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Are we living in a simulation? This MIT scientist says it’s more likely than not
Rizwan Virk, Play Labs’ Executive Director
Are we all just artificial intelligence (A.I.) programs running on the basement servers of some advanced future civilization? Or perhaps the Wachowskis were on to something when they depicted modern society as an illusion used to enslave our minds, as our bodies powered a dystopian planet ruled by robots. Maybe there really is no spoon.
It may sound like a far-fetched idea, but the simulation hypothesis is today discussed seriously in academia and more popularly by people like Elon Musk.
Describe the simulation hypothesis for people who aren’t familiar with it.
The basic idea is that everything we see around us, including the Earth and the universe, is part of a very sophisticated MMORPG (a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game) and that we are players in this game. The hypothesis itself comes in different forms.
When The Matrix first came out, the simulation hypothesis seemed purely science fictional. Why do you think it’s taken more seriously today?
The first reason is that video game technology has advanced and we can now have millions of players on a shared server. Also, 3D-rendering technology has gotten really good. We can actually represent 3D objects in 3D worlds.
“Probability says you are more likely a simulated being than a biological one.”
It’s very possible that whoever created our simulation would like to see, given random choices, where we as a civilization would end up. Would we destroy ourselves? Would we end up creating nuclear weapons? Would we end up creating our own simulation?
Each of us may be a social experiment in its own right?
That’s right, and especially if each of us is a player character, which means there’s a part of us that is outside the game. We might have certain goals or experiences that we’re here to try to fulfill. As a video game designer, we think about what kinds of paths people can follow. We might give the illusion of free will or we might lay out a specific character.
A couple years ago Elon Musk brought attention to the simulation hypothesis when he claimed that we have a one in billions chance of living in “base reality.” What are your estimates?
I would say it’s somewhere between 50 and 100 percent. I think it’s more likely that we’re in simulation than not.