If I had been told that there was a 2% chance that our livelihood is merely a creation of a virtual reality master, I would scoff at all of these bored theorists. A 5% chance? I would start hoping that our tax dollars were not going to support such nonsense.
When it was announced this past August 15th on MSNBC that 'the entire universe has a 20% chance (or 1 in 5) of being a virtual reality', I went into some form of medieval hysteria. As being one of those nerds who credits The Matrix as being a real eye-opener, I had to do a little research of my own. Surely this is a sci-fi tale created by conspiracy theorists who have exhausted every possible conspiracy this side of JFK. It had to be, right?
First, I would like to discuss reality, realities and our perceptions of it. It is ludicrous to think that this, the right-here-right-now, is the only reality. Given the monstrosity that is our universe and that there is most likely life in places where space and time mean nothing, the possibility of the existence of multi-realities is high. Ghosts, for example, exhibit quite clearly another plane of existence (another reality, if you will).
Now, given that there is a high possibility of several realities, imagine how many virtual realities can exist! Philosopher Nick Bostrom has argued that due to this logic, 'it is almost a mathematical certainty that we are living in a virtual reality.'
Nick Bostrom, in his 2003 creation 'The Simulation Argument' states that one of the arguments preliminaries is the assumption of a substrate independence. This, in essence, means that the goings-on of the conscious mind need not only apply to carbon-based neurons as found in your brain, but in silicone-based processors as well.
Virtual Reality theorists have a strong argument on their side: the seemingly unrelated field of quantum computers. Quantum computers process data using quibits (quantum states of particles) as opposed to transistors. Basically, its very existence paves the way to artificial intelligence: a SIMS type game where every pawn is capable of independent thought. Confusing, I know. Simply put, with this type of advanced technology, it would be entirely possible to scan in and implement a human mind onto a computer.
You're probably thinking 'If the technology isn't yet here, how is it possible to be living in VR right now?'
Well, refer back to the 'several realities' theory. It is possible that a long, long time ago (in our perception of time), someone created this reality. This technological age as we know it could have already happened in another realm. It could have happened so long ago for 'them', that by the time of our Big Bang, the other reality (or the REAL reality) could've developed quantum computation and a SIMS-type game with us as the players. We would have absolutely no way of knowing.
It is possible that the 'game master' could have tired of this game. Perhaps this is why the world has been on a downward spiral. Perhaps this is why the world is a warzone with chaotic, unpredictable weather and running amuck with disaster.
Either way, one would never be able to tell if his/her reality is virtual or not. In fact, given that the majority of the world's population believes in some form of higher power, this should not cause distress at all. The 'god' in this scenario is someone playing a game, observing us in our free thought like Ed Harris on the Truman Show. It isn't something to stress out about at all. In the wise words of Billy Mosiman on his blog Socyberty 'Why not play the game the best we know how, going through life doing as little harm as we can, enjoying what we can, taking nothing at all too seriously, and let it go at that?'