Saturday, April 22, 2017

Simulation Hypothesis

Are we living in a simulation?  

Anyone who has watched The Matrix may have an idea of what is the Matrix in the movie. It is a computer simulation of the reality. So the instantaneous answer to the above question for most of us would be; "Bah humbug! We are not living in a computer simulation”. What if I tell you we might be living in one? In fact, Elon Musk, himself said there are one in billion chances of us not living in a simulation. 

In 2003 Nick Bostrom from the Oxford University published papers citing a thought experiment. The experiment has the same advantage as an argument as religion does, it is unfalsifiable. Pretty much like solipsism, I wrote about Solipsism for my A to Z challenge's post last year read it here.  In his papers, Bostrom puts forward the three arguments and argues that at least one of them is true. You can read Boston's proposition in details here

  • 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. 

We as species may go extinct before further advancement in technology. It could be an asteroid that hit our planet or we end up nuking the whole planet. As a matter of fact, Earth is on the brink of mass extinction in the light of climate issues; we can be one of the species that may get extinct.  However, we are in a very safe place compared to other animals, such as polar bears. (Read my post on polar bears here). However, the perception of a likelihood of this fallout depends on how much brunt of climate change you are facing at your location. My city, Delhi, is breaking the 'hottest ever' record every given year. Sigh! Still, some of us have more chances of survival and overall chances of human reaching posthuman stage are strong. 
Reaching posthuman stage will be marked by the integration of technology in our day to day life. The technological revolution of our era is enjoying an exponential growth. I remember when I had a lousy video game player to play Super Mario. It was amazing to the past me, such good quality! Had someone told me that in a matter of few years this would be ridiculously lame I wouldn't believe. Now the games are better and realistic. Many experts say that it will still get better with time up to a point where the gaming worlds like the Sims will be indistinguishable from the real world. Your player may even experience real distress on that "Game Over" mark. 
The odds are in favour of integration of consciousness into the computers. In the light of substrate independence, the current technology is making and attempt to "upload" the consciousness/mind to a computer. This technological advancement will bolster the chances of your player having a consciousness and independent thoughts. So, in future when you lose a game you may end up troubling the poor guy living inside the game. However, if that happens we might not choose to put such technology in use to trouble or little game player or would we? That is the ethical question for future people. 
Now, with the ability of computers, we already run simulations some awesome simulations. Check our Millennium simulation project here and Illutris project here. Over time, there are chances that, people will run independent simulations on their personal computers just for fun. It could become a fad, like one of those Farmville games. Now that we have given those simulated people the ability of consciousness. They somehow could evolve and built their own simulation, I know! It sounds crazy, right? Now, what if there is a chain of simulations inside simulation inside simulation... People, in each simulation, having their own set of individuality, like we do! Moreover, we do intend to make more and more real-ish simulations. At some point, we may want to see our history simulated. We may want to see the Greeks doing their parliament meetings. We would just make a computer program run the simulation to watch Socrates making his case to the people of Athens. That would be quite educational. 

Now that we know it is possible, in future, how can we be sure it is not already happening? How can we be sure that someone from an advanced civilization didn't want to see what earth was like at this very time?  How can we say we are not their simulation? After all, there are no grounds to prove that we are the ground reality. This is the Simulation hypothesis and that leads us to the last point on the Bostrom's list. We are almost certainly living in a simulation. You may check out this Ted talk by the Nobel Prize Winner George Smoot trying to convince you about living in a simulation here.

If you find this thought distressing, don't worry! It is just fun to have some counterintuitive thinking once in a while. Nevertheless, in the end, it doesn't matter if we live in a simulation or not. Our "reality" is already subjective. Our lives will go on just the way they do...

On a Scale of 1 to 10, (1 for we are the ground reality and 10 for this is a simulation) what is your point - scale opinion on, If we are living in a simulation?  Feel free to express your opinion in the comment section below. 

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  1. I vote a 2. I'd vote a 1, but there's really no way to be sure so I can't really do that. I don't think we are in a simulation, although sometimes I have wondered if I'm just a character in a story. Very thought-provoking post! Thanks for visiting my blog.


    1. I agree, it is insane to think about it. When I first read about this argument I was like, Heck No! After reading the papers by Bostrom the first word that came to my mind was "Touche!"
      Thanks for stopping by. :)

  2. That is a fantastic preposition, but I don't like to think too much about it for it brings in unsettling thoughts.LOL! On the scale I am 5 basically I am the Simulation agnostic.
    Another good one, Kapoor! :)

    1. You are the simulation-tist in this comment section, Alex! Bravo! :P
      Thanks, Marshall!

  3. I'd vote a 3 only my brain is tied up in knots and can't be untangled :D Very intriguing post!

    Best wishes,

    1. Yup! This argument is quite mind-boggling.
      Thanks for stopping by :)

  4. Bah humbug! I vote 1. Interesting read though, and The Matrix is is my top 10 favourite all time films.

    1. Good on you, sir! That is the most natural reaction to the hypothesis. Mine was the same reaction, but then I slipped down the spiral of "what if". :)
      Thanks for stopping by

  5. Maybe a 2. If we are a simulation, can we hit reset and save tigers?

    1. If this is a Simulation, then the people running our simulation can reset back to a safe file ...
      I think that's what they do whenever someone proves the simulation hypothesis. lol!

  6. 1 or may 3
    I am not sure.
    I loved the idea though...

    A Peice Of My Life

    1. Nor am I, but its an intriguing thought.
      Thanks for stopping by :)