Apparently, We All Exist Only in a Computer Simulation in the Future. Bummer.

Illustration for article titled Apparently, We All Exist Only in a Computer Simulation in the Future. Bummer.

According to Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom, the chances are pretty good that we're currently existing not in the "real world," but instead are a vast computer simulation created by a future, further advanced version of ourselves. Yeah, crazy, I know. Basically, he argues that because computing power will advance to the point where a system could be built that could simulate every brain on earth, future "posthumans" could set up an "ancestor simulator" that would be indistinguishable from real life for the inhabitants.


I'm totally not stoned enough for this to really blow my mind, but it's a really interesting theory. While Bostrom thinks there's a 20% chance of our entire world being a computer simulation, John Tierney of the New York Times thinks the odds are closer to even. But hey, even if it's true and this is really all happening in some future nerd's PC, it's not so bad, is it? As long as the computer doesn't overheat; that'd be a really lame way to go. [NY Times]


I'm A Different Bird

@nanokiwi: You're right, the 20% figure there is an asspull. In fact, when you take the idea of recursion into account, the idea that the Sims might make their own Sims, and so on and so on and so on, you wind up with infinite simmed worlds, and only one real world. This would make the chances that we are a simulation on some level so incredibly close to 100% that it's pretty much a certainty.

Of course, this does assume that the technology to simulate a universe is inevitable. It's entirely possible that mankind will obliterate itself before ever reaching that point. Which would mean 0 simmed worlds, and a 100% chance we're in the real world.

Basically, what I'm saying is that there's no way to put a figure on it. And regardless of whether we're simmed or real, our experiences will be the same. As well, as the simulation would be, by definition, perfect, there's no way to find out. So, here's where we apply Occam's Razor: we might as well assume this is the real world, since it's the simplest answer, and it doesn't make any difference to us one way or the other.