In the 1999 sci-fi movie The Matrix, the main character, Neo, is shocked to see people breaking the laws of physics, running up walls and disappearing suddenly. These superhuman violations of the rules of the universe are possible because, unbeknownst to him, Neo’s consciousness is embedded in the Matrix, a virtual-reality simulation created by sentient machines.
Neo is given a choice: Take the blue pill and return to his artificial existence, or take the red pill to find out the real truth about the Matrix and “how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
As extravagant as it sounds, some philosophers have long argued that we’re actually more likely to be artificial intelligences stuck in a forged universe than we are organic minds in the authentic one.
But if that were true, the very laws of physics that allow us to devise such reality-checking technology may have little to do with the fundamental rules that govern the meta-universe inhabited by our simulators. To us, these programmers would be our gods, able to change reality on command.
Should we take the red pill and learn the truth — or are the implications too appalling?