Did you know there’s a chance we could be living inside a video game right now? With titles like Sid Meier’s Civilization, The Sims and Grand Theft Auto we already have some amazing life-simulation games, and if computers keep advancing, the simulations will inevitably get better and more realistic, which is why some philosophers and prominent scientists believe that it’s possible we’re living in one already.
The theory that we’re living in a simulation was made popular by The Matrix in 1999, but it got a bit of academic credibility with the Simulation Argument, which was written by Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom in 2003. One of his main arguments is that it’s inevitable that historical simulations will happen because human progress is always moving forward. Therefore, at some point computers will be powerful enough to simulate a universe.
If Bostrom is right and we are destined to make history simulators, it leads to a mind-bending concept of stacking universes. We’ll simulate beings who become so advanced that they’ll make their own simulations, then those simulations would create their own simulations. It would be like Sims creating their own version of The Sims, and those Sims create their version of The Sims; and this could just continue endlessly. This theory would also make us just one of the Sims, with beings stacked above us.
Now we’ll give you the choice: are you ready to take the red pill?
10. We Don’t Know What Reality Is
Humanity has never really been sure exactly what reality is. Plato used his famous Allegory of the Cave to describe the relativity of reality over 2300 years ago. It involves people being chained up in a cave with their backs to a fire as they watch the shadows on the wall. For them, that’s all reality is, but little do they know that there’s a big world outside of the cave. The point is that we only know what reality is through our senses, and beyond that we’re unsure. Plato wasn’t the only one who questioned reality. For example, around the same time Zhuang Zhou in ancient China came to a similar conclusion independently.
Over the centuries, the theory has evolved along with modern science. This brings us to an interesting twist in the theory when we learned more about neuroscience and how the brain works. It’s a philosophical thought experiment called the ‘Brain-in-a-Vat’. If a brain was in a vat and electrical impulses were sent to the brain to simulate reality, would it have any idea it was just a brain and not really experiencing anything besides the impulses?
We’ve been aware that we’re not sure what reality is for thousands of years. We also know that we may not be able to tell the difference between simulation and reality. Basically, we know how much we don’t know. And with the progress of computers we don’t know where we’re heading.
9. Paranormal And Other Unexplained Phenomenon
There are people who are adamant that they’ve seen ghosts or something else supernatural. These sightings could just be a figment of their imagination, but if we are living in a simulation, it could be possible these people actually did see something.
It could be something as simple as a glitch in the system. Things like that happen all the time when you’re playing a game. Seconds later, the game rights itself and you continue on. Ghosts or other paranormal activity could just be reality lagging or skipping, showing images that shouldn’t be there.
Another theory revolves around the idea that ghosts are usually people from the past, haunting places where they used to live because they could be leftovers from an improper deletion. For example, when you delete a file from your computer, it never really disappears — there’s always some trace of it left on your hard drive. It would just take a trace of a person for it to be visible to people, making it seem like they saw a ghost of someone from the past.
8. Scientists Are Actually Testing If We Live In A Simulation
While the whole living-in-a-computer theory may sound like the ramblings of a stoner, the amazing thing is that there’s actually a test to see if it’s possible to tell if we’re living in a simulation. The results from the test so far seem to indicate that we’re living on something called a lattice. A lattice is the platform for a simulation, and it has boundaries. Think of any video game world — there are boundaries that characters in the game can’t go past. Most of the time it’s an invisible wall or ceiling that keeps the characters on the lattice. A team of researchers believe that we’re living in a universe that has similar invisible barriers.
Researchers at the University of Bonn have built their own femto-scale (even smaller than a nanometer) universe simulators. The simulations are run on incredibly powerful computers and can only simulate tiny, tiny parts of the cosmos. What they’re finding out is that cosmic rays, which exist all over the universe, have a finite amount of power. They also know that cosmic rays deteriorate over time, but when they arrive at Earth, all the rays have a maximum energy of 10 electron volts. Being so specific and similar suggests that they might all have a similar starting point, like the edge of the lattice. That in turn would mean our universe is finite, just like a simulation.
7. String Theory
In physics there’s a relatively new but complicated concept called string theory. The easiest way to explain it is that there are tiny vibrating strings, kind of like musical strings, that make up the entire universe. What’s interesting is that this is incredibly similar to the very basis of a computer program, which are made from strings of binary code.
Let’s say Sims became self-aware and so intelligent that they began to investigate the nature of their origins. If they were to go to their very basis, they would find strings of binary code. As for the vibrating part, the best way to picture it is how the characters in the Matrix watch the lines of code on their ship. The code is constantly moving and changing to show what’s happening in the Matrix simulation.
Amazingly, physicist Dr. James Gates says that within super-symmetrical equations, which is part of string theory, he’s found something that very much resembles computer code. When he looked into these equations, he found computer code invented by Claude Shannon in the 1940s. Shannon was a mathematician who founded digital computer and digital circuit design theory in 1937. Which leads to interesting questions, like what are his codes doing in the cosmos?
6. The Universe Could Be A Hologram
One extension of string theory is the holographic principle, which is the theory that our universe is actually just a hologram. In fact, some physicists believe that the universe is actually two-dimensional. That sounds like a crazy assumption, because we know we see the world in three dimensions. So, how is this possible?
It’s a rather complicated theory that goes back to 1997 with theoretical physicist Juan Maldacena. He says that because of string theory and based on what we know about black holes, the world is actually two dimensional. We only perceive the world as three dimensional in our minds. That means the universe is just a projection, like a 3D movie. It’s projected on a flat surface, but we see it in 3D.
The theory of a 2D universe corresponds with Einstein’s Theory of Gravity. Further evidence that points to a flat universe comes from two papers published from Ibaraki University in Japan, with calculations that seem to back up the possibility we’re living in a universe that’s as flat as a TV screen.
5. Goldilocks Conditions
Life on earth is a miracle of astronomical proportions. In order for any life to exist here, the Earth needed to be the perfect distance from the sun, the other planets had to be the right distance away from us, and gravity had to be just this powerful. Further out into the atmosphere, if solar rays were more powerful or if the properties of the universe had been only slightly different, life on Earth would never have started. The conditions to make life on Earth possible had to be just right, which is why scientists say the Earth is in Goldilocks Conditions.
If you take into consideration everything that came together to make life on Earth happen, the odds are truly mind-blowing. For some perspective, the odds of all the cards coming together to deal a royal flush in five-card poker is one in 649,740. The odds that all factors came together in the right order, at the right time, to create life are Earth are, according to Dr. Ali Binazir, one in 102,685,000. That’s as likely as two million people each rolling the exact same number on a trillion sided die.
It’s beyond miraculous that we’re even here, making it possible that those conditions were actually encoded specifically for us. The player or programmer merely created the atmosphere, chose a few different conditions and the Universe unfolded as it did. Or the world was created minutes ago and all your memories are just part of the program. You have no way of knowing.
4. The Universe Is Pixelated
The picture quality of modern televisions is astounding. They display every known color and can look exactly like real life. The reason it can be so lifelike is because the picture is created following the same principle that makes the universe visual, which is a combination of tiny, tiny dots.
We’re able to see an image on a TV through pixels, which are just the dots that create a mosaic-style picture. Weirdly enough, it appears that the world is essentially made of pixels. Or at least that’s the theory from one NASA engineer.
According to Rich Terrile, the director of the Center for Evolutionary Computation and Automated Design at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the proof that we’re living in a simulation is that the universe is made of pixels. When you break matter down as tiny as it will go, you get to a fundamental unit that you can’t break down any further. Those units, subatomic particles, combine together just like pixels to make the universe visible to humans.
3. Everything Could Be Coded
Albert Einstein once said, “the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it’s comprehensible.” Essentially, it’s strange that we understand most things we encounter in the universe — you’d think that across the vastness of the universe there would be some things we don’t understand. If God or some other amazing being created us, wouldn’t there be a lot we don’t understand? Yet we’re able to quantify almost everything, because it appears that math is everywhere in the universe. And because we can quantify everything, we could possibly break everything down into code. It would just take a powerful enough computer to run that type of coding.
Besides everything being quantifiable, there are parallels between coding and the construct of the universe. For example, the basis of every computer is binary code, a combination of 0s and 1s. Everything you see and read on a computer is made up from a combination of just those two numbers. It’s an impressive feat considering all the amazing things we’re able to do with computers. The binary principle also exists in string theory — in vibrating strings there’s a concept called supersymmetry, which means that every particle has a related particle called a “super-partner.” Basically, the entire universe is made up of these binaries.
2. The Multiverse Theory
One of the most mind boggling theories about the universe is the multiverse theory. In its simplest terms, it’s the idea that there’s an infinite number of other realities that run parallel to our own. A great way of picturing the multiverse is that realities are like floors in an apartment. They’re all separate, but part of the same construct. And in those other realities, anything is possible.
There’s a parallel between multiverse theory and computers. Computers have been running multiple, concurrent programs for years and are only getting faster. How many apps are open on your smartphone right now? 15 years ago you couldn’t get that type of computing power on a desktop. Layering concurrent running programs is part of the growth of computers. Once humans can run a simulation of one universe it will grow exponentially, adding more and more simulated universes until there’s an infinite amount of them. It’s possible we’re just living in one of those simulated universes.
1. Computers Will Be Powerful Enough
There’s a theory called Moore’s Law which states that computing power will double every two years. While progress is projected to slow down in the next few years, computers will always get better and faster.
NASA is currently using a computer that’s about twice as fast as the human brain. In the next 10 years, they think they’ll have computers that are powerful enough to run what feels like an 80 year long simulation of being human. This simulation would be as life-like as reality is to us, so the subject would have no idea they’re in a simulation. They would just assume they’re a real human being. The simulation would be so realistic that it would include every single thought the simulated individual has in their 80 year “life,” and it would only take about four months to process.
Even crazier is that if Sony and Microsoft keep releasing systems at the same rate they currently are, in 30 years they might be capable of running simulations with billions of individual, free thinking and self-aware individuals. So you’ll be able to buy a universe and play god, all for about $399.99.