See Inside Scientific American Mind Volume 23, Issue 4

Re-creating the Real World

To what extent do we truly experience reality?


In the 1999 Hollywood blockbuster The Matrix, intelligent machines have imprisoned the human race in a state of virtual reality. They feed a computer program, the Matrix, into every brain to simulate an external real world and then harvest the imprisoned humans' biochemical electricity for their own energy needs. To the humans, their existence seems normal and mundane, but in fact, they are living an illusion.

Although the Matrix is fictional, our mind runs on its own type of virtual reality. The brain creates a model of the world that we assume is accurate most of the time. Yet in numerous instances, it is not. Visual illusions vividly illustrate the brain's mistaken interpretations. In some cases, it makes false assumptions about the world, distorting our perception.

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