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Are we all living in a simulated world?

Given all that is happening in the world in terms of sequestration and spending cuts, it might not be the best time to advocate government getting onboard with a hugely expensive supercomputing project that has a good chance of delivering no usable data. Then again, it could change everything we know about reality. And it’s not like we don’t currently have the fastest computer in the world with the Energy Department’s Titan.

But first you have to get your head around a concept that initially seems utterly ridiculous. I know that’s what I thought, at first. But then the more I contemplated it, the more intrigued I became.

So here goes: There is actually a chance, logically speaking, that we are all living inside a simulated reality. And one scientist thinks he’s found a way that we can tell.

Now I know everyone is automatically thinking about “The Matrix,” which was a great movie and seemed pretty original, but there actually have been a lot of simulated reality theories, going all the way back to Parmenides, Zeno of Elea and Plato. Wikipedia has an expansive page devoted to all the theories that’s a fascinating read.

To boil it down in my very non-philosophical way, the main theory that puts us all into a simulation is based on three principles.

1) Humans are getting very close to being capable of producing life-like simulations. Look at any modern open-world computer game like Skyrim,  and it’s difficult to tell that it’s all simulated and not a real place. How much more would be needed to push it over the top?

2) In the not-too-distant future, humans will not only be capable of making these simulations, but will have the hardware to produce quite a few, if not an infinite number of them, on a large scale, even entire universes. Which leads us to:

3) Either we are the original humans leading up to the creation of all those simulated worlds or we are somehow living inside one of them. In relation to all those simulations, it is, statistically speaking, more likely that we are inside one right now.

Enter University of Bonn physicist Silas Beane, who works simulating nuclear reactions in a grid-like universe created with computers. In an interview with the New Scientist,  he said that his best simulations can calculate some of the properties of real things such as the simplest nuclei. But the process also generates artifacts that don't appear in the real world and must be removed. So Bonn believes that mapping a high-energy particle like a cosmic ray and comparing its behavior to an actual cosmic ray could provide evidence of a simulation.

There is another theory that says that a grand-scale computer simulation would be designed to shut down if the residents inside it got to the point where they could make an equal simulation inside of it, in order to prevent computer overload. If that is true, then we're better off with our blissful ignorance than being shut down all together. Or maybe it just means that we are, after all, the real deal.

Posted by John Breeden II on Mar 04, 2013 at 9:39 AM

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Reader Comments

Wed, Mar 20, 2013

Yes we live in a simulated world/Universe. The OS is programmed by the OM/Cosmic vibration, which can be realized only through deep medition and nothing else.

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 Mattlock

I think Einstein's rules about the speed of light and all that were simply put in place the by the simulation's programmers to prevent us from breaking the simulation. When you approach light speed, time does not really slow down. You simply push the sim too far and start to lose computing cycles. Its like playing a game and having too many objects on the screen. I think that is a better way to show that our "real world" sim can be broken than trying to model something that would really just be modeling another part of the model if in fact we were inside a virtual world, which again, I'm pretty sure we are.

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 earth

So he wants to show that we live in a simulation by demonstrating his simulated cosmic ray acts differently than the “real simulation”? This only implies his model doesn’t match the simulation model. Or he wants to show that the real simulation produces “mathematical artifacts”. Where are these artifacts going to instantiate and how does one determine that the instantiated artifacts aren’t the just another part of the simulation. “Gravity” under general relativity is nothing more than the tendency of mass traveling through time to curve space such that particles having mass move toward each other. This “artifact” of the tensor equations can’t be ignored when building a bridge. And doesn’t really say anything about the reality in which the “computer” creating the “real simulation” exists. This computer can elide the simulation artifacts as part of the programming, assuming it exists.

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 earth

-"If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is." John von Neumann

There aren’t any computers that could simulate the life processes of a single blackberry cell from quantum particles all the way up including the quantum effects of chlorophyll capturing light and transferring the energy to H2O and CO2 to make sugar much less the necessary accouterments to that like an ecosystem providing pollinators, rain, wind, the sun, etc, stretching back to the beginning. And that includes the evolution of species driven by cosmic ray induced mutation. Consider the memory requirements for the scale from plank units to 13 billion+ light years across about 83000 interacting dimensions (3D, t, momentum, energy …..)

Is this a garden path of the simulation designers? Well guess what, they have to make the garden path consistent for all the simulated instrumentation readings of a few billion people. Unless you think you are special, in which case my message to you is just a part of that garden path. Which either makes me a construct or one of your overlords! Low informational person.

Tue, Mar 5, 2013 Kyle Colorado

Did it ever occur to you that the creators of our simulation may not want us realizing we're part of one? You may have just gave them a reason to pull the plug.

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