The simulation hypothesis says that the world is not real, but just a simulation. Depersonalization and derealization sufferers find this hypothesis very troubling because their experience of unreality seems to corroborate it. But are we really living inside a simulation?
We’ve all seen the eye-catching headlines by now. Top scientists prognosticate that we might be living inside a simulation. Billionaire Elon Musk firmly believes in the simulation hypothesis.
Not only is this notion absurd for most of the general public, but it can also trigger a lot of existential dread for many depersonalization and derealization sufferers. As if the experience of DP/DR isn’t confusing enough, now we have to deal with bizarre claims that what is real might not, after all, be actually real. We don’t need to add fuel to this fire.
I have seen so many comments and threads online about people with DP/DR being abnormally affected after hearing about the simulation hypothesis. So, I’m trying to give you some counterarguments to help you get over the existential dread that you might be feeling. I will help you put your mind at ease about all of this nonsense.
For those of you who are not familiar with this argument, it states that the current universe could merely be a simulation run inside a powerful computer by an outside, more real universe. Sort of like the movie The Matrix, but not exactly. You see, at least The Matrix posits that the humans are real and that they are just being plugged into a simulated world. On the other hand, the simulation argument goes one step further and says that nothing in this world may be real and that you, me, and everything that we are aware of could just be a simulation. We may just be characters inside a giant video game. Now you can see how this can be distressing to anyone suffering from depersonalization or derealization.
If you’re feeling scared or triggered after hearing this, hang on, don’t worry. Read this article fully. It’s going to help you calm down. Let me walk you through why this simulation hypothesis doesn’t hold up under any scrutiny.
It’s Not a Theory, It’s Just a Hypothesis
What most people don’t understand about this whole new simulation argument is that it’s just a hypothesis. In many places, you’d see it being referred to as a “simulation theory,” but that’s a misnomer.
The difference between a hypothesis and a theory is that the former is simply an explanation about something and hasn’t gone through any rigorous scrutiny by the scientific community. In other words, everyone and their crazy uncle can have their own hypotheses about how the world works, however silly that might be. It’s a free country, right? But that doesn’t mean all those hypotheses are valid and stand up to scientific scrutiny.
A hypothesis becomes a theory if it can be supported by verifiable proof that can be accepted by the scientific community.
So rest assured, there is no simulation theory. It’s merely a hypothesis. There hasn’t been any verifiable proof or any evidence that supports the argument that we are living inside a simulation.
Why Does This Hypothesis Even Exist?
So why did this hypothesis even crop up in the first place? Well, it’s because we as humans are always searching for the first cause. We have looked at the universe and wondered, how did all of this begin, and what’s sustaining it?
Not only that, the universe is vastly complex. You look at a single cell organism and you’ll be amazed to see how intricate its machinery is. Just look at a video of how a fertilized egg grows into a baby human. It’s mind-blowing. Now zoom out and look at the billions and billions of stars in our galaxy alone. The universe and everything in it seems unimaginably complex. All of that has to come from somewhere or something, right?
For the longest time, our explanation for this first cause was the Almighty! God was thought of as the creator of everything, including us. God, by definition, is the unmoved mover; God doesn’t have a cause. God was always here and always will be. So it was the perfect explanation for the world we live in.
Fast forward to our modern times, and most of the so-called scientific community and the general public have stopped believing in God. Nietzsche famously proclaimed that “God is dead, and we have killed him.” So with God out of the equation, we don’t really have an answer to the question of first cause. We are on shaky ground at the moment.
That’s why you are seeing all of these new arguments cropping up here and there. They are trying to play the role of God. They are supposed to be the answers to the most deeply philosophical questions.
But just because an answer exists, doesn’t mean that it’s true. We must ask ourselves, is this a valid argument? Arguments can sometimes seem sound on the surface, but fall apart upon closer analysis. I’ll concede that the simulation hypothesis does seem like the almighty answer to all of life’s complexity… until you dig a little deeper. Let’s see what’s wrong with this argument.
Too Many Holes
The first and foremost glaring hole in this simulation hypothesis is that it really doesn’t answer anything. It just moves the complexity up another level. Like, if we are living inside a simulation, then who is running that simulation? If it’s a highly advanced civilization that’s running this simulation, then how does that civilization exist?
Some of the most ardent supporters of the simulation argument say that the advanced civilization that’s running the simulation could itself be a simulation run by an even more advanced civilization, and on, and on, and on, ad infinitum. I know your head must be dizzy just trying to contemplate that. But don’t stress yourself out. It’s just a lousy answer to one of the critical questions of the simulation hypothesis, and this answer doesn’t deserve your dread or your brainpower.
Another problem with this argument is that currently, we can’t even seem to simulate anything even remotely resembling conscious life. We don’t even understand the complexity of what goes inside a single cell, let alone something as complex as human life and human intelligence. You could argue that a highly advanced civilization might have the machinery to simulate our entire complex universe. You could even argue that maybe this civilization is deliberately impeding us from developing advanced technology that we could in turn use to run an advanced simulation ourselves. But you see how far-fetched those arguments are. If you’re going to believe these arguments, you might as well believe that a crazy noodly monster in the skies is running everything.
The simulation argument sounds like a cool, interesting hypothesis to discuss with your college friends over a few drinks or after hitting the bong, but it can’t stand the scrutiny of intelligent analysis or polemics.
Don’t Believe the Hype
So what can you as a DP/DR sufferer do to prevent yourself from being caught up in this and losing sleep? Well, for one, know that until evidence clearly shows us that we are living inside a simulation, you can feel free to disregard this argument. Don’t give it any weight.
And even if someone claims to have proof, it has to be extremely detailed and verifiable. As Carl Sagan once said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
For now, for the sake of your mental peace, you can feel free to disregard this simulation argument. It’s nothing more than pseudoscience at this point.
So What if it’s True?
So far, we have seen that the primary claim of the simulation hypothesis is not based on anything verifiable or true. There’s no clear evidence supporting any of this. But let’s play along. Let’s suppose that in the future, we do discover that the universe is indeed a simulation. Then what?
Well, that would be a mind-blowing discovery. I bet there might be riots in the street. But once the initial panic passes away, we might just fall into our normal routine once again. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that life eventually returns to its normal rhythm, no matter what. After the initial dread wears off, people will continue with their day-to-day activities.
Because in the end, what matters more is not the how, but the what and why. Yes, it would be very interesting from a scientific and philosophical perspective to understand the inner workings of this universe, there’s no doubt about it. I’m always giddy with intellectual curiosity about the nature of the world we live in. But at the end of the day, what might matter to us more is the relationship that we have with our friends, family, and neighbors.
Even if we came to understand the mechanics behind life, we still have to figure out how to work with each other and how to better that life.
And finally, even if the world is proven to be just a simulation, the relationships we have with each other are still real and valid, right?
At one point, humans thought of themselves as the center of the known universe. Now we know that we are just living in a tiny corner of our galaxy, which itself is merely one among billions. Has that changed the way we think of ourselves? Sure, but has that really changed how I interact with my friends and family? Not so much.
So, rest assured, even if the hypothesis is proven to be true, which I highly, highly doubt, it still won’t change your day-to-day experience of the world.
If you’re currently going through DP/DR and you feel like this simulation hypothesis is making you panic or causing distress, feel free to just disregard it. This claim is wholly untrue. It’s just pseudoscience. It can be fun in some settings to ponder about the nature of existence, but let’s not jump to any conclusions without seeing any credible scientific evidence.
By the way, if you’re looking for a science-based online course that can help you recover from depersonalization and derealization, then take a look at DP No More. It’s based on the latest in neuroscience and brain science, and the number of people who write to me about how much their life is better off after going through this course is proof that this course actually works!
Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons and Pixabay