The Challenge of the Seventh Seal

A moment or an eternity after the black horseman asked me to return, I woke up again. Whatever else I might have experienced in that dream was lost to the billows of my unconscious mind forever.

For many months after that, I began to experience dreamless sleep. Terrified by the realism of my nighttime journeys, perhaps I did my best to forget those snippets of them  that I actually could remember.

Yesterday night, however, I encountered the black horseman again, and this time, he wouldn’t permit me to flee our confrontation by immediately rousing myself out of his world.

“We have unfinished business,” he muttered as we galloped beside each other over shape-shifting terrain. “I’ve heard you speak in defense of God. But tell me, didn’t you forget an important argument?”

“What’s that?”

“The experience of the miraculous, and the distinction between synchronicity and coincidence.”

“I wanted to appeal to logic alone.”

“There are those who say that an accurate ancestor simulation would be impossible.”

“Many things have been called impossible before. But anyway, perhaps we aren’t in an ancestor simulation, but one of a different kind.”

“There are those who say that ancestor simulations would be useless.”

“But they would unveil all the secrets of history, and allow all the consciousnesses of the past to be given a second chance.”

“There are those who say that a simulation cannot simulate itself.”

“A simulation can never be perfect. But it can be close enough.”

“There are those who say that what happens within a simulation means nothing about what happens outside of it. Would Mario be right to assume that eating a mushroom would make him a giant or that touching a leaf would let him fly if he could visit a  real human forest? How can you assume simulations exist outside of our world, just because simulations are possible within it?”

This was undoubtedly the most challenging of the questions. But after a deep breath, I said:

“The ability to manipulate pixels symbolically to represent imagined surroundings is all that is necessary for the possibility of a simulation to exist. And the concept of simulations in itself involves issues of symbolic self-representation that transcend the physical conditions of any given simulation or set of dimensions. Mario may find it hard to believe that he is eternally resurrected whenever he dies and that his will is controlled by players in another dimension who create millions of cartridges containing universes just like his own to amuse themselves and alleviate their boredom, but it would be the truth. Is it likelier that he exists in a single cartridge of a single game produced by random chance, or one of millions of cartridges containing similarly designed entities? If Mario can realize that simulation is possible, he should also realize the likelihood that he is more likely a simulation than the product of random chance. Moreover, his individuated experience of his consciousness requires just as much explanation as his mere existence. The answer as to why he leaped on top of the turtle instead of running into it is that he is being played by others. His particular experience of reality is actively being simulated on a computer. And he exists on one of many millions of cartridges–he is not a random and completely unique assembly of pixels.”

“This is a pleasant way to pass the hours. Will you oblige me by telling me your opinions on history and ethics?”

“With pleasure, I said, concealing my hesitancy. “But  tell me, where are we, and where are we going?”

The black horseman smirked. “This is the time for me to make inquiries, not you. You’ll see where we’re off to soon enough.”

“Transhumanism is a form of humanism,” I whispered. Suddenly, however, my voice was drowned out by the blast of trumpets, and the sky grew vermilion as blood. A swirling whirlwind of fire took shape above us. But somehow, I seemed impervious to the heat and violence.

At that moment, yet another seal shattered on my scroll, and the earth itself convulsed with tremors.


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