Indeed, I am writing to warn that conducting these experiments could be a catastrophically bad idea — one that could cause the annihilation of our universe. “We would be drooling, blithering idiots in their presence,” he said. He continues: That’s a mouthful, but it’s easy to understand if we think about a decidedly human-invented simulation: the virtual machine. By taking a closer look at the cosmic rays in our universe, the physicists suggested, we might detect comparable anomalies, providing evidence that we live in a simulation. And since Bostrom’s first two criteria both posit there is no simulation, he condensed them into one criterion. But what if computers one day were to become so powerful, and these simulations so sophisticated, that each simulated “person” in the computer code were as complicated an individual as you or me, to such a degree that these people believed they were actually alive? A popular argument for the simulation hypothesis came from University of Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrum in 2003, when he suggested that members of an advanced civilization with enormous computing power might decide to run simulations of their ancestors. If real life in 2020 seems like just too much, take comfort in some breaking news: scientists say there's a 50 percent chance that we’re living in a simulation. “There’s no reason to think they’re all-powerful just because they control everything we do.” And a simulated universe introduces another disturbing possibility. High-profile physicists and philosophers gathered to debate whether we are real or virtual—and what it means either way. It doesn’t have to be supercomputers the way we imagine them today—think of proposed galaxy-scale superstructures like Dyson spheres, or even the imaginings of Star Trek writers. The details are complex, but the basic idea is simple: Some of today’s computer simulations of our cosmos produce distinctive anomalies — for example, there are telltale glitches in the behavior of simulated cosmic rays. We are almost certainly living in a computer simulation. Theoretical physicists have dispelled the idea we are living in a Matrix-style computer simulation, calculating that not all aspects of our reality can be simulated efficiently using computers. In 2003, the philosopher Nick Bostrom made an ingenious argument that we might be living in a computer simulation created by a more advanced civilization. This brought me to the stark realization that I could no longer say people like Max are crazy.”, Yet not everyone on the panel agreed with this reasoning. If real life in 2020 seems like just too much, take comfort in some breaking news: scientists say odds are even that we’re living in a simulation. Perhaps that is not a given, but a function of the nature of the universe we are living in. So simple statistics suggest it is much more likely that we are among the simulated minds. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site. Elon Musk Likes to Ask Job Candidates This Riddle. “If the simulation hypothesis is valid then we open the door to eternal life and resurrection and things that formally have been discussed in the realm of religion,” Gates suggested. Clara Moskowitz is a senior editor at Scientific American. Of course, the proposed experiments may not detect anything that suggests we live in a computer simulation. “My advice is to go out and do really interesting things,” Tegmark said, “so the simulators don’t shut you down.”, But some were more contemplative, saying the possibility raises some weighty spiritual questions. “Our creator isn’t especially spooky, it’s just some teenage hacker in the next universe up.” Turn the tables, and we are essentially gods over our own computer creations. “We don’t think of ourselves as deities when we program Mario, even though we have power over how high Mario jumps,” Tyson said. Scientific American Space & Physics is a roundup of the most important stories about the universe and beyond. This area of academic research is rife with speculation and uncertainty, but one thing is for sure: If scientists do go ahead with these simulation experiments, the results will be either extremely uninteresting or spectacularly dangerous. Yet proving the opposite—that the universe is real—might be harder. “You’re not going to get proof that we’re not in a simulation, because any evidence that we get could be simulated,” said David Chalmers, a professor of philosophy at New York University. “That just reflects the computer code in which it was written.”, Furthermore, ideas from information theory keep showing up in physics. How will climate change affect global migration? Gear-obsessed editors choose every product we review. And what if this has already happened? How we test gear. Researchers pondered the controversial notion Tuesday at the annual Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate here at the American Museum of Natural History. So this idea, that simulations themselves are unlikely to spawn further simulations, tips the “indifferent” Bayesian calculation just a shade back into Team Reality. For instance, the more we learn about the universe, the more it appears to be based on mathematical laws. His reasoning? Here are some tips. The argument says you’d have lots of things that want to simulate us. Experimental findings will be either boring or extremely dangerous. The idea that the universe is a simulation sounds more like the plot of “The Matrix,” but it is also a legitimate scientific hypothesis. NEW YORK—If you, me and every person and thing in the cosmos were actually characters in some giant computer game, we would not necessarily know it. Let's explore it together. While there would be considerable value in learning that we live in a computer simulation, the cost involved — incurring the risk of terminating our universe — would be many times greater. Moderator Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the museum’s Hayden Planetarium, put the odds at 50-50 that our entire existence is a program on someone else’s hard drive. “The reason is quite simple: If we’re programs in the computer, then as long as I have a computer that’s not damaged, I can always re-run the program.”, And if someone somewhere created our simulation, would that make this entity God? But you don’t give the virtual machine your entire hard drive—you still need some to keep running the rest of your software and doomscrolling on Twitter. “I was driven to error-correcting codes—they’re what make browsers work. We may be actually living in a computer simulation. “If there is an underlying simulation of the universe that has the problem of finite computational resources, just as we do, then the laws of physics have to be put on a finite set of points in a finite volume,” said Zohreh Davoudi, a physicist at MIT. As far as I am aware, no physicist proposing simulation experiments has considered the potential hazards of this work. If a researcher wants to test the efficacy of a new drug, it is vitally important that the patients not know whether they’re receiving the drug or a placebo. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com. We mostly are interested in ourselves. If the patients manage to learn who is receiving what, the trial is pointless and has to be canceled. If it turns out we really are living in a version of “The Matrix,” though—so what? But Bostrom’s simulation theory in particular pivots on computing power. We Already Know How To Build a Time Machine, Simulacra and Simulation (The Body, In Theory: Histories of Cultural Materialism), The Holographic Universe: The Revolutionary Theory of Reality, Uh, About That Black Hole at the Center of Earth, This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. “That’s the kind of evidence that would convince me as a physicist,” Gates said. But there are two catches, at least. In that case, the results will prove nothing. But for now, on the shy side of 2001 or Her, we still have a little bit of time in the Matrix. Is it really worth the risk? The world is f#@!-ing weird. Are We Living in a Computer Simulation? There are also many theories that flirt with simulation in the guise of radical solipsism and skepticism. Somewhere out there could be a being whose intelligence is that much greater than our own. And there are other reasons to think we might be virtual. “Kind of like if you’re a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”, And the statistical argument that most minds in the future will turn out to be artificial rather than biological is also not a given, said Lisa Randall, a theoretical physicist at Harvard University. Like Russian nesting dolls, each creation must fully fit into and not encompass the parent. I’m not the only one who says this. He noted the gap between human and chimpanzee intelligence, despite the fact that we share more than 98 percent of our DNA. It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance that we shall one day become posthumans who run ancestor‐simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation. We may earn commission if you buy from a link. So far, none of these experiments has been conducted, and I hope they never will be. And second, if programmers here on simulated Earth ever themselves make a simulated reality that includes conscious beings—which could take the form of a closed system of sentient artificial intelligences, for example—the entire Kipping calculation is voided. If you have an Apple MacBook and want to run a PC program, you might use a wrapper like Wine to install the program in a self-contained computer that, to itself, is a real computer. If most people are simulations, Professor Bostrom concluded, the odds are good that we ourselves are simulations. This is surprising, not least because Professor Bostrom himself explicitly identified “simulation shutdown” as a possible cause of the extinction of all human life. The first is that Bostrom himself thinks it was whimsical to assign the indifference principle to begin with, to consolidate two parts into one part, and so forth.

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