Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?

Artificial Intelligence Metaphysics Philosophy Singularity
Living in a Computer Simulation
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The Matrix

Perhaps you have seen The Matrix trilogy and contemplated the idea that we ourselves may be living inside a computer simulation. In fact, given the current understanding of human consciousness and models of cognition, in theory, it's completely possible.

What is difficult to determine, however, is the actual probability that we are in fact being simulated, given that we have only one representative data point – our own existence.

Oxford University Research

Nick Bostrom, philosopher and Director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University has spent some time thinking about exactly this question. He gives a logical argument that comes to the conclusion that at least one of the three following statements is true:

  1. The human species will go extinct before reaching a posthuman stage.
  2. Any posthuman civilization is unlikely to run computer simulations of its history.
  3. There is a high probability that we ourselves are now living in a simulation.

Simulated Humans

Assume that we will not go extinct before acquiring the capability to run simulations. In other words, that item one above is false. Given the fact current predictions of computing technology put us on a course to eventually have the capability to run full computer simulations of humans, then item two is also false.

Since simulations can be run over and over, in multiple environments in parallel, and computing power keeps increasing, then in fact, the number of simulated humans that will ever exist is vastly greater than the number of real humans that have ever existed. Statistically speaking, if you lumped all of these conscious entities together – real and simulated – and picked one at random, your chances of picking a simulated human would be greater than those of picking a real human. Simulated humans can't tell that they are simulated, and this leads to the essential conclusion that there is a greater likelihood that you are actually living in a computer simulation right now than not.

You can read more about the idea, including the original article and popular synopses of it, at www.simulation-argument.com

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14 thoughts on “Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?

  1. Actually if the statment below is true, and we are that smart than we are in a virtual world.
    “The human species will go extinct before reaching a posthuman stage.”
    But I don’t think we are that smart.

  2. I agree – we are not that smart, at least at the present. Hopefully, we’ll be able to augment our selves, or create an artificial intelligence that is smarter than us, which will take us to the next level.

  3. I’ve had plenty of Salvia trips, mushroom experiences, and dreams indicating this as a very real situation.
    Our consciousness resides spinnin in a sort of cubical farm of consciousness, each separate from the next; while we experience Life through a VR helmet sort of concept within our heads; our heads being the VR helmet of course.
    The weird part being that we may not actually be moving through reality; but existing in a single point and subjectivly experincing it all from that point.

  4. I find it very interesting that a number of entheogenic and other mystical experiences report such similar experiences. It seems that there are elements of our experience that are not perceivable in normal ways that could be as valid as anything else.

  5. We may not be that smart. But if we are simulations we may not have been created for our intelligence. Think of superior humans or machines creating us for entertainment purposes so that our little episodes can be viewed and studied much like characters in an I Love Lucy episode. After all Lucy could be pretty mindless.
    Better yet we may have been created in simulation to evolve so that the creators could observe different potential outcomes if different conditions are applied.
    And more frightening yet the concept of God rests in humans being of some use to God. Did God make simulations or was it a smart robot?

  6. Infinite universes existing in a single, tiny area, are an interesting concept. I have wondered if each of us might occupy the position of every other human that has ever existed in our worldly history. If I am everyone else then treating everyone else really nicely becomes a really great idea.

  7. If there was a god he would have to be an incompetent to have made this world. For the same reason if we lived in the matrix its programmer would have had to have been an incompetent. Our world is just too imperfect to have been built by an engineer.
    R. Jones
    Prof. of Physics
    Emporia State Univ.
    (www.robert-w-jones.com)

  8. Prof. Jones, what if the imperfections are by design, to make us believe that this is what reality looks like? If it was that perfect, wouldn’t we suspect then that may be it’s fake (or a simulation)? Something like “damn! this is too good to be true”

  9. that’s a scientific false hood as the Anthropic Principle points to countless attributes of our current reality that are exquisitely fined tuned; and if not so finely tuned, our biological form of life would not be possible.
    Your statement doesn’t come across at all as being scientifically informed, but more so as simply a subjective emotional outburst of someone having a bad day and is cranky at the universe because of it.

  10. Says you, with all you prejudices, conclusions, programming and “beliefs” betraying you.
    All quite loaded, all quite in the way. Who but you said perfection was the desired outcome?
    And, why should we accept logical equations as anything more than one of many possible tools for examining and exploring this life? Por ejemplo, can physics explain Love, or affection or plain ugly lust, etc.? Can you write down that equation for us, Dr?
    S. Mahooti
    Prof. of not professing
    School of earth
    http://www.mahooti.com

  11. The idea that the age distribution of advanced extraterrestrial civilizations might follow a Gaussian distribution is suggested by the fact that the age distribution of Sun-like (G type main-sequence) stars is expected to conform to a Gaussian distribution with a median age of perhaps five billion years. In principle, the distribution percentile versus age for Sun-like stars can be fit to such a curve. Even a relatively small standard deviation for stellar age distribution of say, 333,500,000 yr. for sun-like stars presently supporting life and extraterrestrial civilization might imply a correspondingly large civilization mean age of around 100,000,000 yr. and a standard deviation for civilization age of something like 15 million years. What is skew about these assumptions, of course, is basing the estimate of mean stellar age on the current age of our own sun. Who’s to say that the mean age for presently existing extraterrestrial civilizations is not closer to a billion years, especially if we are taking Type II or Type III civilizations into account? Of course, metal rich Population I stars (including G dwarf stars like our Sun) are not thought to have come into their own until eight of 10 billion years ago. This is all by way of saying that the chances that the civilization of Mankind is only 6,000 or 7,000 years old is accordingly quite slim, virtually nil, in fact, since such a small civilization age would fall well within the 0.001th percentile of the Gaussian age curve above. This is perhaps another way to demonstrate the high probability of us living within an “ancestor simulation”, an argument which is independent and in addition to the excellent argument put forward by Nick Bostrom.

  12. Proposal; future us, create computers capable of creating simulations within the parameters we define; we are able to select the program, time frame & level we wish to experience. We choose to be ignorant – while in the game- of our true reality and that the program is just a game… why would we want to know, after all if we want the true full experience we would not want to know it was a game; when game is over, we are drawn to the “light” and we are back in our “real reality” that we reside in with all the memories of the game play intact. Why play the game? Future us has evolved to the point that we want to experience everything our ancesters did… in the future, we have all uploaded our essence into a computer program, so physical death does not exsist. There are no real challenges or experiences other than what we have created in the simulated game. Still, we have an array of choices and levels to pick from. This keeps our life interesting and full of possibilites.
    Any crimes against the collective are punished with a stint in a game where you experience negative realties. Repeat until you change.

  13. The 1999 movie ‘The Thirteenth Floor’ does an excellent job of exploring your proposal (well, except for the karmic repeats…)

  14. The idea that we are merely the dream of some being on a higher plane goes back probably as far as the recognition that dreams are different from, but related to, memories. (I remember thinking that I could be a character in Someone’s Dream when I was 10). The astonishing thing…the truly paradigm-shifting view of that fundamental question of philosophy ‘Who am I and why am I here?’ will be answerable, by us, within the next 50 years.

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