Natural Earther

I was a Natural Earther for the first two decades of existence. Then I saw The Matrix when it was originally released and started to question things. Ten years past while I slowly began to accept the notion of a simulated world. Ten more years past since I accepted virtuality and became a Simulationist. For those not doing the math, that’s a total of forty years.

I was a zealot when it came to being a Natural Earther. Science, evolution, survival-of-the-fittest, germ-theory, genetics, politics, economics, psychology, history, randomness — these concepts perfectly explained how the world worked, and that was it. God, religion, spirituality, magic, destiny — those were dumb concepts adopted by shallow-thinkers i.e. dummies.

It does seem stupid on my part to fully commit to a set of concepts, only to reject them later on. But to be fair, I was a Natural Earther because I was following the trend. “Smart people” believed in a natural earth whereas “dumb people” believed in a mystical realm — at least where I grew up.

But if you’ve been paying attention, the trend shifted already. You’ll hear “smart people” tending towards Simulation Theory nowadays. So I seem to be “on trend” again. The funny part is, that Simulation Theory overlaps very-well with “spirituality”. It’s basically two ways to describe the same thing. So the “smart perspective” is actually a spiritual one.

That means the new “dumb people” will be the ones believing in a natural earth. This is the Natural Earther perspective: sick and diseased bodies stuck roaming around a dying earth struggling for survival amidst a harsh and brutal landscape. Sounds fun doesn’t it? No, it’s a gross misinterpretation of existence.

Whereas a simulated world is more dreamlike: the world we experience is shaped by our thoughts and expectations — the external is a manifestation of the internal. It’s not an absolute reality, it’s an environment that’s transformable. With a negative attitude, it can seem like a punishing hell-scape — but with a positive attitude, it can form into a heavenly place filled with joy.

Work for a spiritual person entails honing the mind to manifest the best world you can muster. Whereas work for a Natural Earther deals with trying to thrive despite all odds against it. The world will accommodate you if you’re a Natural Earther, but the question becomes: why would you make things so hard on yourself. From my experience as a Natural Earther, it wasn’t worth it.

I can say without doubt that I’ve been much happier as a Simulationist. I was an anxious wreck as a Natural Earther — how can you not be? It’s basically a high-intensity belief system. Perhaps that’s why it was developed, for those daring thrill-seekers among us. Maybe I thought I could handle it — I couldn’t. So from here on out you can catch me drifting down the lazy-river.

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Peek-a-boo

Dear Rich, why would you base your worldview on a late-90s action movie? That sounds kinda dumb.

Perhaps that’s backwards thinking. Perhaps The Matrix was designed as a subtle introduction to the underlying nature of reality for those that could only imagine in the images of action-movies. Even Neo had a hard time accepting the true nature of reality when he left the matrix. How can you explain to someone that grew up in the 80s and 90s that they’re living within a simulated world? Morpheus said regular people would typically fight against the truth while desperately clinging to the only reality they knew.

Therefore, you create a movie based in the modern-day using modern-day iconography and explanations. Those who see it, see it. And those that don’t want to see it, simply perceive a sci-fi movie. No harm, no foul. It’s a not-so-subtle clue for those seeking answers. And the movie’s theme is dank and dark because that’s the only way to draw in pessimists who will say: “I knew it!!! The world really IS a post-apocalyptic hell-scape filled with sheeple!!”.

But eventually, if you really take some time to think about it: what doesn’t work in The Matrix, what fails to be adequately explained, is the nefarious nature of the matrix. The enslavement of humanity doesn’t make sense and causes all sorts of debates. The so-called sequels don’t make sense either by the way. And that’s because life is NOT a nefarious affair. The Matrix itself demonstrates this, by failing to create a convincing villain.

And again, The Matrix was simply an introduction, it wasn’t meant to explain everything. It drew-in certain people that couldn’t be drawn-in by other means. God and spirituality and all that stuff makes no sense to pessimistic realists — so the only option to reach them was through sci-fi action flicks. Ultimately, the world wants its players to have a good time — but in order to have a good time, a player needs the right balance between fact and fiction.

A player must be invested enough to care about in-game outcomes, but not overly invested to the point of perpetual worry. If you only believe in a harsh and brutal world ruled by random-chance, then you’re going to have a bad time. You need some perspective, some distance, you need to see yourself as a player engaged in an enjoyable adventure. But when you’re too lost within the game, you can’t comprehend this. And so clues are provided, alarm clocks — The Matrix simply serves as one of the ways to help you wake up.

Simulated Lifestyle

So imagine this world is just a computer simulation. What do you do now? How do you live life?

Hm. I suppose I’d wonder what my limitations are. Although, I’d have to be careful about identifying limitations because they might not be well-defined or might change over time depending on conditions. I’d also wonder what resources are available to me. Will they replenish? I’d also wonder about my character’s skills and abilities. And I’d wonder whether I should wait for developer updates to fix some of the “bugs”, inconsistencies, and poor game-mechanics I’ve found (although most likely, a lot of that stuff is just user-error on my part).

I’ve been playing a couple of pretty-involved video-games recently: Minecraft and War Robots, and I can characterize my general game-play in those games, and use that as a guide.

For Minecraft, my efforts typically tend towards building a shelter, adding stuff to it, expanding, decorating. Whether I’m in survival-mode or creative-mode, my shelter scales accordingly — but either way, most of my time is spent enhancing my home. So in this world, I’d likely do something similar, which is: get a nice home and keep enhancing it. And sometimes after a bit of exploring, I’ll move to a nicer place in a nicer area. I’d collect rarities and trinkets I stumble upon and I’d upgrade my tools whenever I find something better.

Whereas in War Robots, which isn’t as immersive because it’s just a battle-simulator, I spend a lot of time upgrading my bots and their weapons. Some people tend to deride the consumer-lifestyle, but I find that’s precisely what I’m drawn to in video-games. Yeah it’s a constant upgrade-cycle — but what’s wrong with that? Perhaps it’s a problem if you start to look at people as products. I don’t think we should look toward upgrading the people in our lives. Improving relationships is fine, but trying to find “better” people tends to push the problem down the line (the problems we have with people usually begin within).

In both games, I enjoy innovation — when the developers come out with new stuff that expands the known universe. As a player, that kinda stuff seems beyond my control though. The Internet was certainly a major update when it came out, for example. I’m excited about innovations in transportation too — I like the idea of getting places with less fuss. And, I like ever-expanding options for entertainment. Shopping has gotten a lot easier too.

So just to sum up and answer the question directly: what would I do in a simulated world such as this? I’d find a great home, enhance it, explore a bit, collect stuff, upgrade tools, and improve relationships with my companions. I’d also keep an eye out for innovations in the game and try them out when they’re released.

New Book

It’s been a couple weeks since I paused this blog to write a new book. It ended up being super-short, but perhaps it’s a work-in-progress at this point (I do appreciate brevity though). And since it’s so short, I’ll just keep it as a dedicated page on this blog for now: Virtual Enlightenment.

It’s a non-fiction simulation-based self-help book. It explains how the adoption of “simulation theory” can actually lead to a more enjoyable existence. It’s a concept that helped me tremendously, so I figured I’d write it in a book. Of course this blog says the same things but the book is a more succinct format.

The Container

Game-simulations are never exact replicas of the world they’re simulating. They’re minimal implementations containing fragments of a whole, typically highlighting a particular activity. The graphics and other sensory data are never as fully immersive as the real-deal. Take Minecraft as an example, it focuses mainly on mining, survival, and block-building. This leads to the hypothesis that whatever contains our own simulated world, is likely beyond our current in-game comprehension.

In other words, a Minecraft avatar can’t fathom what a peach tastes like, or what taste even is. The smooth, non-blocky edges of everything in this world would look alien. The idea of billions of players all interacting on a single server without massive lag would be unthinkable. The concept of a non-infinite globe might even seem claustrophobic to an avatar used to an infinitely expanding world. Yet the many roles and activities and choices in our world might seem daunting to a character that’s only ever mined and slaughtered zombies.

The fact that we’re here says something about the world beyond this one. Maybe that world is too safe and not very intense — perhaps a bit boring. In games, we get reckless don’t we? We go at a higher intensity, we fight things, we die. Or sometimes a simulator is used for pure practice, like a flight-simulator for example. Maybe we’re learning to live as part of a greater civilization. Perhaps we have to earn our way into whatever world lies beyond this one.

The clues of artificiality are everywhere yet we’re too immersed to care. But one thing is for sure: if we’re here, we’re obviously meant to interact with this place in the best way we can. Whether it’s for fun or training, we better get our head in the game and act like we want to be here. Every endeavor is improved by a good attitude. And there’s always the possibility that this is in fact a rehabilitation facility for those that had trouble in the greater society. Either way, accepting and appreciating our position here is the only way to go.

Meat Based

Dear Rich, I’m not sure I like the idea of a purely virtual world. I like my world to have some meat on it.

Well dear reader, a meat-filled world means that you’re subject to the laws of meat. Sure it’s fun to pretend you’re a physical being, but to actually be one? Take driving a car for example — are you NUTS! Meat can’t drive machines at speeds in excess of seventy miles per hour, it’s just not possible. A clumsy cartilage-connected creature just doesn’t have the necessary reaction time.

And what about airplanes? A flying canisters of well-packed meat successfully taking off, soaring through the air, and landing at regular intervals? No that’s not going to happen either — that’s pure fantasy-land fodder my friend. Have you also not noticed that you’re well-fed, well-clothed, and live within a pretty decent shelter? Yeah? You think that kind of well-run regularity happens in a meat-based universe? Nope.

But do you know where well-timed intervals and infinite allotments do occur? In computer-run simulations, that’s where. Natural disasters destroy meat, disease runs rampant amongst meat, accidents regularly occur when dealing with meat — but for some reason you’ve escaped all that — is that luck dear reader? Or perhaps virtual realms that look-out for your well-being aren’t so bad after all?

Maybe instead of idolizing meat, you could show some appreciation toward the spectacle of light and sound that’s been entertaining you lo these many years. I’m not trying to criticize your opinion dear reader, but let’s be real here, you’re expecting life as a piece of meat to be a piece of cake — I’m just letting you know that life as pixelated light ain’t so bad.

Woods or Vat

Dear Rich, I’m not sure which one is true: am I a lost child in the woods or a brain in a vat?

Well dear reader, let’s examine your options. If you’re a lost child in the woods, that narrative usually doesn’t end well unless you’re found by a woodsman or an animal-mother raises you as her own. And let’s be honest, if you actually found yourself in an inhospitable environment, you’d be dead on arrival. Therefore, because of your childlike ignorance, we know that this is NOT a hostile environment — you’re not “lost in the woods” — not even close — something is maintaining your presence here.

We can therefore deduce that you’re within an artificial setting. Now the question becomes: does a prefabricated world actually exist or does your consciousness simply imagine it exists? If you examine human civilization, the events are for the most part pretty fantastical. Voyages around the globe, empires, world-wars, mass destruction, massive storms, political intrigue, flying-machines, space-travel — crazy narratives comprised-of-coincidences fill the history books. It’s unlikely therefore, that you’re standing on solid ground.

Instead, you’re more likely to be within a dream-like setting in which strange and unusual circumstances happen all the time. Clearly you’re surrounded by narratives, yes? Your life seems to be a story that’s intermingling with a whole bunch of other stories. And if you listen to some of those stories, you’ll hear about lives that follow fanciful journeys — pathways seem to be carved through life just to make someone’s dreams come true.

Or, perhaps a virtual-world forms from a dreamer’s aspirations. In other words, a dreamer has an idea to accomplish something and then a world manifests based on the dreamer’s expectations. If true, that means the world you experience is extremely malleable — it can be shaped into whatever you want it to be. If you’re currently experiencing a crappy world for instance, that’s on you — it means you have to stop being so negative — the world is simply doing what you want and fulfilling your expectation of nastiness.

So dear reader, there you have it — you’re not necessarily a brain in a vat, but the world you’re experiencing is a virtual one. And that’s a good thing. If you were in an all-natural chance-based world you’d be dead already. The other beneficial aspect, is that you’re free to alter your virtual-world at-will. If you change your perspective to a positive one, and expect to experience better outcomes, you’re sure to see a substantial improvement in all aspects of your world.