We met Rizwan Virk, MIT computer scientist (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), bestselling author, futurist, video game industry pioneer, entrepreneur and indie film producer.
Rizwan received a B.S. in computer science from MIT, and a M.S. in management from Stanford’s GSB. He is currently working on a PhD at ASU’s College of Global Futures, researching metaverse and virtual worlds.
Speaking of your new book “The Simulated Multiverse”, what makes you think that reality is a great simulation? Was it your experience in video games, the world of the Metaverse or even your passion in computer science, that made you see signs around us, which give you the conviction that we live in parallel worlds?
It was partly my experience in making video games, and my study of both computer science and quantum physics, and my experience in running a VR program at MIT. A few years ago I was playing a Ping Pong game in virtual reality (VR) game and for a moment my body forgot that I was in VR – I thought that I was playing a “real” Ping Pong game- and I tried to put the paddle down on the table and lean on the table. Of course, there was no table. This led me to speculate on how long it would take us (in places like Silicon Valley) to create fully immersive virtual realities that would be indistinguishable from physical reality, which I call the Simulation Point. This is a point beyond which things will be very different for the human race. I then came to the conclusion after doing research that there was no reason some civilization may not already have done this and we are inside their video game. After my initial work on simulation theory, I came to explore the work of famed science fiction writer Philip K. Dick (whose novels included those adapted to popular movies & TV shows like Blade Runner, Minority Report, Total Recall, and The Man in the High Castle) and I interviewed his wife, Tessa. I came to be surprised that he believed we were living in a simulated universe that had multiple timelines, and could be manipulated by changing variables. This included a belief that there was a timeline like that depicted in the Man in the High Castle where the Axis powers (Germany, Japan, Italy) won World War II, thought that is not the timeline we are currently on. The more I linked this idea of multiverses, the more I realized that a simulated multiverse made more sense than a physical one, and thus I came up with my book, The Simulated Multiverse.
What is reality for you? Is reality our current life, even if we live in a great video game, or is reality for you outside our world, outside this video game we live in? For you God is who created our video game or our “Metaverse”, so reality is where our creators live?
This is a complicated question. The physical universe and my life, even though they may be in a video game, are “real” for me while I am playing the game. It is possible there is a version of me that is a “player” outside of the game, who is asleep, and has voluntarily forgotten about the outside world while the game is being played. This would be similar to the world depicted in The Matrix, where Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishbourne) have their physical bodies outside the Matrix and their Avatars inside the Matrix. For me, this would mean that God or the Programmers are like those who exist outside of this game and can watch everything that happens within the game, an ultimate designer of the game. But in this model, we also exist outside of the game, so we are “users” of the simulation, even while our “avatars” exist within the game. This would mean that we are users of the Metaverse that was created by this civilization that was more advanced than ours.
Some phenomena of Quantum Mechanics, such as “Quantum entanglement” or “Quantum tunneling”, can be proof of the existence of the Multiverse, or of the Metaverse?
Yes, within quantum mechanics, the core problem of Quantum indeterminacy, which leads to the Observer Effect, is one of the main reasons for the Multiverse – what’s called the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. It means that every time we make a choice, that multiple universes are branching out, so that every possibility happens in one of these universes – we are only in one universe so we see only one result. Although the idea has caught on with physicists in the last few decades, there is still debate about whether these universes are “real” or “probable”. In the Simulated Multiverse, I argue that the idea of a simulation resolves this problem – the universes are probable when they exist as information and are “real” or “physical” when they are rendered, just as a scene in a video game is only rendered for your avatar on your computer when you are exploring a particular part of the larger 3d worlds. The rule of thumb in video games is, “only show that which needs to be rendered” – which is exactly the same way we build 3d video games like Fortnite or World of Warcraft.
I have in mind the Christopher Nolan film “Inception”, in which the scene of the “dream within a dream” was described. In our age we are creating the Metaverse, and many humans will begin living within this Metaverse. But if our reality is a great video game, we could already be living in a Metaverse for millennia. Now, in 2022, by creating our own Metaverse, could we be a civilization living in one Metaverse within another Metaverse?
Yes, and it is possible as many people have experienced to have a “dream within a dream” where you wake up and think that you are no longer dreaming, but you are in essence still in a dream. As we create our Metaverse, we will go through the various stages on the road to the Simulation Point. These stages include not only creation of 3d worlds and avatars, but also VR and AR and intelligent AI Avatars, or “Aivies” as I call them. This also means that we would eventually create BCI’s or Brain Computer Interfaces to the metaverse which allow us to control our avatars continuously, and inhabit our avatars rather than just playing them. This would lead to stacked simulations once we reach The Simulation Point, at which point we can create many virtual worlds that cannot be distinguished from physical reality.
If we were really inside a Multiverse or a Metaverse, what could our goal be? Can you solve all the puzzles of this “video game”? Or create many Multiverses, just like we create many children?
This is of course a big question that touches on metaphysics, philosophy, and religion. I would ask why do we play video games or run computer simulations? Sometimes it is to see what the likely outcome is (as in simulations for pandemic or for the weather). In other cases it is to find the “optimal” outcome and helping us to navigate to that one (climate models for instance, or economic predictions). As for video games, it is usually to “have fun” and to have experiences that we cannot have outside the video game. I, for example, cannot fly on a dragon and battle monsters in the “real world” but I can inside a video game. I would assert that the same is true with our simulation – that we are here on earth to have experiences (love, hate, emotion, war, suffering) that we cannot have outside of the simulation. Of course, all of the world’s religions have been telling us this all along – that all of our actions are being recorded and that the physical world is not the “real world”. As we build out our own metaverse, we would do it for the same reason – to have experiences that we cannot have and to get better at learning various lessons.