According to Nick Bostrom, a philosopher and director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford, it is very possible, perhaps even likely that our universe is somebody else's advanced computer simulation. He believes the omnipotent creator of the heavens could very well be a futuristic computer geek.
Actually, if you start stringing together some of Dr. Bostrom's fairly reasonable assumptions, it starts to make sense.
Computer experts have projected, based on trends in processing power, that we will have a computer with more processing power than all the brains in the world within half a century. Dr. Bostrom theorizes that we could actually already be in such an advanced computer. In fact we could be some futurist geek's game.
"Maybe they wouldn't need to do simulations for scientific reasons because they'd have better methodologies for understanding their past. It's quite possible they would have moral prohibitions against simulating people, although the fact that something is immoral doesn't mean it won't happen," Bostrom has said.
Dr. Bostrom doesn't pretend to know for certain if this is the case, but says, "My gut feeling, and it's nothing more than that, is that there's a 20 percent chance we're living in a computer simulation."
Theoretically, it is very possible that advanced civilizations could produce supercomputers, since we're close to doing so ourselves. If the operators of the computers were anything like the millions of people immersed in virtual worlds like Second Life, SimCity and World of Warcraft, they'd enjoy running simulations just to get a chance to control history - or maybe give themselves virtual roles as Cleopatra or Napoleon.
In some ways that position disposes of that classic theological question: How could God allow bad things to happen? For the same reason there are plagues and earthquakes and battles in games like World of Warcraft. Peace isn't that interesting.
So what if Bostrom is right and we could be part of an advanced computer simulation? The first impulse might be to say nothing matters anymore because nothing's real. But ' reality' is somewhat subjective. Whether our minds are embedded in circuitry or made of carbon, it doesn't necessarily make us any less "real". It is even possible that our designers have provided a simulated 'after-life'.
David J. Chalmers, a philosopher at the Australian National University, says Dr. Bostrom's simulation hypothesis isn't a cause for skepticism, but simply a different metaphysical explanation of our world. Whatever you're touching or viewing now is a sheet of paper, a keyboard, a coffee mug is real to you even if it's created on a computer circuit rather than fashioned out of wood, plastic or clay.
But here's where the idea gets really trippy: our designer might be another virtual being living inside the computer of a still more advanced form of intelligence. There could be layer upon layer of simulations. In a sense, the multi-universe theory of physics would be true, with just a little twist: we are both the future creators and the offspring of these multiple realities where anything is possible.
Posted by Rebecca Sato
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