How Would You Feel About Living Inside A Computer Simulation?

By on April 22, 2016 // Science // 1 Comment

This month, the Hayden Planetarium hosted the 17th annual Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate, with this year’s topic focusing on one of those questions we may not want the answer to: Is our universe a simulation?

Panelists included professor of philosophy David Chalmers, nuclear physicist Zohreh Davoudi, theoretical physicist James Gates, theoretical physicist Lisa Randall, and cosmologist Max Tegmark. The event was, as always, hosted by the director of the Hayden Planetarium, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

You can watch the full 2-hour debate in the above video. It’s pretty interesting, especially for those who haven’t been following the current conversations and studies on the simulation hypothesis.

A few highlights:

  • Some back-and-forth occurred on the nature of a possible simulation. Would it be like a video game, with the maker controlling every aspect of what happens in the simulation (like in The Sims series), or would it simply be a case of setting the initial simulation parameters and letting [simulated] nature take its course? I suppose it would depend on the purpose of the simulation.
  • Zohreh Davoudi mentioned her (and others) work in searching for “clues” that our universe is a simulation. These would involve any signs of limitations or “short-cuts.” I’ve posted about this before.
  • James Gates, who I featured heavily in my article Are We Living In The Matrix, pointed out some of the potential consequences of being able to create (or just living in) a simulated universe, the biggest being that it would make immortality, or some kind of afterlife, a very real possibility. Other things could be made possible, too, I think – like time travel. Or magic. Or mermaids. But if we do live within a simulation, could we ever hope to break its boundaries, or manipulate it?
  • Finally, the ultimate question was raised by the philosopher: Does it even matter? If a simulation can be made that is identical to the real universe, and it contains all of the same information, physics, and mathematics, is it any less real? Is there a meaningful difference?

It’s something to think about. Personally, I’m not sure there would be, or that it would matter. But if we ever did come to find out, one way or another, that we live in a cosmic computer simulation, how would that affect the way we view our universe? Our lives? It would be a strange realization, don’t you think?

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About the Author

Rob Schwarz is a writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. He manages Stranger Dimensions in between changing aquarium filters and reading bad novels about mermaids.

  • Lydia

    It would definitely change my views on the world, either by making them stronger or weaker, depending on the nature of the simulation and the being or beings behind it. I’d be excited and elated to live during a time of such discovery! But, I’d also feel nostalgic about that time when we knew nothing about our universe, aka now, and everything was much more simple even though every theory was still a possibility. Such discovery would raise more questions than it would answers. We’d be spiraling down the rabbit hole.