The Simulation Hypothesis

      8 Comments on The Simulation Hypothesis

Humans have been wondering where did they, and the universe, come from for thousands of years. Many religions tell us that a bearded guy in the sky decided at some point that we would be entertaining to watch, so he used his awesome powers to make us.

God's idea

Science tells us that we have no idea where we came from, but at some point something exploded, and everything existed after that. We don’t know if there was any matter, or even any time, before that explosion, and what caused it. Also, science knows that the bearded guy didn’t exist, or at least is totally different from what religion said.

Science knows better

I am not religious. I believe in science, as long as science admits that we really don’t have a clue. We move steadily towards the truth, without knowing how far it is, so it could potentially take forever. Also, science thinks we can’t do science forever (Entropy).

On the other hand, math has a different answer.

As of now, we know our universe is entirely deterministic, except for some quantum phenomenons, that may or may not have a cause that we haven’t identified yet. We also don’t know how to move faster than light yet, but we can’t prove that it’s impossible.

science and flash

If we ever had a computer that could “think” faster than light, and our universe was deterministic, it would be possible to entirely simulate a universe exactly identical to ours. The faster than light part would allow the time in the simulation to move faster than ours. If that was possible, the simulation would also be created in the simulated universe eventually. And then again in that simulation, and so on. Since every simulation moves faster than the one before it, there could eventually be infinite levels of simulation. Also, any simulated person would feel like their time is normal, while the others are too slow or too fast.

If this technology is one day possible, no matter the rules against it, i garantee that someone will try it. We have a history of trying stuff. If there are infinite levels of simulation, our reality has a 1/infinity chance of being the real one. That’s basically zero.

That’s the point the simulation Argument is trying to make. We live in a simulation, because the odds of being the original are infinitely close to zero. That, or we will go extinct before being able to create a simulation.

Several patterns in our reality also seem to point to being a computer program. Weird arbitrary and perfect constants, presence of an observer changing the result of an experiment, very precise and definite starting point, Unique ID-like number for every single electron, etc


Also, this is not The Matrix. In the simulation argument, there isn’t a “real body” somewhere in deep sleep for every person in the simulation. A person is literally only code in the computer, like the computer players in video games. You can’t “wake up” from the simulation, you ARE part of the simulation. If it shuts down, you stop existing, you aren’t freed.

Scott Adams seems to believe in some variant of the Simulation Theory.


credit: Dilbert

What are your thoughts on this Argument? Does it make sense, or is it completely insane?

Also, before answering, try to see if your reasons make sense. If you think that it’s obviously false before figuring out why, even if the reason comes half a second later, that’s cognitive dissonance, and you should probably think it over again.


Bonus points: If we ever create a simulation, and the accelerated time makes us see them create their own simulation, and so on, should we ever shut it down?

  • Kingfisher12

    A simulation is model of events. A model is a (usually scaled down and/or simplified) simulacrum of something real or imagined. So the question is whether our universe is a scaled down or simplified version of some other universe, or of a reality imagined by some entity.

    A useful simulation is one that accurately mimics events as they would occur in the system it models. It has to be detailed enough to present a suitably accurate representation, but you would never create a model that was more complex than the reality it reflects, otherwise you wouldn’t bother with a model, you’d just build the real thing.

    Our reality is pretty complex, so if it is a simulation, it must exist within a reality that is even more complex than this one, otherwise it wouldn’t be built. This makes the question meaningless as we cannot even comprehend our universe, let alone whatever reality might exist above it.

    But the question is a useful one in the philosophy of science. In our everyday lives, and in the most intense scientific study, we are continually building models and running simulations to better understand the world around us. We test our simulations against our observations to make better models, and better simulations. Better yet, we use our imagination to create models and simulations of alternative realities, adding to the complexity of this universe.

    Thinking of our universe as a simulation doesn’t help us understand it any better, but thinking of our simulations (including the ones we run in our minds) as universes in themselves, might help us think about how we understand everything.

  • Hmm, lots of people think about the simulation hypothesis once in a while. But thinking about it doesn’t get us very far, does it?

    Is it possible that we only exist inside a simulation: yes I guess so.

    How could we tell whether we’re inside a simulation? if it’s a perfect simulation: there’d be no way. otherwise, as in the Matrix, maybe there’d be some weird bouncy pavements when you fall off tall buildings. Problem is: if you throw yourself off tall buildings to test whether there are weird bouncy pavements, you’d want to be pretty damn sure that you’re right. Otherwise, pancake time. Also, if you see something very weird sometime, the possibilities include you being mentally below par (eg drunk or stoned), something weird happening in the universe that we don’t yet understand – or you having spotted proof of us living inside an imperfect simulation. How would you tell those cases apart?

    But I’m a fan of Occam’s razor: if there’s a difference but it makes no difference: then it’s not really a difference at all! this applies perfectly to simulation arguments, as far as I can see. The simplest explanation is that what we see is what we get!

    We look around: it looks like we’re in a solid 3D world with time proceeding linearly and various rules (gravity, inertia, action/reaction, momentum etc). Look further and it looks like we live on a round planet we call earth, with continents and seas and an atmosphere, and when we get suitably teccy we can get above the atmosphere and look down, or travel to the moon etc. It also looks like the earth and it’s rocks are extremely ancient (Deep Time) and that we evolved from simpler life forms – and that all life on earth seems to be related (fossils, DNA, radiometric dating). etc etc. That’s the practical world/universe we live in.

    I’m also completely unimpressed by the Anthropic principle, strong or weak forms. “the rules of the universe must have been designed to support life, because we’re here”. complete rot: we’re here, so yes the universe must be able to support our kind of life. but so what? it’s the only universe we know. was it guaranteed to be able to support life? who knows?

    • Kaito Kid

      To be honest, pretty much every single recent discovery in physics (relativity, quantum mechanics, etc) really made no difference in our life either for the first million years. I think we should investigate anything we don’t understand, and try to figure it all out. For many people, being in a simulation would generate existential crisis and other psychological pain, but I think we can overcome it (as you said, there is no difference between thinking we exist and actually existing anyway), and get a better understanding of it, if it’s true. There is also a potential for abusing it if it’s true, like pretty much every other science dicovery. I’m not talking about plain hacks to get infinite food or something like that, but if we find a case where the universe behaves a certain way, we can usually use it to our advantage (electricity).

      Occam’s Razor is valid as long as no proof is found, but it certainly doesn’t mean we should stop looking for proof 😛

      • I agree completely: we should always carry on looking for new things. trying to understand new stuff. I wasn’t suggesting that we stop the scientific method, I love it! I was trying to distinguish between knowable and unknowable things.

        Are we living in a perfect simulation? unknowable, both in principle and in practice.

        If we can’t ever know the answer to that, assume the simpler case: no, we’re not. I see no reason for anyone to worry for a nanojiffy about the possibility that we are living in a perfect simulation: there are much more important things to worry about.

        Ok, if the question is: are we living in an imperfect simulation, the answer is knowable in principle – whether or not it’s knowable in practice or not. So there, yes, keep on looking for proof – eg those bouncy pavements, or the edge of the Holodeck in various Star Trek (Next Gen) episodes.

        • Kaito Kid

          I’m not “worrying” about it, I would actually love it if it happened to be true.
          As for perfect, I’m pretty sure Nothing can ever be perfect, so I wouldn’t worry about that possibility. Anyway, as you said, there’s no point.
          If we ever find “proof”, I seriously doubt the bouncy pavement or holodeck thing. I’d say it would be more along the lines of actual programming errors in the deepest part of physics, like things actually not existing if we get far away enough, or some kind of lag equivalent under certain circumstances. But i see your point.

          • I’m fascinated that you’d “love it if [the simulation hypothesis] happened to be true”. Emotionally, I’d hate the idea that the real world (and universe) we see around us – with all it’s complexity, it’s beauty, it’s evidence of Deep Time, evolution and physics – was not real. Of course, if evidence came up showing that we were embedded in an imperfect simulation, I guess I’d adapt to it.. I like the idea of programming errors in physics, like Carl Sagan’s idea of information embedded into the digits of Pi in Contact:-)

    • Kingfisher12

      I agree that it is a useless hypothesis, since it wouldn’t change our view of observations (unless it did, but it hasn’t so far).

      My understanding of the Anthropic principle is that it is used to explain away the apparent fine-tuning that is required in some cosmological models. That is, the models don’t require certain fundamental constants to be what they are to work, and the fact that they are what they are is only explained by saying that if they were something else instead, complex life couldn’t form.

      It bugs some scientists, who like models to have exact and unique solutions, but those are kind of hard to come by.

      • Agreed, it bugs physicists who need there to be a reason for everything, and don’t think “we’re in this universe, sample of one” is good enough. call me Mr Parsimonious if you like, but one universe is enough for me.