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Are We Living In A Matrix?

It has been declared as one of many skeptic arguments that our existence in this universe and in our lives is simply an illusion; we could potentially be living in a Matrix, a brain-in-a-vat, or simply be dreaming now in a realm of alternative or “unreal” reality. Per the two worlds theory, there is a subjective world simulated by the mind and simultaneously an objective world which is the real world. This claim suggests that our daily lives, our routines, and our very existence, is simply a false presumption where our brains delude us into believing what we experience is real. This so-called “alternative reality” or Matrix psychologically protects us presumably from the harsh real world. Perhaps even truth itself. Yet, what compelling reason is there to believe that we are living in a Matrix? Throughout history, various and intelligent people have argued for the case of simulated life, but the fact that we are living in a Matrix is probably just one of billions of justifications for our very existence. Therefore, I will argue the contrary: humanity is us, humanity is real, life exists, and real life is right now in the present, not simply a figment of one’s imagination.

Firstly, I shall make the claim that if we are a brain-in-a-vat or living in a Matrix, then doesn’t this assumption mean that our real brains are in a “real world” and simply experiencing the simulation of this world, yet our physical existence resides in a purely simulated world. This would lead to mind-body disunity, a state incompatible with life. Since our brains are the means by which we sense and experience the surrounding environment, whether through smell, touch, taste, vision or hearing, how could our physical being be in incongruity with the mental state of our mind? Moreover, if our real brains are elsewhere, then what scientific evidence would there be of our brains physically and mentally changing throughout this simulation. If our mind is not actually here, how would it grow, how would we change or adapt? How would we be born, grow from infancy to adulthood, or reproduce? Hence, under the simulator assumption it would not truly be our brains that were experiencing the simulation. This duality cannot co-exist for survival of our species. But rather it would require a greater understanding such as our consciousnesses or our souls. Thus, this scenario would require one’s acknowledgement of the existence of a human soul.

The thinking of the Matrix is also essentially flawed, in my opinion, because it stipulates that what we believe are tangible objects surrounding us, are in reality not real at all. Therefore, what we sense or experience as humans is meaningless or nonexistent. As stated in the movie, when we eat a piece of steak, the steak is not truly there, we simply think it is there and our brains tell us that it tastes good and has good texture, but it is really not there. Rather than us being in a Matrix or simulation, I believe it is more likely that our entire universe could be a science project of someone in another universe, a synthetic big bang which created our universe. But that wouldn’t mean that we are not real. In fact this is a duality that could coexist. Synthetic materials are just as real or tangible as naturally occurring materials. Despite the means by which our worlds co-exist, our universe could be just as real as any other world based merely on our relative perception of that world. I don’t think there is a such thing as “more real” or “less real; there is simply “real” and the term is judged by the person who is experiencing it. The subjectiveness in the prior sentence may support the existence of a Matrix since the definition of the Matrix is a type of subjective reality which is not real life, while the fundamental world lying outside it is a type of objective reality. This claim, however, assumes that everything subjective in our universe only strengthens the concept that we may be living in a Matrix. But who defines what is subjective and what is objective. Everything we experience is based on relativity - the way space bends, time can warp or suspend, special relativity, general relativity, our individual sensory experiences, subjective emotion, the laws of physics are all fixed and based on the perspective of the observed versus the observer. Therefore, I believe this argument of a simulated reality is completely infeasible. As an example, imagine a computer simulated program; wouldn’t you think that a simulated world has more subjective qualities that the real world? If our universe were a product of an advanced computer simulation, then wouldn’t its contents be less flexible, have less variety of life, less complexity and wouldn’t the occurrences in the simulation be more subjective than not. I believe that the very presence of objectivity in our world, proves that it is indeed the real world, because a computer could not produce such mental variety without concrete, “real”, objective input whatever its source. Thus the objectivity of base reality only addresses the objectivity of the fact that we exist, but is not supported by the subjectivity of our universe.

Furthermore, some people claim that our lives are simply dreams and we cannot truly differentiate between a dream and reality. However, the truth contradicts the prior statement. I always remember my dreams, and while I am sleeping, my perception of reality becomes distorted as I am consumed by an illusion convincing me that the dreamworld is the real world. However, one thing I observe is that as I dream I never have the ability to make decisions--free will becomes nonexistent. I live through the dreams as if living through a movie plot, unable to alter the occurrences or change my role in the dream. I simply do things without choosing to do them when I dream. Yet, I consider this reality because free will exists and each individual has a certain amount of control over their own lives, contradicting the notion that we are not living in base reality. Supporters of the Matrix theory may in fact claim that the prevalence of fate over free will only strengthens the argument that our lives do not occur in base reality. However, I believe strongly that free will exists - it is the essence of our humanity. In addition, I believe the existence of our free will is one of the strongest arguments against the existence of a Matrix. As human beings we are born by chance, but our futures are often self determined and we have the capacity and intelligence to make choices, however big or small. Hence, if free will exists (at least for myself), then by extension we are not being controlled, but rather displaying control in this very life we call base reality.

The given definition of knowledge favors the idea that we live in base reality over the existence of a Matrix or alternative reality. Knowledge is philosophically defined as something one believes, but also something whose existence or belief in is justified, and finally something you know to be true. Assuming that you can never truly know everything as argued by Hume, our knowledge is therefore left dependent on both our beliefs and our justifications. In countering the Matrix theory what we “know” is our base reality that is both justifiable and perceived. We eat, we see, we smell and although our senses have been called by some as devices of deception we have every reason to believe that we are experiencing base reality and gaining “knowledge”. On the other hand, if we did live in a Matrix or “simulation” there would be no true way to tell; a posteriori knowledge is impossible in proving the existence of a Matrix. Ultimately, drawing from the definition of knowledge and what we know to be true based on experience, along with what we can never know to be true, the person arguing for our existence in base reality has an opinion based upon more knowledge and more experience; therefore, they can claim that they both believe in their argument and have tangible justification for it - while the supporter of the Matrix theory cannot do the same.

My primary thought is that to me, living in a Matrix is as feasible a claim as living in the eye of a giant or life being a test for me while everyone else is not truly alive. To think that our brains are being controlled by some futuristic form of technology is so extremely human-centric. An over indulgence in our communal ego. To think that life itself exists solely through a creation of humanity emphasizes human achievement and entirely negates the other possibilities of the living condition including alien life. It could be a complete other alien race controlling us or some form of “God” simply thinking us all up. So what reason really is there to believe we are living in a matrix?

Not only do I think that the belief in a Matrix is unjustified, but furthermore, I think it is an unproductive thought. How does thinking that we do not live in base reality benefit us as the human species or as the universe. Similar to the acceptance of fate over free will, believing in a Matrix, undermines the responsibilities and great achievements that being alive brings to us a species. As claimed in the movie, “ignorance is bliss,” but further, “skepticism is destruction”. Say we do live in a Matrix--although I believe we do not--then what do you expect to gain from this belief? A new perspective of how small humanity is? Well, we don’t need a Matrix to realize that. If there is no way to escape the matrix, and there is no advantage to believing in it, then we are better off knowing that we live in base reality.

The Wise Kiwi Has Spoken