Are we in a simulation? | Artificial intelligence


 

A popular argument for the hypothesis came from University of Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom in 2003, when he suggested that members of an advanced civilization with enormous computing power might decide to run simulations of their ancestors.  They would probably have the ability to run many, many such simulations, to the point where the vast majority of minds would actually be ones within such simulations, rather than the original ancestral minds. So simple statistics suggest it is much more likely that we are among the simulated minds.

And there are other reasons to think we might be virtual. For instance, the more we learn about the universe, the more it appears to be based on mathematical laws. Perhaps that is not a given, but a function of the nature of the universe we are living in. “If I were a character in a computer game, I would also discover eventually that the rules seemed completely rigid and mathematical,” said Max Tegmark, a cosmologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “That just reflects the computer code in which it was written.”

Furthermore, ideas from information theory keep showing up in physics. “In my research I found this very strange thing,” said James Gates, a theoretical physicist at the University of Maryland. “I was driven to error-correcting codes—they’re what make browsers work. So why were they in the equations I was studying about quarks and electrons and supersymmetry? This brought me to the stark realization that I could no longer say people like Max are crazy.”

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