The world as we know it has many mysteries. Maybe it’s not real and we’re just living in a simulation, like characters in a video game controlled by alien super-species. Well, these things have been said so many times but let’s face it, no one really cares. But should we? This debate has lately engulfed professionals in academia and science and in fact, a theoretical explanation of this reality has been developed in what’s called the “simulation hypothesis.”
There have been many high profile proponents of this idea and one of them is Elon Musk, eccentric billionaire who is also the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX. Musk expounded more on the simulation hypothesis during an interview with a popular podcast. He argued that when you think about it, video games will eventually be indistinguishable from reality adding that it’s very likely that we are in a simulation. The same sentiment has also been shared by Neil deGrasse Tyson, a popular astrophysicist at the Hayden Planetarium.
The idea of simulated reality was started in a paper published in 2003 by Nick Bostrom. The University of Oxford philosopher argued that assuming there are long-lived technologically advanced civilizations in the universe, it’s likely that these civilizations could have the ability to run computer simulations. Bostrom argues that because of this, it’s possible that there could be a huge number of simulated realities running completely on artificial intelligence. What’s worse, the inhabitants in these simulated realities may not even know they are part of them.
The simulation hypothesis hasn’t been proven yet. In fact, scientists are now looking for new ways to test it. After all, more concrete evidence is needed to support this line of thinking if it will stand. Naturally, to prove the hypothesis, scientists will need to develop experiments that can distinguish between physical reality and virtual reality. But this poses a very huge challenge.
Some scientists think that if indeed there’s some computer software running our universe, then just like any software there are bugs that can manifest themselves in everyday life. Identifying these bugs could help shed more light on this hypothesis. Other scientists note that our computer simulated reality has to be based on some sort of mathematical structure. Uncovering this structure could help unravel the mystery if indeed it exists.
Despite this, some scientists suggest looking inwards instead of outwards. The argument is based on modern day video games. They say that video game developers maximize the efficiency of their programming by only generating parts of the virtual world that players can see. Other parts that are invisible are not really prioritized in the simulation. The scientists note that if indeed this is the same approach taken by the overlords running our simulation, we may find loopholes in the simulation by examining the “invisible world.” Although these experiments may seem impractical, scientists say that they may have a way of actually doing them but there’s only one challenge. The simulated realities that we are supposedly seeing could be finite. In other words, they are too many to count.