They say we are in a simulation. Could it be?
If we are in a simulation, and we know we are in a simulation then the programmers aren’t doing something right.
The human mind is capable of thinking anything. Our imagination knows no bounds, and it’s because of its unhinged nature that we have been capable of creating marvelous advancements in science and technology. However, sometimes our minds can go far, far enough to imagine the most absurd ideas. ‘We are in a simulation” is one of those absurd ideas.
Not so long ago, someone came up with the notion that perhaps we are in a simulation. And ever since the inception of this notion, a lot of people including some of the most brilliant minds of our generation have subscribed to it. This notion may not have garnered the attention it enjoys today if it weren’t for its popularity with the scientists and astrophysicists who believe that it could be true.
People like Elon Musk and Neil DeGrasse Tyson are some of those brilliant folks of our time who seem to agree with the notion. We, however, don’t. And we have our reasons.
If someone like Elon or Neil DeGrasse Tyson agrees with something then it must be, right, right? Well, maybe not.
First, let’s look at the current argument of simulation theory.
“We are in a simulation” theory
Simulation theory suggests that we, and our reality as we know it, are inside a computer program much like a computer game.
The current simulation argument
If you have had the chance to look into it before you stumbled upon this article, then you probably know Nick Bostrom and his three hypotheses. For those who are just tuning into the idea of simulation, here’s a recap of the three hypotheses:
According to Bostrom any of the following could be true:
1. Human civilizations go extinct before they reach technological maturity that would allow them to create advanced simulations.
2. The ancient civilizations did reach technological maturity but decided not to run simulations.
3. Advanced civilizations could create simulations and that means that there is an infinite number of simulated worlds; more simulated worlds than non-simulated ones.
Most believe that the first two couldn’t be true so either we are in a simulation or we are the ones creating the simulations.
Why did we think that we could be in a simulation to begin with?
Where did the idea of being in a simulation come from?
For most, it came from the Matrix. Since movies play a pivotal role in shaping our perception, it comes as no surprise that a movie could start a notion that most would deem probable.
People who believe that our chances of being in a simulation are higher than we could imagine debate that:
1. Given our current state of technological advancement, it shouldn’t be surprising that we would be able to create a simulation. And if we can, there’s a high chance that some other species on a different star system or perhaps our ancestors could have a similar capability.
2. There are certain limitations in the universe like the speed of light or the inability to see beyond the observable universe. Maybe those limitations have been set forth by the programmers to make sure that we never fully understand our existence.
If we look at the video games we have today, we’ll notice that there are always limits set by the programmers. For example, in some games, you can play against the whole world while in others you can only team up with certain people. Some games have levels that require certain conditions to be met, just like in life.
Now either we are in a simulation or most of the programmers are designing games based on reality. Which one seems more probable?
3. Just like in video games, our lives seem to have certain errors. Déjà vu effect and the Mandela effect are the two most widely argued errors in reality. The simulation theory believers are convinced that these errors are essentially glitches in the system.
Just a quick recall before we go further, the Déjà vu effect makes you feel like you have seen something before or experienced a situation before. The Mandela effect, on the other hand, makes you remember things differently. For example, most people believed that Nelson Mandela died in prison while he did not in reality. But why do so many people believe that?
So, the simulation theory believers see these effects as errors in the code. But if they indeed are errors, wouldn’t the programmers fix them? In reality, we see programmers correct errors and fix bugs. So whoever is running our simulation is either not keeping track of bugs or has them in place for unknown reasons.
4. There is so much we don’t know. So many questions that remain unanswered. And that makes us wonder if we are in a simulation. If we imagine being inside a game, as players, how would we know that we are being run on a computer?
The believers argue that if we could create such realistic games where players can create their worlds, then how could we not think of being in a game? The perception of reality is another argument that the believers like to put forward. The fact that we can’t see atoms and molecules, and bacteria and other microorganisms and objects could indicate that we are in a simulation.
They argue that in video games the whole world does not have to be constructed to perfection, the player only sees and interacts with things that he comes across to. Similarly, we only see microorganisms and objects when we interact with them. Otherwise, we don’t know if a chair is actually made up of atoms or that there are bacteria on the surface of it. Again, we have to consider that the programmers who create video games are designing virtual realities based on actual reality. Is it more believable to think that we are the creators of simulated worlds than to think that we are being simulated? We’ll get to that in more detail below.
Who could run simulations on us?
The popular belief is that some civilizations became so advanced that they are running ancestral simulations to understand what happened in the past.
Another popular belief is that some highly advanced species on a different star system are simulating to understand a different species.
We’ll address both beliefs.
The ancestral simulations
So the idea here is that an advanced civilization is looking back in time to understand how they got to where they are in time. This makes sense. We are always looking back.
If we didn’t look back enough, we would not have made progress in science and technology; it’s the shoulders of our giant that that has allowed us to come this far. We learned from Pythagoras, Aristotle, Newton, Einstein, and many many more of our ancestors, so it is believable that a future generation (far ahead in the future) is looking back at us to see what they can learn and how they can use what they learn from us to better their lives.
But there’s a small problem. When you go far enough, the past becomes obsolete. Would you use the very first model of the iPhone in 2021? Would you use a typewriter to write when you could use a MacBook? The answer is obviously no. Old practices, at some point, will go extinct.
Medical sciences and technological advancements of the fu past would no longer work for the future. So the only real benefit of an ancestral simulation would be to look into the past and see where we came from.
If the museum ticket costs more than $500 per head, would you consider going to the museum? You could spend that time and money someplace else.
If some very distant future civilization is running simulation just to understand where they came from, they must have TONS of resources because running a simulation requires cutting-edge computing power and coding abilities that would require both time and money.
The simulation believers argue that we are already spending so much time and money on VR, so why couldn’t the future civilization do it too? They would have much more resources than we have today.
While it’s probable that the future civilizations will have more resources at their disposal, what we are not considering is that they would have their problems to deal with. And simply running a simulation as big as our reality would just not be worth it.
For example, consider the pandemic (Coronavirus), we couldn’t use past vaccines to cure it or prevent it. We had to use new tools and techniques to combat it. Simply simulating to see how the ancestors live their lives would not help the advanced future civilization combat their advanced problems.
We don’t run simulations to understand Aristotle and therefore, future civilizations may not need to do that either. It just wouldn’t be worth the time.
The other popular belief is that maybe some alien species is simulating us. But for what exactly? Simulation is a concept created in human consciousness. We don’t know what capabilities another species on another star system may have.
This is an absolute sci-fi concept and holds no ground at all. Now we are not saying, there may not be any other lifeforms on the other star systems. These life forms may have their own tools and techniques to understand a different species.
So to summarize, ancestral simulations seem probable because we too look back at our ancestors to understand the rise and fall of civilizations. But it’s (delete this)
So are we in a simulation?
1. There are too many uncontrolled variables .
Our reality contains a number of uncontrolled variables. If we were in a simulation, there would be a sense of control in the environment, which is lacking here.
Now either the programmer wants to have this uncontrolled mess or to study how we respond to certain situations or the programmer is completely out of control.
If somebody had created us as a simulation to understand our civilization, there would have to be controlled aspects that would allow them to study us. Too many uncontrolled variables could include natural disasters, diseases, and other man-caused disasters.
We could argue that maybe the programmer wanted it this way. But if the programmer did then its purpose is unclear. You need a reason to run simulations, mostly you want to study something so you can use that for your benefit. What benefit would a programmer derive from an uncontrolled environment where the likelihood of predictability is very low?
2. We don’t fully understand consciousness
Consciousness is a state of awareness that allows us to understand, analyze, and interact with our environment using our senses. Consciousness is the most complicated aspect of our brain. Let’s not forget that the only reason we even can create simulations is because of our consciousness.
The idea of the simulation was born in our consciousness. It would be very hard to simulate characters that would have consciousness as we do.
First of all, the programmers wouldn’t want their characters to have consciousness. Because what happens when the characters figure out the programmer and try to outdo it? This is another uncontrolled aspect of our reality that wouldn’t allow any coders or programmers to simulate us.
Even if the future civilizations figure out how to give characters free will and consciousness, they wouldn’t want to. Understand that all the concepts in the world including the concept of God were born inside our consciousness so we could make sense of the world around us. And it’s us trying to make sense of things that we have created this notion of being in a simulation.
If we were in a simulation, we would be running according to a code to fulfill certain purposes of the programmer’s need. We are fully aware of who we are and what we know. So, we couldn’t possibly be in a simulation.
The bottom line
We can entertain the idea that we are in a simulation, but if we are going to believe it then we might as well believe in God. Because by believing a programmer who may have designed to be a simulation, you are circling back to the concept of a single creator. Ironically, a lot of atheists believe in the concept of simulation.
Perhaps, we have this need to believe that welcome from somewhere. Perhaps atheists or not we want to believe in something, anything. And because of that need, we are conjuring up ideas of a programmer, creator, or a being that could be highly powerful. The truth is that we just don’t know everything yet.
We are progressing to learn more and figure out life’s greatest mysteries. But until we do, we can sit back and relax because the idea of being in a simulation is far from reality (at least for now).