Silicon Valley is obsessed with the idea of ​​a computer simulation of the universe

According to Vanity Fair, over the past year one ofThe most discussed topics in Silicon Valley were not Apple Watch, not expensive DJI drones and not even high-tech Uber unmanned vehicles. Instead, the bosses of the largest technology companies have been seriously discussing whether our existence as a human species is actually a computer algorithm and whether we live in a computer simulation.

No, this is not the story where someone drank some alcohol and started talking nonsense about being kidnapped by green men or something. The question is discussed in all seriousness. With the attraction of the brightest minds.

Back in 2014 at the New Establishment eventSummit Elon Musk expressed the likelihood that in fact this event is not real, but is a very advanced high-tech computer simulation. After a nervous laugh, some of the guests of the audience Musk paused and briefly summarized that in fact "the chance that everything that surrounds us is a reality - 1 out of 1 billion"

The original author of the theory that we are allWe live in a computer simulation, is not Musk, Altman and other prominent personalities of Silicon Valley. In fact, it has academic roots. It was first introduced in 2003 by Nick Bostrom, professor of philosophy at Oxford University and director of the Institute for the Future of Humanity, who wrote an entire scientific work on this issue, which even in certain circles became a bible. The work, called “Do you live a computer simulation?”, States that all people are a kind of digital program, or even a doll, in a kind of hyper-advanced version of The Sims. According to this hypothesis, thanks to the rapid development and improvement of technology, we have learned how to build powerful machines that can create simulations of our ancestors. And if so, how can we be sure that we are not digital creatures of our descendants?

"If you look at it from this point of view, thenit is quite possible. It would be more logical to assume that we are only one of the simulated computer models created by more advanced minds than one of the unique biological species. ”

Of course, not all agree with thispoint of view and do not even believe in the remote possibility of such a scenario. For example, John Markoff, Pulitzer Prize winner, New York Times scientific columnist and author of Machines of Grace and Love, a book on the limits of the capabilities of robots and artificial intelligence, believes that we definitely do not live in a computer simulation. Instead, Markoff believes that all this fussing around computer simulation ideas is a good example of how obsession with concepts is frantically growing in the technology industry.

“I am the voice of skepticism. I do not think that there is even a grain of evidence that we live inside a simulation. This is a Rorschach test. This is from the same opera as the singularity, ”says Markoff, referring to the view that computer superintelligence can change humanity so much that it will challenge biology itself.

But Markoff understands perfectly well that not all people see it the way he sees it:

"This is essentially turning into a new form of religion that has appeared in the Valley."

This theory, despite the fact that very oftenlooks like a concept pulled straight from the movie “The Matrix”, however, is supported by many prominent representatives of the technology industry. And it is worth noting that this is not by chance. Hollywood, after all, has been trying to express the idea of ​​simulation in its films for decades. "World on the wire", "Brainstorming", "Start", the whole trilogy of "The Matrix", "Recall All" and many other similar films one way or another tried to visually show us how this theory can work. In fairness it should also be noted that most of the technologies that we use daily in the modern world were first introduced by writers and creators of science fiction many years ago. These technologies include smartphones, tablets, and even Twitter.

Yet the main purpose of presenting these ideasis entertainment: the film ends sooner or later, we leave the seemingly real cinema and go back to our real and seemingly un-stimulated lives. It is more surprising that invented ideas too quickly develop into something more and begin to be taken quite seriously in the same Valley as something real. In this special closed world of emerging and developing technologies, it is sometimes very difficult to grasp the line where you know for sure whether the person standing in front of you is joking or not.

In any case, the idea under discussion is already smooth.flows from rooms with closed doors and research laboratories to the mainstream. Neil Degrass Tyson, an astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, conducted a two-hour conference this year on the topic being discussed today. At the conference, dubbed “Is the Universe a Simulation?” Tyson shared with the assembled audience that he believed in having a 50 percent chance that we all currently live in a computer model. It is more correct to even say we do not live, but are presented in the form of lines of code stored on some remote server.

"I think this probability can be great," - said Tyson.

The conference was attended by a veryprominent scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard, New York University, and they all offered their views on this topic, trying to explain why we can be or not be live computer programs.

“Even if you try, you will not find convincing evidence that we are not in a simulation,” says David Chalmers, a professor at the Philosophy Department at New York University.

"And all because any evidence found will also be part of the simulation."

An example of a desire to understand, “how deep is thisRabbit Hole ”is the speed with which new ideas are adopted in Silicon Valley. John Markoff, covering the topic of artificial intelligence, for more than a decade says that just a couple of years ago, only a few enterprising capitalists were seriously interested in AI research. And only now this topic has become so popular that hundreds of millions of dollars were invested in it. According to some analysts, over the next year alone, more than 40 startups developing artificial intelligence technologies appeared in the West. The numbers are amazing, especially considering that for the entire period from 2011 to the beginning of 2016, half of these figures were gaining from strength. We can observe a similar boom in the field of augmented reality. It happened to a greater extent against the background of the unprecedented popularity of the game Pokémon GO. In just a few months, investors are investing billions of dollars in new companies that promise to create the next generation of applications with the same return. Perhaps at some level the idea of ​​simulation is also the very form of possession.

Nevertheless, amid the rest of Elon’s thoughtThe mask seems most convincing in this regard. Earlier this year at the Recode Code Conference, he tried to explain why he came to the conclusion that we can all live inside the car.

“The strongest argument is that we livein a computer simulation, concluded as follows: 40 years ago we created Pong. A game with two rectangles and a point. 40 years later, we have photo-realistic 3D games that millions of people play at the same time. If we take into account the speed with which the games develop, then sooner or later these games will become completely indistinguishable from reality. Given this, despite all the madness, we can conclude that the chance that we are in the very "Pong" basic version of reality is one in a billion. "

Of course, there is a possibility that all theseConversations are a simple prolonged joke. But judging by what people say and how they say it, it becomes clear that some really believe in what they say.