It’s possible we are simply self aware video games. Someone else is controlling us and it’s in a a dimension beyond our ability to sense outside of describing it through math and analogy.
People have scanned brains when it comes to making decisions. They consistently show that the brain activity happens seconds before the person is aware that they made a decision. In other words, our mere decision to do something actually comes before our conscious decision to do something…by about seven seconds.*
This means one of two things as far as I can see. Either:
1. Whatever it is that makes us decide things communicates very slowly with our consciousness. So, we’re still in control, we’re just making the decision before we’re aware that we’ve made it.
2. Our decisions are not made by us. They’re instructions given to us by something distinctly separate from ourselves.
It’s possible that #1 is correct. It’s also possible that there’s a third option (or for that matter a hundred options) I haven’t thought of. But, if #2 is correct then us being able to verify it would be like asking Pac-Man to do stuff to verify that there are human beings with controllers or joy sticks making his moves for him. As far as Pac-Man is concerned he senses that he moves. He makes lefts and rights, eats ghosts & cherries. Occasionally he dies. He feels like all those moves (save for dying) must be due to his deciding to do them. What other conclusion would he possibly come to?
However, I – as a creature in three dimensions of space and one of time – know for sure that Pac-Man’s decisions are just my decisions. I’m controlling him. But I’m doing say in a way that he can’t possibly detect with just his senses even if he had all five senses that we have (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch). Now, if Pac-Man’s super smart he can conduct experiments and realize that his entire world is made out of pixels. The pixels are different colors sometimes, but there is a finite amount of them and his world is merely a combination of those pixels. Each time he dies he likely does not retain the memory of his previous world, but he’s still the same Pac-Man. Unbeknownst to him, there are millions of other Pac-Man games out there. They’re all a lot like him, but never exactly the same (multiverse).
Some scientists believe that the universe could be a giant hologram.**
Scientists believe they have a way to test our world to see if it’s a computer simulation (aka video game)^. I’m eagerly awaiting the results of that test. I don’t know what I’d do with the knowledge if they felt that we were in a simulation, but I would be fascinated by it. And I’m pretty sure people smarter than me would figure out how to make a better microwave or a better something else from the applications of this new knowledge.
So, if this is the case (and we don’t know if it is of course) does that mean that we have free will? Well, that depends on how you define free will. Our conscious mind believes with certainty that our actions are results of the self making conscious choices. But what if our actions are the result of someone with a joystick that we’re physically incapable of seeing or sensing in anyway? If that’s true the we can simply define ‘free will’ as the ability for our brains to convince us that what we do is dictated by our individuality and ability to choose. We still strive to do great things (space exploration, curing disease, etc.) because we believe that ‘striving’ will lead to greater chance of success than complacency. Maybe ‘striving’ is another trick of the brain. If that’s the case, it’s a convincing trick. So, just go with it.
Because if we are Pac-Man and we don’t actually move our own character then wouldn’t we prefer to win the game rather than lose it? I sure would. So, I’ll keep trying. Or at least my brain will convince me that what I’m calling ‘trying’ is based on me and reward me for it with senses of accomplishment and possibly monetary success (fingers crossed) as opposed to some 4-D creature with a 4-D joystick.
Here’s an additional tidbit on this. If in fact we are self aware video games, then isn’t it quiet interesting that we make video games of our own? As far as we know Pac-Man doesn’t have the ability to have a conscious. Maybe the 4-D creatures who play us in video games don’t have any idea that we can think for ourselves also. And if that’s not weirding you out enough, try this on for size. What if the 4-D creatures are someone else’ video game. And those who created that game really live in someone else’? What if every simulation we create (novels, video games, movies, art, music, etc.) has a kind of life of it’s own. And we’re just one of many creations by someone on a higher dimensional plane (or if it’s an infinite series of Russian dolls then the term ‘higher’ becomes irrelevant. We all exist in a circle. The simulation that created us is not ‘higher’ on any hierarchy, because in order to be higher up something, there must be a top. Without a top, neither us or our own creations or our creators are measured against each other as ‘better’ or ‘worse.’
If this is true, what does it mean for science, education, religion, philosophy, marriage, morality, etc.?
Of course, this is all theoretical. It fits the data in the same way that other interpretations fit the data, but it is a viable possibility based on what we know so far. We live in an exciting time in history when not only can we ask this question, but we can also test the validity of the answer.