The Simulation Hypothesis. Are We Living In A Simulation?

Is Our Existence Merely Just An Advanced Computer Simulation? Elon Musk (Tesla And SpaceX CEO) Believes The Chance We Are Not Living In A Simulation Is ‘One In Billions’…

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For centuries humans have speculated and questioned our own existence and the reality we find ourselves living in. These kind of philosophical debates can date way back throughout human history as people try to find and give explanations for human existence and purpose . The simulation Hypothesis is one theory that tries to do just that and has emerged due to recent rapid technological developments. It has also gained lots of publicity in the last year following billionaire Elon Musk embracing the theory…

17th century French Philosophy Rene Descartes would bare the seed for which the simulation theory would come to grow from. Descartes believed that the information that we receive through our senses is not entirely accurate. In his ‘Dream Argument he states ‘There are no certain indications by which we may clearly distinguish wakefulness from sleep’. He says this due to us often being fully convinced our dreams are real when we are having them, showcasing that sometimes our senses can in fact deceive us. However, Descartes’ most notable piece of work for the Simulation Hypothesis comes from his famous quote  “I think therefore I am”. This is his thinking that the truest reality for anyone is not the physical world that surrounds us. It is our conscious experience of it meaning that the only thing he could say for certain is that we exist. Therefore we cannot be absolutely certain that the reality we find ourselves in is base reality at all. This is the starting point for the Simulation Hypothesis.

“There are no certain indications by which we may clearly distinguish wakefulness from sleep” – René Descartes. Image via

It wouldn’t be until 2003 when the Simulation Hypothesis itself was actually developed by Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom. In his hypothesis he came up with three propositions in which he claims that one of them must be true…

  • Virtually all civilizations at our pace of development will go extinct before they reach the technological capability of creating ultra-realistic video games.
  • Civilizations with such technological capabilities are uninterested in running such computer simulations.
  • We are almost certainly characters living in a computer simulation.

Bostrom isn’t himself proclaiming with absolute certainty that we are living in a computerised simulation. But the propositions he has given within the argument does lead many to believe that the possibility that we are in a simulation is pretty high. This is because with the rate that we are technologically advancing many believe that in the centuries to come we will be able to create some rather extraordinary things in regards to technology, such as ultra realistic gaming environments. It would also seem strange to think that civilisations with such technological capability wouldn’t be interested in running such simulations. Just look at the amount of simulated worlds humans have created within video games over the years and enormous industry this has created. It would seem mad to think that an advanced civilisation would have no interest in such things at all. The only thing for me from Bostrom’s propositions that would seem to prevent civilisations from creating such simulations would be extinction which can be seen as likely in our instance with factors such as war and climate change knocking about.

One influential figure who believes there is an extremely high chance that we are living in a simulation is Elon Musk. He in fact proclaimed that the chance that we are not living in a simulation is ‘one in billions’. Earlier last year at a tech conference in California he said the following… “40 years ago we had Pong – two rectangles and a dot. That’s where we were. Now we have photorealistic, 3D simulations with millions of people playing simultaneously and it’s getting better every year. And soon we’ll have virtual reality, we’ll have augmented reality”. With Virtual reality starting to develop at fast rates who knows the possibilities we will face in 100 years time.

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Whilst creating such a complex simulation, consciousness is something that would need to be replicated perfectly for it to feel to feel indistinguishable from reality for those inside of it. If we were to look at consciousness as being a complex structure generated by the brain and not a supernatural occurrence then we could possibly replicate such feelings of consciousness in the future as our technological capability’s progress further. Rich Terrile, a scientist at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said “Soon there will be nothing technical standing in the way to making machines that have their own consciousness”. With video games  becoming more and more sophisticated perhaps in the future we’ll be able to create simulations with fully conscious entities inside of them. But that can lead many to speculate, what if another civilisation has already done this and we are the product of that simulation?

Looking at all these points being made that are indicating that we could be living in a simulation opens up a question, should we care if we are actually living in a simulation? Does it really matter that much to us as humans if our entire existence is primarily based upon billions of ones and zeros? For me personally,  I believe it doesn’t and I think that many people will agree. People don’t spend every day of their lives questioning their own existence, they just live their life. Thats all we can do because this is the only reality we will ever know in our existence.

Let us know if you have any thoughts…

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