Is the breadth of our reality merely an advanced computer simulation? This question may just sound like the plot to a shitty, over-romanticized Keanu Reeves movie, but the past five minutes I have spent reading the simulation theory page on Wikipedia seem pretty convincing.
The implications of this question should be obvious. If we are living in a simulated reality, it would mean that humanity is more insignificant than we could have possibly imagined. Every person you’ve loved, every moment you’ve cherished would have no more intrinsic value than a piece of lettuce in Burger Time.
However, if our reality is not just a construct built of ones and zeros, it would mean that was a real, living person I just ran over on the corner of Ashland and North Ave. His family would feel actual hurt and loss, and the police lights in my rearview mirror are bringing with them real, tangible consequences.
Simulation hypothesis first garnered more widespread acknowledgment in 2003, when the philosopher Nick Bostrom published his most famous essay “Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?” in Philosophical Quarterly. In this, he postulates that one of these three must almost certainly be true:
- “The fraction of human-level civilizations that reach a posthuman stage (that is, one capable of running high-fidelity ancestor simulations) is very close to zero.”
- “The fraction of posthuman civilizations that are interested in running ancestor-simulations is very close to zero.”
- “The fraction of all people with our kind of experiences that are living in a simulation is very close to one.”
What Bostrom fails to address is how to clean simulated blood out of the grill of a 2003 Kia Sorento. Do you just take it to a simulated car wash? Do you destroy the simulated evidence in a simulated fire? Furthermore, how do you stop that pedestrian’s artificial screams from echoing in your mind? How to sleep at night with that man’s digital sham of a face hauntingly etched into your mind? Bostrom’s ignorance in this regard is palpable.
Despite these holes in Bostrom’s theory, it has continued to gain traction amongst some of science’s leading minds. Elon Musk is quoted as saying “There is a billion to one chance that we’re living in base reality.” What he means by this is if we assume a future civilization could create a simulated reality, and based off the exponential advancement of science this seems likely, the chances that we are living in the original reality, compared to the countless simulations, seems almost unfathomably unlikely.
To put this in layman’s terms, say you walk across the same intersection to and from work every day, along with thousands of other commuters. What are the chances that you would be the one person, out of all these other folks, to get hit by a driver speeding to get to Buffalo Wild Wings before happy hour ends? In fact, the odds of getting hit by THAT car, at THAT intersection, on THAT day are so astoundingly low we MUST be living in a simulation.
Anyway, I’m pulling into B-dubs now and there are a bunch of simulated cops trying to stop me from getting those five dollar apps, so I’m going to do a bit of research on how to download kung fu to my brain. Hope you found this informative!