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A History of thinkers who believe we are living in the 'virtual'

For over two thousand years people have wondered if the world we see is all there is (Aristotle's physical realism) or if it reflects something else (Plato's idealism). Logically, one of these world views must be wrong, and orthodox science and orthodox religion take opposite sides on this issue.

Computers today create virtual worlds, but that our world is virtual is usually a topic of science fiction not physics. 

Yet that the physical world is somehow unreal has an illustrious lineage in human thought. 

In Buddhism, a universal essence of mind generates the discriminated world like bubbles on a sea, and in Hinduism the world is an illusion (Maya) created by God’s “play” (Lila). 

In the west, Plato described the physical world as shadows flickering on a wall, like an image on a screen thrown up , In his analogy, people tied up in a dark cave with their backs to its exit see their shadows on the cave wall, created by sunlight from to be reality (some say Bertrand Russell for instance that Plato set civilisation back 2000 years with his proposal that the forms/the good/God was elsewhere.

Nor is a digital view of the world new, as Pythagoras saw numbers as the non-material essence of the world, Plato felt that God geometrizes, and Gauss that God computes(Svozil, 2005),

 just as Blake's Ancient of Days measures the world with his compass (Figure 1.1). More recently, Zuse has argued that space calculates (Zuse, 1969), and others suggest that reality computes (Fredkin, 1990), (Lloyd, 2006), (Rhodes, 2001), (Schmidhuber, 1997), (Tegmark, 2007), (Wolfram, 2002). 

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