What is reality? The majority of the time we as a human race go about our daily lives without pondering such questions; to work and back again, asleep and awake the next morning, bills, relationships, and on and on it goes, sometimes feeling like a bit of a hamster wheel. Yet, what is the stuff of this life, this reality that we live? The question has been raised many times and for the thinkers, philosophers, and physicists of the world, the nature of reality continues to boggle and inspire. If time is an illusion, your personal reality differs from the person next to you, and there is still a discussion about how humans got to Earth and why then what is real?
New York Times best-selling author Chuck Klosterman argues that everything we believe in may be proven wrong in the next century, that anything that we view as a fact must be considered a mere hypothesis. He also writes that we are probably living in a strange, multidimensional reality we do not yet fully understand. There are a few scientists who have taken the seemingly elusive nature of our reality to another level by suggesting that reality is quite literally a hologram. This theory has not only been purported as truth or at least a viable theory by scientists but by spiritual channels and one of the world’s most intriguing entrepreneurs, Elon Musk, who believes there is only a “one in a billion” chance that we do not live in a “computer simulation.”
The Entire Universe - A Complex Hologram?
"Imagine that everything you see, feel and hear in three dimensions (and your perception of time) in fact emanates from a flat two-dimensional field", said Professor of Theoretical Physics Kostas Skenderis. A hologram is a three-dimensional image that is encoded in a two-dimensional surface. You can think about it like a 3D movie; it looks three-dimensional to you, but in reality the screen is flat. This is what some scientists believe our whole world is, and the theory has persisted since the 1990s. Now it comes with new evidence.
Scientists arrived at this theory by studying the “afterglow” of the Big Bang seen in the newest, more powerful telescopes. The Big Bang afterglow is cosmic radiation that is still seen today, which could be as old as 13.7 billion years from its creation. This “afterglow” or the cosmic microwave background (CMB) comes from the original moment of the universe’s creation and contains a lot of data in its “white noise.”
If the whole universe is a hologram, that means all information inclusive of our reality, including time and space, is stored on a 2D surface. Therefore every experience we have maybe an illusion. Scientists say we may be able to understand this hologram more in the next five years. Related research is being conducted in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Italy, among other countries. Skenderis said: "Holography is a huge leap forward in the way we think about the structure and creation of the universe.”
If indeed we live in a hologram, how does this change our experience of life? Perhaps it need not change to change everything. Hologram or not, it is still real to us because we are experiencing it as our reality.
Elon Musk and Simulation
Does the likely holographic nature of reality make it more likely that this is all a simulation as well? The suggestion that Earth could be a “computer simulation” has been re-made popular by Elon Musk, entrepreneur famous for SpaceX and Tesla. Musk makes a bold statement in 2016 expressing his belief that there is only about 1 in a billion chance that we do not live in a simulation, that it is likely too close in resemblance to the Matrix. The theory is known as the “Simulation hypothesis.”
According to Musk, because the universe is 13.8 billion of years old, and based on a calculation of how fast human technology is improving, there is a huge chance that some life somewhere in the universe has already grown to the point of being able to create artificial realities.
"The strongest argument for us being in a simulation, probably being in a simulation is the following: 40 years ago, we had pong, two rectangles and a dot. That is what games were. Now 40 years later we have photorealistic 3D simulations with millions of people playing simultaneously and it's getting better every year. And soon we'll have virtual reality, augmented reality, if you assume any rate of improvement at all, the games will become indistinguishable from reality,” Musk said in an interview.
If we are living in one, there probably are many. Perhaps even millions or billions of “fake universes” are out there. Adding more weight and intrigue to Musk’s viewpoint, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson agreed that there is a 50/50 chance that Musk is correct.
In a very “Matrix”-esque sense, scientists and researchers attempt to test the validity and meaning of the hologram and simulation theories by attempting to locate glitches in what may be our illusory reality. Though said research has yet to bear legitimate fruit, the glitches may be subtle or perhaps if they exist they may be of a quality we don’t expect or comprehend.
Glitches may also originate from the internal environment of individuals. As observed by quantum physicists, a subject being studied or observed changes and responds based on the consciousness of the individual observing it and may not even exist at all until it is observed. This understanding of the quantum nature of reality adds more complications to the study of reality as simulation or hologram.
Like all theories the holographic/simulation theory is just that- a theory. Though the paradigm-shattering nature of such a theory makes it feel like the content of a good sci-fi film, the fact that some of the most influential intellects in the world find it likely adds a weight that only heightens the intrigue and awe of such a theory.
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