Simulation Hypothesis argues that our reality is a computer-generated program, which was created by a supreme being.
The idea that we are in a Simulation goes by many names – Simulation theory, Simulation Reality, Simulation Hypothesis. But what exactly does this mean for you and me? The premise is that everything we perceive as real, including us and the entire universe, could be part of an artificial simulation, like a high-resolution video game.
“Reality” is just an advanced, computer-generated simulation in which we simulate life, love, laughter, and work as per the program’s commands. The theory further hypothesizes everything we see, feel, taste, or touch is because of an advanced supercomputer.
The supercomputer tech is infinitely superior to our own. Capable of mimicking, learning and predicting the next steps or evolution in human intelligence. The algorithm used is so advanced our conscious minds cannot distinguish between virtual and True reality.
But what is “reality,” and where did this idea of Simulation Theory originate? The Matrix, the movie, was not the first to question everything, although it contributed to the concept’s popularity in recent decades. Theoretical physicist David Bohm in 1977 posed this notion to the world regarding reality:
“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.”
But before Bohm’s time, the idea of knowing what “reality” is was posed by ancient civilizations like the Chinese, Greek, and Aztec. Their texts depicted scenes or theories of reality created by some higher being. In the 17th-century, French philosopher René Descartes postulated we might be in a simulation in his work titled, Meditation on First Philosophy.
Descartes had an epiphany that would help shed light on what “reality” is for the beholder:
“… how could I deny that these hands and this body are mine, were it not perhaps that I compare myself to certain persons, devoid of sense, whose cerebella are so troubled and clouded by the violent vapours of black bile, that they constantly assure us that they think they are kings when they are really quite poor…How often has it happened to me that in the night I dreamt that I found myself in this particular place, that I was dressed and seated near the fire, whilst in reality I was lying undressed in bed!…
But in thinking over this I remind myself that on many occasions I have in sleep been deceived by similar illusions, and in dwelling carefully on this reflection I see so manifestly that there are no certain indications by which we may clearly distinguish wakefulness from sleep that I am lost in astonishment. And my astonishment is such that it is almost capable of persuading me that I now dream”
You may be thinking it is helpful to know that people in ancient times or centuries ago questioned reality, but who believes in the Simulation Theory today. Who accepts that humans are sims in an advanced supercomputer by an extraterrestrial being? The idea was first put forward by British philosopher Nicholas Bostrom in 2003. He believed that “reality” was a concept to define our perception of what happens to us around us. In summation, it covers the entire human history and, of course, the future too.
He proposed that the universe is a sort of artificial simulation in parallel with a high-resolution video game. The simulation theory assumes that simulation, if true, is a very complex framework that makes up molecular interactions at subatomic levels up to the definitions of biological systems. It extends to cosmic activities of the planets – more like a cosmic computer.
With technology moving to higher levels of apparent realism, research has suggested that this gives it more credence. It is left to imagine the possibility of humans creating complex simulations where sims can believe they exist in reality. It is somewhat a loop of reality existing in another reality. The theory further opines that the organisms in this simulation could question their own reality as one existing in another.
In his published a paper in 2003 titled, Are We Living in a Computer Simulation?, Bostrom declared one of three things are plausible in the future or now:
(1) the human species is very likely to become extinct before reaching a ‘posthuman’ stage;
(2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of its evolutionary history (or variations thereof);
(3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.
During an interview, Bostrom stated, “My view is that we don’t have strong enough evidence to rule out any of these three possibilities,” which opened the floodgates for interpretations and possibilities.
Others have made significant contributions to Simulation Theory. Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the New York Hayden Planetarium, American astrophysicist, and science communicator, states during the YouTube video recording of his hit show, StarTalk, that the probability we are in a simulation is 50:50.
Elon Musk, the successful entrepreneur and CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, suggested we plausibly live in a Simulated universe during an E3 2019 gaming conference’s stage. “The Simulation is all the way down,” he declared, implying an unending simulation chain. Musk told his audience that the odds we are not simulated are “one in billions.”
In 2019, the book, The Simulation Hypothesis, written by Rizwan Virk, added to Bostrom’s work: “Simply because we perceive the world as ‘real’ and ‘material’ doesn’t mean that it is so.” The MIT and Stanford graduate stated, “The truth is that there’s much we simply don’t understand about our reality, and I think it’s more likely than not that we are in some kind of a simulated universe” during an interview with Sean Illing from Vox.
Virk mentioned the example of Schrödinger’s cat, where the physicist Erwin Schrödinger theorized that said a cat would be in a box, and no one would know whether the cat was dead or alive until they looked inside. “The cardinal rule,” Virk said, “is the universe renders only that which needs to be observed.”
Therefore, we only see what needs to be seen at that time, like the rendering in a video game. “The findings of quantum physics may shed some doubt on the fact that the material universe is real. The more scientists look for the ‘material’ in the material world, the more they find that it doesn’t exist,” he explains in an article by BuiltIn.
But who made the simulation? A New York University philosopher, David Chalmers, had a theory. He said a superior being, possibly a god, created the Simulation. This being might be a “teenager, hacking on a computer and running five universes in the background… but it could also be someone who is nonetheless omniscient, all-knowing, and all-powerful about our world,” Chambers remarked.
Many skeptics have asked why an “omniscient, all-knowing, and all-powerful” being would consider creating a simulation? One could then ask why do any scientists perform experiments? The vital role of any investigation is its ability to test theories and provide the basis for scientific knowledge, explains the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The beauty of experiments is that they may not go the way you want. “They may have a life of their own, independent of theory. Scientists may investigate a phenomenon just because it looks interesting. Such experiments may provide evidence for a future theory to explain,” the text further reads.
Physics may seem to suggest a measure of resolution to our reality just like the TV screen, we can term it a cosmic resolution. Thus, any resolution humans create will be lower than the cosmic resolution. The implication of this proposition is that, if humans are in a simulation, then the higher-level reality has equal or greater resolution than ours. This would imply that the creators of the simulation are of higher intelligence than us.
Simulations need to have variable levels of complexity to be easily managed and a projection of true reality. This is so done with intelligent beings and gives the possibility of recreation of the full complexity of physics. Here, our simulators would have their hands forced to employ more computing power if we explore physics at microscopic levels through experiments.
According to Alexandre Bibeau-Delisle and Gilles Brassard FRS in research published in March 2021, “the fact that we have not detected any evidence for the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations may be considered as the most convincing argument in favor of the theory according to which we live in a simulation.
Note that while a similar argument could be made for regions of the Earth that interact little with humans (deep-sea ecosystems, for instance), they remain coupled with us much more strongly than things outside our solar system and their simulated complexity could not be cut down nearly as much without significantly affecting the progression of the simulation”
Another implication of this theory, if true, is we are watched by these intelligent beings. This can be something to worry about in that they could decide to stop the simulation, intentionally or out of error. While humans cannot do anything about this, we can only let them continue observing us.
This probability will be greater than half if classical computing powers the simulation of our universe. This phenomenon would enable the simulators to obtain information without being detected. This is just like what happens in video games or in our scientific experiments (physics). (Bibeau-Delisle Alexandre and Brassard FRS Gilles, 2021)
This simulation can be good in a way. Perfection is nearly impossible, but it isn’t the same with the simulation. In video games created by humans, error in computing can have an effect on the simulation creating incoherence and thus the artificiality of the simulated world is evident. The assumption of perfectly programmed physics in simulation does not create a perfect system because it can be impacted by the environment. Some research proposes that the simulator’s abilities may not just be mere random activities. They may have the ability to eavesdrop on our minds and have knowledge of our thoughts if our minds are fully classical.
Alexandre Bibeau-Delisle and Gilles Brassard FRS believe that modern science supports only the view where the human mind is fully classical, and present several arguments to this effect. With the ability of these possible simulators, information would be readily available to them and thus difficult to hide.
They proposed in their research that, “If we develop the technological means to project ourselves into the worlds we simulate, we could thus hope to escape the control of our own simulators (apart from their continued ability to end our existence at will by resetting their computing system)”
Another possible implication of the theory is the inference of purpose. The simulation hypothesis proposes a possibility of multiple simulations as a result of the ease of creating one. Every one of them has a purpose and ours could be a sort of study.
We could view another one in terms of religion. Many religions teach that God created the world and the humans in it. If the simulation is true according to the simulation theory, then probably we are the simulation of the original creation by God. We could be subjects of an experiment designed by an unknown life form with a higher quality of intelligence.
Alternatively, we may have created the simulation for our purpose of extending the survival of the species. Having done so in the distant future, we lack any means to understand it; maybe something went wrong.
Quantum computing is evolving at a great pace, and soon, its processing power will be able to perform real-time simulations. Nowadays, virtualization is used to run virtual processing units on a physical machine, so why not believe that we live inside a digital Noah’s Ark? In addition, an unknown intelligence may have created a controlled environment for our existence. There is evidence in our cultural records that supports this hypothesis.
Countless myths recount the stories of guardians or protectors of life, there are also tales about oracles and divine messengers, we could be living under the control of higher intelligence, calling it God would not be wrong, and God’s plan could well be our free will. Whether or not we are in a simulation, isn’t the desire to control the nature of highly intelligent species? We, as humans, have developed the tendency to recreate natural environments for animals of lower or unknown intellect; we have caged mice at home and in laboratories. Why shouldn’t we be the mice or a superior life form?
Another new concept of Simulation Theory is known as “Simulation Creationism“, from world expert Nir Ziso, which suggests that the purpose of a simulated reality with conscious life living in it would be to examine the individual’s emotional reaction to events and happenings. He explains his concept in The Global Architect institute, a non-profit under IRC Section 501(3)(c). It might be the definitive answer and the end to all speculation from ancient times to the present.
Each time we attempt to grasp the Simulation Theory, we might be getting closer to the Creators’ ultimate goal; in our next articles, we will discuss in-depth different aspects of this hypothesis.