Could We Be Living in A Computer Simulation?

A few weeks ago during Code Conference 2016, Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of SpaceX and co-founder and CEO of Tesla Motors said that it’s pretty likely we’re living in a simulation.

I understand that statement comes packaged with a fair amount of cognitive dissonance, so I’ll give you a minute to process it.

In a nutshell, the theory suggests that as a civilization advances, so too does its ability to create computer simulations. Eventually, these simulations would become indistinguishable from real life.

Here’s how Elon presents his argument:

“The strongest argument for us being in a simulation probably is the following. Forty years ago we had pong. Like two rectangles and a dot. That was what games were.

Now, forty years later, we have photorealistic, 3D simulations with millions of people playing simultaneously and it’s getting better every year. Soon we’ll have virtual reality, augmented reality.

If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then the games will become indistinguishable from reality, even if that rate of advancement drops by a thousand from what it is now. Then you just say, okay, let’s imagine it’s 10,000 years in the future, which is nothing on the evolutionary scale.

So given that we’re clearly on a trajectory to have games that are indistinguishable from reality, and those games could be played on any set-top box or on a PC or whatever, and there would probably be billions of such computers or set-top boxes, it would seem to follow that the odds that we’re in base reality is one in billions.

Tell me what’s wrong with that argument. Is there a flaw in that argument?”

So there’s a one in X billion chance that our reality is the real one. Terrifying.

When you look at games like Grand Theft Auto V, it’s easy to see how this theory can be argued – a living, breathing artificial world with stunning graphics. Are we all just living in the largest GTA of all time?

Ollie Ma’, a London-based photographer has created a photo series entitled ‘Open World’, a mix of real-life photos and some taken in GTA V. At first glance, it can be difficult to tell them apart, even more so if you’re not a gamer.

Now that we’re on the cusp of virtual and augmented realities hitting the mainstream, it’s only a matter of time before we’re creating huge, indistinguishable from real-life experiences. But even then, would that be a simulation inside our own simulation? Boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

Feature image: GTA V