Simulated Immortality At The End Of The Universe

Could we live forever in a computer simulation?

Immortality is a strange thing.

Even if humans one day unlock the ability to live forever, all life must inevitably face the end of the universe itself.

Or does it?

Believe it or not, there exist certain peculiar theories that would promise humans immortality, despite the ultimate death of the universe. These theories, unorthodox as they may be, involve computers, simulations, and something called the Omega Point.

Nick Bostrom’s Simulation Hypothesis

The philosopher Nick Bostrom’s Simulation Hypothesis is rooted in transhumanism. It states that, given empirical reasons, at least one of the following must be true:

1. The human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage

2. Any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof)

3. We are almost certainly living in a computer simulation

Bostrom’s argument suggests that each of the above possibilities is just as likely as the other. And, more likely than not, we are already living within a simulated universe created by a posthuman civilization. In other words, as the argument goes, “Unless we are now living in a simulation, our descendants will almost certainly never run an ancestor-simulation.”

Sound strange? Well, it is, but it’s also a topic of serious scientific and philosophical debate.

As Bostrom states in the abstract of his paper, “It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor-simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation.” It would also be possible, according to Bostrom, that there could exist simulations within simulations, making this scenario more and more likely to be true.

Be sure to check out his full paper on this hypothesis, aptly titled “Are You Living in a Simulation?” published in Philosophical Quarterly in 2003.

However, Bostrom’s Simulation Hypothesis is just the tip of the iceberg. His idea of a posthuman civilization running a universal simulation is very similar to the theory of Frank Tipler, who believes such a simulation may bring about a type of resurrection.

Could a simulation of the universe, in fact, be the key to immortality?

Frank Tipler’s Omega Point

Simulated Immortality
Image: Flickr/Sir Mildred Pierce via CC by 2.0

As a concept, the Omega Point has existed for many years.

First coined by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in 1950, the Omega Point is described as the point at which the universe will reach its peak level of complexity and consciousness. At this point, humans will theoretically transcend and attain ever higher levels of consciousness.

Cosmologist Frank Tipler’s Omega Point is similar, but slightly different.

Tipler believes that, at a certain point within our assumedly-closed universe, sentient life will dominate the cosmos. Intelligent beings, perhaps posthumans, will have a profound command over science and technology, able to control the universe in ways we can hardly imagine.

Like in Bostrom’s hypothesis, Tipler suggests the computational complexity within the universe will become so great that it will allow for the existence of cosmic simulations. But not just simulations of the universe — simulations of everything that has ever existed, everything that has ever happened, and everything that ever will happen.

One of the results of such a simulation, theoretically, would be that everyone who has ever lived or died would be “resurrected,” born again within the simulation.

Just as well, the simulation would play out every possible series of events up to the end of the universe.

This would effectively stop time, creating what you could call “subjective immortality.” Even though the real universe would one day end, those living within the simulation would, from their point of view, live forever in their own little bubble at the very end of time.

Tipler’s concept of the Omega Point, as you can see, is heavily grounded in Christianity — the simulation of the dead can be compared with the Biblical Resurrection, and Tipler implies that the Omega Point itself is God. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the idea of a scientific, spiritual “resurrection,” though.

The Secret To Immortality At The End Of Time

As I mentioned in The Riddle Of The Toynbee Tiles, strange plaques located around the United States allude to a “Toynbee Idea,” and resurrected dead on the planet Jupiter.

It’s likely that these strange messages are a reference to Arnold Toynbee’s ideas on human immortality, and how, in the end, humans themselves will be tasked with creating the “heaven” they’ve been promised by God and religion. They’ll have to “manufacture…a real afterlife for all human beings of history.”

This idea falls perfectly in line with Frank Tipler’s Omega Point and Bostrom’s Simulation Hypothesis — that, in the future, hyper-intelligent beings will create a cosmic simulation that will, in essence, “resurrect” all life that has existed, or will exist, in all of the universe’s history.

Perhaps the manufactured afterlife that Toynbee spoke of will arrive in the form of a computer simulation.

Are We Already In The Simulation?

Are We Already Living In A Computer?
Image: Flickr/fdecomite via CC by 2.0

The Simulation Hypothesis suggests that it’s very likely we’re already living within a simulation. Tipler’s Omega Point, similarly, suggests that simulations will exist in the future that will effectively “resurrect” all life in the cosmos. And who knows? Maybe we’re already living in that immortality machine (although, if that’s the case, I’m not sure it’s working).

Of course, all of this sounds far too incredible — far too fanciful, even — to be true. And yet it’s theoretical physicist Jim Gates’s research that ties it all together.

If Gates’s research is correct, if the very equations we use to describe our universe contain traces of computer code, what could this mean for our own existence? Are we already living in the Matrix, already part of some cosmic computer simulation? Is Nick Bostrom right?

Once again, we’ve hit a road with no answers.

I will add, however, that it’s entirely possible the algorithms we use in computers are just basic, common functions of the universe, like the Golden Ratio and other phenomena found in nature. Harvester ants, for example, use a similar algorithm to determine when to send scouts out to find food as we do to determine bandwidth usage on the Internet.

Perhaps it’s not that we’re finding computer code in the universe, but that we’re finding the universe in our computer code.

Otherwise, these hypotheses rely upon assumptions. We can’t know what will happen in the future, or if hyper-intelligent beings will grant us a second life. We can only observe the universe as we see it, now, and wonder if it’s as real as our brains make it out to be.


Rob Schwarz

Writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. Editor-in-chief of Stranger Dimensions.

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