Riz Virk is an expert in computer game tech… so are we living in a simulated multiverse game?
[00:00:00] Movie clip: Thomas, you seem particularly triggered right now can you tell me what happened? I’ve had dreams that weren’t just dreams.
[00:00:10] Alex Tsakiris: That’s right. He’s back. Neil’s back. The Matrix four is rebooted. Maybe Neil can straighten all that out. Speaking of coming back, we have a just terrific interview with a guy I have so much respect for. So, so smart Riz Virk new book, The Simulated Multiverse and MIT computer scientist explores parallel universes, the simulation hypothesis, quantum computing, and the Mandela effect. I’ve been doing a number of shows lately on computing, because I think it just fundamentally ties in to really all the stuff we’re talking about. But not everyone is always making that connection. So I feel the need to do it. Riz, of course, certainly fits in that category. As you’ll hear in this interview, here are some clips, I do hope you stick around for the whole thing. I think it’s really good. Check it out.
[00:01:02] Riz Virk: Now, in computation, we try to figure out which of those values of this graph are worth traversing. And so you can think of any process which is a series of choices as a multiverse. And that’s kind of the idea that I’m putting forward, whether they are physical or not becomes irrelevant, because they become physical only when we render them, meaning when we choose to explore that path.
[00:01:33] Alex Tsakiris: Okay, let me go all Skeptiko on you, are you stretching the metaphor too far? If we just start down the path of consciousness is fundamental?
[00:01:44] Riz Virk: Well, I think the metaphor fits pretty well. I mean, I spent a lot of time with the near death experiencers. And many of them report that they were able to look back in what’s called a life review. And so they were able to kind of go back and view the events, and many of them describe it as a room with a big projector. And so they’re using this metaphor, and it’s like, replaying something that has been recorded.
[00:02:16] Alex Tsakiris: But if you get past that, and you look at the accounts, overwhelmingly statistically, number one thing, love number one thing connection. Well, number one thing, spirituality that doesn’t really conform very well.
[00:02:31] Riz Virk: Well, it depends which metaphor you’re using, and exactly how you’re using it. I mean, for me, I think let’s use a different metaphor instead of a video game. Let’s use social networks, which people use all the time today and creates lots of angst. But why do we use social networks, we create an identity online. But primarily, what makes a social network different from a website is the social part of it. I would say the reason to be here perhaps is relationship. It’s to give ourselves the experience of having relationship with different parts of consciousness, which we see as other people, which eventually may be all connected.
[00:03:13] Alex Tsakiris: Welcome to Skeptiko, where we explore controversial science and spirituality, with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics. I’m your host, Alex Tsakiris. And today, well, we have a good one Riz Virk is back to talk about his new book, The Simulated Multiverse. In case you don’t remember who Riz is, he is like this super-duper smart MIT computer scientist, we won’t even mention the MBA from Stanford. He’s also an author, filmmaker, Silicon Valley, entrepreneur and investor. And we’re not going to talk about that. But if that is at all interesting to you, he has some absolutely terrific books on that topic, from this very interesting perspective that he has as a very successful game designer, programmer, maker, you know got 30 million downloads on his games, I think while he was still in his 20s or something. So he really has this incredible background. But what we’re really going to talk about today is this new book, The Simulated Multiverse. So Riz, first of all, welcome back. Thanks for coming back on.
[00:04:29] Riz Virk: Sure. Nice to be with you again.
[00:04:31] Alex Tsakiris: So I reached out to you because we’ve been doing a number of shows on AI, quantum computing, and the general angst that so many people are feeling about technology and technology advancement as it pops up all over the place. So who better to talk to you about that, then not just the game master but the game maker himself? Are we living in a matrix, that’s what we want to know?
[00:05:04] Riz Virk: Well, my last book, The Simulation Hypothesis was about that idea that we may be living inside some kind of technologically constructed reality. And, you know, very akin to what was shown in the movie of about the Matrix. And I was with that book, I was hoping to tie it to not just the development of video game technology, which is the area where I’ve spent good amount of my career as an entrepreneur and as an investor, but also relating it to some of the spiritual traditions from 1000s of years ago, and talk about the matrix as a metaphor. Whereas if you look at, you know, the religions, they all use different metaphors. In Buddhism, the metaphor of the dream is quite strong, and that we’re living in a dream and you wake up from the dream. And of course, Shakespeare, use the analogy or the metaphor of a stage play, because that’s what he did, as did the Leela’s. The Vedas, which had the Leela, which was the grand play in the Hindu Vedas eat a lot 5000 years ago or so. And so, my point is that if any of those folks were alive today, they would use the metaphor of a video game, which is like an interactive film script where the script can change based upon the choices of the characters along the way. And so that’s one axis of this whole thing is, is using the development of technology to look at the world in a different way. But yeah, my answer last time was that I think it’s more likely than not, that we are living in some kind of a simulated reality.
[00:06:43] Alex Tsakiris: Right. So I want to add, that’s great that you did that. I didn’t want to totally roll us back to the last book. But now that you mentioned it, I think it’s good. What does introducing kind of the multiple timelines, multiverse? How does that change things? And why did you feel a need to go there? I guess.
[00:07:05] Riz Virk: Sure. Well, when I finished the first book, I thought I was, you know, had been down the rabbit hole, and was pretty much done with this simulation stuff, or at least the big questions resulting from simulations for a while, and I could go back to my career in Silicon Valley, and academia. And then, I had a lunch with a friend of mine from who had just started working at Google. So I was living in Mountain View, California, which is right down the road from Google headquarters, and he had just flown in from Boston. And we got to talking about the simulation hypothesis. And he was an MIT alum, as well. So of course, we were talking about technology, and how these things could be built. And then, he said, “Well, have you looked at this thing called the Mandela effect?” I said, “Yeah, I’ve heard of it. But I kind of dismissed it, as many people in the scientific community did, maybe it’s just a case of faulty memory.” And he said, “Well, the simulation idea is actually the most likely or interesting explanation for something like the Mandela effect.” And for those who don’t know, many of your listeners have probably heard of it. But the Mandela effect is the idea that a subgroup of people a minority, remember certain events happening a different way, from the consensus reality. So the name comes because of Nelson Mandela, who some say die, they remember that he died in prison in the 1980s. Of course, we all know that not to be the case, if you just look it up on the internet. Or if you live through those events, Mandela was released from prison in the 90s became the first black president of South Africa. And then he died in 2013. And yet, many people remembered not just that he died, but they remember, a whole bunch of festivities around his funeral, including his wife speaking. And so these are very specific memories. And mainstream science dismisses this as well, that these are just a case of faulty memory. Perhaps it was this other black leader from South Africa that died in the 80s. And therefore, people are confusing the two. But it turns out, there’s a whole series of events like this, some of which are small, some of which are movie lines, some of which are big events. And so, in my case, I thought, well, that’s kind of interesting. Why don’t I spend a little more time into it? And when I had written the first book, I had interviewed the wife of science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. And so Philip K. Dick had given a very sort of famous within certain circles speech in Metz, France in 1977, saying that, we are living in a computer program reality and the only clue we have to it is when some variable is altered. And so I had talk to her and I thought, this is a fun way to talk about the matrix because supposedly the Wachowskis who created the matrix, were inspired by the work of Philip K. Dick, and I thought it’s just fun. Way to talk about the idea. Well, after having my conversation with my friend at Google, I went back to my conversation with Tessa. And then I went back and re-watched what Philip K. Dick was saying back in the 70s. And I read his whole speech, and I watched the video. And it turns out, the first part of that statement, which is the one that most of us focus on, that we’re living in a computer program reality was not the most important part of his speech, what he said was that, some variables would change, and then it would be run again. And so he said, “We would have this impression of reliving the same events again and again.” And he gave the phenomenon of Deja vu as evidence that this was happening. And he came to believe that we actually had multiple timelines, and that there were people or entities, changing small little variables, and then rerunning the events in his book, The Man in the High Castle. And we might have talked about this last time, but he actually believed that that was a real timeline, where Germany and Japan won the war. And for whatever reason, that was not an optimal timeline. So they quote unquote, they rewound the timeline, change some variables and rerun it again. And that’s how we ended up in the current timeline. And so this idea of the simulation, why do we run simulations to see what happened? And how do we do that, we change variables, and we run them again, and again, that’s how we predict the weather. That’s how we predict many things these days. And so this idea, kind of lodged in my mind that said, kind of, like, the quote from I think it was *Voltaire, * who said, when somebody asked him, “Do we live multiple times,” and I guess he believed, we did. But he said, “It’s no more surprising that we live multiple times than it is that we live once.” And so it occurred to me that if you’re in a computer simulation, it would be no more surprising for us to have multiple runs of the simulation than just one. In fact, it would make much more sense and explain a lot of the weirdness of quantum physics that I came across during my research and simulation. So anyway, that’s a little bit of a story there. But that that’s kind of what got me back down the rabbit hole, and really exploring this idea of a multiverse in multiple timelines.
[00:12:14] Alex Tsakiris: Great, so we might have our own multiple timelines in this little discussion, which will be great. I think it’s so interesting, the perspective that you bring the gamer perspective, and I want to talk about that, I want to talk about that, in all aspects of life, as an entrepreneur, what that brings to the table, as a computer scientist, even spirituality, what the game or kind of perspective brings, maybe we ought to go there right now, since we’re gonna have multiple timelines, and I can come back and hit all those other points. But if you ever thought about that, as you’ve gone through your career, have you ever thought, I kind of look at things a little bit differently? In it all, I look at things kind of like a game, does that resonate with you? Or no?
[00:13:05] Riz Virk: It does, because, especially through my research in this area the more I looked into it, the more I began to see that this was an overwhelming metaphor that can basically explain so many different aspects of life. And I’ve spent a lot of time with scientists, I’ve spent a lot of time with engineers and technologists, and I spend a lot of time with people who we classify as mystics, who are always exploring different states of consciousness. And I realized that this is a way to really connect all these threads together. And so that’s why I became so enamored with it. That’s why I decided to write the book, the first book and the second book, but during that process, people ask me, Well, so what does this mean for me? If I’m just a character in a game, does that mean that nothing matters? And I say, “Well, no, it’s not quite like that. I mean, the way that I view it is, if you think of how video games are constructed today, we create have characters of avatars that represent you. And then the avatars have certain storylines, and certain characteristics to kind of like in the old days, we used to play Dungeons and Dragons on a sheet of paper. And we used to have different attributes for the characters like strength, charisma, intelligence, all these different things. It turns out, each character was slightly different. And we’d have storylines for those characters. And I believe that, that happens to us in this life. Each of us has different strengths, different proclivities, they’re things that we are inclined to do. Like, I always knew I was going to be a computer software entrepreneur, and eventually become a writer, even when I was like, 10 years old. Now, how did I know that? It was just this sense that I had in the back of my mind that was the storyline that I had chosen to run. And if you look at how games are constructed today, not only do you have these big storylines, sure based upon the character you choose, but then you have a lot of smaller quests and challenges and achievements along the way. And if we didn’t have those, then the game would get kind of boring. And if the game got to be too easy, it wouldn’t be fun anymore. And so, there’s this phrase that was coined by the guy who founded Atari Nolan Bushnell, it was kind of the grandfather of the video game industry and he said, it was he wanted something that was easy to play, or easy to learn, but difficult to master. And he said, that’s what keeps the game interesting. That’s what keeps you coming back again, and again. And I think we can view life that way right there, it’s easy to play, but it’s not so easy to master. And so if we look at the challenges that we have in life, which many of us do, especially as we get older, we realize, life isn’t all fun, and games, even if it is a game, there are challenges along the way. And without those challenges, just like a movie that doesn’t have a lot of obstacles for the main character. Well, that becomes a vignette. That’s not an interesting story. Or we like Indiana Jones just got the map at the beginning and said, “Okay, here’s the Ark of the Covenant, here’s the X, go get it,” that’s not quite as interesting as having to follow a clue. And to overcome that challenge and go to the next one. And so if we view the obstacles in our lives as challenges that perhaps we have signed up for, whether we remember it or not, it can change our perspective on things.
[00:16:42] Alex Tsakiris: Hey, that’s super interesting. And that’s gonna get super spiritual in just a minute. But I am kind of stepped back a little bit for the for the multiple timeline thing, because I think it’s super interesting. And I think it’s super interesting to connect that to science. And we’re gonna get to this awesome quote from you, computer science is eating all the other sciences, which I really want to get to. But when I think of this multiple timeline thing, and I think how uncomfortable it is for all of us, I was going to say, folks, you have a light somebody else but no, for all of us, the idea of multiple simultaneous timelines is kind of uncomfortable. But I always think back to the dean Raiden presentment experiment. Are you familiar with that?
[00:17:29] Riz Virk: Remember that one specifically, I mean, I’ve met Dean and I know him.
[00:17:32] Alex Tsakiris: Okay, well, then you probably know maybe, so one of the most famous experiments that Dean Reagan did. And it was brilliant, the way that he set it up, because he just took a standard kind of freshman psychology experiments, where you sit in front of the computer, and the computer flashes you an image, and then we’re gonna measure how you react to it. And what he did was really quite brilliant. He said, “Why are we assuming this timeline? Why are we assuming your reaction comes after the computer selects and displays the image?” And *Lohan* behold, that was the pre sentiment, we can’t really call it pre cognition, because it wasn’t at a cognitive level, it was just the sensations in your body dilation, your pupils can change all that kind of stuff. I mean, this is a six sigma replicated throughout the world, multiple labs replicated by him time, this would, if you really were objective, you’d say this is one of the most reliably statistically one of the world’s reliable experiments we have well in science, and it completely blows away our idea of a timeline, it fits in perfectly with at least the beginnings of what you’re talking about that we, so here science is telling us. Forget it, it’s the timeline thing. It’s just, I mean, we probably knew this since Einstein, but we could never really get wrap our arms around it. Now, it’s kind of right there in that experiment. What do you think about that?
[00:19:00] Riz Virk: Yeah, well, I think there’s something to that if we are not only in a single timeline, we are able to know at a certain level, how things might evolve based upon how they’ve gone in the past, but we may or may not consciously remember, like you said, it may not be at the level of cognition. And I like to use science fiction as a good way for people to kind of understand it. And, you know, there’s this element of the movie Groundhog Day. Which I guess is sort of science fiction sort of nod. But Bill Murray has to relive the same day again and again. And as he goes through again, and again, he learns more and more about what’s happening, and he’s able to react differently and to kind of master the events of the day. Well, if you think about AI and how it works today, like when we’re training AI, we train it by running the same events again and again, and then we use that to for it to become better knowledgeable because it knows what might happen in this situation or that situation. And so for example, the AI beat the first chess player that Grandmaster long time ago IBM’s, you know, chess playing computer, but then more recently, Google’s AlphaGo was able to beat some of the best players that go in the world. And the way they train that is through a process called self-play, it will play out each of those games millions of times, and sometimes it will play with itself. So you have this kind of self-referential thing going on, where you are doing something multiple times, and then you are learning to pick what is most likely the best outcome of that. And so that is a process that I call the core loop. And it’s a process that happens within computer science, we try out different possibilities, even if you go back to like, when I used to make checkers games, when I was first learning computer science, it would go out, and it would see what would happen if I were to do X, Y, and Z, and then would come back and say, “Okay, as those paths, this is the most optimal path.” And so, my conjecture here is that something like the core loop is happening within our lives, we actually go and we run these timelines, to see what would happen. And then we come back, and then we pick the next one that we want to be on. So that’s where we are actually sensing, just like in this pre [unclear 21:33] experiment that you talked about that Dean Raiden did, but also, where we have these sort of hunches, or feelings of Deja vu or funny feeling, clues, I call them about what’s happening about the future. Now can we have clues about the future if the future isn’t at least defined in some way, as a set of probabilities. Now, this gets into the physics and how things work, we can talk about that in a minute, if you like. But that, to me is a sense that we are outside the timeline, but then we bring ourselves in as an avatar. And if you run the game multiple times, each time, it will seem like you’re just in that one path. But that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t another path that had been run before. And so that’s kind of what I came to believe. And I defined this thing called the multiverse graph. And the core loop in my new book, and those are the underlying processes of how I think this whole thing works.
[00:22:30] Alex Tsakiris: Let’s talk about this computer science is eating the other sciences. And I want to kind of talk about it from two perspectives. One is, the stuff you’re laying out, you’re making it sound like science, in general, is right there with you, and is supportive of this kind of speculation that you’re doing. But it’s really not in so many ways. And then the flip side of that is, as you point out, if you look at it from a different perspective, particularly as a computer scientist, and I would say, particularly as a computer science game designer and developer, it’s like, I know how this game is playing out. We don’t know what the motive is completely for the resistance. But I don’t know why. So, first point is, do you think there’s general acceptance of at least the framework that you’re laying out within science as a whole? Number two is, why are they so resistant? Because I think they are. And three, doesn’t that all just crumble as computer science eats the other sciences?
[00:23:37] Riz Virk: Well, those good, good questions there and on all three fronts, but I would say that my books are, in fact, speculation based upon scientific findings. And so it’s not that science disagrees. But you’re right, most scientists don’t share my end of perspective. But we’re relying on the same findings or set of data within science that’s showing us that there’s something strange about the world that we live in. And so, in my last book, I laid out the fact that space isn’t what we think it is. And that it’s really more about information, and less about physical objects. In fact, in science, the more they try to find this thing called matter the more elusive it becomes, they can’t really find it. It’s like opening up those Russian Nesting Dolls. I like to say, at the bottom, you open it up, and at the bottom, there’s really nothing there, but information. And so there was a quote from John Wheeler, who was one of the giants of 20th century physics, and he worked with Einstein and Bohr and many others and he came up with this phrase, “it from bit,” and he said, “At its core, he couldn’t find matter as particles but he could find it as information.” And he felt that it if you had a series of, yes, no questions, those are the properties of what defines this thing that we call matter. Now, the other big confounding thing that science has found is that time isn’t what we think it is. We’re used to thinking of time as going from the past, slowly towards the future in one direction. But there’s something called the delayed choice experiment, which was proposed also by Wheeler. Which was this idea of, are there multiple futures, and when does a choice get made, and the best way to understand it is from the cosmic delayed choice experiment. Suppose there’s light from a Quasar that’s like a billion light years away coming to us, and there’s a black hole or a galaxy in the middle, say, a million light years away, and the light has to go to the left or to the right of that black hole. It can’t go both; it has to go one way or the other. And now we would think that, that choice would have had to have been made a million years ago, because the black hole is a million light years away. And so it takes light a million years, it is. But what the delayed choice experiment has found is that it’s not until you measure the light when it reaches us, which is a million years after it reaches a black hole. And maybe, a billion years later, from when it left, the very distant Quasar, for example, that choice doesn’t happen until the measurement. And so what this is telling us is that the past isn’t what we think it is. And the future isn’t what we think it is that they’re related in strange ways. And so science doesn’t have a great interpretation for that. And the best interpretation that they’ve come up with within physics is the multiverse idea. So there’s like two major interpretations of quantum physics that are kind of considered accepted interpretations. One is, the collapse of the probability wave based upon observation. And then the other is the multiverse idea. And the multiverse idea has more and more adherence over time. Now, there’s some problems in the multiverse idea, it basically says that every time there’s a decision to be made, the universe splits off into multiple branches. So think of it like a tree, a very large tree, that just keeps spreading, its branches, outward forever. And so, this is a matter of debate within science. And the question, and my question is, well, if you’re going to clone something, what is it that you clone, there’s nothing in nature where you can clone like a giant object in an instant, it takes time, even in biology. You can clone a specific plant, or if you’re cloning a sheep, it takes time you have to grow that clone. But the one thing you can clone almost instantly is information. And so, I believe that this model of a simulated multiverse actually bridges the gap between these different interpretations of quantum physics. Now, the big debate, though, I think, that you’re hinting at is this issue of consciousness, existing or not existing. And that, to me, the video game, kind of point of view that I have, I like to define as the NPC versus the RPG debate or reversions of the simulation hypothesis. NPCs being non-player characters, RPG being role playing games. And so like, whereas if you and I are in a game, we have our avatars, each of us is playing that avatar, but then there are other characters that aren’t necessarily conscious entities outside the game. And so most scientists tend to go towards that interpretation, which is a materialistic point of view that we’re all NPCs. But there’s this other interpretation of the RPG that we exist outside and we inhabit that character.
[00:28:46] Alex Tsakiris: That’s where it seems to me that kind of a literal interpretation of the multiverse theory is kind of silly. I mean, no one really thinks that because it implies that the whole consciousness is an illusion. And it’s this kind of weird interpretation, I think of ultimately, the double slit experiment, which no, it’s just we’re uncomfortable with the idea that where you really are the observer, that consciousness really is making a difference. But again, I point Dean Braden, no, he needs to stack up some Nobel Prizes on his bookshelf for some, because the other experiment that he did, that I thought was incredibly poignant and relevant right now is he said, “Okay, I’ll settle any of this kind of debate. That’s not even very hard anymore. I can set up a photon beam generator in my lab, and I can bring in a meditator and I’ll have him look the other way and then say, okay, focus your attention on the photon beam, and boom, we can control that really well.” And he does and another six sigma result. Yeah, if I tell this guy who’s this Zen Buddhist 20,000 hours’ meditator to focus on the photon beam, he can show an effect. So it to me it’s kind of a, I just don’t even want to go there in terms of materialistic science, consciousness is an illusion, kind of crap.
[00:44:15] Riz Virk: And so I think within this computing world, like, for example, at MIT, they just established a new College of Computing, which is different from the College of computer science, or the engineering college, which computer science is a part of, it’s like a whole separate, like, there’s the College of Liberal Arts, the business school, there’s a whole new College of Computing, what does that mean? It’s about applying computing ideas with emphasis on quantum computing, but not only kind of computing into all the other areas. So I think this does lead us to that point, it may take people some time to get there. I mean, in my own case, I’ve been thinking about these things. Since I was a kid, but also by spending time with people outside of the world of science. And so that leap I think come with more scientists acknowledging that everything that they’ve been studying is information. And then that can get them to the leap around consciousness and viewing in the same way that you and I are not really talking to each other right now, are we? We’re actually in a virtual world. If you think about it. I my avatar, which is just a series of bits that looks like me, is talking to your avatar, right over the internet. And so I think that idea becomes something that people can understand now. Whereas, 30 ~ 50 years ago, people wouldn’t understand that idea. Like that was strange to think of talking to someone over a computer like that just didn’t make any sense. The term avatar was introduced in the 80s by a couple guys working at Lucas, near George Lucas’s nascent video game company back then. And so I guess my point is that as new generations grew up, they’re more comfortable with certain ideas. And then those ideas become easy enough to extend and combine whereas before they were thought to be completely separate and so I think that’s an ongoing process that will happen over time.
[00:46:16] Alex Tsakiris: Let me go all Skeptiko on you. Are you stretching the metaphor too far, if we just start down, the path of consciousness is fundamental, take a whole different kind of perspective, consciousness is fundamental, we starts looking at the datasets that we have out there, we start looking at near death experience, science over 200, peer reviewed studies, all coming back and saying that consciousness is now immediately outside of this time space continuum, that I think you’re kind of depending on in a way, are you or are you not? Where would that put us? For relatively? If you look at reincarnation science, if Jim Tucker from the University of Virginia on the show, on one hand, you could say, “Wow, it fits in with what Riz is saying.” On the other hand, you could say no, there’s some kind of fundamental contradictions, in terms of it, at least in terms of the hierarchy of consciousness, because it’s definitely implying some kind of hierarchy. That is, it really modeled in what you’re talking about?
[00:47:22] Riz Virk: Well, I think the metaphor fits pretty well. I mean, I spent a lot of time with the near death experiencers. And many of them report that they were able to look back in what’s called a life review. And so they were able to kind of go back and view the events, and many of them describe it as a room with a big projector. And so they’re using this metaphor, and it’s like, replaying something that has been recorded. But what was interesting to me and why I wrote the second book, and I included a chapter on that, near the end, is that sometimes they report being able to see what would have happened. Had they made different choices, as if that wasn’t that different from what actually happened. And so I think the metaphor of the simulation or video game works pretty well, because it means you can rerun, I mean, they’re talking about a life review of things that hadn’t happened. But that might have happened and they’re watching it as if they had actually happened. And turns out, when people talk about the life preview, send them in with a Buddhist called a Bardo, which some people remember through, whether it’s through hypnosis, etc. And some people even in Jim Tucker’s case, remember that experience of before they were incarnated into this life, they talked about being able to see paths of like these trees that move out, and that there are these major decision points, and that they can watch what would have happened in New York. And a journey of souls from Metro Michael Newton is a good example of a series of case studies along these lines, and they said it was weird, it was as if I was actually watching life in New York, before I had been born. And so, what does that mean? How do we fit that into a model that we as human beings can understand with our minds, and I think the video game metaphor is a very good one, because it means you just run that part of the game? You watch what would happen? And you say, “Well, it’s as if it was actually happening.” Well, that’s because when it actually happens, it’s just the run of the game or the simulation that you’ve decided to be in. It’s not that different, like a potential run of the simulation isn’t that different from is actually run. And so I think a metaphor actually works pretty well as a way to understand now it’s not exactly that because you say well, in video game, I’m a physical person outside of the game. So am I a physical person outside of our simulation. Or am I just pure consciousness? Well, that depends. When people talk about a near death experience, or they remember the in between state, they all describe it similarly, but differently. Some people describe something that looks like heaven. Some people describe a city, some people describe a garden. Well, those are just additional simulations. That’s why they can be different. And so I guess there is, in my opinion, you know, a hierarchy of these types of simulations that get created for us. And in the end, yeah, it’s probably goes back to pure consciousness. We were all connected trying to have an experience. Why do we play video games in the first place? This is a question I like to ask when people say what’s the point of having a simulation? There’s two main reasons we play video games are run simulations. One is to see what would happen if we run simulations with different variables. And the second is to have experiences that we can’t have outside of that environment. Like I can’t fly in a dragon in this particular physical reality, I can do it inside a video game. So it’s possible that what we’re experiencing here in this reality is something that we can’t experience outside, and we need to embody ourselves to run the simulation. So yeah, I mean, I do think there is some kind of a hierarchy that goes on, I can’t claim to have the exact answers for what that looks like.
[00:51:27] Alex Tsakiris: Are you talking about God now? I mean, you’re talking about God, if there’s a hierarchy of consciousness, that’s just code speak for God.
[00:51:34] Riz Virk: Yeah, eventually, there’s some entity or thing that we are all a part of that is running this simulation. Now people say, “Well, who are the simulators?” And I said, “Well, first of all, it could be us.” It doesn’t have to be like, one simulator, we could each be having experiences, because we’re all running this as players. But you’re right. I think if you take that metaphor further, you do end up with some kind of single consciousness or eventual will simulator, if you will, that is akin to what some people call God.
[00:52:09] Alex Tsakiris: I mean, I think the big question that we’re kind of struggling with, and I just like, I think you’re adding so, so much to the discussion in a really important way of your grounding it in a way that we’re familiar with, or at least think we’re familiar with, because we think we know how computers work. But the big question, I studied the near death experience for the longest time, and if you look at all the books, on and on and on, they’re talking about evidence and evidence and evidence, and this big battle between science and consciousness extend beyond bodily death. But if you get past that, and you look at the accounts, overwhelmingly statistically, number one thing, love, number one thing connection, Well, number one thing, spirituality, in a way that doesn’t really conform very well, seems to not fit as comfortably in some of those models. what people are saying, over and over again, is, “Hey, you know what, religion if that floats your boat, fine, but it’s really not about that. It’s really about this connection, this feeling of connection that is fundamental to who we are, but is obscured by the game, by the simulation.” And that when people get outside of time space, either in near death experience or an OBE, or doing psychedelics or whatever, they immediately see things differently. And they are, I just think, the metaphor, if we look at it as consciousness is fundamental, and it’s all about light and love and hierarchy consciousness, it then it looks like we’re kind of stretching the metaphor to me, what do you think about that?
[00:53:55] Riz Virk: Well, yeah, it depends which metaphor you’re using, and exactly how you’re using it. I mean, for me, I think let’s use a different metaphor instead of a video game. Let’s use social networks, which people use all the time today and creates lots of angst. But why do we use social networks, we create an identity online. But primarily, what makes a social network different from a website is the social part of it, it’s that there are other people, and we define ourselves by what we are sharing and our interactions within those people. So if you think about it for a second, getting away from all the negative stuff around social networks. The purpose of a social network, is connections. Now you can say people have toxic connections, they’ve had good connections. They may have spiritual, inspiring, they may have bad connections, people get more anxious when they all these things that happened with those connections. Well, you could be describing life, right? I mean, that’s what happens in life. If we’re coming here to have connections and experiences with other people. During that time, we have all these problems, we have anxieties, things go wrong. But really, it’s about the connection. So I think that metaphor is a good way to describe this idea of, we’re all jumping into this thing to have these experiences. But there is an element of unpredictability to what happens, because each of us is still making choices along the way. And that creates a lot of the friction that we see in the world, in the video game and in the social network. But perhaps it’s all, a carefully crafted illusion, and we chose to be here and play, in the game. So that’s kind of how I think about it. And so, you know, if you back up, you still get to that same place of the reason to be here is, love. But I would say the reason to be here perhaps is relationship. It’s to give ourselves the experience of having relationship with different parts of consciousness, which we see as other people, which eventually may be all connected.
[00:56:02] Alex Tsakiris: Great. Let me hit the spiritual angle from one other perspective, you know, you’re always going to be tied to the matrix movies, whether you want to or not, it kind of connects people to your work, I think, in a wonderful way, I think it’s really a positive thing. But there’s kind of two ways to read the matrix. From a spiritual perspective, one of the groups that really latches on to the matrix so the gnostic people they go, that’s a gnostic movie. That’s create better than the creator got to it. There are some very gnostic themes to it. And I kind of look at the spirituality thing from kind of, I kind of have a Western yogic kind of philosophy. The Western Yogis to me, are the best of combining some of that deep, deep wisdom with kind of a more current view. But the two ways of looking at it, I think, is one is kind of the gnostic is this battle, the create better than the creator gods, which is I think that sums up what the matrix is about, but the matrix is very materialistic science. They are, Neo really is some place and he really is experiencing something and then he’s experiencing a false created reality, false maybe is not the right word. You know, when he does this, what the Yogi’s are telling us is kind of what you’re saying, that’s all my you know, I mean, just, you don’t even have to engage in any of it, you are instantly connected. And it’s not a matter of it’s just a matter of realizing it. It’s not a matter of getting anywhere, it’s just a matter of accepting that, that instant connection is there. And that we’re going to talk about collapsing, collapsing all, that collapses everything. So what about those two competing kind of spiritual ideas? What do you make of that?
[00:58:00] Riz Virk: Yeah, I find it interesting. I mean, I don’t claim to be an expert on the Gnostic points of view, but familiar with some of the broad outlines. But when you think of the Western Yogi’s, I mean, one of the Yogi’s from the east that really introduced a lot of the way we think about yoga and meditation was Yogananda, who came over back in the 1980s. And wrote Autobiography of a Yogi, I’m actually working on a book about lessons for modern seekers, from Yogananda and his autobiography, but I’m writing it here in the US for HarperCollins in India, which is a whole interesting thing. It’s a little bit of the pizza effect, they call it, how pizza came from Italy to here, but then it went back, what we think of as pizza, and what you find is pizza in Italy is not what was originally pizza there. And so you have this mix of east and west. But one of Yogananda has points was, and he used a different metaphor, it was in the 1920s, and 30s and 40s, that he primarily taught, and he used the metaphor of the film projector, because that was, the new technology at the time. And he looked at World War One, you know, when which went on during his lifetime, and said, “Look at all this suffering and all these things that are going on – and he said – Well, it’s like a movie. The movie needs to have that there. And we are so engrossed in it, that we forget that it’s a movie and that the players are there, they have agreed to be there and go through a lot of that, for the purpose of having this experience.” So personally, I tend to be more on that side, I guess what Western Yogi’s are a mix of Western and Eastern. But even Philip K Dick, who I referenced a lot in this book, he came up with this idea of the simulation and the multiple timelines, he said, “Well, there was a programmer, and a counter programmer and it’s almost like they’re sitting across the table from each other playing chess as one would change a variable and it would change it in time, like a while ago, and that would change everything today.” And I found this just an interesting, fascinating another metaphor, that is a way of looking at things, which led me to the Mandela effect, which is about why do things change, and one of the aspects of the Mandela effect that if you look online, is this idea of scriptural changes, like, is the Bible changing? Like, are they actual words, with Isaiah, about the lion and the lamb? And turns out well, there, that particular verse does not talk about the lion and the lamb. It talks about the wolf, and the lamb. And yet there are people who have pictures that they’ve created of lions and lambs, based upon this quote that everybody thinks they remembers, and some people say, “Well, it was actually my physical Bible has changed.” Well, in the Islamic traditions, they actually memorize the Quran word for word. And one of the Sufi leaders of one of the US Sufi organizations was saying, “The reason for that is supposedly there are these entities, these gins who don’t exist in time, like you and I do, they can go back and change physical objects in time, but they can’t change your memory necessarily.” And so one of the reasons we don’t rely on the written text, but we make sure everybody knows every word orally and has memorized it is because it may change. Now, that’s another interesting perspective. I mean, I tend to lean more on the Yogananda metaphors, and that perspective myself, but it all ties together, the one thing they both agree on, is what we think of as time and space is a kind of illusion. It’s the meaning of the word Maya is a carefully crafted illusion. If you look at kind of the idiom and what it actually means, it’s crafted for our benefit. And turns out that’s something you can find agreement on in the Quran. And across, all the major religions. And so that’s, you know, part of what I like to do with this metaphor is find the commonalities and say, we can at least agree on this. If we can’t agree on some of these other things.
[01:02:09] Alex Tsakiris: Yeah, that’s quite extraordinary. Yogananda always has a special place in my heart. You know, when I was an entrepreneur, and I started my company at a small AI company in Dallas. I was doing the correspondence classes with Yogananda, they went back of the way back in the day, they’d send them to you weekly. And now [unclear 1:02:28], I live seven miles from his ashram out here in San Diego. And every week, I bicycle up into yoga, looking out over this beautiful scenery in Cardiff, and you look at the ocean, and you look right at his incredible self-realization fellowship, house that he built, and they kind of keep it as a museum and stuff. It’s very, very, very special place.
[01:02:55] Riz Virk: It is, in fact, I was just there this summer as part of my research. And so I went to the room where he wrote The Autobiography of a Yogi and it’s, I guess, in Encinitas. They’re Jakarta. And they’re looking out over the ocean. And so it was quite an experience for me to be there. It was quite fun, actually.
[01:03:13] Alex Tsakiris: And just for people who don’t know, I mean, you talk about a simulated multiverse, the title of your latest book, anyone picks up that book and reads the first 30 pages? I mean, Riz, exactly, this is your point, I guess, is shape shifting time. All sorts of time, you know, appearing here. And then by locating over there, I mean, it’s just writes like a script for what you’re talking about. Right? So it’s funny that you’re going to write that book.
[01:03:47] Riz Virk: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, absolutely. And now, a lot of the … I’ve always been fascinated by the accounts of the Eastern Yogi’s with these different tales of miracles and by location. And it turns out that, that’s not just in the eastern traditions in the Catholic traditions. I spent some time speaking with Diana Walsh Pasulka, who is a professor of Catholic studies that North Carolina, and she her research went into some of the examples of my location within the Catholic canon within the Americas and Europe and somebody being a particular nun being seen by the Indians in New Mexico. And so, I’ve always been fascinated by all of this stuff. And so for me that a simulation, and then a simulated multiverse provides the best way to bridge the gap between these things, is one approach that people in the science and technology world they say, “Oh, that’s all nonsense, it doesn’t happen.” And I say, “Well, perhaps our understanding isn’t quite complete. But this idea of the simulation is one that can bridge that gap.” And that’s really one of the reasons why I felt compelled to spend so much time and hopefully now in a second book, I’m done with the topic for a little while.
[01:05:05] Alex Tsakiris: So I want to wrap it up. But you brought up Diana Walsh Pasulka, and I thought her book American cosmic can choose on the show is I got what do you think. I mean, that’s one of the most challenging kind of books you talked about screwing with the timeline. I mean, as soon as we introduce ET the timeline looks completely different on this other realm of, this other aspect of how long have we been here? Are we part of an ongoing, physical genetic engineering timeline that spans hundreds of 1000s of years? When you look at the geological record, there’s something going on a lot of things point to that. And then here comes Diana Walsh Pasulka goes, “Yeah, I was out collecting space junk in the desert.” And then your friend Jack [unclear 1:05:50] is carrying around little bits of spaceships in his pocket that says, “Can’t really say how this could be engineered or manufactured in this timeline.” So do you even go there? Or do you just kind of?
[01:06:06] Riz Virk: Well, I don’t go there so much in the new book, but in the last book, I went there a little bit, because I feel like there is an overlap here, which is that we have to broaden our thinking, when we talk about this et phenomenon, that it may not be as Yuk *Velay, * has said for many years, is that there’s an element of the absurd, and there’s an element of staging. It’s almost like these things are being staged for us in some way. And when I interviewed Jack for the previous book, he said, “There were instances where people say, they saw a UFO coming out, like a 45-degree angle” and he went out, and he looked at where they were saying it landed, and despite the fact that there was some physical like, some burned areas on the ground, he looked at the 45-degree angle, he said that we have to go through these massive redwood trees. I mean, it was literally, I had to cut through the trees. And they’re like, “Yeah, but I didn’t want to say that to the other investigators, because it just sounded absurd.” So it’s almost like the witnesses aren’t willing, because they know, we live in kind of rationally minded world, they weren’t willing to speak about these more absurd elements. And turns out well, that the fact that perhaps these things are both physical, non-physical, that they’re coming into our reality, and rendering at a certain point, provides an explanation for how they could go through physical matter so easily. And so, I don’t personally, speculate too much on what these timelines are. But I do think that, that some of these visitors, maybe coming from other timelines that we have to broaden our perspective of what we think that it’s just, we know what the universe is like, I mean, the reality is, our science may only be 7%, of what we have to discover, which means 90 plus percent, has not even been discovered yet. And so the multiverse idea provides a way to think about at least a framework to think about how these multiple timelines could be happening, and how each of these are different runs or experiments of that simulation. So I think it ties, both in terms of UFOs, science and of course, science fiction, it’s a very popular topic these days in science fiction with the Marvel multiverse. And I don’t know if you saw the show Loki. It’s all about having these different versions of superheroes on these different timelines. And so it’s an interesting, I think metaphor that cuts across the worlds of some of the UFOs, conspiracy as well as more pop culture.
[01:08:49] Alex Tsakiris: Absolutely. Our guest again, has been Riz Virk, you definitely want to check out this book, it’s already number one as a pre-release. By the time you listen to this, it’ll be out The Simulated Multiverse and MIT computer scientist explores parallel universes, The Simulation Hypothesis, quantum computing, and the Mandela effect. Fantastic. You will check that out his other books, which you’ll find at his Amazon page, the one that we talked about last time, The Simulation Hypothesis, and then some really, really cool entrepreneur books that have this computer science angle, which is so great, cuz this guy, we didn’t even talk about his experience at Play Labs. But I mean, he’s still an active entrepreneur. And he’s kind of one of these helper entrepreneurs who is trying to help other people who were trying to do this and make it happen at a time when so many people have this angst and stuff like that. This is like an exciting time, isn’t it? I mean, this is like one of the most exciting times in history for development of new technology. There’s so many things that are what do you think about that, Riz? Isn’t this a great time for entrepreneurs to jump in the game if they have that skill set?
[01:10:02] Riz Virk: Yeah, I think this is a great time for entrepreneurs and we’re going through a level of technological change. Really, that hasn’t been seen since the Industrial Revolution. I grew up in Detroit. And I used to wonder why does GM have Buick and Cadillac and liquored up, these are all entrepreneurs, who created these companies, back in the day, and today, what’s happening with, you know, networking and with blockchain, and with virtual reality, and with AI, computers are touching every part of our lives. And so, that’s where I spent, good part of my career. And so now I try to help other folks, sometimes as investor or advisor through different accelerator programs, like the one I did at MIT Play Labs. But yeah, I think this, this is definitely a great time. I always wish I was 20 years younger, because this is a great time to …
[01:10:50] Alex Tsakiris: get back in the game, man.
[01:10:53] Riz Virk: Yeah, I’m getting a little too old for that now. But it’s a great time for that.
[01:10:57] Alex Tsakiris: But you’re shaping the game too. And I think there’s an interesting kind of convergence between you shaping the game with younger entrepreneurs, and merging with this kind of expanded worldview that you’re bringing to it. There’s again, as we talked about, there’s where these things can kind of come together naturally, because it’s more people push that envelope. They’re more receptive to these deeper, big picture things that you’re talking about, right?
[01:11:25] Riz Virk: Yeah, absolutely. And today, there’s a lot of chatter in Silicon Valley and beyond about the Metaverses and what is the Metaverses, it’s a virtual 3d environment where we can all interact with one another. But we can also have ownership of assets and move things around. Well, as that becomes a reality, we’re seeing a science fiction concept turned into physical reality. But that ties very much to my idea of reaching the simulation point, which is that if we can create something that we get so immersed in that we forget about the physical world, it’s probably already happened. And that’s what ties to all the broader discussions we had here about the spiritual side of things as well.
[01:12:05] Alex Tsakiris: Great, awesome way to wrap it up that the kind of the Turing test on super steroids kind of when we get to that simulation point, fantastic. Riz Virk has been our guest again, Riz, thank you so much.
[01:12:18] Riz Virk: Thanks for having me on again.
[01:12:20] Alex Tsakiris: Thanks, again to Riz Virk for joining me today on Skeptiko. The one question I’d have to tee up from this interview, what do you think about the simulated multiverse metaphor? We talked quite a bit about it, its connection to science, hard science, also, its connection to potentially extended consciousness as we understand it. And thirdly, its connection to spirituality, which we all understand, we don’t understand. So let me know your thoughts on that question. And while you’re at it, I would really like to grow the Skeptiko community. I would like other people to hear this interview, share these ideas. The show is totally free. There’s no paywall. There’s no advertisements, all the past shows are free. I’m never trying to sell anything other than the ideas of the people who come on the show. And I’d like those ideas to reach as many people as possible. So if you can, if you think that’s a good idea, you can get behind, please do it, in any way you see fit. And if you need some extra ideas, then email me and we’ll figure it out together. But I think it would be fun to grow this community. I also think it’d be fun to grow the Skeptiko forum community, come on over love people that have really, really smart thinking and are willing to share research and ideas, not just opinions. So that’s really what the Skeptiko forum is about. And if you want to come over and join us, I’d love to have you over there. that’s gonna do it for today. Until next time, take care. Bye for now.
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