Contributed by guest blogger, Chelsea Dutenhoffer
With more than half a million views in just 48 hours, a viral video titled “Is life a video game?” has been making a lot of people take to social media recently to question what true reality is. The video is a clip from an interview with entrepreneur, Elon Musk, at Recode's Code Conference 2016, where a questioner from the audience asks Musk to weigh in on the idea that the world we're living in might really be nothing more than a computer simulation run by some non-human entity. Earlier in the interview Musk had discussed his concerns about advancements in artificial intelligence having the potential to create computers that are more intelligent than humans, and how that could spell disaster for the human race if we're not careful.
For those unfamiliar with him, Musk is the founder and CEO of both the aerospace company SpaceX and electric car company Tesla Motors, as well as co-chair of the non-profit artificial intelligence research company OpenAI. Known for making the seemingly impossible happen at his companies and also for candidly discussing mind-bending topics in interviews or via his Twitter account @elonmusk, Musk has earned himself quite a following among nerdy millennials such as myself.
The gist of Musk's response to the “Is reality just a simulation?” question is that he's thought about this idea a lot and has come to the conclusion that there is a “one in billions” probability that we're living in “base reality.” Basically, the world around us is very likely not as real as our physical senses suggest.
To clarify his explanation at the conference Musk later tweeted a link to an article by David Roberts titled “Elon Musk thinks we all live in a video game. So what if we do?” Musk's endorsement of the article reads simply “Exactly.” In the article Roberts explains that if the five physical senses are all you have to base your view of reality on, and something were intelligent enough to mislead all five of your senses in the same way at the same time, you'd have no way of knowing you were being deceived. With the physical senses as your only source of information, you have no way to test what those senses tell you against an unbiased source.
In her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy states that “Matter cannot connect mortals with the true origin and facts of being, in which all must end” (p.491). This statement is similar to the statements made by Musk and Roberts; the mortal view of ourselves that we gain by listening to the claims of the five physical, material, senses does not show our true reality. Eddy goes a bit further, though, stating that “all must end” with the true facts of being. We can't settle for the illusion. So what is true reality, and how do we get to that end?
Roberts ultimately states that the answer to the question “what is true reality?” isn't important because that's not our view of things right now. He says that what really matters is whatever seems real to us in our current view, even if that's probably an illusion. But, what if by understanding even a little glimpse of true reality and bringing our view more in line with that understanding, we could begin to move beyond this illusion and improve our experience today?
This is where Eddy's views further diverge from those of Roberts and Musk, because she explains how to reach the understanding of true reality. Eddy writes, "It is only by acknowledging the supremacy of Spirit, which annuls the claims of matter, that mortals can lay off mortality and find the indissoluble spiritual link which establishes man forever in the divine likeness, inseparable from his creator” (Science and Health, p. 491). The illusion of the material senses cannot change true reality. By acknowledging that we ourselves as well as everyone and everything around us are all God's wholly spiritual and immortal creation, and therefore focusing less on the material or mortal sense of things, the illusion will become less real to us. As this illusion fades, we will perceive more and more clearly the true reality: the perfection of God's purely spiritual creation.
While some recently have theorized that the mortal existence is really a simulation or video game, Eddy describes it as a dream. She says “it is like the dream we have in sleep, in which every one recognizes his condition to be wholly a state of mind” (Science and Health, p. 188). Just as we can wake up from a dream, we can also awake to see the goodness of true reality constantly surrounding us.
Chelsea has a Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from Embry-Riddle, and a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from USC. She currently works at Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech in Pasadena.
From sense to Soul my pathway lies before me,
From mist and shadow into Truth’s clear day;
The dawn of all things real is breaking o’er me,
My heart is singing: I have found the way.
I reach Mind’s open door, and at its portal
I know that where I stand is holy ground;
I feel the calm and joy of things immortal,
The loveliness of Love is all around.
The way leads upward and its goal draws nearer,
Thought soars enraptured, fetterless and free;
The vision infinite to me grows clearer,
I touch the fringes of eternity.
Christian Science Hymnal, hymn 64
Words by Violet Hay
Inspiration is all around us. It makes us feel like we've climbed a majestic mountaintop. Enjoy the view!