You might be aware of the so-called “simulation hypothesis.” To put it in absurdly simple terms, the postulation is that since our computer simulations are getting more realistic all the time, there’s nothing to prevent our own universe from being simulated by an incredibly advanced civilization or entity. In fact, proponents argue, it’s mathematically far likelier that we’re in a simulated universe created by others, rather than us being in the original universe.
The oddness of quantum mechanics strengthens the argument. Reality as we know it only takes shape once it’s observed, which is akin to how simulations work. You know all those loading screens you get when you’re playing a game? That’s because the program is working to simulate the part of reality you’re about to observe, as it was unnecessary before, so it was basically just random code beforehand.
It might depress you to think of the possibility that you’re nothing more than an incredibly realistic character in a souped-up version of The Sims, but there’s a better way to look at the simulation hypothesis.
If the world is a simulation, you’re basically playing an RPG. In an RPG game, you level up, find new and useful items, get richer and more powerful than before, all on the way to an ending that is destined and glorious. In an RPG, though circumstances might have overwhelmed the main character and sent him on his quest, he’s in control and can eventually beat the game.
If the world is like The Matrix, the observer can manipulate it, can’t he? Lest we not forget Morpheus in the training program:
Don’t jump out a window thinking that you can fly. You can, however, spend time pondering whether the things you think are rules are actually set in stone.
If your thoughts and emotions are overwhelming you, think about how you can program yourself and the world so that they aren’t. Chief to this is the control of your attention. Think of your focus of attention as if it were a move in the RPG. Deciding what you want in any moment, for any span of time, and relentlessly focusing on it, will often get you the thing that you want. That sounds cliche, of course, but whether it’s focusing on dissipating negative feelings, thinking relentlessly about how you’ll introduce yourself to an attractive stranger, or controlling your time better, consider the ways you focus your attention to be the moves you make in your RPG battles. The right control of your attention will bring victory. Improper control will bring you defeat.
That all begins with deciding what’s important to you in the first place. If the simulation hypothesis is real, you can at least simulate your own quest, choosing the journey you’ll take to get to the end.
If you choose to run a simulation where you’ll feel better, there’s a good chance you will, because you’ll be forced to think of ways to improve along your journey. If you choose to run a simulation on getting better looking, or overcoming hesitation and procrastination, or anything else, you’ll wind up being more successful than you were before.
Asking yourself the right questions is part of the game you’re playing. The question is the thing that begins the quest. Consider one classic RPG game, for example.
The question here is – how will Bowser be defeated and the Star Rod restored? Everything in Paper Mario is based on that end. That’s the big question which leads to the smaller ones you deal with while playing the game. In the game, Bowser is near-invincible because of the power of the Star Rod, but the player, in the form of Mario, finds an answer anyway by accumulating items, allies, and powers with a relentless focus of attention on the end goal.
By viewing the world as the simulation hypothesis holds it, you can ask yourself the same question in any stage of your life, for anything you want, in the short, medium, or long term. By willing it, by focusing your attention, and by reminding yourself of the game you’re playing, you’ll increase your chances of success, even if it might not seem that way at first.
Some years ago, I was determined to overcome my approach anxiety no matter what it took. My attention was relentlessly focused on it. Progress appeared maddeningly slow at first, but because that objective was basically the object of my “game,” I eventually found a way to make it happen, and once that experience was gained, it became a power-up for the next stage of my RPG. This year, I wanted to find ways to make good money from home, to the point that I would never depend on a boss or be forced to go to an office again. I’m not there yet, but I’m a lot closer than I was before.
Again, much of abiding by the simulation hypothesis deals with asking the right questions. By continuously posing the question, you’re setting up the adventure in your RPG, and controlling your attention in relation to that question is how you’ll eventually answer it.
Treating life like it’s part of the simulation hypothesis will at first appear illogical to a lot of people. This is especially true because I have good news – the simulation hypothesis is probably wrong. The universe as we know it appears too complex to be a computer program as the simulation hypothesis implies, (not to mention there’s the infinite regress problem, which is why I never believed in it in the first place), but here’s where I bring up Scott Adams, one of the idea’s proponents. He has a good maxim that’s useful even if you don’t want to treat your life like it’s part of a gigantic Nintendo – pick the delusion that works. If you have a belief that might not match reality, but is nevertheless useful in getting you to act in ways that improve your situation, make use of it.
Treating your life as if it were a part of the simulation hypothesis, where you control your quest, objectives, and moves by channeling your attention and using your experience to gain new powers, is a much more useful operating system compared to thinking that you’re at the mercy of circumstance or whatever emotions you may be feeling in the moment. Instead, imagining yourself as the character in an RPG gives you more control over these things, and by paying attention to that fact, you’ll act in the appropriate ways.
By reading Stumped, you’ll be able to bypass the negative belief that your power to influence others is random, and give yourself a crucial tool for a successful quest.