Imagine a world where every conceivable facet of your reality is nothing more than sensory experience devoid of any real meaning; And that your emotions, organs, and even your closest relationships were nothing but pleasurable impulses being transmitted directly into your brain.
This is the hypothesis posited by the Brain in a Vat theory. If an evil scientist (or rich transhumanist, whichever you prefer) were to take your brain, submerge it in a jar or vat of nutrients, in theory, you could be force fed the information you process on a daily basis.
If your neurons were connected to some type of hardware and/or software that could continuously provide the necessary stimuli, you'd be ripe for this process.
The theory is on par with many of the ideals posited in the mythos of contemporary science-fiction and acts as a thought experiment. Would you care if your sensory qualia were merely illusions and that none of your emotions or sentiments were real? There has been a legitimate conversation in recent years revolving around the idea that our entire universe, including everything in our internal and external realities are experiments or simulations conducted by some advanced species.
While the original concept can be traced back to Rene Descartes' Evil Demon from Meditations, it is hard to argue that films like The Matrix and Total Recall aren't responsible for the popularization of this concept for the newer generation.
While it is an interesting conversation to have with friends, many believe that it is an ultimately pointless exercise as we can never truly prove or disprove this argument. While that is mostly true, I tend to gravitate towards the idea that life shouldn't be taken so seriously if we truly are living in an artificial determinist reality. If some mad scientist or some unknown entity is in control of what and how much you experience, then you shouldn't sweat the small stuff and just enjoy the ride.
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