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21.3. The beach 

Let's say you're standing on a beach.

You feel the touch of sand against your feet. You experience that your hair moves. You get the notion of and experience wind.

You see myriads of flashes of light spread over a large area. You see them moving; you see the light and shadows forming waves.

You see and feel the heat from what must be the Sun. You understand that the flashes are light from the Sun reflected in the waves; you interpret the whole scene as the ocean.

You experience the beach, the sea, the waves and the light. It feels like something.

You experience it as material. You believe that the experience originates from the fact that there is a beach, sun, light, waves and sea out there – in an objective sense.

You are on the beach, you say to everyone who asks.

Next scene.

Let's say you stand in front of a TV screen and watch flashes of light from a sun in waves of light and shadow. You understand that the screen shows the sea that meets the beach where you stand. You hear the sounds of gurgling, seagulls and wind.

But you know you're in front of a screen and not on the beach.

You're not so easy to fool.

Then you put on VR glasses so that the sea and the beach fill your entire field of vision. You put on headphones, so you only hear the sounds from the beach. You step into a box of sand and take off your shoes. You feel waves occasionally wash over your toes in the sandbox, in sync with what you see in the glasses. You feel the wind from an uneven fan. The smell of the sea.

You are in a simulator that gives you all the sensory impressions of a beach, absolutely everyone.

Would you then be able to distinguish simulation from reality?

Yes, you still know you're not really on the beach. You're still not easily fooled.

Let it go on for a week.

One month.

A year.

The illusion persists; several objects appear in it. We experience that we move to other places, receive different impressions, meet people and do things with them.

We still remember where we belong, but we begin to doubt.

Next scenario.

Now say that you were born in the simulator.

Would you then understand that everything you experience is not real? Would you then know anything about the outside world when you have never experienced it?

That would be impossible. You wouldn't believe me if I told you the reality of the situation. All your experiences come from the simulation.

Your «reality» is the sum of all your qualia and the preconceptions that created them.

You are, in a way, born into such a simulator. We call it the world.

Have I convinced you that you can believe anything, as long as it's credible enough?