Posted by Renee Schmidt

living in computer simulation

A team of scientists from the University of Washington claim to have devised a way to test whether we’re living in a computer simulation. Though fascinating, ‘reality’ is still to pass the test.

Reality is questionable. Zeno, Plato, and many philosophers have held similar opinions centuries ago. But ever since computers became a part of our reality, an increasing number of individuals have argued that life itself may be nothing more than a computer simulation. The idea furthers the concept of phenomenalism. Scientists now believe that they can test the simulation hypothesis to see if we’re actually living in a computer simulation.

Nick Bostrom, a British philosopher, published a paper in 2003 claiming that we live in computer simulation. Although it seems far-fetched, a team of physicists from the University of Washington have decided to test Bostrom’s hypothesis. The team believes that the simulation can be tested by identifying a ‘signature’ or a similarity in the pattern of the universe that would indicate a limitation or resource constraint similar to that of a computer simulation. A resource constraint would be identifiable because of the limitation that resources have within a computer simulation. In simple terms, think of an app that’s unable to run because there’s not enough memory resources.

Although still a relatively new test, scientists have already simulated a very small portion of the universe using lattice quantum chromodynamics technique using supercomputers. If we’re actually living in a computer simulation, the evidence for the lattice could show up as a limitation in the energy of cosmic rays. In the experiment, cosmic energy would travel across the universe in varying directions. That would be in contradiction to our understanding of cosmology, which reveals the opposite to be true.

The idea of living in a computer simulation has not only encouraged scientists to conduct new research, it has also inspired numerous filmmakers (e.g. The Truman Show, The Matrix, Vanilla Sky, or Open Your Eyes). It’s a fascinating hypothesis –one that makes you think ‘perhaps there is an old man in the skies pulling the strings, or playing an app, or whatever.’

Our universe could indeed be an artificial one created by our far-future progeny. It could even mean multiple levels of reality and massive numbers of parallel universes. All of it is fascinating but still just hypotheses that need to pass the test. Let’s see what happens and whether scientist eventually discover the truth… maybe we are living in a computer simulation after all.

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