Planet Soul

Simulation Theory Should Be a Religion

As ‘scientific’ as our beliefs about reality may seem, they’re still beliefs

Ed Elson
Human Parts
Published in
5 min readMay 22, 2020


Credit: Hiroshi Watanabe/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Here’s a belief I hold: What we consider reality is, most likely, a sensory rendering of a fractional slice of true reality, which is probably some computational network entity much like a laptop’s CPU or the neural network of a human brain.

My belief is close, but not identical, to the “simulation theory” Elon Musk popularized. Rather than believing we are necessarily living in some simulated video game programmed by a more advanced version of ourselves, I think our reality is probably something like a computer’s screen, and true reality is probably something like a computer’s processor — and I doubt that either the “screen” or the “processor” were made to be like a video game. In fact, I doubt they were made by anyone or anything. True reality, I believe, is something only a highly advanced algorithm could understand.

Here’s my problem: I have no idea what to do with this belief.

I believe it. I really do. There are many others who believe it (or something like it) too. But for some reason, it has near-zero effect on how I go about my daily life.

This conclusion I’ve reached should be life-altering. I literally think our reality is a tiny bit on a giant computer chip. Yet my approach to life is no different: I still spend lots of time on Instagram. I still want good grades. I still want validation from others. I’m still worried about my career. I still want to be seen as attractive. I still want to make lots of money. I still want to find true love. I still want my life to be some great, big, beautiful story with a happy, fulfilled, regretless ending.

In other words, even though my understanding of life has drastically changed, my execution of life remains staggeringly unaltered.

Now, compare my belief to that of a newly converted Catholic. With conversion comes a change in lifestyle, values, habits, perhaps dress, diet, hobbies, and so on. From Judaism to Buddhism to Islam, each religion entails a certain belief about “true reality” as well as a set of cultural habits and values. To be a Catholic, simply believing that Jesus was the…