Is Reality a Movie?

Simulation Thinking

“So the universe is constantly moving in the direction of higher evolutionary impulses, creativity, abstraction, and meaning.” Deepak Chopra

Models are simplifications of reality that allow us to think about reality, predict (sometimes correctly) and explore. Simulations are sophisticated models. So without saying that “I think reality is a movie”, as in we are all currently the cast of a very sophisticated and long-lasting movie, I am saying “what would such a simulation offer us?” A way to re-explore the existential dialogue of why we are here? What is it all about? What is reality anyway?

Chapter One — What is reality?

I don’t know what reality is.

All I have is my reality, I don’t even know for sure that you exist. Somewhere my consciousness receives electro-magnetic input from my various sensors, you may call them senses, but that suggests an older understanding, so I would rather think of them as sensors. These inputs are added to the models that already exist in my mind. Models that fill in the blanks and make my reality seem solid, cohesive and most importantly something that I can perceive and for the most part believe that I understand.

I only believe that other independent conscious beings exist, because although my mind can make what seem like independent beings exist when I dream, my model and my understanding tell me that I am not alone and that other human beings with similar consciousness and experience and agency exist. I believe this, but I don’t know this for sure. If I’m wrong, then I’m only writing this for myself.

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” Albert Einstein

Our reality as a movie

If you are in fact real, and you share human consciousness with me in some way, then I am making a premise that our reality is analogous to the concept of a movie. What I will from this point onward call a ‘Reality Movie’. My proposition in this article is that thinking of our reality as analogous to a very complex movie, allows for the exploration and explanation of constraints on our reality, and may allow for some expansive thinking, at least at an equally analogous level on what may sit outside of our Reality Movie.

If our reality operates like being inside of a movie, what does that mean?

  • From the inside, progression is linear. Time flows in a pre-determined ‘playing’ of the movie.
  • The result is determined. There is a plot and the end flows from the beginning.
  • The characters inside the movie only get to see their part in the movie. It is their entire reality.
  • Movies are created externally to the movie and carry meaning for the external observer.

With our apparent mastery over technology and the computing of our Universe, there are numerous philosophical discourses on ‘being in a simulation’, in fact being ‘artificial intelligence’ from an earlier point in history, or being ‘plugged-in’ to some form of Matrix or falsely represented reality. I don’t wish to explore any of those specifically. No previous view on ‘why we are here’ has proven its mastery over any other alternate view, and this ‘Reality Movie’ proposition isn’t somehow going to generate an answer. In fact, that is the critical point, from inside this ‘Reality Movie’ it is impossible to see what is outside.

I feel that although this is not a model of reality or consciousness, this easily accessible and understandable analogy allows for an examination of the nature of our, or more accurately my consciousness, and a dialogue that explores limits and why understanding consciousness and life may be profoundly difficult and continue, despite our science to elude us, for as long at least as our consciousness exists within the ‘Reality Movie’.

“First you learn the value of abstraction, then you learn the cost of abstraction, then you’re ready to engineer.” Kent Beck

Why use a ‘movie’ analogy?

A movie isn’t reality, although it does exist within it. It is less dimensional, it exists as stored data that when it is not being ‘played’ exists across time and also in its ‘time-independent’ entirety at any one of those single points of time, until it is ‘played’. When it is played, it has a time flow for the ‘cast’ that appears linear, although for the observer outside the ‘Reality Movie’, time has greater flexibility. The movie is reproduced in two-dimensional space, but the observer interprets it as three-dimensional space.

For the cast, the representation or plot of the movie is completely determined, despite their unawareness of this. The story unfolds in the same way, every time, despite their emotions, drama, and actions. They have no agency to change the story, but they are each important protagonists for the stories creation. Despite this, the determined story does create new and divergent meaning for the observer or observers.

A movie creates a temporal dialogue and generates new meaning in the larger dimensional space of its creation and it’s repeated consumption. The analogy also creates a connection, because a good movie has to have enough commonalty with its extraneous and larger reality to share meaning and be worthy of creation and consumption. The players are even the same, existing in one state inside the movie as cast, and also in another state outside of the movie as creator, consumer and consciousness free of the movie constraints.

“Just as music is noise that makes sense, a painting is colour that makes sense, so a story is life that makes sense.” Yann Martel

What does the ‘Reality Movie’ concept allow us to consider?

What scope of analysis does considering our consciousness as being inside a ‘Reality Movie’ allow?

We can examine, or at least hypothesize on many factors within a story-like analogy, including:

  • Why time appears to be linear within our perceived reality, against models that are not.
  • The ideas of pre-determined outcomes, despite apparent agency, against free-will conceptions.
  • Conceptions of beginning and end, all existing simultaneously within a larger reality.
  • Greater dimensionality, comparing 2-D movie space to 3-D and greater external realities.
  • Differing reality perceptions. For example, how we complete the story or interpret the messages.
  • Differing reality mechanics. For example, how we fill-in the ‘space’ between frames of a movie.
  • How meaning and even individuality could move between states of existence and reality.

These are just indicative. If you want to explore your own conceptualization of reality and your rationalization of life and existential meaning, then test it against the idea of being inside a ‘Reality Movie’, you may clarify your own understanding by either supporting or rejecting this analogous model.

After all, elucidation of ‘why we are here’, and ‘what’s it all about’, seem to be an integral and unsolvable part of the human condition.

“Abstraction is real, probably more real than nature.” Josef Albers

Next article

This article introduced the ‘Reality Movie’ as a simulation concept.

In future articles, a strange term given this introduction, I will explore specific analogous comparisons along with other simulation theories, to see what they offer an exploration of our own reality. Please make comment or pose questions.

SECOND CHAPTER — SCHRÖDINGER THE CAT

  2 comments for “Is Reality a Movie?

  1. April 1, 2021 at 9:39 am

    As far as the human striving for self-awareness goes, in some respects it’s useful to think of life as being like a movie, but limitations arise when you need to distinguish the viewer from the actor, because a viewer can step out and go to the candy bar. Perhaps that gives rise to debate over whether a mind can be in two (or more) places at once, and whether this would require, or necessitate, abandonment of the whole emotional being, or a determination of which experience to preference emotionally. In any case, the scenario I’ve described would not be analogous with reality. Maybe a more accurate analogy would be a kaleidoscope fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

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