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‘Trapped in a Matrix?’ Human Existence Could be No More than ‘Brains in Vats’ Claims Internet Celeb

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December 20, 2019

In philosophy, the “brain in a vat” thought experiment suggests that a captive brain could be wired-up to a supercomputer, like in the blockbuster Matrix trilogy, that perfectly simulates experiences of the outside world. Thus, people could actually be living in a simulation, with no way of knowing whether their lives were real.

American educator, public speaker, and Internet celebrity Michael Stevens has generated waves online by claiming people will never know if we are all currently trapped in a Matrix-style simulation, as he appeared in an Artificial Intelligence podcast with Lex Fridman.

The creator and host of YouTube brand Vsauce, Stevens claimed that humans could be nothing more than “brains in vats”, with no way of really knowing if our lives are real.

During the AI Podcast, the educator sensationally said we shouldn’t care if reality isn’t “real”.

When asked by the host if we are “deluding ourselves” and if reality is an “illusion”, Michael, whose channel features videos on scientific, psychological, mathematical, and philosophical topics, and boasts more than 1.7 billion views, said “we will never know the answer”.

“There is no experiment to find an answer to that question. Everything we experience is an event in our brain. When I’m looking at a cat I can’t even… I can’t prove that there is a cat there. All I am experiencing is the perception of a cat inside my own brain. I am only a witness to the events in my mind.”

Stevens insisted, however, that you should “live your life” as if everything is real but, ultimately, “whether or not we live in a simulation or a brain in a vat, I don’t know.”

Indeed, since everything humans experience is down to electrical impulses, it has been theorised that we could all actually be living in a simulation without ever finding out the truth.

Electrical impulses sent from the computer to the brain could simulate any sensation — sight, touch, smell, pain – since all of these things are merely signals deciphered by the brain.

The “brain in a vat” thought experiment has invariably puzzled philosophers.

The argument is usually taken to be a modern version of René Descartes’ argument first proposed in 1641 (in the Meditations on First Philosophy) that centers on the possibility of an “evil demon” who systematically deceives us.

The vat was proposed by Gilbert Harman in 1973 to update the experiment to align with modern understandings of psychology and neuroscience.

The idea of the brain in a vat (BIV) is that no brain could ever know whether it was in a skull or a vat, and could therefore never know whether everything it experiences is real or an illusion.

The hypothesis was the premise behind the movie The Matrix, in which the entire human race has been placed into giant vats and fed a virtual reality at the hands of “malignant artificial intelligence”.

This article was posted: Friday, December 20, 2019 at 7:58 am

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