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It is easy to confuse the concepts of virtual reality and a computerized model of reality simulation The former is a self-contained Universe replete with its laws of physics and logic It can bear resemblance to the real world or not It can be consistent or not It can interact with the real world or not In short it is an arbitrary environment In contrast a model of reality must have a direct and strong relationship to the world It must obey the rules of physics and of logic The absence of such a relationship renders it meaningless A flight simulator is not much good in a world without aeroplanes or if it ignores the laws of nature A technical analysis program is useless without a stock exchange or if its mathematically erroneous Yet the two concepts are often confused because they are both mediated by and reside on computers The computer is a self-contained though not closed Universe It incorporates the hardware the data and the instructions for the manipulation of the data software It is therefore by definition a virtual reality It is versatile and can correlate its reality with the world outside But it can also refrain from doing so This is the ominous what if in artificial intelligence AI What if a computer were to refuse to correlate its internal virtual reality with the reality of its makers What if it were to impose its own reality on us and make it the privileged one In the visually tantalizing movie The Matrix a breed of AI computers takes over the world It harvests human embryos in laboratories called fields It then feeds them through grim looking tubes and keeps them immersed in gelatinous liquid in cocoons This new machine species derives its energy needs from the electricity produced by the billions of human bodies thus preserved A sophisticated all-pervasive computer program called The Matrix generates a world inhabited by the consciousness
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