From the video description:
Transcendent experiences that were once attributed to gods, angels, muses, or even possession, are now being demystified by neuroscience. Jamie Wheal, Director of Programs at the Flow Genome Project, explains that each culture has unique rituals and narratives when it comes to non-ordinary experiences of consciousness or ‘altered states’, whether that’s mediation, flow state, psychedelic experiences, or others. A farmer in India, a peasant in Mexico, and a coder in Silicon Valley will all have vastly different ways of approaching altered states, and will give vastly different descriptions once they come out the other side – perhaps they saw a vision of Ganesh the elephant God, received a message from the Virgin of Guadalupe, or produced a brilliant line of code while in a Matrix-like binary blur. However, those experiences are more alike than we think. Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler devised a functional framework so they could compare non-ordinary experiences across cultures. Here, Wheal explains that they identified four common elements of altered states of consciousness, which they coined as STER: selflessness, timelessness, effortlessness and richness. Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler’s book is Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work (goo.gl/m3Quy0).
We like to categorize and apply labels. This can be helpful in wrapping your mind around complex reality, as long as you avoid the pitfall of allowing labels to become mental straitjackets.
I often discuss various categories of people who are failing, in one or more important ways, to apply critical thinking. These categories are not meant to be dismissive, but rather to help understand various styles of thinking that lead people astray. For example there are deniers, true-believers, ideologues, and cranks.
Perhaps the most interesting category is the conspiracy theorist. I also find them to be the most consistent in their style of reasoning and argument. I do wonder, however, how much of this consistency is due to and underlying reasoning style and how much is culture. When I get the same fallacious argument over and over again, is that because they are all reading the same source material?
I recently came across a conspiracy website offering advice on how to answer “anti-conspiracy theorists” (their word for skeptics). Anyone who has had a conversation with a conspiracy theorist will recognize the style and tone, and now here it is codified in a primer for budding conspiracy theorists.
The article, however, also reveals the logical errors that underlie the conspiracy belief system. Let’s go through each point.
“You sound like a conspiracy theorist.”RESPONSE: “Conspiracy Theorist? Now tell me the truth, where did you hear that term…on TV? (Laugh.) …So let me get this straight. Are you saying that men in high positions of power are not capable of criminal activity and telling lies to the general public? Are you really that naive?” (Laugh as you say this.)
As you can see this is a literal script. Right up front we see what I have found to be the typical attitude of the conspiracy theorists – anyone who does not buy their fantastical theories is “naive,” – said with dismissive laughter. This response is also a straw man.
Of course people in power are capable of lying and criminal activity. There are even genuine conspiracies. The recent lane-closing scandal in New Jersey was a conspiracy of at least several civil servants who lied and conspired to abuse their power to punish their political enemies (heedless of collateral damage).
When we talk about conspiracy theorists we are talking about grand conspiracies. These are conspiracies that involved large numbers of people, a vast expanse of power and control, unbelievable secrecy, and often sustained for years or decades. Of course there is no sharp demarcation between a small and plausible conspiracy and a grand conspiracy, but the larger the conspiracy would need to be, the more implausible it becomes. The largest grand conspiracies simply collapse under their own weight.
Ah, but the author has heard this response before and has an answer:
“You’re absolutely right. I agree with you 100%. It is impossible to totally cover up a conspiracy so massive. That’s why I know about it! What you must understand is that they don’t have to cover it up totally. Even a bucket that has a few leaks can still do the job of carrying water from here to there! They only need to fool 80% of the public, which isn’t hard to do when you control the major networks and newspapers.”
Of course the conspiracy theorists have to have learned about the conspiracy, but this entirely misses the point. Conspiracy theorists don’t have actual evidence. They don’t have leaked information, documents, photographs, or any hard or direct evidence of their specific conspiracy theory. As you will see from later responses – they simply believe they have perceived a pattern in events.
This cuts to the heart of the logical fallacies at the core of conspiracy thinking. The conspirators in grand conspiracies have as much power, control, and reach as they need to pull off the conspiracy. Any missing evidence was covered up by the conspiracy. Any evidence against the conspiracy or for a more prosaic explanation was planted. Any events that would seem to undermine the conspiracy theory were clearly false flag operations.
Conspiracy theories are therefore immune to evidence. They are closed, self-contained belief systems that resist their own critical analysis. That is why they are a mental trap.
Often conspiracy theorists are generally smart people (even if they lack certain critical thinking skills). Smart people, however, are good at . . .
Had enough government rhetoric? Tired of following the sheeple? Fed up with believing what THEY want you to believe? Maybe it’s time to branch out and discover THE TRUTH.
If you’re new to the exciting world of conspiracy theories and just can’t decide which paranoid delusion best suits you, then why not use this handy flowchart to find your ideal conspiracy theory. Then you too can go and stick it to THE MAN.
“You know, this explains a lot. Because all my life, I’ve had this unaccountable feeling in my bones that something sinister was happening in the universe and that no one would tell me what it was.” Arthur Dent
NB This is not intended to be a complete list, but please don’t let that stop you commenting to let me know what I’ve missed off 🙂
Step 1: Start with the premise that any tragic incident is a massive, intricate government conspiracy.
Step 2: Denounce any information presented by a mainstream, non-conspiracy source that directly counters the predetermined conspiracy narrative as corrupt and part of the conspiracy.
Step 3: Monitor these same mainstream sources for information that supports the predetermined conspiracy narrative, even if only remotely. Mainstream media reporting mistakes that support your conspiracy (or any conspiracy really) must be treated as rare moments of truth, glimpses inside the Matrix. Any mainstream media reports in favor of the conspiracy should be treated like the word of God. Spam that information everywhere.
Step 4: Imagination is the same thing as undeniable fact. There is nothing wrong with manipulating Youtube videos and using Photoshop to edit information to make it more obvious for the stupid sheeple to understand.
Step 5: Reject the skeptics to the conspiracy theories aggressively. Call them out for being sheep, shills, Cointelpro, paid agents, et cetera. Do not ever doubt yourself, because if you think they are any of these nouns, then it is undeniably true. After all, the conspiracy theory you are trying to wake the world up to is a fact. Only a sheep would think otherwise.
Step 6: Bring up the founding of the Federal Reserve, the Bay of Pigs, The Gulf of Tonkin, and other well known deceptive schemes by the government often (every conversation if need be.) These actions were confessed by government, therefore every other conspiracy theory is true!
Step 7: Cite declassified documents often, as they are invaluable. If the government reports that a secret program was started and ended 60 years ago- DO NOT BELIEVE THEM. The secret programs for sure are still occurring and are now more massive, sinister, and successful than before.
Step 8: Remember that most of witnesses and victims involved in conspiracy event are actors. Medical examiners, emergency responders, the police, reporters, they are almost all in on it. The innocent people caught up in the conspiracy were either killed or have been threatened by the conspirators and are too afraid to come forward (or they possibly never existed to begin with.)
Step 9: Blitz the world with the truth until everyone deletes you on Facebook or you are banned from your favorite web sites. Lay low for a period, regroup at your favorite alternative web sites, get encouragement and reinforcement from the other awakened truth seekers, and start the process all over again with a new conspiracy.
This 56 page document is published by The British Psychological Society and i’ve just begun reading it, so i can’t yet say whether i love it or hate it. But so far i’m liking what i see. It appears to be written in sections – some of which i’ll be skipping – but there looks to be enough great stuff in here to make it worth downloading.
I’m posting an excerpt below for you to read to help you decide whether this is something you might want to peruse.
Have fun. Feel free to provide feedback in the comments section. 🙂
The PDF can be downloaded here and at the links below.
Mason I. Bilderberg (MIB)
Special issue: The psychology of conspiracy theories
PRINCESS DIANA was murdered by the British Secret Service because she was pregnant with Dodi Fayed’s baby. The government is adding fluoride to our drinking water in an attempt to weaken the population. Barak Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim and thus ineligible for the Office of the President of the United States.
All of these statements have appeared at some point or other in popular media, debated by politicians, challenged and denied by government departments, and propagated heavily over the internet. A quarter of the UK population believe Diana was assassinated (YouGov, 2012); similarly 25 per cent of Americans think Obama was not born in the US (CBS News/New York Times, 2011). But these statements are not true.
They are examples of a cultural shift in the popularity of the ‘conspiracy theory’; alternative narratives of a world overshadowed by malevolent groups hell-bent on the destruction of civil liberties, freedom and democracy. They suggest that governments, secret religious groups, scientists or private industry (often many of these combined) are responsible for either causing or covering up significant major world events for their own criminal ends.
What is a ‘conspiracy theory’?
Broadly, psychologists feel that conspiracy theories are worth studying because they demonstrate a particular sub-culture of often heavily political activism that is at odds with the mainstream view. Conspiracy theories are unsubstantiated, less plausible alternatives to the mainstream explanation of an event; they assume everything is intended, with malignity. Crucially, they are also epistemically selfinsulating in their construction and arguments.
What insight does psychology offer?
Belief systems, cognitive biases and individual differences
But what in particular is it about conspiracy believers that are interesting from a psychological perspective? We find these theories and those who believe them incredibly resilient to counter-argument, driven by an often fanatical belief in their version of the truth, coupled with a heavy political overtone in that their opinions need to be heard. We see an interesting combination of cognitive biases, personality traits and other psychological mechanisms at play in the formation, propagation and belief in conspiracies.
Read more – Download the PDF File
- Conspiracy theories: Why we believe the unbelievable (illuminutti.com)
- When Noam Chomsky says that’s an idiotic idea, he’s probably right (illuminutti.com)
- Conspiracy theories as quasi-religious mentality (lunaticoutpost.com)
- The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories (schneier.com)
There are a lot of accusations leveled against the Illuminati, and out of all of those accusations I’ve noticed many things and traits about the group.
Now out of all of the things and traits that I have noticed about the Illuminati I’ve narrowed it down to five distinct things.
So here are five things that I’ve noticed about the Illuminati:
5 • They are the most patient people in the world.
The Illuminati has to be composed of some of the most patient people in the world. I say this because according to people who “investigate” the Illuminati (i.e. people who spend most of their free time watching or creating Youtube videos about the Illuminati, and listening to Alex Jones) have been doing stuff for years in order to get ready to take over the world, as well as kill 80%-90% of the population, and enslave everyone else.
Now as to how long the Illuminati have been plotting to take over the Earth no one (and by “no one” I mean conspiracy theorists) is really sure because no one is really sure how old the Illuminati is. Most conspiracy theorists say they’re around two and a half centuries old, although others say they’re as old as civilization, or even older, while others say they’re only about a century or so old.
Regardless of how old the Illuminati is, the fact that they have been allegedly at this taking over the world thing for a very long time clearly shows that they are composed of the world’s most patient individuals… or the world’s worst procrastinators.
Now I would think that there would be atleast a few people in the Illuminati who wants to really push forward in taking over the world. I say this because apparently the Illuminati has a huge membership, so I would think that there would be atleast a few ambitious individuals amongst themselves.
Infact when thinking about that huge membership of their’s it almost seems like that…
4 • Everyone is a part of the Illuminati.
According to conspiracy theorists there are a huge amount people (probably in the tens of millions) who are members, or atleast works for, the Illuminati. This alleged list includes actors, musicians (actually any celebrity really), rich people, politicians, high ranking military officers, anyone in the CIA, or FBI, or NSA, whistleblowers, religious leaders, myself and fellow skeptics, and even other conspiracy theorists. Heck, even Alex Jones whom constantly “speaks out” against the Illuminate has himself been accused of being a member of the Illuminati.
Now taking all of this “information” (a.k.a. accusations) into account by my estimates I believe there are only eight people in the world are not apart of the Illuminati…
I admit I might be a little off on my math there, but still that’s an awful lot of people who are apart of this super secret organization (so secret that there is no real proof of it’s existence).
Of course when you also consider how many people who are apart of this alleged secret organization it shouldn’t also be surprising to know that…
3 • They control everything.
According to many conspiracy theorists the Illuminati controls everything from the media, to the military, to the manufacturing industries, the airline industry (because how else are they going to spray chemtrails), the entertainment industry, the UN, the European Union, the Free Masons, the US government, law enforcement, major religions, minor religious, cults, the Democrats, the Republicans, the banks, most other governments, the oil industry, the pharmaceutical industry… the list just keeps going on and on.
I’m not sure what is crazier: the fact that . . .
- What Is the Illuminati? (conservativeread.com)
- Does the Kardashian’s Christmas card hide a secret message from the Illuminati? (theviewfromfallingdowns.blogspot.com)
- Of “Chemtrails”, The “Illuminati”, Global Warming, and Trayvon Martin (indybay.org)
- Illuminati (bbwoyflexy.wordpress.com)
- Illuminati All Conspiracy No Theory (disclose.tv)
- The Full List of Illuminati Members in Kenya (msemakweli.com)
By Mason I. Bilderberg
For this article I’m throwing in a bit of a curveball from what you’ve come to expect from iLLumiNuTTi.
This article is not about proving or disproving conspiracies. Whether you or I believe the following conspiratorial claims to be true is irrelevant for the purposes of this article. For the sake of argument, just this once, let’s assume all the insanity is true.
Why? Because this article is going to use the beliefs espoused by the conspiracists themselves to point out a peculiar inconsistency between what conspiracists say and what conspiracists do.
The question to be answered is, “Are conspiracists all talk and no walk?”
Here we go . . .
The Fukushima Fallout Is Here And Is Killing Us
Conspiracists are screaming and yelling about the radioactive fallout from the Fukushima disaster. They are convinced the radioactive fallout has already reached the west coast and other parts of the United States and is killing us, and “they” (who ever “they” are) are covering up the situation.
The crank site Natural News is telling us about “a multitude of strange animal deaths, high radiation readings and other recent anomalies” on the west coast.
Natural News also tells us even the Alaskan coastline is seeing the effects of deadly radiation with a series of “strange animal deaths … including masses of sea lions, sockeye salmon and other sea creatures washing up on the shore,” and “polar bears, seals and walruses … found to have major fur loss and open sores…”
This picture posted by elitedaily.com claims a nationwide increase in mortality rates since the Fukushima disaster:
The cranks at worldtruth.tv are telling us the entire food supply is contaminated with radiation and recommends we avoid the following foods: seafood, water, dairy products, produce and meat.
If conspiracists truly believed this rhetoric you would expect them to be doing something about it, wouldn’t you?
For example, do we see conspiracists packing up their belongings, getting in their cars and evacuating the west coast to save themselves from imminent doom?
Are conspiracists evacuating the west coast of Alaska?
Have conspiracists stopped consuming seafood, water, dairy products, produce and meat?
What, exactly, are conspiracists doing in response to a crisis they want the rest of us to believe?
Nothing. They are doing absolutely nothing.
The Bush Family Did Business With The Nazis
The basic idea is, because the Bush family had business connections with Nazi Germany, we should not only hate the Bush family but the Nazi connection is all the proof needed to prove the Bush family are evil, ruthless people – able, willing, wanting and guilty of killing thousands of people on September 11. 2001.
Now, ask a conspiracist about these other well known Nazi collaborators: Kodak, Hugo Boss, Volkswagen, Bayer, Siemens, Coca-Cola (specifically Fanta), Standard Oil, Chase bank, IBM, Random House publishing, Allianz, Nestlé, BMW, General Electric (GE), Ford and GM.
What do you think? Do conspiracists call these companies evil? Do you think conspiracists refuse to work for any of these companies? Do conspiracists refuse to purchase or use products connected with these companies?
Of course not.
Conspiracists tell us to hate the Bush family because of their business connection to Nazi Germany. They say this as they climb into their Ford, GM, Volkswagen or BMW vehicle and drive away on a tank of gas supplied by one of Standard Oil’s successor companies. Once home, they kick off their Hugo Boss shoes, grab some Nestlé cookies (Mmmmmmm!) from their GE refrigerator and wash it all down with a can of Fanta orange soda.
Afterwards they fight the matrix masters by posting conspiratorial crap on their blog using a DSL connection routed through an IBM server.
Then before turning in for the night they head on over to Amazon or Ebay and buy another round of conspiracy DVDs and books – published by Random House – using a Chase bank Visa card.
The next time a conspiracist mentions the Bush-Nazi connection, ask them what kind of car they drive.
Conspiracists believe that some trails left by aircraft are chemical or biological agents deliberately sprayed at high altitudes for purposes undisclosed to the general public and directed by various government officials.
Conspiracists believe the aircraft we see flying across the sky everyday are poisoning us with some kind of nanoparticle spray. Barium and aluminum seem to be the most common elements the conspiracists believe are raining down upon us.
What debilitating health effects do conspiracists believe are befalling us?
Short term effects: Allergies, Anxiety, Asthma, Brain Fog, Breathing difficulties (Unexplained), Chronic sore or raspy throat, Dizziness, Eye and skin irritations, Flatulence (gas), Flu-like symptoms, Headaches, itching (Unexplained), Nausea and Vomiting, Nose bleeds (Unexplained), Panic attacks, Persistent coughing, Respiratory problems, Stomach aches, Suicidal thoughts and Tinnitus (distant ringing in ears or high pitched sound after spraying).
Long term effects: Acid Reflux, (ADHD) Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Allergies, Alzheimer’s Disease, Aluminum build up in Pineal Gland, Asthma, Autism (evidence links autism to mercury), Autoimmune Diseases, Blood in the Urine, Borderline personality disorder, Cancer (linked to many types of cancers), Chronic Fatigue, Constipation, Depression, Easy Bruising, Eye problems – * Nearsightedness & Farsightedness (by altering interocular fluid eye, pressure), Fibromyalgia, Floaters In the Eyes, Gastritis, Heart Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), Heart Disease, High Cholesterol, Hypoglycemia, Hyperglycemia, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Insomnia, Learning Disabilities, Lung diseases, Lupus Erythematosus, Multiple Sclerosis, Oily Skin (Elevated DHT), Parkinson’s Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Schizophrenia, Short-Term Memory Loss, Sleep Disorders, Spider Veins, Tinnitus (ringing in the ears – 700 million cases of Tinnitus reported worldwide) and White Coating On the Tongue.
So what do you think? If you believed harmful nanoparticles are dropping from the sky causing every conceivable adverse health problem short of stripping the skin off your face, wouldn’t you take steps to protect yourself?
Of course you would.
In real life, to provide adequate protection against the chemicals and biological agents the conspiracists are talking about, a simple surgeon’s mask won’t suffice. You would have to squeeze yourself into a hazmat suit akin to what is depicted in the image to the right.
When is the last time you saw a chemtrail-believing conspiracist walking around in a hazmat suit? Never. Once again, conspiracists don’t behave in a manner consistent with their stated beliefs.
The next time a chemtrail believer screams about those death trails in the sky, comment on how hard it must be to type on a keyboard while wearing those big, bulky hazmat suit gloves.
Conspiracists are an extraodinarily paranoid bunch.
I read a blaring headline the other day, written by a conspiracist, claiming facebook is working hand-in-hand with the NSA to spy on our every move by turning over all our private data, pictures, videos, likes, dislikes, friends list, private messages . . . EVERYTHING! Even our shoe size.
“Where did you read this headline?”, you ask? On facebook – of course. This conspiracist has a facebook timeline brimming with every anti-government rant you could ever imagine. Am I the only one seeing the irony here?
Then there is the conspiracist who sent me an email imploring me to get angry about the NSA spying on our emails. When I pointed out to him that he should encrypt his own emails if his fear was real, he tells me encrypting his emails would just get him flagged by “them.” Excuse me for just a second but – *ahem* *clears throat* – WTF?
Another conspiracist friend refuses to join Facebook because he fears being flagged and tracked by “them.” Yet he runs a blog where he pontificates at great lengths detailing his very own brand of crazy. When I queried him on this seeming contradiction he gave me an explanation that I can honestly say I didn’t understand. It just didn’t make sense – whatever he said.
When a story comes out speculating on the ability of the government to use cell phones to track our movements. Do my conspiratorial friends rid themselves of their cell phones or, at a minimum, wrap their cell phones in foil to prevent the tracking of their phones? Of course not.
Televsions Are For Brainwashing and Mind Control
Conspiracists believe, “that television flicker rates induce alpha brain waves, lulling the brain into a more subconscious state that can be compared to sleep, literally inducing a type of hypnosis within the viewer that makes them more susceptible to suggestion” and “whatever is coming from the TV therefore somewhat bypasses the logical mind and is embedded directly into the subconscious.”
In other words, “they” are using televisions as a “psycho-social weapon” to control our minds and turn us into New World Order (NWO) zombies, instilling us with “a social worldview and value system that is self-centric and is in fact the opposite of what a healthy and enduring society requires.”
After all, isn’t that why they call it “television programming?”
Here is my question: If television really is a tool to brainwash and control the mind, wouldn’t the viewing of conspiracy documentaries on a television also have the same mind controlling and brainwashing effect on every conspiracist?
Why don’t conspiracists accuse the makers of their wack-a-doo conspiracy DVDs of brainwashing?
If conspiracists sincerely believed their own hype, they would cease watching all television programs regardless of the content. But they don’t and they won’t.
I think you get the idea.
In order to take a conspiracist to task you needn’t know what they know to counter their arguments, you need only ask them, “What are you doing about your claimed belief?”
I ask this very question of Alex Jones regarding chemtrails. Of all the conspiracists who have the resources to settle the chemtrail debate once and for all, it’s Alex Jones. If Alex Jones really believes “they” have been spraying us for almost 20 years, why doesn’t Alex reach into his own wallet and pull out some of that $$$$$ he earns from DVD sales and rent a plane, pay a pilot, hire a certified forensics lab, fly into the suspicious clouds and contrails, conduct all the necessary air sampling while following all proper chain of custody procedures and end this debate once and for all? Why? Because it would kill those DVD sales.
Make conspiracists walk the walk.
Mason I. Bilderberg (MIB)
 11points.com | businesspundit.com | washingtonpost.com | en.wikipedia.org
- The Conspiratorial Mind (illuminutti.com)
- Conspiracists busy fighting the NWO! (illuminutti.com)
- Same Sh**, Different Year. (illuminutti.com)
- Slow-Witted Conspiracy Theorist Convinced Government Behind NASA (illuminutti.com)
- Why do people believe in conspiracy theories? Because conspiracies happen – The Guardian (theguardian.com)
- How Bush’s grandfather helped Hitler’s rise to power (planet.infowars.com)
By Mason I. Bilderberg
If you have a hardcore interest in the conspiratorial mind like i do, i think you’ll enjoy what i have to offer today.
There is an internet radio broadcast called The Bob Charles Show that broadcasts 5 days a week at various times.
I mention this show because i’m having fun sifting through their audio archive listening to some of the craziest conspiratorial-woo crap you’ll find anywhere. This is pure entertainment. Where else can you find this kind of rambling nonsense?
To whet your appetite, below is an excerpt from the 11/10/13 The Bob Charles Show that i had transcribed.
Do note, i have highlighted every instance where these conspiracists use the catch-all, abstract phrase “they” to reference the faceless, nameless matrix masters.
Conspiracists are notorious for blaming “them” or “they” for every woe, unanswered question or mystery in the world.
- Don’t feel well? “They” are spraying us with something.
- Who did it? “They” did it.
- Who controls the world? “They” do.
- Corn Flakes soggy? Damn “them!”
You want to piss off a conspiracist? When they refer to “they,” ask them who “they” are. Two days ago a conspiracist told me “they” were the FBI, NSA, CIA, etc. I asked him to stop blaming buildings and get more specific (Who? What? When? Where?). He went nuts. To him i was suddenly one of “them.”
If you hear “they,” ask for specific names, dates and locations. Who (specifically) talked to who (specifically)? Who (specifically) is a member of the illuminati? Who (specifically) within the NSA? Who (specifically) within the government? Who (specifically) within the pharmaceutical industry? Who (specifically)?
No more blaming buildings and talking in abstract concepts about nameless, faceless people.
But i digress …
Here is the excerpt from the 11/10/13 The Bob Charles Show with the word “They” highlighted:
The entire interview is approximately 58 minutes long. Like i said, i have a hardcore interest in these loons, so this may not be for you if your interest is more casual.
- Same Sh**, Different Year. (illuminutti.com)
- Conspiracists busy fighting the NWO! (illuminutti.com)
- The CIA, JFK and Clay Shaw: Paranoia and the Conspiratorial Worldview (deadcitizensrightssociety.wordpress.com)
- More JFK denialism: CNN fails to credit source for Air Force One tape story (jfkfacts.org)
Tests could reveal whether we are part of a giant computer simulation — but the real question is if we want to know…
In the 1999 sci-fi film classic The Matrix, the protagonist, Neo, is stunned to see people defying the laws of physics, running up walls and vanishing suddenly. These superhuman violations of the rules of the universe are possible because, unbeknownst to him, Neo’s consciousness is embedded in the Matrix, a virtual-reality simulation created by sentient machines.
The action really begins when Neo is given a fateful choice: Take the blue pill and return to his oblivious, virtual existence, or take the red pill to learn the truth about the Matrix and find out “how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
Physicists can now offer us the same choice, the ability to test whether we live in our own virtual Matrix, by studying radiation from space. As fanciful as it sounds, some philosophers have long argued that we’re actually more likely to be artificial intelligences trapped in a fake universe than we are organic minds in the “real” one.
But if that were true, the very laws of physics that allow us to devise such reality-checking technology may have little to do with the fundamental rules that govern the meta-universe inhabited by our simulators. To us, these programmers would be gods, able to twist reality on a whim.
So should we say yes to the offer to take the red pill and learn the truth — or are the implications too disturbing?
Worlds in Our Grasp
The first serious attempt to find the truth about our universe came in 2001, when an effort to calculate the resources needed for a universe-size simulation made the prospect seem impossible.
Seth Lloyd, a quantum-mechanical engineer at MIT, estimated the number of “computer operations” our universe has performed since the Big Bang — basically, every event that has ever happened. To repeat them, and generate a perfect facsimile of reality down to the last atom, would take more energy than the universe has.
“The computer would have to be bigger than the universe, and time would tick more slowly in the program than in reality,” says Lloyd. “So why even bother building it?”
But others soon realized that making an imperfect copy of the universe that’s just good enough to fool its inhabitants would take far less computational power. In such a makeshift cosmos, the fine details of the microscopic world and the farthest stars might only be filled in by the programmers on the rare occasions that people study them with scientific equipment. As soon as no one was looking, they’d simply vanish.
In theory, we’d never detect these disappearing features, however, because each time the simulators noticed we were observing them again, they’d sketch them back in.
That realization makes creating virtual universes eerily possible, even for us.
- Do We Live in the Matrix? (discovermagazine.com)
- Is there an afterlife? Scientists offer Matrix-style theory of reality to answer life’s biggest question (mirror.co.uk)