Josiah's Thoughts - The Matrix Hypothesis

Thoughts | Josiah Friesen

Sights | Victoria Hong

Greetings. You have just opened an article with a viciously enticing title. Who is Josiah, and what are his thoughts? To the seeker of answers, I implore, read on. My thoughts (the thoughts are in fact, mine, because I am Josiah), will be published on this website monthly, for your perusal. This is the first of many explorations into the various avenues of thought my mind so frequently delves into. Enjoy.

Do we live in the Matrix? I know, I know, the first display of my thoughts is already a cliché thought experiment about the nature of our existence, but please, bear with me. Perhaps you’ve seen The Matrix (1999), a sci-fi film exploring the possibility of the falsity of the world as we know it. Perhaps you haven’t. In a nutshell, the film depicts a dystopian future where in the real world, robots have enslaved the human race in mind-control vats, feeding the humans illusions of the world as we know it, all the while harvesting body heat from the humans as an energy source to fuel their robotic conquest of humanity. The humans in these vats live out their lives in a simulated-illusion-world, where they have no clue that their world is fake. Their experience of life is, aside from the individual experience, identical to our own. This concept was not a new one at the time, but the film certainly popularized the concept of what is now known as The Matrix Hypothesis

The Matrix Hypothesis postulates that the events depicted in The Matrix are more or less accurate. It postulates that we do in fact live in a simulated world. It may not be governed by robots for the purpose of world domination, but nevertheless, it maintains that some higher power holds us unknowingly captive in a simulated universe. Philosophers have been pondering the spirit of this hypothesis for centuries.

When most people hear about this hypothesis, they have one of two reactions. Either it strikes fear into their hearts because they cannot think of a way to disprove it, or they disbelieve it on the grounds that, “well that just like, totally can’t be true because like, I know I’m living in the real world because like, I just know it.” Preposterous. Reading this, you should have doubt in your mind. Maybe we really do live in a simulated world, you’re thinking. This article writer is making a lot of sense, I’m hoping you’re thinking. Regardless, to the second type of reader, who rests assured in their knowledge of reality, I commend you. You have a grasp on the certainty of reality that the rest of us mortals cannot hope to obtain. To the former type of reader, with fear in your heart, it is now my goal to reassure you of the validity of your existence. Observe.

Suppose a scientist, through a long and rigorous proof spanning several floor-to-ceiling blackboards in some musty room of a lab, proves that we do in fact live in a simulation. The world perceived by your senses is fed to you through a computer at the direction of an 8-legged alien in the alien equivalent of a kitchen, for fun. He has created this simulation of our universe as a practical joke, and entertains himself by watching our lives pass by. So what? Big whoop. Why should you care? My thought process on why you shouldn’t care is as follows. Up until this point, you’ve lived in this world. You’ve laughed, you’ve cried, and you’ve loved. The then-hidden true nature of your life never impacted your experience of these emotions and experiences. Would you say that the time you wrote “F**k” on the bathroom wall in 6th grade because you felt really edgy that day, never happened? Of course it happened! Granted, it happened in a simulation, but at the end of the day, you still wrote profanity all over that simulated bathroom wall, and you felt like a total badass. Good for you. 

What I’m trying to say is that your experiences happened and will continue to happen, regardless of whether or not they’re simulated. Consider the following scenario. You finish reading this article. You set it down, and you walk outside. Someone runs up to you and asks for your phone number because you’re the most beautiful person they’ve ever seen. Even having just read this article and being equipped with the knowledge that our world could be a simulation, this experience will set off emotions in you! Maybe you’ll be flattered, or embarrassed, or upset that this creep just demanded your number, but you will have some kind of reaction. That event happened and impacted you personally, whether or not it was simulated. 

I conclude this article on a hopefully heartwarming note. Your life and your experiences have meaning and value. You have value. Is the world simulated or not? Do you need to worry about the answer to that question? No. You don’t. Live your life. Love people, laugh with those people, and cry for whatever reason you want to. Your life matters regardless of whether or not it’s being simulated on an app in the alien-equivalent of a 2017 MacBook Air.