The Simulation Hypothesis


“Binary code” by Christiaan Colen is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

By: Isabel D'mello, Journalist

Are we real?” The question has long plagued written history. Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at the University of Oxford, developed an argument for solving it. In Bostrom’s argument, one of three propositions must be true: First, the fraction of civilizations capable of creating complex simulations is almost zero. Second, the fraction of civilizations that are interested in creating these simulations is very close to zero. Lastly, the fraction of people living in a simulation is close to one.

Some people disagree with the hypothesis, saying that humans would realize if the world was fabricated. It is impossible to simulate the entire universe (it is too large and convoluted), and some laws and objects seem unnecessary to the simulation. However, it is not essential to simulate the entire universe, but only to trick the people living in the simulation into believing it is real. In other words, “it might be empty until you open it” (Kurzgesagt, Is Reality Real? The Simulation Argument).

Neil deGrasse Tyson, a well-known astrophysicist, reveals “I wish I could summon a strong argument against it, but I can find none,” and that the hypothesis gives “better than fifty-fifty odds.” 

Still, it is entirely possible that this argument does not work. Questions arise, like: what is the simulation made out of or what would happen if the subjects of the simulation create a simulation which creates a simulation, and so on? Nevertheless, for the sake of this article, let’s assume it does.

The first proposition deals with the fraction of people capable of simulating a world like our own. It speculates that almost every species will go extinct before being able to run complex simulations. If this is true, then there is a cumulative point in technological advancement that hardly any civilizations can progress beyond. In this case, it is certainly possible that advanced technology becomes unstable.

Proposition Two considers the fraction of civilizations that have a desire to develop simulations. It states that nearly all civilizations technologically advanced enough to create simulations have no interest in it or decided not to. This proposition necessitates all civilizations to have a common purpose. Currently, there is no way of knowing how similar humanity is to other intelligent life in the universe. Based on modern technology and its speed of advancement, it seems likely that humans will contradict Proposition Two.

Lastly, the final proposition contemplates the fraction of simulated people. If this proves true, most humans or human-like beings would be living in a simulation. Assuming that the first two propositions are false, it only takes one hyper-advanced civilization to create multiple simulated ones. If this is correct and reality is a simulation, the consequences of such knowledge could cause mass hysteria or worse, people to stop caring.

In conclusion, this theory brings new meaning to the phrase “existential crisis.” Once the question of “Are we real?” is asked one could move on to the more daunting: “Would we know if we are real?” because everyone is under the illusion that they exist, whether it is true or not. 

The idea of these rather traumatic brain exercises to keep questioning everything, for it is the simple questions that have the most valuable answers.

Pondering over unanswerable questions is a popular human pastime (therein lies the problem; the questions cannot be answered).


Related Articles: