In a 2003 article, a philosopher from OxfordUniversity Nick Bostrom outlined the likelihood that our reality is a computer simulation invented by a highly developed civilization. In the work, he argued that at least one of three sentences must be true: civilizations usually die out before they develop the ability to create simulations of reality; advanced civilizations are usually not interested in creating simulations of reality; we are almost certainly living inside a computer simulation. Columbia University astronomer David Kipping recently took a close look at these propositions, also known as Bostrom's "trilemma," and proved that the probability that we actually live in a simulation is 50-50, Scientific American reports.
Creatures inside the computer
So let's pretend we are virtualcreatures living in a computer simulation. If this is the case, then the simulation is likely to create a perception of reality on demand, rather than simulate all reality all the time - just like a video game optimized to display only parts of the scene that are visible to the player. Astrophysicist and popularizer of science Neil DeGrasse Tyson on the talk show "Star Talk" (Startalk) suggested that maybe this is why we cannot travel faster than the speed of light.
Surely such conversations may seemfrivolous. But ever since Nick Bostrom wrote his seminal paper on simulation, philosophers, physicists, technologists, and even lay people have tried to identify ways in which we can figure out whether we are living in simulation or not. I note that most researchers are skeptical about the idea of a virtual universe, but Kipping's work shows that if humans ever developed the ability to imitate conscious life, then most likely they would be creatures inside the computer.
In 2003, Nick Bostrom introduced himselfa technologically advanced civilization that has tremendous computing power and needs some of this power to simulate new realities with conscious beings in them. Given this scenario, his modeling argument showed that at least one sentence in the following trilemma must be true:
- first, people almost always die before reaching the modeling stage;
- second, even if people get to this stage, they are unlikely to be interested in modeling their own past;
- and third, the probability that we are living in a simulation is close to one.
To better understand Bostrom's argument aboutsimulation, Kipping resorted to Bayesian reasoning. This type of analysis uses Bayes' theorem, named after Thomas Bayes, a British mathematician who lived in the 18th century. Bayesian analysis allows you to calculate the probability that something will happen (the so-called "posterior" probability), having previously made assumptions about the analyzed event (assigning it a "prior" probability).
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We're not living inside a simulation?
Kipping began by turning the trilemma into a dilemma. He condensed the first two sentences into one, claiming that they would both lead to the same result - we do not live inside a simulation.
We just assign the prior probabilityeach of these models and proceed from the principle of indifference, which is the default assumption when you have no data or bias, ”Kipping said in an interview with Scientific American.
Kipping also claims that the more layersreality was built into the simulation (like a nesting doll), the less computer resources are required. In other words, the further down the rabbit hole you go, the less computing power you need to create a compelling simulation. The astronomer's conclusion after he recounted the numbers was as follows: the probability that either hypothesis is correct is about 50 percent.
See also: Scientists have proven that augmented reality changes people's behavior
But if people ever came up with suchsimulation, the picture would change radically. The next stage of analysis required the comprehension of "parodic" realities - those that can give rise to other realities - and "unrelated" realities - those that cannot. If the physical hypothesis were correct, then the probability that we live in a barren universe would be easy to calculate: it would be 100 percent.
Kipping then showed that even in the hypothesissimulations, most simulated realities would be sterile. This is because as simulations generate new simulations, the computational resources available to each successive generation shrink to such an extent that the vast majority of realities will be those that do not have the computational power needed to simulate future realities capable of accommodating conscious creatures.
Put it all together into a Bayesian formula and youget the answer: the posterior probability that we live in a basic reality is almost the same as the posterior probability that our world is a simulation.
However, if the simulation has infinitecomputing power, then under no circumstances will we see that we live in virtual reality, because it can calculate whatever we want, with the degree of realism that we want. But if we find ourselves living in a simulation, this will mean that it most likely has limited computing resources. What do you think is reality and can it really be a simulation? We will wait for the answer here!