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Are we living in a simulation?

| Monday, May 3, 2021

While many believe we exist in “base reality,” is there any chance we are actually living within a simulation? Proving this seems to be impossible. Occam’s Razor, a philosophical principle, would say that in problem-solving, “entities should not be multiplied without necessity.” This has been understood as meaning the simplest of competing theories should be preferred to more complex ones. This would mean if we could not confirm we are living in a simulation, it is best to assume we do operate in a “base reality.” However, I want to discuss some prominent thinking about the question of living in a simulation. 

A lot of the most compelling arguments of the idea that we live in a simulation come from the dramatic improvement of computing technology over the last half-century. Realistic video games, virtual reality and even the emergence of quantum computers present such a stark difference from the programs available in the 20th century. Assuming any rate of continual improvement, reality may become perceivably indistinguishable from a simulated reality. Then, it follows that if this is the case, how do we know another society has not advanced this far, and we are the product of it? Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said, accompanying this theory, that “[there’s] a billion to one chance we’re living in base reality.” 

An important thing to watch for is if humans in our reality are able to one day create a simulation that contains conscious beings. This would dramatically lower the odds that we operate in some “base reality” because it would prove the existence of created simulated worlds. 

Another theory, says that physical rules and laws of physics present in our reality are so mathematical and restrictive that this could be evidence of artificial limitations. Whether it is imposed or tied to computing capabilities, such as the speed information can be transmitted, such dynamics could be explained by reality being simulated.

At the end of the day, it is impossible to prove whether or not we are living inside a simulation.

However, some things that happen are so unbelievable that they almost make me question reality. One thing that comes to mind is former President Donald Trump’s 2019 Tweet, where he said “A$AP Rocky released from prison and on his way home to the United States from Sweden. It was a Rocky Week, get home ASAP A$AP!” Imagine seeing this tweet in 2011. How else can this be explained but through some kind of “we live in a simulation” theory? Who is coming up with this stuff?

Jokes aside, I do think there is some possibility that advanced beings or intelligent machines create or control our experience of reality. However, I can’t help but wonder if it even matters? And would we want to know the answer? I am not sure, but this definitely makes me want to watch “The Matrix” again.

Justice Mory is majoring in Business Analytics and is part of the John W. Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy. He is from Southern California and now lives in Duncan Hall. His main goal is to keep learning and to continue to become more informed. He can be reached at [email protected] or @JmoryND on Twitter to continue the conversation.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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