Play or be played: are humans living in a simulation?


Some believers in this theory think that reality is only simulated where humans are looking. This would mean that reality would cease to exist anywhere humans were not perceiving.

When people play video games, they’re used to being the ones holding the controllers, but what if humans are the characters on the screen? A theory largely popularized by Elon Musk and “The Matrix” series believes that this may be the case and that humans are living inside of a simulation.

The theory that humans are living in a computer program simulating reality is, at first look, insane, but it isn’t as unlikely as some would think. In 2003, philosopher Nick Bostrom created a basis for the argument. He claimed that if humans could survive long enough to evolve technology to the point of extreme capability, these computing systems would be able to run infinite simulations. Without energy constraints, these simulations could replicate human life with such accuracy that it could be possible for future generations to run an “ancestor simulation” – the ancestors being us.

If humans can’t decipher if reality is real or not, they might as well just take life in and experience it like it is real.

— Catherine Hooley

Bostrom claimed the likelihood of this being the case to be a 50-50 chance, although his ideas were very bold. This idea assumes that humans will reach this advanced point and that they will be interested enough in their ancestors to create this simulation.

Supercomputer computational capacity, as well as all other areas involving technology, is expanding exponentially. The artificial intelligence industry is growing by 16.4% percent every year. At the rate technology is expanding, the simulation theory becomes less and less incomprehensible.

This expansion of technology is not convincing for some scientists as it still feels out of reach. Physicists Zohar Ringel and Dmitry Kovrizhi’s 2017 article in Science Advances found that the computing technique for quantum particles was not advanced enough to simulate a quantum computer. If this is the case, that puts the human race a large step back in terms of creating a simulation of the universe.

But then again… if this simulation were possible, it would become even more complicated. Paul Davies, a theoretical physicist, brought up the idea which was proved by mathematicians: a “universal computing machine” can create a simulation inside of another simulation. This brings in the multiverse wormhole, which basically dilutes the one “true reality” with many other simulated realities.

It’s a lot of information to take in and there are a lot of aspects of the simulation theory that have yet to be understood. If humans really were living in a simulation, there’s probably no way they could test the theory. The simulation would be so advanced that there would be no way to decipher whether this reality is real or not. So why bother trying to figure out if reality is simulated or not?

For some, it’s about truth, knowing why and how humans are here. For others, it answers a question about the future of the human race. Elon Musk believes that if humans are living in a simulation, that is actually positive because it means humans aren’t extinct. For others, maybe it doesn’t matter. If humans in this reality are just characters in some futuristic science project, does that make our reality less valid, less important? At the end of the day, if humans can’t decipher if reality is real or not, they might as well just take life in and experience it like it is real.