There are a number of blogs on the internet referencing Nick Bostrom’s famous Youtube video and Elon Musk’s comment of what discussion he bars from his hot-tub and they use that as the pre-cursor to explain why you should start thinking twice about reality and explore a real opportunity of your world being a simulation.
Like most ordinary people I was blown away by the idea that my life could be a simulation when I listened to these gentlemen speak on this topic and my curiosity in this area of the unknown increased. This article is my take/view on all of the hype surrounding the simulation hypothesis.
For someone who has landed on this page without the understanding of what I am talking about, I will add a few youtube videos below for you to digest and come back to the later sections of this blog.
Nick Bostrom’s Video:
Video of Elon Musk speaking about simulated reality:
I come from a family with conservative ideas about our world and God in general, and my young-self came to believe that our world is a stage and we are the actors in a play produced and directed by a set of beings whose powers are beyond our imagination. I used the words “set of beings” to give you a hint of the religion I follow, it’s Hinduism, and in Hinduism, we don’t follow a single god. We have different gods for different circumstances and needs but some concepts that this religion has been teaching its followers from thousands of years is that the world around us is a ‘Maya’ or for the sake of finding an English synonym an ‘Illusion.’
Fast forward to today, I am more a spiritual person rather than a religious one and can remember the stories my grandmother would share with us during bedtime. Science is now using probability and some complicated mathematics, and it feels like what they are saying about our universe being a simulated one closely ties in to what Hindu mythology has been saying all this while.
If you saw the earlier video where Nick talks about his work in this area and based on probability, he was able to deduce the following three propositions:
“(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.”
So dumbing this down a bit, what the above propositions say is that it’s highly unlikely that humans will end up in a technologically advanced stage. There is an underlying mentality in homo-sapiens which pushes them towards a path of destruction when resources become thin, and there is a need to display superiority amongst peers. I don’t mean that all of them embrace that mentality, but there is an inert push to do so. If a mass destruction occurs, there is no point in think of anyone being able to run a complicated simulation.
If we go beyond the urge for destruction and build computers/computational devices that could run simulations where the characters in the simulation feel as if it’s a real world they are living in, then there is a high probability that an advanced civilisation will never run some simulations. The reason for this could be that they lose the interest to gain insight from running these simulations.
And the kicker is the last point where if the above two points aren’t true then we are surely living in a computer simulation.
If you hear to what Elon Musk has to say about simulated reality, it is a “billion to one” chance that we are not in a simulated reality which means he is pretty convinced that we are in one.
I don’t call myself a statistician or a physicist to quantify the math in the paper, but I do like the idea that we maybe in a simulated reality. It would explain the sheer number of laws we keep discovering in this universe. How do these laws come together? Who is governing these laws? If our universe is assumed as simulated then maybe advanced computing capabilities still have some limits, and that’s the reason why we forced to obey the laws of nature (or the laws of advanced beings). It also ties in with the notion that we may be a part of a bigger multiverse co-existing with other universes. A postulate of this hypothesis says that we would simulate a version of our world in the future if we don’t annihilate ourselves and a domino effect comes into play where every simulated being would have their version of a simulation or multiple simulations. Maybe this is the concept of a multiverse, not something that exists in parallel but one within another.
Before we get our hopes too high of having found our place in the universe I feel Nick’s theory is just a theory and the probability of everything amounting to us being inside a simulated universe is anyone’s guess. All this hype and when you just use common sense it doesn’t make too much of sense. The chance of us being the first intelligent beings on the face of this universe is very real unless the theory of ancient aliens is true. So unless someone finds conclusive proof of us living in a simulation, we should go about our lives with that question in our mind on our nature of existence.
Proof did you say? Let me introduce another gentleman in the mix – Dr James Gates Jr. He is a theoretical physicist and a professor at the University of Maryland and has spent the most of his career looking for supersymmetry (SUSY) in String theory. I am planning to research more on String theory and have another blog with my thoughts on the approach. But for layman terms, String theory is a theoretical framework in which the basic building blocks of our universe are determined to be one-dimensional objects called strings.
James Gates’s Video:
So we have to understand here that James and the others working on string theory and its various branches are trying to bring together a mathematical framework that can explain the characteristics of our universe. And when trying to describe our universe in equations, James discovered a pattern that appears to be similar to computer code that we see embedded in our browsers. Specifically speaking its code that was invented by “Claude Elwood Shannon” and is known as “Block Linear Self Dual Error Correcting Code”. That is very specific, and this video is being circulated over and over on the internet linking it to a kind of proof that we are in some form of a computing device with bits of 1’s and 0’s running our world. However, mankind did not stop everything and start a mission to find the truth when this idea was announced because no matter what kind of code anyone found while describing the universe, it didn’t mean that there is ultimate truth in the finding.
We have to understand that humans have used mathematics as a tool to make sense of what’s around us, just because we can describe something based on 1’s and 0’s doesn’t mean that there is no other description.
By the way, this is not the first time someone has hinted towards our world being a simulated reality. Zhuang Zhou often known as Zhuangzi (“Master Zhuang”) was an influential Chinese philosopher who lived around the 4th century BC. Once he dreamt of a being a butterfly, happy with himself and fluttering around, he didn’t know he was Zhuang Zhou. Suddenly Zhuangzi woke up and there he was a solid Zhuang Zhou. The dilemma that Zhuangzi got into was whether he was Zhuang Zhou who dreamt of being a butterfly or a butterfly who was dreaming of being Zhuang Zhou. He questioned the nature of reality through his striking passages.
I do get vivid dreams and sometimes detailed nightmares (which I can recall the next day). What’s consistent about my nightmare is that at the end of the nightmare (when I am just about to wake up) there is some form of a bad ending. It could be a nuclear bomb going off or a snake biting me on my ankle, whenever this happens its ends my dreaming cycle. What I mean is that if in reality, I was in a life ending situation I wouldn’t wake up to my other reality. If our reality was in a state of a dream at the moment, i could potentially wake up, but for that, I had to die as a consequence of the disaster. Today I wake up immediately after a bite or the bomb going off which tells me that the fear of dying from a catastrophe sends signals to my brain to get out of whatever I am experiencing in my dreams.
So this brings me back to what my grandma explained her version of what the world is, and according to her, this world is an optical illusion to keep all living being functioning under a framework. Hinduism is one of the oldest documented religions on this planet, and the teachings go back before any of the gentlemen as mentioned above and according to Hinduism God created this illusion for a purpose, and all living beings entailed in this world have their purposes. She had no equations to back her theory, but she did forbid me from asking too many questions around it as it could anger the gods who are always present within us and amongst us and don’t like someone questioning their existence.
I am still not sure what this universe is and what our purpose is at the moment, but neither science nor religion can prove at this stage that our life is a simulation.