Modern philosophy and modern science have teamed up to develop a new theory of existence known as the “simulation argument”. It contends that nothing in our universe actually “exists” but everything, including the universe itself and everyone in it, are the products of a massively powerful computer simulation established by some incredibly advanced civilization that began eons before us. The exponentially higher levels of computing power this civilization has achieved has lead to computers that can simulate artificial intelligence to the point of having conscious agents “living” within the simulation..and of course, how would we know if it were true? All of our “thoughts” would simply be processes, processing on a server somewhere, complete with all of the sensory perceptions that we think we are experiencing. http://www.simulation-argument.com/simulation.html
Science, interestingly enough, has contributed some thought-provoking contributionsto this theory: http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2012-10/11/universe-computer-simulation
The flaw in such a view is that consciousness can be reduced to “computations”. Computers, no matter how smart they become, cannot be shown to have consciousness. Even futurist dreams of one day being able to digitize the complete contents of your brain (data and/or structure) and then eventually upload it into a robot after your original body has died, do not seem sound when you consider that what you really want to continue is your consciousness, not just your brain’s information – after all, even if you could digitize your brain – if you uploaded the information into a robot before you died, what then? There is another “you” there, but “you” #1 would not have two consciousnesses. “You”, it seems, are tied to one consciousness, and there doesn’t seem to be any way around it.
That said, let us assume for a moment that we do exist as processes in a massive computer simulation. Think about what that means about the creator of the simulation and the power he/she/they have. Our creators – our God – have every right to “test” us to see if we will choose “good”, and have every right to punish what they consider to be “bad” activity. They could, with the utmost of ease, choose to extend the processes of the good people indefinitely, and terminate the processes of the bad people. They could even write into the simulation a wholly unique conscious agent – one patterned after themselves, one that always demonstrated right choices because that was its purpose – one that knew it’s purpose was to point to the creator, and could claim to “be” the creator, and all the while was controlled or guided by the creator because they shared an open connection. The creator watching and guiding the agent would be able to cause miracles to corroborate the claims of the agent and bring about faith in the people who cared to pay attention. Although, in this example, God wouldn’t have had to send in his perfect agent to give an example of good, there is nothing stopping him from doing so – to give his “processes” a gift to help them along in the choosing. The creator could even love his creations very deeply.
An interesting side note to this theory is that repeated attempts to call out to the creator to “prove” himself would go as they in fact do – largely unheeded (when grand gestures or comprehensive proofs are asked for anyway) because, after all, the simulation is still a test to see who will choose good without complete knowledge of the outer reality. Without proof, however, there still exists something of incredible value – evidence, signs: the complexity of the universe, the miracles and power present in the world, the intuition stirred up by the subtle signposts left by an architect, and the lives that have been changed by these. Regardless of the details of the “outer world”, always follow the signs .