Existence

The Greatest Mysteries of All Time

It’s lucky you’re here...

13.7 billion years ago, the universe was born in a cosmic fireball. Roughly 10 billion years later, the planet we call Earth gave birth to life, which eventually led to you. The probability of that sequence of events is absolutely minuscule, and yet it still happened. Take a step back from the unlikeliness of your own personal existence and things get even more mind-boggling.

Am I a Hologram?
Take a look around you. The walls, the chair you're sitting in, your own body - they all seem real and solid. Yet there is a possibility that everything we see in the universe - including you and me - may be nothing more than a hologram. It sounds preposterous, yet there is already some evidence that it may be true, and we could know for sure within a couple of years. If it does turn out to be the case, it would turn our common-sense conception of reality inside out. The idea has a long history, stemming from an apparent paradox posed by Stephen Hawking's work in the 1970s. He discovered that black holes slowly radiate their mass away.

Is There More Than One Me?
Far, far away, in a galaxy with a remarkable resemblance to the Milky Way, is a star that looks remarkably like the sun. And on the star's third planet, which looks like a twin of the Earth, lives someone who, for all the world, is you. Not only do they look the same as you and lead an identical life, they are reading this exact same article - in fact, they are focused on this very line. Weird? In fact, there are an infinite number of galaxies that look just like our own, containing infinite copies of you and your loved ones leading lives, up until this moment, that are absolutely identical to yours. The existence of these parallel worlds is not just idle speculation.

What is the Self?
It's there when we wake up and slips away when we fall asleep, maybe to reappear in our dreams. It's that feeling we have of being anchored in a body we own and control and perceive the world from within. It's the feeling of personal identity that stretches across time, from our first memories, via the here and now, to some imagined future. It's all of these tied into a coherent whole. It's our sense of self. Humans have pondered the nature of the self for millennia. Is it real or an illusion? And if real, what is it, and where do we find it? Different philosophical traditions have reached radically different conclusions.

Am I a Zombie?
Philosopher René Descartes hit the nail on the head when he wrote "cogito ergo sum". The only evidence you have that you exist as a self-aware being is your conscious experience of thinking about your existence. Beyond that you're on your own. You cannot access anyone else's conscious thoughts, so you will never know if they are self-aware. That was in 1644 and little progress has been made since. If anything, we are even less sure about the reality of our own existence. It is not so long ago that computers became powerful enough to let us create alternative worlds. We have countless games and simulations that are, effectively, worlds within our world. As technology improves, these simulated worlds will become ever more sophisticated.

 

The "original" universe will eventually be populated by a near-infinite number of different worlds.

 

Kemo D. 7

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