by Rev. Malcolm Allsop
As the subject of computer simulation grows, in conjunction of course, with the growing potential to create virtual and artificial realities, another, older theme is re-enlivened: what, or who is behind “all this”, all that we know as life? Can these continuing forays into understanding our universe shed new light on the perennial religious and philosophical debate on a cosmic intelligence, a divine creator, God? We can feel almost overwhelmed by the stream of new terminology which is reflecting the steps of the scientific establishment: virtual reality, 3D printing, genetic modification of living beings, The Matrix, photo-shop, augmented reality. Much of this is a challenge to our sensory perception: imitation wood window frames, solid-looking car wings which are in fact pop-out-again plastic, seedless grapes, cosmetic and gender-changing surgery.
Numerous articles appear on such themes and the thought grows closer: if we can simulate so well our reality, then maybe our reality is being simulated from somewhere else. ...Already in 2003 a research paper from Oxford University suggested there may be members of an advanced “post human” civilisation with vast computing power, choosing to run simulations of their ancestors – us! – in the universe, (i.e. here on earth). Many supporters of such ideas exist, partly putting up large sums of money for further research. Critics are quoted as saying that such an idea is logically possible but the probability is very slim. A fascinating space to watch in the times ahead.
Two further considerations enlarge the picture. Firstly, a parallel phenomenon: as our perception and grasp of our long familiar and trusted surroundings are increasingly tested, there is a united and widespread cry for authenticity, for honesty, accountability, reconciliation, i.e. for soul forces which are in our hands to (re-) develop and fine tune, and which are part of those worlds which survive our physical home. Not exactly an ‘equal and opposite’ force, but something in that direction, that we develop a conscious foothold within ourselves, and within these outer developments and explorations.
Secondly, some of the statements made concerning theories about our existence and origins have a familiar ring to them. For example, that we might be a simulation is, argues Rich Terrile, a NASA scientist, a simpler explanation for our existence than the idea that we are the first generation to rise up from primordial ooze and evolve into molecules, biology and eventually intelligence and self-awareness. We might formulate it that we are created from an archetype – different language but wrestling with related concepts? Or, in the earlier reference, that there are higher beings – a ‘post-human civilisation’ – who are ‘simulating’ their earlier phase of existence. We might speak of the ninth and tenth hierarchies and mankind’s striving towards an angelic stage of development?
Rich Terrile, when asked “who has created this simulation (of the universe)? responded, “Our future selves.”
The vanguards of society – artists, scientists, spiritual teachers – are the ones closest to an inkling of the future that approaches us, towards which we develop. They each bear their own terms of reference, but all are drawing closer to a common truth?
Who are we?
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