Statistically speaking, you probably don’t really exist

One of the things that I find puzzling, but endearing, is the impulse within Hindu philosophy — both now and seemingly throughout the ages — to ground arguments in science and math.

I’m sure there are attempts to explain this. And it may be something I notice more because my inclination is to tropes of the more poetic sort, and so talking about how the Rig Veda’s mention of a single point, or bindu, of creation is like the Big Bang Theory (not that one) probably doesn’t have the same effect on me as it might others. (Ultimately, they all are poetic tropes, as far as I’m concerned. But that’s a post for an entirely different blog.)

Anyway, I’ll now try to do this here.

One aspect of Vedanta is, of course, the idea of Maya — that the world is illusion, to simplify it terribly. The world of sunrises and sunsets, love and hate, blue skies and green earths, is not the true, ultimately reality — which is, of course, the unified consciousness.

Well, scientific theory may be catching up to this ages-old idea. From the New York Times:

But one fanciful possibility is that we live in a computer simulation based on the laws of mathematics — not in what we commonly take to be the real world. According to this theory, some highly advanced computer programmer of the future has devised this simulation, and we are unknowingly part of it. Thus when we discover a mathematical truth, we are simply discovering aspects of the code that the programmer used.

This may strike you as very unlikely. But the Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom has argued that we are more likely to be in such a simulation than not. If such simulations are possible in theory, he reasons, then eventually humans will create them — presumably many of them. If this is so, in time there will be many more simulated worlds than nonsimulated ones. Statistically speaking, therefore, we are more likely to be living in a simulated world than the real one.

The piece then highlights a recent scientific paper that outlined how we might be able to detect whether we are, in fact, living in a computer simulation. (Hint: It takes cosmic rays.)

What’s a computer simulation if not Maya?

Still to be answered is just who programmed that simulation. I’m not sure I’m satisfied with programmer from the future.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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