by Taylor Hughes, Campus Reporter
Even in a reality created by computers, such as that of the 1999 film “The Matrix,” the beliefs of its inhabitants are not false or incorrect, the director of the Center for Consciousness Studies told a crowd of students Wednesday.
David Chalmers, a professor of philosophy at the University of Arizona, spoke in front of a crowd of aspiring philosophers at Memorial Union’s Tripp Commons Wednesday to promote a new way of thinking about reality.
“Everything we believe about the world is right,” Chalmers said, acknowledging the possibility that the world might be a simulation. “It just [might go] farther than that; the world [might have] a nature that goes beyond our common-sense conception.”
Chalmers explained his conclusion by first acknowledging that he once accepted a the conclusion of a common skeptical Matrix Hypothesis. According to some philosophers, if the world were a simulation, most of what people know and accept to be true would be false.
He compared this hypothesis to a combination of other non-skeptical metaphysical hypotheses in order to demonstrate that even people in simulated realities have generally true beliefs.
Some commonly held beliefs include the Creation Hypothesis, which states that physical space-time was created by someone outside of perceived space-time; the Computational Hypothesis, which states that physics is made up of calculations about the relationship of core elements of the universe; and the Mind-Body Hypothesis, which states that the body and the mind are separate, intercommunicating entities, Chalmers said.
All three hypotheses do not disprove the beliefs of those who accept them, and all three hypotheses are coherent and incapable of being proven incorrect, Chalmers added.
By combining all three hypotheses, Chalmers created a hypothesis resembling that of the skeptical Matrix Hypothesis. Because each theory in itself does not disprove the beliefs of those who embrace them, a combination of the theories resulting in a situation similar to that of the matrix would leave its inhabitants’ beliefs intact.
If the inhabitants of a simulated reality were brought out of the simulation and into a higher level of reality, Chalmers said they would adjust to the newly discovered reality quite easily. The beliefs held in the previous reality were not false. They were simply not aware of a higher level of reality in existence.
“Life goes on outside of a matrix,” Chalmers said. “It is still reality.”
Chalmers compared this to the effects of extraction from a local simulation, or small communal simulation, one similar to the community in the 1998 film “The Truman Show.” If the inhabitants of a local simulation were removed from the simulation, many of their beliefs about the outside world would be false, Chalmers said.
Chalmers also noted the similarity of ideas in “The Matrix” to ideas created by philosophers in the past.
René Descartes, in a 17th-century series of writings reflecting on personal meditations, proposed the idea that all of reality could be simply an elaborate dream. Descartes also philosophized that an “Evil Genius” might control perceived reality and the reasoning behind logical conclusions.
In more recent history, the idea that reality could simply entail a series of signals received by a brain sitting in a sustaining vat of liquid has been proposed.
Brie Gertler, a University of Wisconsin assistant professor of philosophy, introduced Chalmers to the group primarily comprised of philosophy students.
“One thing Professor Chalmers can’t explain is how Keanu still gets work,” Gertler said.