We're in a holo-deck reality
Yes, I know the title of this article sounds nuts, or at least pointlessly nerdy, but actually, it might be true (or at least, sort of true). In this article, I'm going to show scientifically how the idea that 'our reality is a holo-deck construction' is a strong, scientific and logical theory for our existence. My explanation will be comprehensive, in-depth and not at all bonkers.
Clearly, such an outlandish idea does need a lot of evidence to back it up, so I'll pose a series of sensible questions and answer each in turn. If I can answer all the questions with a 'yes', then I hope that'll show the validity of the theory. Here goes…
Question 1: Could a holo-deck machine make our reality?
Let’s kick off with a description of what a holo-deck is, at least the holo-decks used in the TV series ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ and its offshoots. According to its Wikipedia page (where I got the image opposite), a holo-deck ‘functions by combining holography with magnetic force fields and energy to matter conversions,’ which sounds like something very different to our reality but actually, it isn’t. In fact, our reality is a force-field. If this statement sounds wacky, let me explain.
We live in a physical world. In other words, the objects around us, like tables and chairs and bowling balls, are physical, real things. This fact makes us confident that reality is something, rather than some ghostly illusion.
But what makes physical things in our reality feel solid? What prevents your hand passing through your kitchen table, or your steering wheel, or anything else around you that’s physical? Thanks to scientific research over the last century-or-so, we now know that what prevents your hand passing through your kitchen table are 'clouds' of electrons and 'whizzing' photons. When the atoms of any physical object come into close proximity with the atoms of another object, the electrons around one atom approach the electrons around the other atom. These electron clouds get close to each other and as they get close, they repel each other. This repulsion is done by the transmission of photons; packets of light. This light show kicks off, the electrons repel and stop one atom from passing through another. (Keep in mind that the nucleus of the atom, containing most of its mass, has nothing to do with this process. An atom’s nucleus isn’t really involved in the ‘physicality’ of the world as it’s incredibly tiny compared to the electron cloud around it).
In other words, the physicality of reality is an electron/photon force field. You might say, ‘but there is matter in reality, so reality is more than just a force field’. Well, here’s what Werner Heisenberg (one of the greats of quantum physics) said about that topic in his book ‘Physics and Philosophy’ (pg106), which I recently reviewed:
“All the elementary particles can, at sufficiently high energies, be transmuted into other particles, or they can simply be created from energy or annihilated into energy, for instance into radiation.”
This is a critically important comment, as it makes it clear that even the aspects of reality that we call 'matter' are nothing more than nodes of energy. Science has discovered that there is no matter in the historical sense. There are no actually 'solid' things in the universe. Instead, Reality is purely a force-field pattern of energy whose behaviour is governed by quantum rules.
There's also a second important consequence to Heisenberg's above statement. As Werner states, all particles can ‘simply be created from energy’. In other words, if you have a strong enough power source, you can create any particle; you can make all matter from energy. This means that if you fed enough power into a very advanced holo-deck machine, you could create a true reality. Such a holo-deck machine wouldn’t be making an illusion that is fundamentally different from reality, it would be making a reality as real as our reality. The answer to the first questions is therefore: Yes.
Question 2: Could our universe fit in a holo-deck?
At first glance, this is a thorny question but actually, how do we know how big our universe is? Albert Einstein made it clear in his theory of Relativity that the only benchmark for distant and speed in our universe is the speed of light; it's our reality reference point and it’s our only reference point.
But if the behaviour of light is all we have to go on to work out the scale of our universe, what we think of as big could actually be tiny in a higher reality. Our entire universe might be able to fit on the kitchen table of creatures in a higher reality. Einstein’s theory opens the door to a strange fact; that the scale and size of our universe is only relevant to us; our entire universe could be inside a higher being’s lunchbox. Answer: Yes.
Question 3: Could we be in such a holo-deck reality?
In the Star Trek episodes, the crew of the Enterprise walked into the holo-deck in a choice of outfits. Their bodies and clothing were real things and the rest of the world around them was an artificial construction. If our reality is a holo-deck, our physical bodies are be part of the holo-deck construction too, unlike the Star Trek holo-deck. It is our minds that have entered the holo-deck, inhabiting our foetal bodies at birth and staying in them until our deaths. When we die, it is our minds that leave this holo-deck reality. If the Influence Idea is correct, this is perfectly feasible, scientifically and so far, I still haven't found any sign of a flaw in its logic or evidence. I won't explain it in this article but do please click on the link and read the full explanation if you're interested. Not surprisingly, Star Trek didn't set up their holo-deck as something the characters' minds entered - that would be really hard to portray - but there are many Star Trek episodes involving disembodied minds or creatures of pure energy. I particularly recommend 'Errand of Mercy' from the first series. Answer: If the Influence Idea is correct, Yes.
Question 4: Is there enough power available to construct an entire ‘holo-deck’ universe?
One of the weirdest discoveries in quantum physics is that there’s enough potential energy in even a small region of empty space, known as the vacuum energy or zero-point energy, to create all the matter in our universe. This means that there is easily enough power available in a small portion of our own reality to create a universe; all one would need would be a machine to draw out the vacuum energy and turn it into the pattern of energy that we call reality. Answer: Yes.
Question 5: Is there evidence that an intelligence has made the universe we inhabit; that it is a construction?
According to the latest scientific information, our universe began with the Big Bang (as shown in the NASA image). Scientists officially think that that happened as a random event, with no guiding hand, but they also admit that there’s a problem with that idea. If our universe was a random creation with no guiding hand, then equal amounts of matter and anti-matter should have been created in the Big Bang. The thing is, this didn’t happen, otherwise we wouldn’t be here, since if equal amounts of matter and anti-matter had been created, they would have annihilated with each other immediately, leaving nothing but light. Scientists have performed lots of experiments to show a scientific reason for this imbalance, but they have so far failed to find a scientific answer. This is known as the Baryon Asymmetry Problem.
Therefore, according to the latest scientific research, our universe cannot have begun as a random event. I feel I need to put this statement in bold because the scientific establishment seem to be very reluctant to state this fact, even though their research shows it to be true. But, if our universe cannot have begun as a random event, then it must be a creation or construction; something must have made it. Currently, therefore, science tells us that there was (or is) a Creator of the Universe. Answer: A clear Yes.
Question 6: If our reality is a holo-deck, what's its purpose?
If we are in a ‘holo-deck’ reality, a construction created by an advanced intelligence, why are we in it? This is a tricky one to answer, but one way to work it out is to start by assuming that the intelligence who made this reality is benevolent. Negative personalities aren’t much good at making things - they usually destroy things - and so it's safe to conclude that something as incredibly complex and impressive as the universe is not something a malevolent individual would make.
But we can all see that there is suffering around us in the world. The planet we inhabit is not an idyll. People fight, kill, abuse, cheat, lie and do all sorts of negative things. Why would a benevolent creator of the universe put us in such a difficult place? Strangely enough, there is a logical reason for this. Here goes:
We like to think we’re good people. But how do we know we’re good people? Saying it is one thing, but how do we know it for sure? Probably, the only way to be sure is to end up in a challenging situation; that’s when a person finds out what he or she is really like, whether he or she is really brave, or loving, or loyal or selfless, or instead, that he or she is a coward, a tyrant or a liar and so on. I've talked before on this blog about the Stanford Prison Experiment and Milgram's Experiment. Both of those classic psychological studies showed that everyday people, who thought of themselves as good people, ended up doing bad things that they thought they'd never do, often with little provocation. Those two experiments show that we have to be tested to know what we're really like.
Therefore, in order to truly know we’re good people, it seems that we must go through a series of challenging situations, ones that really test our character, our personal strength and compassion. We need suffering, conflict and torment in the world, because we need adversaries and problems in order to find out what we’re like, what we’re really made of. These challenging situations can also 'be the making of us'. In other words, they can be the catalyst for us to improve ourselves.
What’s more, for these challenges to work, we have to believe that the reality in which we experience these challenges is totally real, because if we knew that we were only in a simulation, they wouldn’t feel as daunting. If we knew that the reality we were living in was just a temporary experience, a passing illusion, we’d know, in the back of our minds, that we were only in a game and we’d be going somewhere better at the end. That would cripple the ability of the challenges we faced to really test our mettle.
What’s weird, if this is true, is that we've chosen to be here in this physical reality, leading these physical lives, even though this reality is full of suffering and we’ve come from a much nicer place. We may have even discussed the challenges we wanted to face, before starting a new life in this reality. Once we'd accepted our future challenges, we willingly had our memory temporarily wiped before installing ourselves, as minds, into a newly conceived foetus to live a(nother) physical life. We've gone ahead and lived a new physical life, so that we can face our challenges in turn and, hopefully, as a result, find out what we’re made of and get better as individuals.
At the end of our lives, we will all physically die, but that'll simply free our minds from our bodies. Our minds will then leave reality and return to the Afterlife (or possibly Between-Life). Once we're there, we'll review the life we've just had. How did we do? What went well? What went badly? How could we improve next time? We take a break, catch up with friends and loved ones, and then do it all again until we’ve proved to ourselves that we truly are good people. Therefore, the answer to the question 'is there a reason why we're here?') is a logical Yes.
Strangely enough, it has been possible to answer all the above pertinent questions with a ‘yes’. What’s more, according to the latest scientific evidence, not only is it scientifically sound to conclude that we’re in a ‘holo-deck’ reality (or more precisely, a force-field, matter-to-energy, constructed reality created by an advanced and benevolent intelligence that our minds temporarily inhabit), it’s also the only way to solve at least one big conundrum in physics; i.e. the Baryon Asymmetry Problem. The idea of us existing in a holo-deck reality is therefore not just a valid scenario, it’s more valid than the scientific establishment's official scenario! This is a totally weird result, but it's also most beguiling. We’re all here, inhabiting physical bodies, in the middle of a personal spiritual development full-on role-playing session. Cool!
Right, back to the game…