What if what you and I call "reality" is just a highly advanced simulation? Some of the world's brightest minds want to find out.
Since Rene Descartes formulated his famous dictum, "I think, therefore I am," philosophers have been wrestling with the question of how we can know that what we think we know is really real. In the last couple of decades, pop culture has wrestled with that question, as well.
Recall the 1999 movie, "The Matrix," in which a man discovers his whole life has been lived in a virtual prison that simulates the real world. In the movie, he's given a choice between two pills — a red one and a blue one. The first will awaken him from the simulation, and the second will lull him back into blissful ignorance. Since then, "choosing the red pill" has become synonymous with throwing off comfortable illusions and confronting reality.
But in many ways, the concept of the Matrix has transcended Hollywood. If you can believe it, the idea that the world around us may not be what it appears has become increasingly popular among scientists, philosophers, and even technology tycoons. And some of these folks are now actively searching for the "red pill" that will wake us from our collective illusion.
The Independent reports that two anonymous Silicon Valley billionaires are pouring money into a project to break us free from a real life Matrix — if we're living in one, that is. Although the details of this project are unclear, we do know it involves a team of scientists and some of the richest, most influential innovators in America.
This shouldn't surprise us that much. Those who invent cutting edge products and technologies have long embraced some pretty weird ideas. Take, for instance, PayPal co-founder and "transhumanist" Peter Thiel, who hopes to achieve immortality by "uploading" his consciousness into a computer!
Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, thinks we may already be living in a computer. We just don't know it yet. In a recent interview, he placed the odds that our reality is not the ultimate, "base-level reality" at "billions to one." In other words, the guy behind today's top-selling electric cars and best-known private space program is almost certain we're trapped in the Matrix!
Bizarrely, even the Bank of America has gotten in on the hype, suggesting in a recent report to clients that the chances we're living in a simulation concocted by highly advanced beings are roughly twenty to fifty percent.
What's going on here? Well folks, if I can venture a wild guess, I think this is what religion looks like when you take away churches, scriptures, and belief in God. Silicon Valley is a notoriously secular place, even sporting one of the nation's only atheist churches, weirdly called the "Sunday Assembly."
But as Os Guinness points out, secularists — even brilliant and fabulously rich secularists — can't live consistently within their worldview. A materialistic universe doesn't satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart, so those who don't believe in God frequently grasp at what sociologist Peter Berger calls "signals of transcendence."
We are religious creatures, and as Paul teaches us in Romans 1, we know instinctively that there's "something more." So it's no surprise that those who work on the cutting edge of technology are looking to computers as the answer to their transcendent longings.
But in Christianity, we don't have to break out of some Matrix before we can know and experience transcendence. In our faith, the One Who is transcendent broke into our reality and purchased for us everlasting life. Besides being true, that's just a much better story than anything coming from Hollywood, Silicon Valley, or any other town in California.
Originally posted at breakpoint.org.