This story is old news:
but old news doesn’t have to mean uninteresting news.
The headline takeaway is our reality isn’t what we thought, whatever we thought.
But I wonder if we shouldn’t also consider where Elon Musk is coming from.
In the past four months, from two separate conversations, both pleasurable at the time, I have discovered that certain very large companies are engaged in fascinating research. The predictability of human behaviour was always thus: for many centuries, a science at the bleeding edge of understanding; now, a fully codified practice with professions and practitioners.
Whilst in the summer I was led to believe that gaming on a real-world scale, which is to say testing responses to stimuli of various sorts, is conducted by transnational entities of many kinds (public and private), the other day in conversation with a Skype student of mine I was told that within the private spaces of public use that are high-powered high-pressure company offices, environments of work and also play are carefully studied and designed to provoke not only intellectual attachments amongst workforces but also – significantly – emotional ones. When your friends, and even lovers, are to be found around your workstation, who’d care to require a timetable of working hours?
Whilst anyone who has seen the TV series “Mad Men” will not be surprised to the extent to which psychological tools are applied to both public and private spaces of public use, the fact that such a milieu was so manipulative even in the 1950s and 1960s should surely allow us to extrapolate a new level of interventionist behaviours in our latterday felt realities.
I suggest this currently happens on the part of those powers – both private and public; both institutional and less so – which have the resources and knowledge to do so: and Elon Musk’s broader suggestion that we are now almost certainly living a simulation is, I would argue, proof of this.
If Mr Musk exerts such power, and I have read he is one of the wealthiest persons on the planet (coming in at 83rd according to one source), then it would be hardly surprising he could imagine a super-intelligence constructing around us such a simulation. People like himself, after all, incontrovertibly do it already in their business (and maybe even private) existences, in what we have always cared to assume is “real life”.
Let it be clear I am not writing this post to pass a value judgement on the morals of such offline-world gaming.
There is a lot of good to be achieved in any process of social engineering, of course. The problem is that the tools are even-handed.
Like any tools.
It all lies in how you decide to use them: to what purpose and in what kind of faith.
That we are living in a simulation is undoubtedly true. Whether it is simply of our own making, or also exists separately around the one which we have constructed ourselves, is something I can neither prove nor disprove.
But then, with respect to the reality of our reality, who ever in history ever could?