ARE WE LIVING IN REALITY?
By Nikhil Handa
The state of things as they actually exist., something that actually exists or happens, everything that appears to our senses - The state of having existence or substance.
These are just some of the definitions on the Internet that attempt to define the word ‘reality’, and it is not by coincidence that they all deserve a place in The Royal Exhibition of The Most Ambiguous Definitions to Ever Be Encountered. Most of these definitions seem to suggest that something is real if we can touch it. Okay, I can touch this keyboard on which I am typing on right now. Therefore, this keyboard is real, and hence we must be living in reality. Question answered, hope you enjoyed the article.
Or I could make this article needlessly complicated, which I think is the route I will choose to go down. Let’s talk about simulations and aliens then.
It’s a very popular argument that we are all living in a simulation of a world, almost as if we are living inside of a glorified VR game, being controlled by the player. For those of you who have watched the 1999 hit ‘The Matrix’, that may sound rather familiar to you. The Matrix is based upon the concept that we are all living in a giant universe, dictated by an algorithm and a bunch of funny looking numbers and letters called code. Let’s say we are in fact living in the Matrix, and everything that we do is dictated by a computer. Does that mean that we are not living in reality, and that the dimension in which the computer is living is the true reality?
This is when it gets interesting, because I don’t think that question can ever be answered, as we still don’t have an appropriate definition for reality to answer it for us. However, what if you define this world in which we are living as ‘our’ reality? Now that makes it a lot easier.
For me, reality is not one place, not one dimension, but multiple places, multiple dimensions, all dependent on whom you’re asking. I’ll admit it, that definition also deserves a place in The Royal Exhibition of The Most Ambiguous Definitions to Ever Be Encountered, so let me break it down for you.
If you gave a friend, a family member or even an iguana and asked whether it was real, they would reply ‘yes’ (or whatever sound iguanas make). However, say we were living in a simulated reality controlled by aliens who have far too much free time, and you asked the aliens if the apple was real, they would reply ‘deefeifpajkd’ (roughly translated to ‘No, and how in the world did you escape the simulation?’), as they just view the apple as a simulation. To them, something is only real if it comes from wherever they’re living, which does seem rather elitist. Even if the friend, family member or iguana knew that we were living in a simulation for a fact, they would still view the apple as real, as it is an object from their world which they knew, are familiar with, and they are only thinking of whether this apple is real with respects to their own world. Ergo, the simulated reality must be reality as well, provided you are asking someone living in that simulated reality. I don’t think we’ve said reality enough times.
So, do you understand what I mean by my ambiguous definition now? The basic outcome of that definition is that if you ask someone living in any reality if they are living in reality, they will say yes. But if you ask someone who might be controlling that reality, they will say no, claiming that their reality is the real reality. Please bear in mind that this definition is completely down to my own opinion, because reality can’t really be defined in any other way aside from opinion. And yes, the word reality has officially lost all meaning for me now.
However, I would now like to end this article with the biggest bombshell since the end of the last Top Gear episode. This question is pretty useless, and you’re probably wasting your time if you spend your free time worrying about it. In the Matrix, everybody seemed so offended when they found out they were all part of an algorithm and seemed extremely determined to live in what they now thought was the ‘true reality’. But my question is, well, why? What is it that humans find so appealing by being in a true reality, even if it’s ten times worse to live in? Maybe my opinion would change if I arrived at the realisation that we were also living in a simulation, I am still human after all. But as I said, we are already living in our own version of reality, so surely it should not matter if we found some other kind of alternate universe? You don’t see Wreck-It Ralph complaining about how he is trapped in a game, maybe it would do all of us some good to learn from him a bit more.
Well, I hope you all enjoyed my rant about the human psychology, and how we’re always so desperate for independence and power, even in situations when there are no benefits, even when it is exempt from all reasonable justification, even when… Fine I’ll stop. Instead, I’ll leave you with a question that Freddie Mercury proposed to us in 1975:
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?