What is the possibility that our whole universe has been inside a container in a room of extraterrestrial beings much more intelligent than human beings?
Let me first write this question in a different way to make it more precise.
I am going to assume that some extraterrestrial beings had created this simulated universe on a giant computer. The simulated universe is pretending to be the real universe. For example, we have created games like Fortnite and Minecraft, which have their universe pretending to be a real world. Here, we have created simulations of their world.
By taking the same approach, it is more likely that these extraterrestrial beings are similar to us (maybe our ancestors or descendants) because they must understand us for simulating human beings.
We can now write our question in another way to make it precise: “What is the possibility that our universe is a computer-simulated universe running by extraterrestrial beings that are similar to human beings?”
A philosopher and professor at Oxford University named Nick Bostrom has researched the answer to the exact question. He concluded that “Yes, It is possible.”
Bostrom thinks that it is possible and that there is a fair amount of chance of the event that we are living in a simulation. We call the argument given by Bostrom the Simulation Hypothesis.
A simulated world that feels real
Let’s assume that there are many civilizations like our civilization dotted all around the universe. I also want you to think that these civilizations have such advanced technology that can create computer simulations of their past time( the time before they developed such technology).
The simulated beings are similar to human beings. These people are conscious beings capable of touching, moving, smelling, tasting, and can feel happiness and sadness. But, there is no way these simulated beings can prove that they live in a simulated universe, and also, there is no way by which they can escape the simulation.
Hedge your bets
Bostrum argues that “it is more likely that if these simulated beings which are very much similar to us failed to realize that the universe in which they live is a simulation, then it is also possible that you and I are too.”
If you guess that we live in Simulation Creationism and think that we are not living in a simulated universe, how can we prove which guess is right?
Let us assume that only one real past is there. But these futuristic advanced beings may be running multiple simulations of their history, i.e., they may have made up simulations of all the possible alternatives of their past too.
These simulated people could be running a vast number of simulations( It is not changing the argument raised by Bostrom). Let’s proceed with several 200,000. Our game of guessing is pretty much similar to rolling a die with 200,000 sides. When I guess that “we are not living in any simulation,” I am betting the dice of a specific number (Let’s say it 3) because there could not be more than one possible reality that our universe is not a simulated universe.
On the other side, when you guess that “we are living in any Simulation Creationism, you are betting the die with any number other than 3.” Or we can say that in 199,999 scenarios, we are living in the simulated universe. This bet is better than the previous chance because it has a very high probability of the event that we are living in the simulated universe.
Are we simulated?
Does this game of guessing prove that we are living in a simulation? Not quite.
It is favorable against the guess that we are not living in the simulation if we accept that these extraterrestrial beings exist and are running simulations on their advanced computer.
But the question is, how likely is it that there are beings who can develop advanced computers capable of creating multi-simulated universes in which simulated beings are conscious similar to us in the first place? So if we assume that it is implausible, then it is also unlikely that we live in a simulated universe.
The second thing is how likely these beings would run the simulations even if they could make it. These beings might not have any interest in creating the simulated universe. It is also favoring that we are not living in Simulation Creationism.
Laying out all our options
Now, I am laying out the three possibilities regarding simulation.
- There are technologically advanced extraterrestrial beings who can and do run several simulations. The simulated beings in the simulation are more likely us, and maybe we are also simulated beings.
- There are technologically advanced extraterrestrial beings who are capable of running many simulations of beings that are similar to us. But they are doing the simulation for any reason. It would be that these people have not any interest in creating the simulations.
- There are no extraterrestrial beings who are technologically advanced enough to run simulations of people similar to us.
Do we have only these three possible options? The answer appears to be “true.”
You might disagree with these possibilities by mentioning any of the theories that support the argument that we are not living in any simulated universe. For example, You can say that science suggests to us that the Big Bang had started our universe.
You have made a good point. Option 2 and 3 of the Simulation Hypothesis, in which we assume that we are not living in a simulation, can explain the Big Bang theory. These arguments are not contrasting with Big Bang. It is the reason why this Simulation Hypothesis has not more than three possibilities. One of these three options must be true.
So which option of Simulation Hypothesis is correct? Unfortunately, there are no sufficient pieces of evidence to conclude.
The principle of indifference
When we have a set of options, and there are no sufficient pieces of evidence suggesting one of them to be correct, we should consider all the options with equal credence to every possibility.
In simple words, I can say that faith is how likely you can conclude one of the options to be accurate based on the available evidence.
The philosophers call the giving of equal credence among all the possibilities in cases where we don’t have sufficient evidence, such as the Simulation Creationism theory, as the “principle of indifference.”
Let’s understand it with an example. Imagine you had prepared cookies and placed them on your desk. You left home for some work. After coming back home, you found that all of your cookies have vanished.
You were living with three other people. All of these people are strangers to you.
It would help if you started your investigation by recalling the information that you know about them. If you know person A has a history of stealing cookies, you could guess that he would have taken your cookies.
But what if you don’t know anything about these people? Would it be right to accuse a particularly one person of stealing cookies? No.
The principle of indifference and Bostrom’ simulation argument
The principle of indifference is with Bostrom’s simulation argument.
There is not sufficient evidence to decide which of the three options is correct.
We can say that if option 1 is right, then we are most likely living in a simulated universe. But if either option no.2 or option no.3 is correct, we are not living in a simulation. Here, The Simulation argument raised by Bostrom appears to give the credence of being simulated nearly 1 in 3.
When you toss a coin, the credence of getting “tails” should be 1 in 2. The credence in winning the world’s largest lottery should be approximately 300,000,000.
If you feel a little nervous now, it is essential to note that “there may be discoveries in the future that can change our credences.
We don’t know what that information might be and how we might discover it.