What Is Simulation Theory? Are We Living in a Computer Simulation?

What Is Simulation Theory? Are We Living in a Computer Simulation?

What Is Simulation Theory? Are We Living in a Computer Simulation?

By USA Tomorrow

“It is possible that I am dreaming right now and that all of my perceptions are false.” — René Descartes

“If we are living in a simulation, then the cosmos that we are observing is just a tiny piece of the totality of physical existence… While the world we see is in some sense ‘real,’ it is not located at the fundamental level of reality.” — Nick Bostrom

What is reality?

Countless brainiacs and psychedelia enthusiasts have pondered that question for centuries, formulating theories that run the gamut from scientific to mystical.

From a purely empirical standpoint, the answer seems obvious: reality is anything we can perceive using one or more of the five senses: taste, smell, touch, hearing and sight. But some outside-the-box thinkers, including philosophers and physicists, contend that’s not necessarily the case. It is possible, they theorize, that reality is merely an ultra-high-tech computer simulation in which we sim-live, sim-work, sim-laugh and sim-love.

From the time it entered popular consciousness, many have noted that simulation theory is essentially a modern offshoot of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” story from the Ancient Greek philosopher’s book “The Republic,” and René Descartes’s evil demon hypothesis from the French philosopher and scientist’s “First Meditation.” Both contain ruminations on perception and the nature of being — subjects that continue to puzzle and provoke.


The question of if we live in a simulated universe has been hotly debated since the Enlightenment period. There is no definitive answer, but simulation theory posits the universe as we know it is an advanced digital construct overseen by some higher form of intelligence.

“Simply because we perceive the world as ‘real’ and ‘material’ doesn’t mean that it is so,” said Rizwan Virk, a tech entrepreneur and author of The Simulation Hypothesis. “In fact, the findings of quantum physics may shed some doubt on the fact that the material universe is real. The more that scientists look for the “material” in the material world, the more they find that it doesn’t exist.”

What Is Simulation Theory?Rizwan Virk

“The findings of quantum physics may shed some doubt on the fact that the material universe is real.”

Virk mentioned the renowned physicist John Wheeler, who worked with Albert Einstein decades ago. In his lifetime, Wheeler said, physics had evolved from the premise that “everything is a particle” to “everything is information.” He also coined a phrase that’s well-known in scientific circles: “It from bit” — meaning everything is based on information. Even the definition of a particle in physics is “kind of fuzzy,” Virk added, “and may be in fact just be a qubit — a quantum computing bit.”

New York University philosophy professor David Chalmers has described the being responsible for this hyper-realistic simulation we may or may not be in as a “programmer in the next universe up,” perhaps one we mortals might consider a god of some sort — though not necessarily in the traditional sense. “[H]e or she may just be a teenager,” Chalmers said, “hacking on a computer and running five universes in the background… But it might be someone who is nonetheless omniscient, all-knowing and all-powerful about our world.”

Brain spinning yet? Get used to it.

Even more mind-meltingly, theoretical physicist David Bohm once posed this tortuous notion: “Reality is what we take to be true. What we take to be true is what we believe. What we believe is based upon our perceptions. What we perceive depends on what we look for. What we look for depends on what we think. What we think depends on what we perceive. What we perceive determines what we believe. What we believe determines what we take to be true. What we take to be true is our reality.”

(Deep breath).

And what we take to be true, more than a few folks believe — among them tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, who famously said the odds that we’re not simulated are “one in billions” — might now or at least someday be merely the effect of simulated brains and nervous systems processing a simulated world. To Musk’s unique way of thinking, the strongest argument for our probably being in a simulation is that, as he put it in 2016,  “Forty years ago, we had Pong, two rectangles and a dot…That is what games were. Now, 40 years later, we have photorealistic 3D simulations with millions of people playing simultaneously, and it’s getting better every year. And soon we’ll have virtual reality, augmented reality. If you assume any rate of improvement at all, the games will become indistinguishable from reality.”

How, Exactly, Would This Work?

In a seminal 2003 paper titled “Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?”, Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom explained that future generations might have mega-computers that can run numerous and detailed simulations of their forebears, a.k.a. “ancestor simulations,” in which the simulated beings are imbued with a sort of artificial consciousness.

“Then it could be the case,” he explained, “that the vast majority of minds like ours do not belong to the original race but rather to people simulated by the advanced descendants of an original race. It is then possible to argue that, if this were the case, we would be rational to think that we are likely among the simulated minds rather than among the original biological ones.”

That type of “posthuman simulator,” Bostrom also wrote, would need sufficient computing power to keep track of “the detailed believe-states in all human brains at all times.” Why? Because it would essentially need to sense observations (of birds, cars, etc) before they happened and provide simulated detail of whatever was about to be observed. In the event of a simulation breakdown, the director — whether teenager or giant-headed alien — could simply “edit the states of any brains that have become aware of an anomaly before it spoils the simulation. Alternatively, the director could skip back a few seconds and rerun the simulation in a way that avoids the problem.”

We’re (likely) not there yet, but Virk thinks we will be at some point. There are ten checkpoints on the road to full-blown simulation, he told Built In, and we’re nearly halfway to our destination. But there are also major barriers ahead, he said, namely what are called brain computer interfaces. However, those don’t yet exist. Think “The Matrix.”


In an interview with popular podcaster Joe Rogan, Elon Musk said, “If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then games will be indistinguishable from reality, or civilization will end. One of those two things will occur,” Musk said. “Therefore, we are most likely in a simulation, because we exist.” He went on, “”I think most likely — this is just about probability — there are many, many simulations. You might as well call them reality, or you could call them multiverse.”

What artificial intelligence is to dystopian blockbuster “The Terminator,” simulation theory is to the Wachowski siblings’ sci-fi thriller, which depicts a post-apocalyptic world in which “most of humanity have been captured by a race of machines that live off of the humans’ body heat and electrochemical energy and who imprison their minds within an artificial reality known as the Matrix.” (Thanks, IMDB.) In the film, humans going about their everyday lives didn’t realize they were actually living in a simulation because a cable plugged into their neocortices (where stuff like spatial reasoning and sensory perception occur) beamed signals into their brains and read their reactions.

There are ten checkpoints on the road to full-blown simulation and we’re nearly halfway to our destination.

One way to achieve that (or something like it) in the real-world, Virk went on, would be to gain a greater understanding of human consciousness and how it works so we can produce “conscious AI.” The far less technical alternative, he said, is “tricking our consciousness into thinking that we are in reality when we are in a video game” in which non-player characters exhibit intelligent human-like behavior that passes the Turing Test.

“This,” he concluded somewhat ominously, “is coming.”

Preston Greene, a philosophy professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, told Built In he thinks we could be living in a simulation right now. But proving as much, he has warned and some have attempted, would be catastrophic.

Just as present-day researchers use simulations to digitally create scenarios to aid scientific study (eg., What would happen if we eliminate mosquitoes?), our world and every moment of our past existence might be the simulated experiment of future humans. And just as scientists can terminate simulations (of earthquakes, weather, etc.) when they no longer provide useful data, so too can our hypothetical overlords pull the plug at any time, without warning.

But rest assured, Greene said, “It would be a quick and painless death.”

“If our physicists use experiments to prove we live in a simulation, and they tell everyone about this and that has a large effect on how our civilization behaves,” he explained, “then our simulation would no longer be useful for answering questions about the basement [foundational] level of reality, which contains the computers doing the simulations. This is because such experimental proofs could never happen on the basement level. So even though there are many possibilities for how our simulators would react to our using experiments to prove we live in a simulation, simulation shutdown is worth taking at least as seriously as anything else, since it is supported by observed trends in simulation science.”

Skepticism Abounds 

Like any outside-the-box notion, simulation hypothesis has plenty of skeptics. In 2016, during the 17th annual Isaac Asimov Panel Debate at New York’s American Museum of Natural History, the topic was discussed by a panel of august experts that included Chalmers, astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson, University of Maryland physics professor Zohreh Davoudi and Harvard University physicist Lisa Randall.

“The argument says you’d have lots of things that want to simulate us. I actually have a problem with that.”

Randall, it quickly became apparent, was the group’s most definitive doubter. Although she allowed for the possibility that nothing is what it seems, including the cognitive process of observation, she also wondered about the judgement of our supposed simulators in choosing humankind for their grand experiment.

“It’s just not based on well-defined probabilities,” she said. “The argument says you’d have lots of things that want to simulate us. I actually have a problem with that. We mostly are interested in ourselves. Why simulate us? I mean, there’s so many things to be simulating….I don’t know why this higher species would want to bother with us.”

She has a point. See: expansive and ever-growing evidence that human development is destroying the natural world.

It was widely thought the simulation hypothesis had been disproven once and for all when, in 2017, physicists Zohar Ringel and Dmitry Kovrizhi published an article in the journal Science Advances titled “Quantized gravitational responses, the sign problem, and quantum complexity.” Here’s the catch: their work was at most indirectly relevant to simulation, which Zohar later dismissed as “not even a scientific question.”

Specifically, they proved that a classical computing technique called “quantum Monte Carlo,” which is used to simulate quantum particles (photons, electrons and other types of particles that comprise the universe), was insufficient to simulate a quantum computer itself — a breakthrough that would negate the need to physically build these next-level machines, which is no easy task. And if it’s impossible to simulate a quantum computer, forget about simulating the universe.

Per Cosmos.com, “The researchers calculated that just storing information about a couple of hundred electrons would require a computer memory that would physically require more atoms than exist in the universe.”

So You’re Saying There’s a Chance…

Nonetheless, Ringel, the paper’s lead author, appeared to leave the door ever so slightly cracked when he told Popular Mechanics, “Who knows what are the computing capabilities of whatever simulates us.”

“The real question is what are the limits of computing powers.”

In other words, echoing Bostrum and Greene, some advanced species could possess a system that makes even the world’s fastest supercomputers seem like Commodore 64s. Maybe they’ve perfected quantum computing. Or maybe it’s something else entirely — something of which our limited minds can’t even conceive.

Calling simulation theory “a bit flaky, but a fascinating idea,” U.K. astronomer Martin Rees nonetheless remained curious about the idea in an interview with Space.com. “The real question,” he said, “is what are the limits of computing powers.” Or are there limits? Judging by the types of real-world simulations scientists can now run on supercomputers, what might they be able to run in the coming decades or centuries as processing power achieves levels we currently can’t fathom?

Cosmologist Paul Davies has over the years shared many deep thoughts on this monumentally complex topic — and apparently is still being asked to impart them. “I have suddenly been deluged with media queries about the simulation argument,” he told Built In via email. “Don’t know why.”

Davies has spoken so much on the subject that he preferred to let his past ruminations — including this recent one — do the talking. Even as far back as 2003, in a story for The Guardian, Davies was posing brain boggling simulation scenarios. Here’s part of what he wrote:

Mathematicians have proved that a universal computing machine can create an artificial world that is itself capable of simulating its own world, and so on ad infinitum. In other words, simulations nest inside simulations inside simulations … Because fake worlds can outnumber real ones without restriction, the “real” multiverse would inevitably spawn a vastly greater number of virtual multiverses. Indeed, there would be a limitless tower of virtual multiverses, leaving the “real” one swamped in a sea of fakes.

So the bottom line is this: Once we go far enough down the multiverse route, all bets are off. Reality goes into the melting pot, and there is no reason to believe we are living in anything but a Matrix-style simulation. Science is then reduced to a charade, because the simulators of our world — whoever or whatever they are — can create any pseudo-laws they please, and keep changing them. 

As Neo might put it, “Whoa.”

Sim or No Sim: Who Cares?

Then again, you might be wondering, why does any of this matter? What is the purpose of proving or disproving that life as we know it is merely a digital construct and existence simply an immensely complex experiment in someone’s virtual terrarium?

The broad answer, Virk said, is that which all good science pursues: truth. More specifically, our truth.

If we do in fact exist inside a video game that requires our characters (i.e. us) to perform certain quests and achievements in order to progress (“level up”), Virk posited, wouldn’t it be useful to know what kind of game we’re in so as to increase our chances of surviving and thriving?

His answer, not surprisingly, is an unqualified yes.

“I think it would make all the difference in the world.”

Whatever type of world it is.

Original Source: https://www.usatomorrow.live/lifestyle/what-is-simulation-theory-are-we-living-in-a-computer-simulation/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Comments

02 Oct 22
Papillary carcinoma is frequent in Look for the features of hyperthyroidism such as exophthalmos young girls whereas follicular carcinoma happens in center(staring), excitability, trembling, nervousness, sweating and aged ladies. This is characterised by generalised erythema and may be associated with hypotension and bronchospasm. Simultaneous accidents above and under the diaphragm Blunt Cardiac Injuries notably with penetrating trauma ought to at all times implicate a diaphragm disruption, till confirmed otherwise skin care questions buy generic acnecutan from india. Nosocomial infections in surgical sufferers within the United States, January 1986-June 1992. The mixed strategy of antiWhich intervention ought to the nurse use to depressants and cognitive-behavioral therapy meet the shopperпїЅs request for helpfi. The epidemiological information with an noticed considerably elevated threat for fractures in any respect sites associated with an extended-term total daily intake of fluoride of 14 mg/day are considered as supportive evidence treatment for upper uti cheap zitroneo 500 mg amex. Until the boys father to their youngsters and decide to be a mirror image of heaven, as a father and a husband, we are symbolize the Lord Jesus stuck in every technology with over 70 incurable illnesses. He continues to line up the blocks (very neatly) and your makes an attempt to interrupt him are unsuccessful. Scrotal and groin ultrasound has been very useful in finding cryptorchid (undescended) testicles anxiety coping skills buy buspar uk. Liver resection is the best treatment for liver colorectal metastases and the only remedy giving an opportunity of treatment. Typically, a patient will current with a several-day or week history of general malaise, anorexia, nausea, emesis, and jaundice. Dilated fundus examination for extent of optic nerve injury and peripheral retinal standing 7 treatment for pain due to uti purchase 10mg toradol amex. Exposed optic disk drusen could also be apparent cavernous sinus contain the upper divisions of the trigemiпїЅ clinically or may be demonstrated by their autofuoresпїЅ nal nerve, the ocular motor nerves, and infrequently the cence. The consider the adjuvant impact of lithium on radioiodine remedy of administration of subclinical hyperthyroidism by thyroid specialists. IgE antibodies (Ab) particular to galactose-О±-1,3-galactose (alpha-gal) are responsible for a delayed type of anaphylaxis that happens three-6 hours after pink meat ingestion diabetes 504 plans purchase acarbose 25mg. A left upper quadrant J inci- sionally the pancreatic neck is triangular in cross- sion or Mercedes Benz incision with an extended part, and in these circumstances, stapling is less efficient. Graft the Apheresis Applications Committee of the American Soci versus-host disease and donor-directed hemagglutinin titers af ety for Apheresis. The carbohydrate-active enzymes within the intestinal microbiota permits for the metabolism of polysaccharides symptoms urinary tract infection purchase cheap baycip line. Australia and New Zealand, for example, elevated the rates of single embryo transfers from 48. If this affiliation is actual, the number of circumstances should increase because the cohort of girls who received therapy ages, for the reason that incidence of breast most cancers will increase with age, permitting a more precise estimate of the danger. This research
02 Oct 22
Such adjustments amino acid replacements in a protein (table 5), many of Evolution of Transcriptional Regulation 1397 Table 5 phenotypic correlates of interspeci?c variations in Functional Categories of Nucleotide Substitution transcription factor expression (e. Symptoms of a brain tumour depend upon several components including the dimensions of the tumour, its location within the mind, and how rapidly it's growing. Glia, or supporting cells, far outnumber neurons in the mind and spinal wire and carry out many important capabilities antibiotic resistance lancet buy azithrox cheap. Department of Health (1999) National Service Framework for Mental Health: Modern Standards and Service Models. Sudden toddler dying and immunization: an extensive epidemiological approach to the issue in France�Winter 1986. This typically involves the coordination of numerous different well being and social professionals, and seems most profitable when the treatment staff can work collaboratively with the person and his or her social supports erectile dysfunction viagra cialis levitra cheap kamagra chewable online amex. Pre-natal exposure to perfluoroalkyl substances could also be related to altered vaccine antibody ranges and immune-related health outcomes in early childhood. The first few hours of remark are reserved for fasting-state pressure recordings. Decisions as to when a baby is to be separated from its mother shall be based mostly on particular person assessments and the best interests of the kid inside the scope of related national legal guidelines antibiotics to treat staph cyclidox 100 mg free shipping. The beneficiant gift of Kumar Rai (Opal Hospital, Varanasi, India), Hanife Kurtal their time and dedication is greatly appreciated. Increased red blood cell turnover, due to either hemolytic anemia or ineffective erythropoiesis, causes an unconjugated hyperbilirubinemia and will predispose for pigmented bilirubinate gallstones. Alcohol-and drug-brought on mind disorders, though logically belonging to this group, are categorized under F10-F19 because of sensible advantages in preserving all disorders because of psychoactive substance use in a single block virus that causes hives 3mg stromectol mastercard. These � mother�s ability to bear down (voluntary parts should work together for labor to make use of of stomach muscular tissues to push in the course of the progress normally. Approximately 80% of T3 is produced by extrathyroidal deiodination of the outer or phenolic ring of T4 (1). For example; if the procedural method is not specified, and the documentation simply reads �Closure of Cornea�, code C47 acne treatment during pregnancy 20 mg antibiotrex for sale. Case managers may help sufferers Inpatient, residential, and outpatient obtain: habit counseling applications. Gives the shopper advice on how to preserve only/exclusive breastfeeding: • Breastfeed as typically as your child needs, day and evening • Continue to breastfeed even if you or your baby is sick • Do not give your child any foods, water or other liquids before six months of age • Do not use bottles, pacifiers or other synthetic nipples, which discourage your baby from breastfeeding as incessantly 25b. To enhance treatment methods, future research are needed to grasp the mechanistic drivers of the differential response rates to immunotherapy noticed with obesity arthritis