Is the World We Live in a Computer Simulation?

This might seem like an absurd question to consider, but there’s no shortage of intelligent people who believe that this is possible and, in fact, even probable. It might also seem like a subject left for fans of The Matrix trilogy to debate, but it’s also been a source of discussion among academics. Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom tackled the subject in a paper in which he proved that at least one of the following three possibilities must be true: 1) Any human-like civilisation goes extinct before developing the technological capacity to create a simulated reality, 2) If a civilisation does achieve this level of technological maturity, they wouldn’t bother running simulations, or 3) an advanced civilisation would be able to create numerous simulations, which means that there are a far greater number of simulated worlds than non-simulated ones. Bostrom concluded that we can’t know which of these is true. However, each is possible- and it may well be the third option that is the most likely. It isn’t an easy argument to grasp, but it does nark some sense.

Is the World We Live in a Computer Simulation?
Is the World We Live in a Computer Simulation?

The nature of the universe

There are other reasons to consider the possibility that we are virtual. For one thing, the more we come to know about the universe we live in, the more it seems to be based on mathematical laws. It might not be a given at this point, but it’s a function of the nature of the universe. Scientists have been putting the simulation theory to the test, with Bostrom keen on seeing more concrete developments of his idea.

Bugs in the Matrix

Nuclear physicist Silas Beane said that if there are bugs in our Matrix, they would have to be subtle or they would have been observed by now. He proposed that we may need to uncover any flaws that were previously missed by working out the mathematical structure used to construct our simulated reality. Elon Musk has suggested that we are nothing more than simulated beings, merely strings of data manipulated in an enormous computer, just like characters from a video game. This theory even assumes that our brains are simulated and are just responding to simulated sensory units. This argument says that there is no Matrix to escape from and that we just have to accept that this is where we live. The argument for this theory isn’t hard to understand. We make simulations ourselves, so with more advanced technology, it just might be possible to create the ultimate one, with conscious players able to experience the simulation as entirely lifelike.

Signs of consciousness

In the near future, we might be able to create virtual beings with signs of consciousness themselves. This comes increasingly likely as we increase our understanding and advance our ability to map the brain. If we do reach that ultimate state, we might be running a high number of stimulations, which will easily outnumber the one “real” world we live in. It is therefore unlikely that intelligence existing elsewhere in the universe has already reached that point. If that is the case, it makes sense for conscious beings like us to assume we’re in such a simulation, as opposed to being in the one world from which the virtual realities are run.