High-profile physicists and philosophers gathered to debate whether we are real or virtual—and what it means either way. Consider the following hypothetical proposal for an experiment at the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest particle accelerator: “This experiment is unlikely to succeed in producing an interesting result, but if it does succeed in producing an interesting result, it may cause the annihilation of our universe.” Would conducting this experiment be justified?
The quality of these simulations is variable, since they are limited by how well modern computers can mimic the vast complexity of our world — which is to say, not very well. “That just reflects the computer code in which it was written.”, Furthermore, ideas from information theory keep showing up in physics. They would probably have the ability to run many, many such simulations, to the point where the vast majority of minds would actually be artificial ones within such simulations, rather than the original ancestral minds. As far as I am aware, no physicist proposing simulation experiments has considered the potential hazards of this work. “That’s the kind of evidence that would convince me as a physicist,” Gates said. If a computer existed that could hold our entire universe inside, we likely wouldn’t recognize its workings. “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).
“If the simulation hypothesis is valid then we open the door to eternal life and resurrection and things that formally have been discussed in the realm of religion,” Gates suggested. So far, none of these experiments has been conducted, and I hope they never will be.
Scientific American is part of Springer Nature, which owns or has commercial relations with thousands of scientific publications (many of them can be found at, Seven Ways the Election Will Shape the Future of Science, Health and the Environment, Dissolving Candy Gives Mathematicians Insight into How Some Landscapes Form. If people eventually develop simulation technology — no matter how long that takes — and if they’re interested in creating simulations of their ancestors, then simulated people with experiences just like ours will vastly outnumber unsimulated people. We may earn commission if you buy from a link. By taking a closer look at the cosmic rays in our universe, the physicists suggested, we might detect comparable anomalies, providing evidence that we live in a simulation. But what if computers one day were to become so powerful, and these simulations so sophisticated, that each simulated “person” in the computer code were as complicated an individual as you or me, to such a degree that these people believed they were actually alive?
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