Are we living in a computer simulation

(ORDO NEWS) — About the simulation hypothesis, the search for its proof or refutation, and about those who believe that we live in an artificial reality.

The philosophical hypothesis that the reality around us is a simulation (most often it is assumed that it is a computer simulation) has a huge army of supporters. They believe that our lives, our world and ourselves are just lines in the computer code, the zeros and ones that make it up.

And while the adherents of the hypothesis are looking for weighty evidence of their innocence, Hollywood has already pulled the blanket over to its side. Thanks to the creative tandem of the Wachowskis and their iconic “Matrix”, the question “How real is our world?” stopped being rhetorical.

Origins of the Simulation Hypothesis

The ancient Greek philosopher, mathematician and mystic Pythagoras founded a school that studied the basic philosophical concept of its creator about the illusion of everything that exists – only numbers and their endless combinations were real, which form all the phenomena of being, subject to human cognition.

The idea that reality is nothing but an illusion was put forward after Pythagoras by another ancient Greek philosopher, Plato. He came to the conclusion that only ideas are material, and other objects are only shadows.

Aristotle adhered to the same approach, but adjusted for the fact that ideas are expressed in material objects. Much later, in 1641, the illusory nature of the real world was questioned by the French philosopher René Descartes in his treatise Meditations on First Philosophy:

“I admit that everything I see is false. I assume that everything that my deceptive memory shows me has never existed. I am completely devoid of feelings.

My body, outlines, extent, movements and place are chimeras. But then what remains true? Perhaps only that nothing is certain.”

How the Simulation Hypothesis Developed in the 20th Century

Three and a half centuries later, in 1981, the American philosopher Hilary Putnam conducted a “brain in a flask” thought experiment, which showed the illusory nature of our perception.

Some scientist, Putnam suggests, could remove a human brain from the body, put it in a flask of nutrient solution, and connect the neurons to a computer.

The electrical impulses that enter the brain are identical to those that it receives while in the body. Thus, a computer could simulate a virtual reality, and a person, or rather his brain, would continue to be aware of himself as existing, and the surrounding world created by the computer would be real.

According to Putnam, a person cannot reliably claim that the reality he perceives is “objective” because it is only his belief in this statement.

With the development of digital technologies, the theory that reality is the product of a computer program that was written and implemented by some other civilization began to gain a large number of supporters.

An important theoretical support in the development of the simulation hypothesis and some other similar provisions was the emergence of the term “virtual reality”, proposed in 1989 by the inventor Jaron Lanier.

Works of mass culture also played an important role in this, actively using the theme of interaction between man and the digital environment.

Particularly noteworthy in this regard was the gaming industry, which in the 1990s introduced the games Quake, Doom and some others – they allowed you to create entire worlds on computer screens, and the simulation hypothesis began to gain popularity around the world.

Nick Bostrom version

Swedish transhumanist philosopher and professor at the Department of Philosophy at Oxford University, Nick Bostrom, back in 2003 released a huge scientific work with a simple title: “Are we living in a computer simulation?”. In it, he considered all the prerequisites for the idea that we exist in someone else’s modeled world.

Bostrom analyzed and calculated the computer power required to create a simulation on a planetary scale. So far, such powerful computers are not available to us, but, applying Moore’s law, the author calculated that people will have such computer power in several thousand years.

The main idea of ​​this study is the following message:

“Even if we do not now believe that we are living in a computer simulation, we have no reason to believe that our descendants in 1000 years will not be able to run a historical computer simulation.”

In other words, the essence of the scientist’s work is that the creation of a computer simulation of the level of our modern life will certainly be possible in the future.

In the future, people will live in a post-human civilization, when it will be difficult to call them even people, because they will “overgrow” and integrate with computing technologies of an unthinkable level.

From this it can be assumed that in the future people created a computer simulation of the life of the human race in an accelerated version in order to see how the ancestors lived in the past. And we, the current ones, are components of “that” simulation and live not our own life, but a virtual one.

This publication so excited the scientific world that groups of scientists from various countries divided into two camps and began to prove or disprove Bostrom’s ideas from a scientific point of view.

Elon Musk as a supporter of the simulation hypothesis

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Elon Musk at the Recode’s Code conference in 2016 said that he was not opposed to the simulation hypothesis and believed that sooner or later such technologies would become available.

In addition, Musk said that humanity is on the path to creating computer games that are indistinguishable from reality. Therefore, “the probability that we are in the basic reality is one in a billion.”

According to Musk, there are two options for the development of events: “Either we create simulators indistinguishable from reality, or civilization will cease to exist.”

According to Nick Bostrom, quoted by the Quarz online publication, Musk’s words about life in the matrix should be taken literally:

“It is important to understand that we ourselves and the whole world around us, which we see, hear and feel, exists inside a computer built by some advanced civilization.

The modeling hypothesis can be very good or very bad, depending on what, in your opinion, simulation creators’ motivations: what will happen in the simulation, what will happen after the simulation ends?

Obviously, there are both optimistic and pessimistic possibilities for this.”

National Bank of America as a supporter of the simulation hypothesis

Bank of America picked up on the hot topic and a few years ago sent out a small letter to its customers, where he described his attitude to the theory of simulation.

By the way, this happened after Elon Musk’s memorable speech at Recode’s Code. In its appeal, the Bank indicated that with a probability of 30-50% it is also sure that the world around us is a matrix.

Testing a Simulation Hypothesis Using Bits of Information

British physicist at the University of Portsmouth, Melvin Vopson, suggests that it is possible to test whether humanity is living in a computer simulation using the bits of information that surround people. His scientific work was published in the spring of 2022 by the journal AIP Advances.

Vopson suggests that information has mass and that particles, the “building blocks” of the universe, store information about themselves in the same way that DNA does.

Now he has proposed an experimental protocol to science to test whether information has mass. According to the scientist, the presence of mass in information does not even contradict any law of science about the properties and structure of matter.

The experiment explains how to detect and measure information in an elementary particle by colliding particles with antiparticles. Thus, the information in an electron is 22 million times smaller than its mass, but we can measure the content of information by erasing it.

When a particle of matter collides with antimatter, they destroy each other, and the information from the particle must go somewhere.

During the annihilation process, the remaining mass of particles is converted into energy, usually gamma photons. Any particles containing information are converted into low-energy infrared photons. Due to the erasure of information, the annihilation should produce two of about 50 micrometer infrared photons.

The scientist noted that information has mass, and physical reality consists of bits. According to his assumptions, the laws of physics can be compared to lines of code.

Vopson believes his work could demonstrate that information is a key component of everything in the universe, opening up a new area of ​​physics research.

“How to Live in a Simulation”

An article by American economist and writer, Caltech alumnus Robin Hanson entitled “How to Live in a Simulation” was published simultaneously with Bostrom’s work in the Journal of Evolution and Technology.

In it, Hanson gives some advice to people who believe they are living in a simulation – so this publication should be considered psychological rather than philosophical or futurological. Hanson’s recommendations are essentially a motivation for personal growth:

“If you assume that you live in a simulation, then you should live for today; strive for well-being, including material; be interesting to others; have an active life position and make every effort to make people around you happy – this will help make your life as comfortable as possible.”

Criticism of the simulation hypothesis

The simulation argument has been heavily criticized by the scientific community, including transhumanists themselves.

Opponents of the simulation hypothesis emphasize that the articles by Nick Bostrom and his colleagues contain various logical errors, such as: “logical circle”, self-reference, ignoring the non-random position of observers, violation of causality and neglect of simulation control by the creators.

Therefore, at the moment, the simulation hypothesis needs a more serious evidence base than a few published articles.

Simulation hypothesis in the literature

The simulation hypothesis aroused great interest among science fiction writers, and since the 20th century, works devoted to the topic of virtual reality and human perception of being in a simulated reality began to appear.

Thus, Stanislav Lem uses this theme in the cycle of fantastic stories “From the Memoirs of Iyon the Quiet” (the story “The Strange Boxes of Professor Concoran”); Douglas Adams – in the legendary humorous novel “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”; Richard Bach in his, as critics wrote, “the most captivating, poignant and deep” book “Illusions”; and, of course, Kurt Vonnegut in his amazing philosophical work “Breakfast of Champions”, which merges fantasy and reality, madness and logic, truth and fiction.

The simulation hypothesis in the iconic “Matrix”

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The problems associated with the simulation hypothesis also worried the cinema. The second half of the 1990s saw a real boom in films about illusions and reality – The Truman Show, Dark City, Open Your Eyes, Existence, The Thirteenth Floor.

Almost all of them have become classics, some have collected a good box office. But one film was destined to outshine all the others.

The cult “Matrix”, released on March 31, 1999, made a splash. She was adored, imitated and envied, she was accused of plagiarism and called the new gospel.

Keanu Reeves as Neo meets a character named Morpheus who is apparently named after the Greek god of dreams. Morpheus gives Neo a choice of red or blue pill.

If Neo chooses red, he wakes up and realizes that his whole life – home, work, everything around him – was part of a skillfully designed video game, and when he woke up, he was outside of it.

This is the main version of the simulation hypothesis.

The Wachowski directorial tandem needed an actor with a big name for the title role. The script did not impose strict requirements for Neo’s appearance, the main character was described sparingly in it: “a young man who knows more about life inside a computer than about life outside of it.”

Therefore, all possible and impossible candidates were considered for the role of Neo. Mr Anderson could have been played by Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, Brad Pitt, Ewan McGregor and Leonardo DiCaprio.

For a long time, Will Smith remained a contender for the role of Neo. He ended up saying no, opting for the movie Wild Wild West, and he made a mistake.

However, Smith himself is not particularly sorry that he did not play Neo.

The Matrix is ​​a very complex project, and I couldn’t understand it at the time.

It’s not often that I admit this, but I would screw up The Matrix.

At that time, I was still not smart enough as an actor and would not have been able to pull this film – and Keanu succeeded, “the actor admitted later.

In addition to feature films, the simulation hypothesis card has been actively played out in television series. For example, in the 18th season of “South Park” (2014); in the 3rd season of the series “Black Mirror” (2016) and in the 10th season of the television series “Doctor Who” (2017).

The simulation hypothesis in music

Advanced musical groups could not stay away from fashion trends. In 2018, the British team Muse in their album Simulation Theory once again turned to fresh topics for themselves, but at the same time retained their odiousness and characteristic style.

The album tells that we all live in the so-called simulation, and the lyrical hero understands this simulation and seeks to escape from it, to rise above it. It is easy to catch direct allegories of the consumer society and a slightly teenage spirit of maximalism and protest that hovers in the retro-futuristic wrapper of the general concept.

Muse approached the implementation of their idea comprehensively. In addition to the standard edition, Simulation Theory came out in a deluxe version, which includes all the tracks from the main album, but in alternative arrangements, and some of the alternative songs sound absolutely great: for example, Algorithm and Void, according to music critics, are generally the best thing have recorded Muse over the past decade and a half.


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