Simulation or Reality?
My friend Tom Hansen has done it again,
Real or unreal. Illusion or ?
Who is doing the dreaming
Simulation or Reality? Tom Hansen, June 2015
It was in the early 1980’s when I was first asked to design a computer-based simulation for children. I was one of the authors of several mathematics books for various publishers, and with microcomputers just then becoming available to schools, the book publishers wanted educational software to accompany the math textbooks.
I decided to design a simulation of people canoeing down a river. Not very exciting by our 2015 standards of virtual realities, but back in the early 1980’s that was still a new idea. I did the educational design and the programmers made the simulation happen, all on an early version Apple 2 computer.
A few weeks later my wife and I were at our cabin in northern Wisconsin, on the West Fork of the Chippewa River. It is a great river for canoeing and fishing, right in front of our cabin. I had brought a test version of the canoeing simulation and my Apple 2 so I could see what worked and what didn’t. My wife’s sister and her three young sons were also with us at the cabin that weekend. I decided to show the simulation to the boys, and they very quickly were able to navigate their simulated
canoe down the simulated river on the computer screen.
But we had two real canoes at our cabin, and it was time to get the boys out on the Chippewa River for a real ride. I couldn’t get them off the computer to go outside and ride in a real canoe on a real river. Eventually, we got them to go for the ride on the river, but for the remainder of the weekend they gravitated back to the computer simulation. My thought at the time was that we designers and programmers were creating a monster. How could our nephews, who had never before used a computer simulation, prefer the simulation to the real world? And
what would the future bring as computers became more powerful and available, and simulations became more lifelike? I had many questions, but the publisher did proceed to publish and distribute the simulation to schools nationwide.
Over the next few years I began to try to learn more about how simulations can look like the real world, and even the possibility that what we think of as the real world is actually a simulation. I studied some of physicist David Bohm’s work, particularly his theory of an “implicate order” existing, from which the “explicate order” is manifested. He uses the ocean and a wave of the ocean as one analogy of the implicate order and explicate order. Hmmm, maybe the explicate order is like a simulation? And maybe we are the consciousness of the implicate order, and we accidently or purposely get lost in the explicate order? David Bohm really opened up the possibilities for me to ponder.
Then I read Michael Talbot’s book, The Holographic Universe (HarperCollins 1991). Talbot presented the work of David Bohm and other physicists in a way that a layman like me would have a better chance of grasping. Some of these physicists believed that quantum physics was showing that the universe may be a giant hologram. They proposed that the universe could be, at least in part, an image made by the human mind. Well, I thought, then perhaps we collectively made a simulation of reality (whatever reality is) and placed ourselves in it to experience it. Then, however, we forgot that it is a simulation and that we are the ones who
made it! Wouldn’t you think we could figure out a way to get out of this mess we made?
By the early 1990’s I was also studying A Course in Miracles. I had read the whole book, had gone through the year of daily lessons, and was meeting with a group of other ACIM studiers to discuss what we were each trying to learn. On the day of one of our evening meetings, I was thinking more about this “simulated world” idea that I was running into from several different sources, and I had a sudden, strong “feeling” that the universe REALLY MIGHT BE a simulation that we made. I felt overjoyed, actually. I went to our meeting that night and enthusiastically told the group about how this world is a simulation. That was not a new idea to us, since A Course in Miracles repeats over and over that the world most of us experience is an illusion — an illusion of separation that seems to deny our oneness of consciousness.
But, I didn’t get a supportive response at the meeting to my excitement about the world being a simulation! One person in the group was upset at my simulation comments because a relative of hers had just died. Another person said that the suffering and war and violence of the world are very real, they aren’t simulations, and people who suffer need help and love, not to be told that this world isn’t real. I agreed, that reconciling these “simulation and illusion” ideas with what we each deal with daily in our lives, and in the larger world, seems very difficult for us, if not practically impossible.
However, maybe my nephews were on to something 30 years ago when they apparently thought that the computer-simulated canoe ride was more interesting than a real ride on the real river. Maybe both rivers are simulations? Maybe both are unreal? After all, quantum physics continues to demonstrate, through scientific experiments, that matter is not solid, that it appears to exist in form only when a probability wave of “nothingness” collapses due to observation, and that space and time are simply our human perceptions that do not have a reality of their own. There is much to think about, eh?
These days I like to present ideas of simulation and illusion and “who we really are” in songs that I write and perform. Perhaps this music is one way for us to gently explore these seemingly outlandish concepts, and still be able to work to make the world a better place for everyone. My 2014 CD titled “Book Concert” contains nine of my songs about the simulated world, our true nature, how we got here, and how our awakening consciousness can bring us back to reality. I give the CD away to anyone who asks for it. The lyrics of the nine songs are all quotes from my 2013 book, “Remembering Our Oneness.”
Tom Hansen, Charlottesville, Virginia. Email: email@example.com