Dr. Jordan Peterson has invited entrepreneur Elon Musk to a conversation on his podcast, and Musk has graciously accepted. Their topic will be “Life, the Universe, and Everything,” a humorous reference to the science fiction novel Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. As two public figures who have shaped the culture in recent years, a conversation between them has the potential to be epic. Minds may explode, angels might sing, and some of the deepest mysteries of the universe could be solved. Or, at the very least, it should be an interesting episode.
Most people know Musk as a semi-eccentric billionaire and spectacularly successful entrepreneur in multiple fields. He is the co-founder of PayPal and used his wealth to create both Tesla and SpaceX. He plans to go to Mars and beyond and is one of the best-positioned people to succeed.
But he is also an eclectic thinker with a bent for philosophical topics. In recent years, he has been one of the leading proponents of the so-called Simulation Theory. It is based on the work of Dr. Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at the University of Oxford, who has proposed the notion that we are living in a computer simulation.
The argument is based on Bostrom’s “observation selection effect.” He argues that once a civilization has the technological capability of making a realistic computer-simulated world, they will make so many of them that most worlds in the universe will be computer programs. Any conscious being will, therefore, most likely be living in one of these simulated worlds, he argues.
The Simulation Theory assumes that computers can be conscious, which is built on a materialistic philosophy. Therefore, it can be thought of as a new form of religion for atheists clothed in a technological language.
The Mythopoetic Narrative
Peterson has spurred a similar interest in religion among his audience, but centered around an evolutionary and psychological interpretation of Christianity rather than technology. He has analyzed ancient myths and modern popular stories such as Disney’s Pinocchio, finding in them a grammar of meaning, which he translates into secular scientific language.
His lectures have tens of millions of views on YouTube, and his 12 Rules for Life book tour filled concert halls around the world.
Given the common theme of religion in these two thinkers’ works, it seems like a natural conversation topic. Their radically different take on the issue can become a point of convergence for people of different persuasions.
Intellectual Event of the Year?
After the year that was lost to COVID-19, the great intellectual event of 2021 might turn out to be a conversation between a billionaire and a famous psychologist. More people than ever are searching for meaning. Some have found it in global warming and wokism. Others may find it in Simulation Theory or a renewed interest in Christianity.
Read more from Caroline Adana.