Thursday, May 26, 2011

Poll 77 - What if the world's a simulation?

A direct link to the above video is at

Poll 77 - "Simulism: If you discovered the life you're living is in a gigantic virtual simulation, how would that change the way you behaved?
1. I'd be nicer to people
2. I'd be more selfish
3. I wouldn't change a thing"
Poll ended February 4th, 2011.  12.6% chose answer 1, 14.3% chose answer 2, and 73.1% went for answer number 3.

By a significant factor, most of the visitors to the Tenth Dimension blog said they wouldn't change a thing if they knew the world they see around them were only a simulation. I'm reminded of Stephen Hawking's take on free will - even though he tells us he doesn't believe it exists, he acknowledges that the complex interactions that make a person choose one path or another can make it impossible to predict what that person will do - effectively, he tells us, it works to say that free will exists as a flawed but convenient interpretation, even for a scientist like Dr. Hawking who stands firmly in the "no such thing as free will" camp.

Likewise, I think the above response is the healthy one. Are we like Neo, living in the Matrix, but unaware of its existence? If Life is But a Dream, shouldn't we still make the best of what we've been given? On my Facebook Wall, there's a much-discussed video posted by New Scientist which suggests that persons trained to believe free will is an illusion will be more likely to cheat on tests, and less likely to be altruistic. Here's that video again:

I think there could be a similar parallel drawn here - wouldn't it be easy to say nothing matters if it's all just a simulation? But the above poll question contradicts that outcome - by asking people specifically what they would change, most people said they wouldn't change a thing. What if the question instead had been "would you change your behavior if you knew you were only living in a gigantic simulation? Without specific options to consider, would people be more likely to say they would change after all?

Well, here's an answer for you. Last year we ran the following poll question, check out the results that time. This was one of four poll questions we looked at under the title More Tangential Thinking.
Poll 72
Poll 72: "Simulism: would you live your life any differently if you knew the reality you're seeing around you is really just a gigantic virtual simulation?" Poll ended October 3 2010. 59.4% said yes, and 40.6% said no.

My comments at the time started out with the following paragraph:

Another completely different example of tangential thinking. People love to play with these "nested Russian dolls" concepts: what if my reality is a dream of some other reality? What if our universe comes from a black hole in another universe, which comes from another black hole, and so on?
So there you have it. Two substantially different responses to two fairly similar poll questions. As the pollsters will often admit: "it's all in how you ask the question".

Enjoy the journey!

Rob Bryanton

Next:  New video - Changing Your Brain

1 comment:

Benjamin Bear said...

About the "nested universe" theory:

What if the multiverse is a multidimensional fractal, with universes attached to singularities? This would allow everything to scale infinitely in both directions, and provide a way for the tenth dimension to connect all the possible universes together.

Just an idea I had.

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