How We Are Projecting Our Consciousness into Virtual Reality, and Why It’s Not the First Time (Essay)
Have you heard about Elon Musk’s Neuralink, a microchip technology being tested in the brains of monkeys? Recently, a monkey successfully played a game of pong with his brain, alone. While the possible implications, both amazing and terrifying, of this technology are perhaps infinite, one has really caught my imagination: the idea of the projection of our personal identity and consciousness into the digital reality. We could easily become fully digital beings. And this isn’t the first time we have projected our consciousness into a new, or human-constructed, reality.
With advances in nutrition and microcurrent technology to keep our muscles and physiology strong and healthy, we could easily live an entirely sedentary, even immobile, life (physically) while we have a hyperreal virtual reality experience that is beyond anything that our current, physical reality can offer, it seems.
Jean Baudrillard, a French postmodernist philosopher, explains that we are already living in a “hyperreal simulation,” by which he means that much of the symbolism and meaning of our culture are self-referential (rather than the original utility of symbols to refer to something real or true) and, as such, are completely devoid of relation to any kind of truth or reality. Think about how the Kardashian family creates powerful symbolism that codes our culture, but the symbols don’t reference reality. Rather, a hyperreality, a reality that is “more real” than “real reality,” is generated.
Another example is Homer Simpson in the later seasons of The Simpsons. In early seasons, Homer referenced a social reality, and he was a powerful critique of that reality, but in the last seasons, his character didn’t reference anything, except himself. He was drinking a beer and getting drunk because that is what Homer Simpson does. His character referenced himself, rather than being some archetype or characteristic of some lived reality (such as referring to the hardships of the working class). He was a symbol that referenced itself in a perpetual feedback loop of meaninglessness. And so is much of Western culture in the postmodern era.
(I promise I’m getting to something more interesting for you, some juicy meat for your brain, but I need to lay the groundwork. Your patience is appreciated!)
Baudrillard contends that the postmodern era of society has been reduced to a meaningless, hyperreal simulation of reality. Our mental landscape (or psychological construction of reality) is merely a simulation of reality, rather than being rooted in any kind of truth. And more, this simulation is characterized by being “hyperreal,” meaning that the experience of that reality is more exciting and stimulating than “real life”, but it isn’t real. An example of a hyperreal experience is visiting Disneyland, or think about the difference between experiencing pornography versus having a deep, intimate sexual experience with a human being. Pornography is an example of a “hyperreal” experience, as well as are games like Fortnite and The Sims, or having “social” experiences on “social” media.
Social media is another example of a hyperreal experience. It is in no way actually social in any real sense of the word. “Social,” until now, has always referred to the complex human relational web that creates a society. Within this social web called society, people develop mutual bonds and commitments based on family, economic, and cultural ties, and these bonds and commitments provide for the very basic physical, emotional, psychological, and overall human needs of the people involved. THIS is “social.” Social means the mutual and life-sustaining human bonds of society. So what, exactly, is “social” about “social media”? It is, in fact, a hyperreal simulation of the social.
Anyway, all of this got me to thinking about projecting our personal reality (our consciousness) INTO the hyperreal simulation of the digital space (my mind hasn’t yet explored the slavery to the blockchain that comes next, but I’ll have a minor panic attack about that another day, I promise, and I am sure also that I will share that with you, too). We, as a species, are in the process of projecting our experience of life into a new and artificial reality, and this isn’t the first time we’ve done this.
When humans began creating permanent settlements and started to harness Nature to our will (agriculture), we exited the Natural reality of deep and total connection to the oneness of life and our submission to it. We still, in fact, DO live in that reality, but we have PROJECTED our personal reality, our consciousness, into a CONSTRUCT, which is called culture, or civilization.
And what is culture or civilization, really? It’s the construction of a common lie to explain who each person is and what their relationship to everything and everyone else is. Each person is given a script within this lie, this fabrication, and each person is judged on how well they play their part in the lie. We are like actors in a movie, but no one is aware of the absolute fiction that is everything they believe.
So, we have projected our consciousness OUT of the deep reality of Nature into Civilization, and we are currently in the process of projecting ourselves into the hyperreal simulation of the digital reality.
Interestingly, even as we have projected our consciousness out of Nature, we are still subject to it, and we still live within it, but we are just unaware. And, even when we project our consciousness into the digital reality, not only will our bodies, and our selves, still exist in the physical civilization, but it will also still exist in the Natural reality. So even though our consciousness is existing in 2 degrees of separation from Nature, we are still there.
And this all makes me wonder about what I heard from a Sufi teacher one time, about how we, in fact, are STILL in the reality that we use the symbol “the Garden of Eden” to reference. In other words, we are STILL IN PARADISE, even in this very moment, every single one of us, but we are separated from it. We have projected our reality down into the earthly world, and into the lie of “civilization” and we are continuing our trajectory of distance from the Reality (which is a NAME of God, Al Haqq) by projecting our selves into the digital reality.
And even more, the Divine/God/Truth/Al Haqq projected HimHerself into this reality as us, as you and me, and we projected ourselves out of Eden into Nature (unless they are the same), and then from Nature we projected our consciousness into Civilization, and now we are further projecting our consciousness out of Civilization into the Digital reality, (where our consciousness will no doubt be enslaved to the blockchain).
But don’t worry. All is not lost, because we do die in the end, and then we are free. Our slavery isn’t eternal. Unless, I suppose, we have chosen to continue the trajectory of our consciousness AWAY from the Reality, or Source. So just keep turning the eye of your heart, your consciousness, to the Real, toward Truth, whatever that means to you. It can be God, Nature, Truth, Love, Allah, whatever name you give it. If you find you are forgetful, surround yourself with people who remind you.
What do you think about all this?