either because I did it in the past, I am predictable or it controls what I experience.
If we live in a simulation but free will does exist, it is likely our agency is restricted to those choices to keep us on a path to major life events.
It doesn’t matter if we go to dinner or a movie with the blind date, as long as we end up meeting so we can marry them.
Some might call this “destiny.”
If we have a specific milestone, the control over us may be coded into our preferences and our dislikes to keep us on track.
So life isn’t so much a path, but a tunnel. We can move about within the narrow focus of our reality but we are always traveling to predetermined destinations.
We are only free to choose the options presented to us. But Choice A or Choice B always leads to predetermined Outcome Y from the script. Or we are hardwired to always choose A because we have never had a preference for B.
Our options are limited because the outcome has already been decided.
We can move within our reality tunnel, but we can’t move outside it.
Can we move the tunnel?
If we take a detour from our life path, might we meet someone who gives us a piece of information that changes everything?
Would going off script create a disturbance in the simulation which forces it to recalibrate and loosen control until it sorts it out?
What happens when we introduce true randomness into our reality?
A Thought Experiment
What if you could go to the refrigerator and instead of choosing an apple or an orange, you were presented with a completely random choice that you had absolutely no influence over?
What if you were given the option of a kumquat? Perhaps you give this a try and like it.
You might take advantage of opportunities to try other new foods. You may become more aware of other choices and options you previously ignored. As a result, you are no longer defaulting to Choice A.
In other words, what would changing yourself, or your own mindset through a wholly novel experience do to the simulation?
I decided to find out.
A group of researchers have been toying with the idea of “digging rabbit holes in reality.” The US-based group refers to themselves as “randonauts.” The group reports on Reddit. A rough outline is posted on Github.
Fatum Theory is based on deterministic fate and its byproducts. The project is a collective of participants interested in using quantum randomness to introduce novelty into their own reality tunnel. The theory and science behind it is cumbersome and complex and probably best suited for more scholarly publications — and written by someone in academia.
One organizer related to me that it takes up to a month for most people to grasp the project. What I have posted here is a very watered down introduction to the theory. Researchers have their own theories on how this works.
Basically, using a quantum source, the researchers have programmed a bot to find locations. These random points are outside of the researcher’s predetermined life path. By visiting these locations, the Randonaut briefly moves off script and disrupts the simulation. They also change their own view of the world.
Even though these coordinates are local, they are often in areas that are novel and previously unexplored by the researcher. Randonauts are encouraged to notice signs, graffiti or pick up innocuous items as “tokens” of their experience.
Many Randonauts report a sense of despair or dread discouraging them from participating in the research.
Although it may be predetermined that you would travel “somewhere”, there is no way for the simulation to predict the location provided by the quantum source. The “where” is truly random and novel.
The general consensus is to have a clear intent of what you want to change in your reality tunnel, then set out to explore three locations.
After my invitation to participate in the research, I was able to grasp the goals only after reading and rereading the source documents over several days.
I decided my intention was to improve my writing career. I chose three random locations and spent an afternoon exploring.
The first struck me as a place I did not want to ever live in and I could not get out of the neighborhood fast enough. That experience was somewhat depressing. Honestly, if I hadn’t planned to write this article, I would have abandoned the experiment.
The second was something like my dream home, in a very upscale, yet hidden neighborhood. I did not know this place existed even though it was within a mile of my home. The third was an area of a public park I had never visited.
There was a subtle shift in my perspective resulting in a greater sense of hope about life in general. I immediately noticed that people were friendlier and a few waved to me as I drove to the locations.
Starting the next day, everything in my life changed for the better. In the span of a week, I had more positive events occur than had happened during any given year in the past decade.
I was floored.
The changes included multiple job offers — some from applications made six months earlier — to receiving surprise money in the mail. The attention my stories garnered nearly tripled. From the day before to the day after my quantum explorations, I had a five fold increase in traffic.
If this article gets a good deal of attention, then you will know why.
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