I remember watching the Matrix when I was younger and wondering like most other people, what if our reality is a computer simulation? Last week I read an article on the Huffington Post website titled, "Physicist's May Have Evidence Universe Is A Computer Simulation."
By looking at how we behave and our attempts at technological evolution, it is logical to assume that other technologically advanced beings would eventually follow the same path. Some of the world's best minds are attempting to create AI, Google's Deep Mind being a prime example. Google Deep Mind was the much-publicised computer that recently beat a Go master at his own game. If our universe is a computer simulation, it is possible that our creators are also part of a computer simulation. Every intelligence at some point starts creating AI, so there will exist more computer simulations then noncomputer simulations.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a big fan of computer games. I love losing myself in the latest role-playing game with immersive universes. Anyone who plays these games knows that quests and areas unlock for the character based on the decision made within the game. Based on this concept, I had an interesting thought concerning people's beliefs. If we are part of a computer simulation, it may very well be possible that everyone's beliefs about an afterlife can be right at the same time. It would be very simple for a programmer to program the following piece of code:
"If the subject believes in heaven and hell upon death send them to a simulation of heaven or hell."
"If the subject believes that life is all there is, and there is no afterlife then upon death terminate their code."
"If the subject believes in reincarnation, upon death reset memory and recycle their code into the simulation."
Based on this, our views will shape our reality after we die. Would you change yours if you knew this was the case?
If I said to you that I have the ability to fly. Most of you will give me one of three responses. You will either think that I am lying, or you will think that I am crazy or you will ask me to prove that I am able to fly by flying in front of you or by sending you unaltered video showing me flying. This is a reasonable request because my ability to fly would go against the laws of physics. If I am not able to prove it then I am either lying or I am crazy. This is how most of us live our day to day lives. When we are faced with a claim that seems extraordinary we tend not to believe it until we are given evidence. This is sensible as unfortunately scammers and liars exist who may try to convince us of extraordinary abilities for financial gain or for power.
It is interesting then why we don’t apply the same scrutiny to the claims our religions make. Why does the same person who requires evidence from me about my ability to fly, doesn’t require any evidence to prove the claim that Jesus walked on water or the claim that Moses parted the red sea or the claim that Muhammad flew on a winged horse into heaven? Why is our religion the only thing that we will accept without any evidence?
Most of us are born into our religions and most of us believe we were lucky enough to be born into the one true path. This is highly improbable as there are thousands of religions and many more religions that have died out. The god that you believe in, the character that you have ascribed to the entity that you believe created the universe is one of many characters that have existed. When you say you believe in Allah as the one true god, that is you saying I disbelieve all of the other gods that humans have ever believed. You disbelieve in Zeus, you disbelieve in Ra and you disbelieve in Vishnu. If you are honest with yourself you have absolutely no evidence of your belief in your specific God but that doesn’t stop you believing it. Have you ever asked yourself why?
We all need to ask ourselves whether it is at all possible that we believe in something that isn’t true. At some point we may have all believed in Santa or the tooth fairy but as we grew older we understood that these things are not true. We see the myth for what it is as our parents stop perpetuating the lie of Santa and the Tooth Fairy. Imagine when we turn 7 or 8, our parents and our society tell us actually Jesus or Allah or Vishnu are just stories, they are not real. I am almost certain that you will drop your belief of your god like you dropped your belief in Santa or the tooth fairy.
We are all a product of our circumstances; we can choose to go along with our cultural and ancestral conditioning without questioning what we hold to be true, or we can challenge our own thoughts and what we believe is right and wrong. We used to think that the Sun rotated around the earth until thinkers like Nicolaus Copernicus and Galileo Galilei challenged the status quo and eventually changed what humanity held to be an evident truth. I am not asking you to change the world just yet, but you owe it to yourself to re-evaluate everything that you hold to be true and see if it stands up to scrutiny. Don’t be afraid to doubt, don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know” because the reality is none of us really know. The difference between an atheist and a religious person is an atheist refuses to believe without evidence and a religious person chooses to believe without evidence.
Don’t allow your conditioning to define you. Carve a new path for yourself and the trail you leave behind may be helpful to others and eventually the world may follow you to a new understanding of the universe.
Shkar Sharif is the head instructor at Tiger Crane Kung Fu in London. Any other questions, ask!