Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

The Simulation Argument, are we living in the Matrix?

with 6 comments

The Simulation Argument goes as follows, one of the following three statements has to be true:

1. For whatever reason intelligent species such as ourselves never progress to the point where they could run computer simulations of the human brain.

2. For whatever reason if such species do acquire the ability, they don’t exercise it.

3. We are more than likely living in a computer simulation.

That, in a nutshell, is the simulation argument. Discuss?

There’s a couple of codicils of course. By computer simulation of the human brain or computer simulation I mean having a computer powerful enough to create a simulated brain and its environment so detailed that the brain in question thinks it is a real brain living in the real world. And the scientific consensus at this point that such is possible with a powerful enough computer. Yes, gentle reader, it’s entirely possible that you and everything you know are simply historical simulation software running on a  far-in-the-future’s High School Student’s desktop computer.

Let’s look at the statements in their turn. Can we assume that humans have no technological future and are inevitably going to wipe themselves out or revert back to the Stone Age? No one really knows, and there are statistical arguments saying that the odds aren’t good. Still statistics and reality are two different things. I for one am going to assume humans have a future unless there is proof otherwise. So for the purposes of argument, I am assuming statement one is false.

OK, statement too. Future humans won’t have any desire to run realistic simulations of human beings? That would assume that humans who develop such capable computers lose their scientific curiosity and their desire to play computer games. Neither seem likely. Or for some reason such simulations are insanely dangerous or otherwise unlikely to be widely pursued. Basically for this statement to be true, we have to assume that the nature of the human race will change in the future, or there is some unforeseeable practical objection to such simulations. I think it’s safe to say that logically then this statement is unlikely to be true.

Lastly, if the first two statements are false, why is the third statement likely to be true? Because once humans start making such simulations, more than likely eventually countless simulations would be made. Even just looking at the Civilization game series, the number of “people” simulated on millions of computers has to be billions times millions. And that’s just one game. The odds are simply overwhelming that we are living in such a simulation, like it or not.

Fascinating, but aside from the intellectual heebie-jeebies, this is all moot, there’s no way we could tell whether or not we are living in a  simulation, so there’s no way to actually prove the Simulation Argument true or false right? Well, turns out there is. There are some ways that in theory we could today look at certain Cosmic Ray measurements and see evidence that we are in a  simulated world. I don’t fully understand it, particle physics not being my strong suit, but the gentle reader can read about it here.There are also some other implications of the Simulation Argument that I didn’t cover in the brief analysis, the actual argument in all its glory can be perused here.

I for one hope they make these measurements, science may not be able to prove God doesn’t exist, but let’s at least try to find out if we are living in the Matrix. Have a great simulated weekend everyone!

(The above image is taken from a promotional poster for the movie The Thirteenth Floor. It’s claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, and its a low resolution partial copy of the original poster. I also highly recommend the movie to my readers. Credit and copyright: Centropolis Entertainment. Vanilla Sky is another movie along those lines, and also recommended.)


Written by unitedcats

October 13, 2012 at 1:22 pm

6 Responses

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  1. Doug
    Great post as always! Can you imagine the religious and other sociological reactions that would follow, if it was shown to be true? I don’t know about you, but it gives me very creepy claustrophobic feelings. Might make a good novel.
    Doug Macary

    Douglas Macary

    October 13, 2012 at 3:41 pm

  2. Why start simulating a human brain? After all ours is only quantitatively different from other creatures’ brain. There can’t be a quality difference, otherwise we would have to renounce evolution. it’s just a fortuitos event that our ancestors developed certain characteristics which later, in a runaway fashion, resulted in the object we own. So we’d better start with a simpler organ, For example, a bacterial brain. Then an ant’s brain… and so on.


    October 13, 2012 at 4:04 pm

  3. I think that we are living in stimulations over & over and like in the Matrix it has been going on for a long. The book of Genesis, makes a comment about it, stating that it had all happen before & will happen again. The wheel if life as well address this as well. What if that is what death is, just the rebooting of your soul, the files. That create a you over & over. I find the idea exhilarating because that means I would have a chance to come back & do it differently. I don’t see how living in a simulation would be any different than heaven or hell.
    It is great material for a story & there are many if them. I have a few stories where I explore this. Jack chalken explores this idea in depth. Total recall looks at creating false memories in a stimulation. Buffy. Explores it as an inmate in an asylum. What is reality & how do we know?


    October 13, 2012 at 7:03 pm

  4. My guess is humans will go crazy before we embark down the path of simulating life for ongoing entertainment. Because really, when you think about it…how mundane. Why? What would be the point? Just to say we can? Well, yippee. Then what? My sci-fi imagination cap isn’t working tonight.


    October 13, 2012 at 10:09 pm

  5. Logical thought dictates that we live in a singularity. Conscious thought can create any scenario that a human brain can enjoy or experience all emotions. The Human form is simply a vehicle into which the singularity can divide; otherwise it has total knowledge and may as well not exist, like total dark or total light.. There will be scenarios where the Human body is not the perfect vehicle and is replaced with something that is better.
    It is the experience of emotion that is the fuel for the fire.


    October 14, 2012 at 11:25 am

  6. The universe is really freakin’ big- are proponents of this theory saying that the whole universe and all its laws of physics and everything else are being simulated, just for the sake of simulating humans on one tiny speck of it?

    Or is the idea that most of the universe is a façade; that details outside our perception are only calculated and manifested by the server once we go out to look for them, much as a computer game will only calculate and render objects that are in viewable distance of the player?

    How is the idea of us being a simulation in any way different from believing in a Creator God? To a fundamentalist, couldn’t God have been the simulator’s avatar in our world, when he would stroll around the garden of Eden (back when He decided to play an active role, rather than stepping back to let the simulation run, as He does now) and perhaps 7 days is a reasonable amount of time to spend configuring the simulation?

    Isn’t us being a “simulation” essentially saying the same thing that belief in a Creator God states, except that we are fiddling with the language a bit (using the word “simulation” to describe what He created, rather than some other word?)

    Athiests might have similar fundamental quesitons for “the Simulator” that they’d have for “God”, should they magically have the opportunity to question them: why didn’t you show your presence in a more tangible way?

    While a “sim” in the game The Sims won’t freak out if you spontaneously manifest a chair or refrigerator in the middle of an empty room, a human would. If you use a cheat to change the rules of the game world, the sims won’t think anything of it. Humans would; we have brains complex enough to know something is awry in many such cases. If there is a Simulator, why wouldn’t He do something that either made us aware of His presence, or do something incredibly overt and obvious that broke all the rules of what we’d expect?

    Ultimately simulation theory strikes me as a modern adaptation of a very old phenomenon. Instead of “turtles all the way down,” it’s “people sitting at computers all the way down.”

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