What if everything once thought about the world was wrong and its all just one big computer simulation?
Maybe everyone being controlled by an advanced race on a dystopian planet. While this may sound quite far-fetched, like a science fiction story straight out of ‘The Matrix’, it’s becoming more and more accepted and being seriously discussed in the scientific world.
Perhaps one of the most influential researchers on this topic is Nick Bostrom, a philosopher from the University of Oxford. He is largely known for his influential 2003 paper setting out three propositions, one of which has to be true. These later became known as Bostrom’s trilemma.
- Civilizations usually go extinct before developing the capability of creating reality simulations.
- Advanced civilizations usually have no interest in creating reality simulations.
- We’re almost certainly living inside a computer simulation.
While controversial, he might be on to something. To delve deeper into these propositions, Columbia University astronomer, David Kipping, decided to analyse them. Reportedly, he argues that there is a 50/50 chance that the entire human race is nothing but a computer simulation to a more advanced race or higher power.
Looking at the three propositions, Kipping says that the first two - Civilizations usually go extinct before developing the capability of creating reality simulations and advanced civilizations usually have no interest in creating reality simulations, could actually be combined into one as the end result is the same - the world is real and not a simulation. The third proposition - we’re almost certainly living inside a computer simulation, gives the alternative result that nothing is real.
After crunching the numbers the astronomer believes there’s only a 50% chance the world is real. However, if humans were able to create a convincing computer simulation, such as the hypothesised one, then those odds would drastically change. It would prove that creating a convincing simulation is possible and is no longer just a theory. Some argue that, with the technological advancements being made in recent years, it won’t be long before scientists will be able to tell for sure whether or not the world actually exists.
While it’s currently not actually testable to definitively say whether or not we are all in a computer simulation, the theories are quite strong. If it’s not falsifiable though, how can you claim it’s really science? Hopefully we will be able to research this further and come up with some concrete evidence to prove either hypothesis. Technology has come a long way and it won’t be long before we have that capability. Until then though, we’ll just have to settle for not knowing if we’re real or nothing but a simulation.