- Books, Literature, and Writing
Is The Universe a Simulation?
" I am real. When I pinch myself, I get hurt. When I slap my face, I feel pain. I get mad. I cry. I fall in love. I get hungry. I feel happiness and sadness. If I am going to cut my wrist right now in front of you, I'm sure I'll bleed. I think. I exist therefore I'm real. I'm human, there's no doubt about it."
This maybe the most practical answer to the question: Are You Real? Are You Human? And perhaps, it is the simplest answer as well. But what if someone--let's say a weirdo, a nerd or a madman who became mad because of so much thinking, approaches you, sits beside you, and then asks you mind boggling questions such as:
What if the reality that we believe in since the day we're born is actually a lie?
What if everything that we see, hear, touch, taste and feel are all products of someone's wide and wild imagination?
What if the reality is we are living in a computer simulation or shall I say, the entire universe is just a simulation being played by a young boy or a group of people from a more advanced civilization?
If the truth is everything is a big lie, would you or could you accept it? Do you think you can face the fact that when you die it means your game is just over? But don't worry, anyway the simulator will just download you to another simulation when that happens.
When I was in 6th grade, I was so fascinated with animation and cartoon characters. I was so hooked that I wanted to be like them badly. I used to dream that I was sailor moon, that I was pink ranger or a disney princess thus, I asked myself, What if the world is an animation? What would it look like? And when I reached college, I discovered The Sims, a simulation game. It's fun because the characters are just like humans--they do what we do, they eat, they cry, they feel sad, they get angry, they fall in love, they go to school, they go to work, they build their own family, girls get pregnant, they get married and they die. In short, they are really like us. And that's what makes it amazing because we can watch and observe them do their own business. The only difference is they need someone to control them in order to be what they are, well now, I'm not so sure if that's really the difference between us and those sims. What I really wanted to tell you is that when I discovered this simulation game and when I started to play it, I forgot about cartoon characters and my question "what if the world is an animation?" was replaced by "what if the reality is we are living in a computer simulation? and what if every time I play The Sims, I'm also becoming a god?" When I told my friend about this idea, she laughed at me and told me to stop playing that stupid game because it's making me insane and it's giving me an ambition to become a god. I told her that I'm just being open to some possibilities and I'm not dreaming of becoming a god.
Well, of course, I am not the only one who thinks that it is possible. There are lots of people in this planet who are skeptic about our "true" reality.
The Simulation Argument
The idea that the universe is maybe a computer generated simulation is presented in Nick Bostrom's paper he wrote in 2003. Bostrom is a Swedish philosopher at St. Cross College, University of Oxford who published a paper entitled "Are You Living in a Simulation?" in Philosophical quarterly.
This paper argues that at least one of the following propositions is true:
(1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage;
(2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof);
(3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation. It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor-simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation. A number of other consequences of this result are also discussed.
After conducting researches and studies he came up to a conclusion that:
A technologically mature “posthuman” civilization would have enormous computing power. Based on this empirical fact, the simulation argument shows that at least one of the following propositions is true:
(1) The fraction of human-level civilizations that reach a posthuman stage is very close to zero;
(2) The fraction of posthuman civilizations that are interested in running ancestor-simulations is very close to zero;
(3) The fraction of all people with our kind of experiences that are living in a simulation is very close to one.
If (1) is true, then we will almost certainly go extinct before reaching posthumanity. If (2) is true, then there must be a strong convergence among the courses of advanced civilizations so that virtually none contains any relatively wealthy individuals who desire to run ancestor-simulations and are free to do so. If (3) is true, then we almost certainly live in a simulation. In the dark forest of our current ignorance, it seems sensible to apportion one’s credence roughly evenly between (1), (2), and (3).
Unless we are now living in a simulation, our descendants will almost certainly never run an ancestor-simulation.
Many critics were doubting this Simulation Argument since the day it was first released in public and many are still doubting it today.
In 2012, Silas Beane a physicist at the University of Bonn, Germany and his team submitted a paper entitled ""Constraints on the Universe as a Numerical Simulation" to the journal Physical Review D.
In an interview,Beane declared that he thinks he has the answer to the question, "How could we know if we are living inside the Matrix?". According to him, in the future, humans will be able to simulate the entire universe so easily so if we would be asking "Do we live in a true reality or in one of the many simulations?" the answer is that we are more likely to be living in a simulation, statistically speaking.
He also said that his day job is to do high-performance computing simulations of the forces of nature, particularly the strong nuclear force. His colleagues and himself use a gridlike lattice to represent a small chunk of space and time. They put all the forces into that little cube and calculate what happens. In effect, they're simulating a very tiny corner of the universe. To do the experiment, they're able to calculate some of the properties of real things like the simplest nuclei. But the process also generates artifacts that don't appear in the real world and that they have to remove. Thus, they started to think about what sort of artifacts might appear if the entire humanity and other creatures in the universe lived in a simulation.
The Butterfly Dream (What Distinguishes Reality from a Dream?)
Once Zhuangzi dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn't know he was Zhuangzi. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Zhuangzi. But he didn't know if he was Zhuangzi who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Zhuangzi. Between Zhuangzi and a butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things. (2, tr. Burton Watson 1968:49)
Allegory of The Cave by Plato
Most of us know the fable of the cave by Plato that is found in the Book VII of his The Republic. According to some experts who are conducting studies and experiments about the computer simulated reality issues suggest that this is an ancient description of the simulation hypothesis. If you haven't read this allegory yet, I think you really have to read it and try to interpret it now if you want to understand the Simulated Reality hypothesis. Plato has a great description of the true reality, dreams, freedom and illusion.
Perhaps, having a Consciousness is the real meaning of being alive.
If that is our "true" reality, if we are just simulations being controlled by our simulators, it is hard to find a way to escape--it's hard to find the way out of this supercomputer. And if that idea is true, I don't think it makes difference because we still feel everything--we feel pain, pleasure, happiness, anger, anxiety, despair. We suffer, we love, we starve. We still experience life as we know it. And if God is not really what we know He is, we still owe everything we have and we are to Him, to Her or to They. While we are here, breathing and existing we cannot do anything but to cherish every second we have--to continue living and loving.
The vastness and strangeness of the universe awaken the curiosity of most of us. We try to imagine what's beyond those stars, what's there in that empty space we see in the sky, what lies at the end of that darkness and what is behind all of these lies. There is nothing wrong with skepticism, in fact it's good. There's nothing wrong with asking, thinking, imagining, criticizing, doubting and growing. There is nothing wrong.