The Simulation Hypothesis: are we living inside a video game?
Looking back on 2017, it was a pretty wild year. Many unexpected (bordering on unbelievable) events took place, Donald Trump’s inauguration as President of the United States being first example that comes to mind, among myriad natural disasters and a deluge of unprecedented pop culture moments. It was as though life had suddenly altered inexplicably; perhaps, we could we go so far as to say it felt like there had been some kind of ‘glitch’ in our reality that was allowing these impossibilities to occur? Thus was born the Simulation Hypothesis!
A Glitch in the Matrix: Our Simulated Universe
This bumper crop of outlandish occurrences led many individuals to dust off the Simulation Hypothesis in order to somehow explain the altered world in which we had suddenly found ourselves. A conspiracy theory that first gained widespread attention in with the 1999 release of The Matrix, the Simulation Hypothesis posits that we are just moving parts in a complex simulated universe, created by superior alien beings for reasons unknown to us.
The Fun in Simulating Reality
The presence of simulations within our own universe tends to reinforce the plausibility of this theory. From a young age, children crave to control their own private world, a desire that manifests itself in the many video games that give them the power to create and destroy their own communities, cities, and kingdoms at will. This begs the question: if we love simulation programs so much, wouldn’t it make sense for a more advanced species to love them too?
Simulation Hypothesis and Neil deGrasse Tyson: Science on Their Side?
Prominent astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson stated during the 2016 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate at the Museum of Natural History that he believes in the possibility of reality being a program, pointing to the vast difference in human and chimpanzee intelligence in order to suggest the possibility that there may be beings whose intelligence is correspondingly higher than our own, who would be capable of maintaining this vast simulation.
The Simulation Hypothesis, Debunked?
In spite of this scientific interest, is the simulation hypothesis just too much of a stretch to be plausible? Possibly. In the fall of 2017, researchers published a study in the journal Science Advances claiming they had managed to put this theory to rest once and for all.
Their counter-argument stated that, since our own technologies have not progressed, and likely never will progress, to the point at which we would be able to simulate a reality, it was simply not plausible that alien beings would be able to manage it “under normal quantum circumstances” as we know them. Given the enormous amount of power required of even a small-scale simulation, it would simply be impossible to harness the resources required to simulate a universe as complex as our own.
However, this counter-theory has a pretty obvious hole in it: namely, that we have no way of knowing what the capacity of alien technology would be. These alien beings could be, and likely would be, operating on a quantum level that we Earthlings could not even imagine. So, as Popular Mechanics so succinctly states, in spite of scientists’ best efforts, “we’re right back where we started” on the issue.
Simulation Hypothesis: Final Thoughts
In the end, the patent unprovability of this theory makes it as much an issue of philosophy as it is of scientific speculation. This is likely part of the reason why the Simulation Hypothesis has maintained its popularity for so long, even piquing the interest of serious scientific minds. The theory thus stands alone among other conspiracies, since it’s not just the crackpots who believe this one could be possible. But knowing as we do that it’s impossible to prove, it may just be best to enjoy are lives and leave the virtual reality conundrums to the alien overlords.