The idea that we may be living in a computer simulation is not new. It seems that it just got more support as Elon Musk, one of the greatest visionaries and inventors of our time, said in a recent interview that we could actually be characters in a highly advanced civilization’s video game.
At Recode’s Code Conference, which took place last week in California, Musk was asked if it is possible that our world is nothing but a huge simulation created by some advanced alien civilization. To answer this question, he used the history of video games as an example.
Just think about it: 40 years ago, we had games like Pong, which were based on two-dimensional, black and white graphics. Today, video games approach the level of virtual reality with their photorealistic graphics and millions of users simultaneously playing the same game online. And with the quickly developing augmented reality technology, they will soon become truly indistinguishable from the real life.
This is the progress we have made in just 40 years, which, as a matter of fact, is a tiny period of time in the history of a civilization. So just imagine what kind of video games we will have in 500, 1000 or 10,000 years!
“So given that we’re clearly on a trajectory to have games that are indistinguishable from reality, and those games could be played on any set-top box or on a PC or whatever, and there would probably be billions of such computers or set-top boxes, it would seem to follow that the odds that we’re in base reality is one in billions,” said Musk.
Thus, it makes no surprise that a civilization that has reached a tremendous level of development could create a whole holographic reality based on a computer code. How do we know that our world isn’t such kind of simulation? Given the fact that we still know too little about the universe and the nature of reality, this possibility is quite likely.
Musk went beyond suggesting that this scenario is, in fact, one of the best options we have.
“Arguably we should hope that that’s true, because if civilization stops advancing, that may be due to some calamitous event that erases civilization,” he explained. “So maybe we should be hopeful this is a simulation, because otherwise we are going to create simulations indistinguishable from reality or civilization ceases to exist. We’re unlikely to go into some multimillion-year stasis.”
Here, Musk talks about a well-known thought experiment by Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom, Vox reports. Published in the journal Philosophical Quarterly in 2003, his paper entitled “Are you living in a computer simulation?” suggests that at least one of these propositions has to be true:
- There is a high probability that the human race will go extinct before reaching a so-called posthuman stage of development (i.e., being capable of running high-fidelity ancestor simulations); or
- Posthuman civilizations are very unlikely to run ancestor simulations; or
- The human civilization is almost certainly living in a computer simulation.
A “posthuman” civilization would have such a great computing power that even if a tiny percentage of them decided to run reality-like simulations of ancestral life, the number of simulated ancestors would significantly exceed that of actual ancestors.
Simply put, we either will become extinct before we reach such a level of technological progress; no advanced civilization was ever interested in running “ancestor simulations;” or we are most probably living in a computer simulation.
According to Bostrom, it’s difficult to choose between the three options, based on the data about the reality that we have today. But Musk seems to be quite confident that the third option is true. In any case, all of this is just speculation and we are yet to unlock the mysteries of the universe, reality and our own existence. Who knows, maybe we indeed are living in a sort of Matrix.
Watch the full length interview with Elon Musk in the video below: