Have you ever wondered if the world that we live in is real? Or ever had the thought that we all could be “living” (more like playing) in a virtual reality game? Life and death is really just joining and leaving the game?
With the emergence of modern technologies: games getting more real, computers getting faster, and artificial intelligence getting smarter. It raises the question: is it possible that we are merely “game” characters in a simulation? Before I dive into explaining a possible method of proving/disproving the simulation hypothesis, lets list some possible hypotheses.
- We are living in a simulation that is created by our future successors. Possibly millions of years after our time, these future humans want to study the origin of their existence. So they decide to create a simulation to see exactly what their past (A.K.A. us right now) looks like (hopefully they won’t be disappointed). This is formally known as Ancestor-Simulation.
- We are still living in a simulation that is created by aliens or our future successors, however, this time they use our reality as a “game” that they can play (kind of like a super advanced version of Grand Theft Auto or Avatar, except that we are the avatars). This is different from Hypothesis #1, since this suggest that some if not all of us are being “remotely controlled” by someone from the future. Maybe this article is written by someone from the future that is trying to tell you and the world that we are indeed living in a simulation. This hypothesis raises the question, who is being controlled and who is just a NPC (Non-player character). Another branching hypothesis or sub-hypothesis could be that you are actually not being controlled, you are really that external being. This means that you are aware that you are in a game and that you are different from others. (I guess that means you will probably find this article funny, since essentially a NPC that is not aware of what is actually going on wrote it.)
- We are real. This is the most bright and upbeat hypothesis. It means that we are all actual living beings whom are in complete control of their future and their decisions.
I am pretty sure there are other possibilities, but those are all that I can think of for now.
So how do we know if we are living in a simulation or not? This is a difficult question that have been first troubling philosophers and now physicists ever since the idea of simulation hypothesis. I think one way we could prove the validity of the hypothesis is for us to create a simulation that is just as real as our own reality. But why…? Assume that we create a computer simulation of some sort, using all of the physical constants we know such as pi and e. Then it is entirely possible that our simulated beings will create their own simulation, and their simulation being then create their own, and so on. This suggests that there are an infinite amount of nesting simulated realities. Assuming that there is only one actual reality, then the ratio between simulated realities and actual reality would be INFINITY to ONE. Thus, it will then be logical to conclude with 99.99999…% certainty that our reality is simulated.
This logic is applicable to Hypothesis #1 stated above, not #2 since the simulation creators of #1 would want to mimic reality as best as they can to get the most accurate report of their history. Whereas, the creators in #2 might want to tweak the simulation so that the simulation beings will have no way of finding out the true essence of their existence. Such that it can create a more immersive experience for the “game” players.
If Hypothesis #1 is true, and that our future successors are able to see exactly what happened in history… it has a scary implication. Given the right parameters (such as time, location, physical constants, etc…), it is possible to replay history. Which means, our world is entirely deterministic. One action will inevitably lead to another, and that resulting action will present its consequences to some other actions and etc… So the real question is, does free will still exist if everything is already deterministic? This has been an age long debate between philosophers, since the notion of free-will really conflicts the idea of cause and effect. However, not only do we feel like we have free-will but we also believe the applications of cause and effect in our reality.
Lets end this section with a famous quote from Macbeth, by Shakespeare:
“Life’s but a walking shadow.”
You might think, geez, these theories sure makes our life feel — in a way — meaningless. However, here are the bright sides for each case:
Hypothesis #1: If you think it is meaningless to live a simulated life and being a simulated being. Think about how meaningless would yourself be if you never even came into existence. Regardless of the purpose of the simulation, at least it gave you a chance to experience consciousness, a chance to have experiences that you would otherwise never experience (since you would be nothing anyways). Why not make the best out of this simulated reality while you are at it, since now you know, once you pass away, you would be literally nothing.
Hypothesis #2: If you are one of the NPCs of this reality, then you really should look at hypothesis #1. Anyways, assuming you (as the physical form) is being controlled externally, by your superior form. Then you really shouldn’t be sad about playing in this world. I mean, even if you didn’t live a good life here, you still have another life elsewhere. Here, you can really think that your birth is the beginning of this game, and that your death would be the end of this game. If you want to be the best player, you need to try your best to rank up, am I right?
I think Søren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher said these ideas well:
“Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.”
I have talked quite a bit about Hypothesis #1 and #2, but you might ask, what about #3? The case where we are actually living in a REAL world. Then I must say, we are pretty lucky to be us. It is just comforting to think we are who we are, and that everything we see is real. To believe that our future really is in our hand. To know that what we see, hear, taste, touch, and smell are physically concrete. To have the potential to explore so much unknowns about the very world (I mean reality) that we live in. The joy of knowing that we aren’t just puppets enacting a scene (called Earth) in the movie (Universe) is indescribable through language.
If #3 is true, it really makes us special and unique in a way. We will be the real and genuine beings to create simulations of our own. To quite literally become gods of the world(s) that we create. Imagine, our simulated being is thinking exactly what we were thinking earlier on in this article…
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