What Is It Like to Live in a Simulation?

Is simulacrum  spreading wider and surrounding us more and more? Are we getting closer to hyperreality, than to real things? YT contributor Valeriia Tsytsyk wrote a blog post on this topic. Would you like to discuss it further? Write your comments below. 

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…” (W. Shakespeare)

“We are almost certainly living in a computer simulation” (N. Bostrom, 2003)

“There is only 1 chance in a billion that our world is not a simulation” (E. Musk, 2016)

“The likelihood of the universe being a simulation may be very high” (Neil deGrasse Tyson)

The development of technology is advancing unstoppably every decade, bringing more and more discoveries. It is no longer a secret that in the near future, humans will be able to create complex simulations that will be almost – if not exactly – indistinguishable from the reality that we live in. Therefore, if this option does exist, how can we know that it has not already happened?

Those of you who remember the first games which were maximally simplified, like pong, will admit that the evolution of games is relatively similar to the evolution of our world. From the early, simplified versions, gamers moved on to concepts like Tamagotchi, with a digital pet inside which they could take care of. Later, as the technology of devises and graphics advanced, different versions of such games gained popularity, enabling users to create or be part of a whole own world with people around, cities, daily tasks, feelings, etc. Who did not play Sims? Nowadays, the number of such games is countless. They are divided into different categories based on the needs and interests of the players.

Simultaneously, if we examine our world from the perspective of a simulation, it seems to have levels as well. From the era of dinosaurs, it developed into the time of the first people, with the most basic needs, and moved forward to more and more complex societies of creatures who, eventually, started to have goals and objectives in life, the need for self-realization, status in life and society, etc. Moreover, the modern world is full of discoveries in every field of life, technologies which are continuously developing and driven by people who are full of innovative ideas and approaches toward life. However, again, if to look at all of this from the perspective of a simulation, is it indeed their achievement or rather a plan set in place by their creators and players?

One of the earliest widely followed hypotheses concerning virtual reality was presented in 2003 by the philosopher Nick Bostrom. He supposed that if there were many civilizations that were advanced to a requisite degree, they could create simulations of reality or parts of reality to the degree that we might, possibly, be living in one of those simulations. Moreover, his work was based on 3 main statements, each of which can scarcely be denied.

First of all, Bostrom stated that once any civilization reaches maturity in technological development, it goes extinct, as if there were a border which, once crossed, would begin the inevitable process of self-liquidation. For instance, advanced technologies trigger self-destruction as soon as they are discovered. Consider, for example, new technologies such as artificial intelligence, nuclear weapons, or other weapons of mass distruction and hundreds other things which, arguably, it would have been better not have created at all. This is extremely close to the point of the possible reboot of the game.

However, if we supposed that civilization could survive, for some reason, the inevitability of self-distraction, Bostom’s second statement comes into consideration. Once, having created a complex simulation with characters who are conscious enough to think and make decisions, reaching the edge of technological development, the interest in the simulation is lost, similar to the way in which, once a perfect life has been achieved, or once you have reached all goals and completed all tasks, you won’t stay in place long because inevitably, the lack of any possibility of growth = lack of entertainment.

Eventually, if any civilization resolved to maintain the prevailing simulation, the result would still not be that positive because, in the end, there would be even more people living in the simulation and fewer people living in reality. 

Besides all the theories and hypotheses connected with this topic, there have been many experiments that prove that the fact of life is a sort of Matrix. In case you are interested, you may find themheresince it would take a lot of time to describe all of them. However, the results are more than simply shocking.  Just as occurs in modern video games,  reality changes as soon as there is an observer. The laws of physics, which seem to be the basis of our world, are indeed not working the way they should, putting scientists not only in doubt but also into a process of thinking deeply about the possibility of simulating reality.

One may ask how it is possible to have such thoughts and questions concerning this point if we are all  part of a game. Indeed, does it really matter what your character in a game is capable of thinking? Or does it matter if he/she can even understand that it is just a simulation? Just as it is stated above, the creatures in a simulation are not necessarily mindless. Maybe once they used to be. However, with the development of the modern world, they became conscious and are even able to create their own simulations (just as happens nowadays). Therefore, what can challenge this theory? Who can deny a possible fact that we are a toy in the hands of a spoiled brat, and once it tires of playing with us, our “own world” will be replaced with a more complex and sophisticated toy? What if you are like that Sims, sitting in front of your computer, reading this article because this is the task your creator/player has chosen?

It is, of course, not that pleasant and enjoyable to think that you are just a complex program, given feelings and a mind. Nevertheless, there are some people who see this attitude as a useful perspective.  For instance, the previously mentioned Elon Musk, on the contrary, believes that this is a motivating idea since the given hypothesis of simulation is solving the paradox Fermi and shows that intelligent civilizations are able to escape self-distraction and technologically achieve the point of creating their own virtual worlds. Well, it depends on the individual’s attitude toward this hypothesis. Nevertheless, the facts cannot be denied. Therefore, the question remains, what is it like to live in a simulation?

Photo: Shutterstock

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