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Are We Living in a Simulated Reality?

I frequently think about the universe and its complexity and depending on who you talk to there are a lot of explanations for how it got here. Whether it be the creation of a God or just a big coincidence, or any number of explanations in between those two it is a lot to think about. There is one theory recently which has attracted my attention. Not because I believe it is true, but rather because I find it a fascinating thought experiment. It is called the Simulation Argument. The Simulation Argument proposes that it is more likely that we are living inside a computer program (in fact, our brains are just part of the program) than we are to be living in a real physical world. In other words, we are living in a simulated reality.

Think of it like the Matrix except there are no humans in tubes, rather your brain is also part of the program.

Living in a Simulated Reality

Are we living in a simulated reality 0003Let me propose to you the following scenario.  In some future society, let’s say 100 years from now some future variant of earthlings (not necessarily human) has computers fast enough and with enough storage space to completely simulate an entire universe, or at least the observable one. And honestly, all they really need to do with our current technology levels is to simulate our solar system.

I would assume in this universe they would stay hands off and simply observe their experiment and the inhabitants would not be told they are living in a simulated reality. They could even run this universe at an incredible rate of speed. One hour in their physical world could be a million years in the simulation and the simulated inhabitants wouldn’t know the difference. A day would still be a day from their perspective.

Simulated People are Curious Too

At some point during their evolution these simulated beings are going to evolve to the point where they question the universe they live in, much like we do. They’re going to start testing their environment and looking for answers to their existence. Most likely some of them will create a God or Gods to worship, while others will find the notion of a God to be absurd. This will lead to experiments and tests.

Are we living in a simulated reality 0002The creators of the simulated environment will need to be prepared for these tests. One can only assume that even in the future the best code will still have a few bugs. These tests performed by the simulated beings might happen upon one. If you’re a gamer you’ve probably broken out of the map on at least one game. Finding yourself outside the map. This could be a huge problem for a simulated person, because they can’t reset the game to get back in the map. In addition to glitching out of the map, other bugs or code issues might present themselves to the simulated beings. They might find they teleported two feet while standing still because of a system glitch. They might turn the steering wheel right, but the car turned left. The bug might be so small that it is never noticed by anyone.

But because of this reason, the software running the simulation will have to be designed with detection mechanisms that detect when something goes wrong. Maybe it freezes the entire program until its operator can correct the error. Maybe they will log the movements of all simulated beings and determine where they slipped out of the map, and then reverse time until the being is back in the four walls of the environment before starting it again the inhabitants that are living in a simulated reality would be none the wiser.

The Simulators Aren’t Necessarily Human

It’s entirely possible that the beings or machines running the simulators aren’t even human, or some distant relative of humans on the evolutionary chain. In fact, they might not even be three dimensional. They could be 2D or even 10D beings experimenting with a universe that is nothing like the one they live in. The beings that live in a simulated reality could be unrecognizable from their creators.

Finding a Defect in the Simulated Environment Could be Bad, Real Bad

Assuming for a minute that simulated beings did find a bug in their system, and revealed some of the code they could then determinate how the programming of the system works. Using that knowledge they could do the equivalent of what we know as code injections. This could allow them to change their environment or give someone God abilities. It could even threaten the computer systems of the beings or machines doing the simulation, resulting in a crash that would destroy the simulated beings very existence. Scary stuff! Maybe if we get too smart they will purge us to protect themselves!

Testing for a Simulated Environment

So if we are living in a simulated reality, how could we test for it? How could we determine if we are just in a big computer program? We would need to look for bugs and rules. We’ve already talked about the bugs, and what they might look like. If you’ve seen the Matrix you know that Deja Vu is a bug in The Matrix. It’s possible we see bugs every day, but don’t recognize them as bugs in the system, just part of every day life. Simplistically, maybe weeds in our yards are bugs that we’ve just learned to live with because we don’t know any better. Or maybe plant life is supposed to be blue, rather than green.

Living in a Simulated Reality 0004Any simulation would need to be running on some sort of platform. Most likely that platform has limits. Whether it be processor power or memory or some limit we haven’t yet encountered. With limits there comes things we can test for. At some point the computer would have to round an integer to some number of decimal places because it simply can’t calculate the full number (or its not needed). When this happens we should be able to find rounding errors in our environment. Again simplistically, maybe a knife can only be sharpened so sharp and then no matter how much finer grit of stone we go its the same because the computer is rounding over the angle calculation.

Scientists recently discovered just this with Greisen–Zatsepin–Kuzmin  cosmic rays.  They are limited and peak out, just as if there was a max volume of 100 and they reached it. Another example of this is the speed of light. It travels at a constant 186,200 miles per second and nothing in the universe seems to be able to go faster than this. Some have even suggested that the speed of light is the processing speed of the CPU running the simulation (though I suspect the processor would be far abstracted from the emulation software).

So are we living in a simulated reality? What do you think?

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