We still can’t prove whether the world is a video game or not, but what if a simulated reality is a best case scenario?
On a regular old day, I’d bet someone suggested to you that we live in computer simulations. Whether it was a curious friend or the anonymous author of a nosy sign outside your local coffee shop, your perfectly peaceful life was interrupted by extraneous thoughts.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has openly advocated the concept, making headlines over the years. Even astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson gave it a 50/50 chance. But on the other hand, some consider it an unscientific, unproven mental exercise.
What we need to talk about, however, is how the basic logic hints at what might exist in a weird hyper-realistic video game for our best-case scenario. maybe we need hope We are living in a computer simulation.
Existing in a digital reality could mean that the world would not be in the grip of a horrific death like humans suddenly becoming extinct or technological progress coming to a standstill. Musk seems to agree.
Think about it.
As with Plato’s cave allegory and Descartes’ evil demon concept over the centuries, simulation theory’s hold on our attention – including that of Musk – has been most commonly attributed to the apocryphal argument by Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom in 2003.
His entire work is very complex, involving fanatical calculations and symbols that take me back to my days as a student of philosophy. But in short, they say that one of the following must be true:
Option A: We get to the point where we can make a simulation indistinguishable from the natural world. So, we make one.
option B: We acquire the technology to make one, but for some reason, no one ever does.
option C: We never reach that point. (aka humans go extinct before they can build one)
Technically, Bostrom believes that people would strive for a simulation that would help us understand our ancestors. But given our undying love for The Sims and Skyrim, I’d say it could really be anything.
rise of technology
Let’s first talk about the important day that Bostrom refers to. That’s the theoretical point at which we can finally simulate a Similar For all aspects of our world.
Of course, technology has ways to go before this kind of false reality is reached, but it cannot be ignored that digital progress is no longer stagnant.
Musk often cites that certainty when discussing existentialist theory. At a 2016 conference, he explained “40 years ago we had Pong – two rectangles and a point. That’s where we were. Now 40 years later, we have photorealistic, 3D simulations with millions of people playing together, and It’s getting better every year.”
In fact, Japanese researchers recently created a digital version of the universe, named Uchuu, which in Japanese means “outer space.” It doesn’t contain any individuals, but it is considered the most “realistic simulation of the universe” ever made and is intended to help scientists study how the universe evolved.
On top of the anecdotal evidence, the researchers have also tried to calculate how long it would take to reach the point where the pressing of a button leads to a simulated life. For example, Rizwan Virk, a computer scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has written a book on the subject.
There is debate about the scale, but except for those who argue that it is impossible, experts such as Bostrom agree that the duration is limited. This means that if this happens, whenever it happens, there is a missed day somewhere on our timeline.
Congratulations if you’ve gotten this far – take a breath, because it gets weird.
Delving into the philosophical questions and thought experiments that arise in science and technology is the new thing we’re experimenting with – we’d love to hear if it’s something you’d like to see more of. If you have any thoughts or philosophical ideas you would like to see, Feel free to email me!
OK, but why would we be in a simulation?
It’s a lovely Tuesday morning, you’re scrolling through Twitter and you see the news that emulating life, as we know it, is possible from this day forward. All we have to do is hit a big red launch simulation button that will be posted online.
Humanity finds itself at a crossroads: to push the button or not to push it?
The prospect of not doing so seems a bit wishful. At the very least, maybe someone will press it out of curiosity, to prove that nothing will happen, or maybe accidentally hit their touchpad and click on it. There are billions of people in the world; The theory suggests that it is hard to argue otherwise.
So Bostrom suggests that option B is highly unlikely. For the sake of discussion, let’s dismiss it.
He leaves A and C. Suppose we go with A. The button is pushed.
In true Inception fashion, a simulated world within us will have its own timeline – whenever programmers make decisions. Day 1 could induce a simulated Big Bang, or perhaps some other elusive explosion that the citizens of the simulation would one day turn to an entire field of study.
Its ascent of the “people” will be technological progress. They will make versions of Facebook, iPhones and Xbox games. Eventually, they’ll get to the same issue as whether or not to push their “producer:” button?
Like us, Bostrom suggests they’ll probably hit the irresistible, taunting button.
The story goes on. This means that even if a single simulated universe was created, we can assume that one of them is incomprehensible. Who says we’re in a regular, true-to-the-bones reality?
Also called a based reality, a non-simulated world may not be in the cards for us.
Well, what’s likely to happen in our simulation, you wonder? The exact probability of that outcome is under study, as in this last year’s paper. New research suggests that Bostrom’s chances of occurring in a based reality may be closer to 50/50 than the initial, intuitive one-in-a-billion-ish projection.
end of the world?
Remember that last, scary option, Option C? What if we never reach a level where we can make a living simulation?
This would mean that something prevented us from reaching the day when the shiny button became available. Will technology suddenly stop getting better? Or worse, will the world end? Both disappointing, but direct possibilities under the umbrella of C.
Also, given how quickly technology is advancing in sophistication, the point at which it has the potential to create simulated realities is probably closer than we thought. This means – saving for the opportunity we are making in a grounded reality – if we are not in a simulation, humans will soon hear from the horrific Option C.
On the bright side, there are many philosophers and scientists who offer counterarguments to the simulation theory, and if they are correct, none of this really matters.
For example, a team of theoretical physicists from the University of Oxford claimed that the universe does not contain enough atoms to form enough computing memory to store a realistic simulation of consciousness.
It also invites the question of whether we can program consciousness at all, as humans still dispute what it really is. The limiting step may not be tools, but knowledge.
Innovations keep happening in new directions as well. A mind-bending hypothesis from last year looked at how Bostrom’s argument relies on the universe being physical. It proposes that “reality” can only be an expression of our thoughts.
Could the “simulation” be just our imagination?
if he Is Well, Bostrom makes a convincing argument for why option A is the ideal outcome, because the real best option – option B – is incredibly optimistic. Any Will push the button if it was presented to them.
and option c? Option C would mean that humans either go extinct relatively early on life’s timeline or that something tragically ruined all of our technological research momentum, like perhaps a killer asteroid or a world-changing pandemic?
After the utterly disastrous two years we’ve all been through, I think I know what I would be like if I had these choices in front of me.