Your Simulated Reality

December 28th, 2010 by Steve Pavlina

Last night I had a really cool lucid dream. It started out as a regular dream that involved a bunch of robbers stealing items from a large house. I was trying to foil the robbers’ plans. At some point I realized that I was dreaming and became lucid. I ignored the robbers after that and decided to try something interesting.

Instead of donning super powers and going around flying, I wanted to see if I could get my dream characters to become more lucid themselves. Could I get them to realize that we were in a shared dream together and to rise above their pre-scripted dream roles? Could I get them to fess up to that fact that our shared reality was a dream?

I went outside and found some characters to interact with, but they seemed pretty dim-witted. They acted like plain vanilla NPCs that couldn’t handle off-script events. Then I had the idea that perhaps within the dream world, there are somehow limited “computing” resources available. Since I was outdoors in a complex scene, could it be that rendering the outdoor environment was chewing up a lot of dream resources, and that fewer resources were then available for the characters themselves?

I thought that if that were the case, then perhaps I could experience richer character interactions if I went to a simpler, less visually complicated location in the dream world. Then perhaps the dream “computer” could devote fewer resources to rendering the environment and transfer some of those resources to creating richer dream characters that were more responsive.

If I could say that the whole dream is happening within my physical brain, then I’m just saying that if my brain doesn’t have to render the illusion of rich, sprawling outdoor scenes, then perhaps it can devote more neurons to the task of creating richer characters.

I went back to the house where my dream began, and I found a small room there. It had a basic layout with white walls, a window obscured by blinds, a bed, a couch, and a table. I figured that the dream renderer wouldn’t be overly taxed by such an environment. Three characters appeared in the room. Two were representations of friends I know in real life, and the other was some dream character I’d never seen before.

I talked to the dream characters, and they seemed much smarter and more self-aware than the NPC-like characters I tried interacting with outdoors. We had a fascinating discussion about the nature of the dream world. They were aware that our shared reality was a dream, although one of them was skeptical about it. We talked about different ways of explaining how the dream world worked and why it seemed so real.

We didn’t really understand how our dream world worked, but the best analogy we came up with was that it functioned much like a Holodeck from Star Trek. In other words,┬áthe dream world was being rendered as if by a computer, but that computer has limited computing resources (analogous to a physical computer’s processing power, memory, secondary storage, etc.). This dream computer only renders what is seen and interacted with, much like a computer game only renders what is visible on the screen. These computing resources are general purpose, so they can be transferred among “systems” like scene rendering, event creation, character development, etc. For a complex outdoor scene, we could say that most of the available resources are being used to render the scene. For a simpler environment, more resources might be available for simulating character interactions.

When I awoke from the dream, which seemed to last for hours, I wondered if our “physical” world operates in much the same way. Does it also have limited computing resources? Do public interactions with NPCs seem to be more shallow because the world’s renderer is devoting most of its resources to rendering complex scenes? Do private interactions in a home seem to have more depth because there are more resources available to simulate the characters we interact with?

What if the world really does operate like a giant simulation with limited computing resources that get transferred? Do other parts of your life seem to become richer when you cultivate a zen-like space that’s free of clutter and distraction? Do you tend to have experiences that aren’t as deep or rich when you’re out in a busy public area where hundreds of NPCs are being rendered?

Do you have the deepest conversations when you’re alone with someone in a simple environment?

Is there a special advantage to simplicity? Does it free up more computing resources to enrich the simulation of other parts of your life experience?

If you fill your life with clutter in any form — visual clutter, shallow interactions with NPCs, a job you dislike — is it possible that you’re essentially wasting computing resources that could be used to simulate a much richer life? How can life’s computer bring new experiences into your simulation, such as a rewarding relationship, if you’re wasting it’s resources simulating what you don’t want?

Many people have discovered that when they drop from their lives that which doesn’t inspire and fulfill them, a temporary void is created, but that void is soon filled with new experiences. As the saying goes, “When one door closes, another opens.” When you shut down one aspect of your reality, perhaps you’re freeing up computing resources that can then be used to enrich your simulation in other ways.

What if you assume that most of the time, the computer that’s simulating your life is running at full capacity? You can’t add anything new until you delete something old. If you want to launch some new programs, such as a new relationship or a richer career path, you must first close some programs that are already running. One of the simplest ways to do this is to, at least temporarily, go to a very simple, quiet, uncluttered space, and be alone for a while. Another idea is to physically throw out or give away what you don’t need. If something is present in your life, but it’s not adding value, then it’s wasting computing resources. You’re asking life’s computer to keep rendering it. Why waste its resources?

Is your reality simulating what you want it to be simulating? If not, then delete from the simulation that which you no longer desire. You certainly have a lot of control over the simulation. Close the unwanted programs, so you can reclaim the resources needed to create what you desire. That’s a lot better than intending what you want and having your reality respond with an hourglass icon. :)


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