Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?
Is Our Reality Actually a Simulation?
The idea that our reality could be the result of a simulation generated by an advanced intelligence is one that is becoming increasingly embraced. Before Elon Musk and other popular influencers brought this idea to the forefront of media attention, Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at The University of Oxford, formulated his simulation argument that has since gained significant traction.
Imagining a day in which technology is capable of mimicking and stimulating our daily senses is easier to fathom with our seemingly exponential advancements. If or when we have the ability to run computer simulations by creating sentient beings would we do it and for what purpose? This question comes with numerous ethical and moral dilemmas.
It seems that a precursor or parallel to this reality would be one in which our consciousness could be uploaded to a computer or ulterior platform. While this may seem implausible, the idea of substrate-independence provides a possibility. Bostrom posits this idea in the possibility of imprinting consciousness. Essentially, the assumption is that if the system generating consciousness is built sufficiently it can be applied to man or machine.
Practically Implementing Consciousness
Although the computing power necessary to mimic our brain function is not yet attainable, Bostrom broke down how much computing power it would hypothetically take. He equated that the amount of power it would take to stimulate the central nervous system would be tantamount to the amount of energy it would take to stimulate a human mind. This amount of power would equate to between ~1014 and ~1017 operations per second. Other difficulties arise in harnessing the computing power to create an environment. Bostrom thinks that to save computing power it would be possible to implement ad hoc realities as they are discovered, giving the example of humans discovering quantum particles and their ambiguities.
The Holographic Universe
The Holographic Universe: Living in a Simulated Reality with Linda Moulton Howe
Linda Moulton Howe explores the possibility that we are but one simulated universe nested within a series of simulated universes. Far beyond the limits of our corporeal reality a strange holographic projector transmits information that we perceive as physical reality. An increasing number of scientists are accepting the idea that our reality is a holographic projection and new data comes to light which suggests that this projection is artificial in nature
In his study of string theory and more specifically supersymmetry, Dr. Jim Gates a physicist from the University of Maryland, claims to have discovered error correcting codes in fundamental particles like quarks and leptons. These types of codes are more commonly known for their use in computing. Gates claims that these codes found in his study of nanoparticles are essentially the same as a very particular type of code that allows for the functioning of browsers.
“When you then try to understand these pictures you find out that buried in them are computer codes just like the type that you’d find in a browser when you go to surf the web. And so I’m left with the puzzle of trying to figure out whether I live in The Matrix or not,” Gates said.
What’s the Probability
When Elon Musk was asked recently about whether he believes we live in a computer simulation, he said that the chance of us living in what he calls ‘base reality’ or an organic, non-computer simulation is one in billions. Others believe that there is a proportionate possibility that we are or are not living in a simulation.
Bostrom’s simulation argument believes that there are three possibilites:
- The human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage
- Any “posthuman” civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof)
- We are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.
The idea that we live in a computer simulation has lead theorists to the idea that there could potentially be layers of simulations, like a Russian Matryoshka doll. These layers of simulation could present myriad questions as to the source reality or how this may fall in line with string theory’s idea of a multiverse in which numerous if not infinite universes exist.
Do We Live in a Holographic Universe?
The Holographic Universe idea suggests that our universe contains a hidden order that connects every point to every other point in the universe. It tells us the whole of the universe is in every gram, thus providing subtle connections between seemingly unconnected events and places. This perspective also relates to the idea of a simulated or virtual universe, whereby our sensory experience is just an illusion produced by an artificial reality.
When you look around your surroundings, you get the feeling you’re living in a three-dimensional world full of visceral shapes, textures, patterns, and objects of all types. You have the feeling that you can interact with these physical objects and get an instantaneous subjective feeling in your body of their depth, size, temperature, texture and weight. This gives you a sense of the physical space around you and your location within it.
But what if this experience of space, location, and depth is all an illusion, a construct of your mind that is beautifully sustained from moment to moment? What if the apparent solidity and shape of the world around you is, in fact, an incredibly well-orchestrated hallucination produced by your brain. Perhaps we live in a purely informational space where matter and energy are not our reality’s fundamental qualities.
Believe it or not, a theory in physics that has been gaining traction recently is the Holographic Universe idea. It suggests to us that our perception of three dimensions is the product of our mind decoding information that arises from a two-dimensional, flat world. This occurs in the same way that a computer constructs a realistic, moving computer game from billions of bits of ones or zeroes embedded in a CD or hard drive. In other words, our senses are only perceiving information and not real physical objects, people, or things. That feeling of physicality is an illusion produced by our brain.