photo from Society for Modeling & Simulation International
You’ve probably heard the jokes about real life not being as “real” as we think it is. People make comments about the possibility that the world really did end during the “apocalypse” of 2012 and since then we’ve been living in a computer simulation, or that the popular sci-fi film, “The Matrix,” is real and human minds were trapped by intelligent machines and harvested into a program. In casual conversation, however, they are usually just that: jokes.
But what if life, as we know it, isn’t real and we are all just a part of a computer-generated universe created by a society much more advanced than us? There are people who truly believe that is a fact, and are even working to verify it.
So, here are a few reasons why we may, in fact, be living in a computer simulation.
1. Elon Musk thinks we are.
Elon Musk, the head of seemingly endless successful businesses including Tesla, SpaceX and Paypal, claims that “there’s a billion to one chance we’re living in a base reality.” His main piece of evidence is the advancement of video games.
In an interview with Josh Topolsky, co-founder of The Verge, he argued that, “either we’re going to create simulations that are indistinguishable from reality, or civilization will cease to exist.”
Forty years ago, the computer age of gaming began with simple video games like Pong. Today many online games are able to host millions of simultaneous players and include photo-realistic visuals, and we are not far from mastering virtual reality. In a matter of a few years, Musk believes, we will probably be able to create games that are indistinguishable from reality.
So, if it will soon be possible for us to do it, who’s to say no one has done it before? Plus, who wouldn’t trust Elon Musk? (Besides most people.)
2. It has become an actual topic of debate among the scientific community.
The idea of our world simply being a computer simulation is not just a popular topic with conspiracy theorists. It is something scientists and physicists are genuinely debating.
It was the main topic of the Annual Isaac Asimov Debate at the American Museum of Natural History in 2016.
James Gates is a physicist at the University of Maryland who attended the debate. He is a supporter of the theory and he defended his view with the results of his experimentation. He was researching the equations of supersymmetry, or the “theoretical equations that govern how the universe works” and he found error-correcting codes. These are used to check and correct errors introduced through the physical process of computing. They are “what make browsers work.” “So why,” Gates asks, “were they in the equations that I was studying about quarks, and leptons and supersymmetry?”
Outside of the conference, Rich Terrile is an astronomer and director of the Center for Evolutionary Computation and Automated Design at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He has shown that “a human brain calculates at something in the order of a million-billion operations per second. And this is about 100 times slower than our fastest supercomputers.” If computers are already so much more advanced than the human mind, it shouldn’t be long before they can create their own versions of the human mind. Or at least, that’s what Terrile believes.
3. Zeno’s Paradox
This one is a stretch, but many people, including members of the Flat Earth Society, believe that Zeno’s paradox proves that we are actually just made up of pixels. It is also known as the paradox of Achilles and a turtle, wherein a race, Achilles moves infinitely closer to the turtle who is moving much slower than him, but rather than catching up, Achilles is only ever able to decrease the distance between them.
This paradox can be applied to the universe. Since space is continuous and there is an infinite number of intervals between every number, things should be growing infinitely closer to each other and should never be able to physically touch.
We are able to touch things though, so this doesn’t add up.
Some “theorists” justify this with the idea that we are made up of binary code, as computer programs are. Since everything is made up of 0s and 1s, when something is not 1 unit away from another object, it by default moves to 0, making the two things touch.
4. Some major religions resemble video games
A virtually simulated world created by a more civilized society could be easily compared to almost every religion’s concept of a “god,” or creator, using their “power,” or intelligence, to build a universe that eventually becomes self-sustaining.
In many religions, overarching themes reflect those of common video games. For example, in games, when we “die” we get a “game over” screen and we restart with a new life.
Similarly, Buddhists believe that we live many different lives, and each one restarts when we die. The religion basically claims that the world is an illusion; maybe it is a different type than followers originally thought.
5. It would be impossible to prove that we aren’t
Obviously, if we are living in a simulation, the creators would have it programmed so we would not be able to figure it out.
As David Chalmers, a philosopher at NYU, put it, “There’s certainly not going to be a conclusive experimental proof that we’re not in a simulation… any evidence we could ever get would be simulated.”
Note: all of these are theories, and there are just as many, if not more, scientific studies have shown that we are not living in a simulation. So, don’t give up hope yet.
Disclaimer: This is a listicle post in which an opinion is established. We encourage our readers to reach their own conclusions based on reading several articles that support and refute an opinion. The opinions established in this article do not represent the beliefs or ideals held by the Stony Brook Independent.