Is reality not what it seems?
By L. Janér
Elon Musk, American business mogul, inventor, engineer and investor claims it is almost certain that we are living in a simulation. In an interview at Code Conference 2016, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO said, “there’s a one in billions chance we’re in base reality.”
What exactly does that mean? In simple terms, it is as if human were advanced versions of The Sims.
The theory of humans participating in simulations includes three main possibilities. One of them is that, assuming that civilization keeps advancing into the future, we’ll eventually simulate ourselves. Of course, simulating every synapse on every human brain would require a radical amount of technological development, but it is believed that we would send small and self-replicating robots to another planet, essentially transforming that planet into one giant computer. In other words, advanced future civilizations would run equally advanced computer simulations of past civilizations. Yet some of those simulations could start making their own simulations, creating millions of simulated universes which are indistinguishable from our own. Therefore, it is likely we are in one of those simulated universes, and living in a simulation.
Elon Musk, in his interview, reinforced his idea: “The strongest argument for us being in a simulation, probably being in a simulation, is the following: 40 years ago, we had Pong, two rectangles and a dot…That is what games were. Now, 40 years later, 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, augmented reality. If you assume any rate of improvement at all, the games will become indistinguishable from reality.”
Elon Musk is not alone in his theory. In fact, he echoed ideas from British philosopher Nicholas Bostrom who published a paper in 2003, hypothesizing on the likelihood of our reality actually being an illusion. Bostrom puts the odds of our living in a simulation at about 20 percent, as opposed to Elon Musk who believes it is very unlikely we are living in ‘base reality’.
This hypothesis as a whole has a kind of appeal attached to it. It not only defies our most basic perceptions of reality itself, it involves prevailing ideas that our world is a product of a higher power or intelligence, which ties into a religious element of simulation: we are all under a purer and higher reality we cannot see.
Another possibility the theory presents is that the human race goes extinct and civilization ceases to exist before we actually reach the stage where there is enough technological advancement to actually run the simulation. And the last is that humans will simply deem running ancestor simulations as unethical, and have higher priorities.
This theory has been fervently discussed by philosophers and scientists, as well as skeptics and critics who regard it as completely impossible. The concept that reality as we know it is actually an illusion is indeed a very hard concept to grasp, but maybe we should not completely write it off.
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