Who created this world universe and why
We live in a gigantic simulation that runs on gigantic computers of a highly developed civilization. Some billionaires and researchers believe that. They even want to find errors in the matrix. Others consider the simulation hypothesis to be utter nonsense. What do you all mean? We provide some arguments for and against the thesis so that we can discuss it with you.
From Michael Förtsch
It's amazing how realistic these worlds are. The first copies of the Atari classic were not quite 50 years ago Pong pushed into the gambling halls. The video game consisted of a few lines, a whirring square, and two counters for the score. Today games draw like Red Dead Redemption 2 huge landscapes on our screens and televisions, filled with forests, cities and hundreds of characters. The graphics engines behind it simulate how sunlight penetrates human skin and is reflected. They cover tracts of land with realistic weather and ensure that horses' testicles shrink when temperatures drop.
If you believe developers, video games that can no longer be visually differentiated from reality or at least look like big blockbusters are no longer decades away, but only a few years. For Tesla boss and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, this is exactly one of the strongest arguments in favor of the fact that the world in which we live may itself be just a kind of video game, a simulation that was created by a higher race or our descendants . Because when we almost manage to create virtual spaces like them real world look, what are further developed beings capable of? We ourselves would therefore not be biological, but digital intellectual beings, who beat our way through a hyper-realistic image of what out there possibly exists. The chance that we exist in reality, says Musk, is "one in several billion".
The simulation is statistically conceivable
This theory, which at first seems completely crazy, does not come from Elon Musk himself, but from the Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom. In 2003 he published the treatise Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?that made waves around the world. Bostrom hypothesized that a highly developed civilization like mankind could come to a point where it had enough computing power and energy to recreate the lives of billions of individuals in a computer program.
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Science fiction authors like Robert Bradbury have shown what that might look like. In an essay he invented the matryoshka brain. This is supposed to be a huge shell that - comparable to a Dyson sphere - completely encloses a star. As a result, the entire energy of the star could be used to operate gigantic computer systems that fan out around the shell like onion skins.
Before a civilization could create something like this, however, it would have to master numerous social and technological challenges.
Nick Bostrom therefore postulated three possibilities for a civilization like mankind in his simulation hypothesis.
Possibility: It dies out before it reaches a stage of development in which it grows beyond the current limits of thought, knowledge and action and thus becomes such a post-human civilization with outstanding technical abilities.
Possibility: Such an advanced civilization would have the possibility of realizing such a simulation. But for ethical and moral reasons or simply out of a lack of interest, it doesn't.
Possibility: Such an advanced civilization already exists and we are already living in such a computer simulation.
According to Bostrom, the probabilities for each of these possibilities are sometimes more, sometimes less balanced, depending on the current state of research. This means that the possibility that we live in a simulation would be less than 50 percent - but it would still be comparatively high. In theory, one civilization in the history of the cosmos with this technology and the will to create a simulation is enough to produce an almost infinite number of it. Eventually, a simulated civilization itself might get to a point where it develops one or more simulations. These in turn could do the same and so on and so forth.
In purely mathematical terms, the option that such simulations exist and that we live in one of them is therefore entirely plausible.
Is the Universe itself the proof?
As a possible indication of the validity of the thesis, even the universe and the life in it are seen - or more precisely: the weak anthropic principle with which Bostrom had dealt intensively before drawing up his simulation hypothesis. Because all natural constants and laws are exactly like that set, that planets form, biological life forms and ultimately we humans could come into being. Only the smallest deviations in the speed of light, the gravitational constant or Planck's quantum of action and instead of a universe full of stars and planets, there would be a heap of wildly flying dust particles. Years before the simulation hypothesis, physicists like Paul Davies or Max Tegmark speculated whether the initial situation of the universe and its laws were consciously calibrated, could be pure coincidence or the result of a multiverse.
Some serious scientists consider simulation theory to be a fascinating game of thought and a concept that should not be ignored. The cosmologist Neil deGrasse Tyson believes that there is a "pretty good" chance that the world is just a digital make-believe world and that each of our thoughts is calculated by a gigantic computer. This is also how his professional colleague Max Tegmark and philosophy professor David Chalmers see it. George Smoot, astrophysicist and Nobel laureate, says that the thesis must at least not be ruled out as a model for explaining the world. And NASA scientist Rich Terrile even assumes that the idea is our universe real , could at some point be just as obsolete as the geocentric worldview.
The list of prominent supporters of the simulation hypothesis does not end there. It also includes the hacker George Hotz and the video game developer Rizwan Virk, who only worked on the thesis in a book this year. Even Bank of America analysts came to the conclusion that there might be something to the idea. According to the experts at the major bank, there is a 20 to 50 percent chance that we will become a " matrix-like virtual reality "exist.
Ultimately, there is little that speaks for it
As many scientists support the simulation hypothesis, so many consider it - or at least the assumption that we could live in a simulation - to be quite nonsense. The critics include the psychologist Riccardo Manzotti and the cognitive scientist Andrew Smart. According to them, Elon Musk, Bostrom and their supporters were simply wrong. Because, as they fan out in an article on VICE, numerous assumptions made by the simulation hypothesis are incorrect or very questionable.
According to Manzotti and Smart, a computer cannot simulate a real universe because the results of calculations and voltage transformations lack the materiality that makes them tangible as a world. A brain, even a simulated one, cannot simply be played on like a monitor or VR glasses. So: if a simulated world exists, it does not mean that it can be perceived by an equally simulated person. But above all, the scientists explain, there would be no empirical evidence or a credible thesis that with increasing computing power it would at some point be feasible to create a self-confident life on a purely digital basis - as we should ultimately be.
Lisa Randall, a theoretical physicist at Harvard University, also has strong doubts about the validity of the simulation thesis. In their opinion, it is completely out of the question that we exist in a simulation. Simply because "there is simply no reason to believe that we are doing it," she said in a public debate. Statistical probabilities would be obsolete because the possibility of such a credible simulation is in itself completely unrealistic. Much more interesting for them is the question of why so many people think the theory is so interesting.
A plus for the critics: So far there is simply no real evidence that the thesis could be correct, only supposed signs. UFO sightings, stories about ghosts or time travel and even the election of Donald Trump are sometimes serious, sometimes joking as Error in the matrix categorized. As well as scenes of all too identically dressed people or strange experiences that are collected on Reddit. But also phenomena such as the Mandela Effect, false memories of historical events, the absurd behavior of black holes or program-like code that is hidden in the string theory are seen by some as clues. As a scientific “Aha! Simulation! ”- arguments are of no use.
We have to find flaws in the matrix
But if our world were a simulation, as supporters and critics agree, there would have to be measurable errors, visible blurring and identifiable program tricks. This is what Cambridge mathematician John D. Barrow and quantum physicist Thomas Warren Campbell think, for example. According to them, a simulation would work like a modern computer game in order to be able to run efficiently and in a way that saves energy and resources. In other words, every elementary particle, every electromagnetic spark and every part of the universe would not be simulated all the time.
Instead, only enough would be simulated to convince the inhabitants of the virtual world that it is real and there. Atoms, molecules, bacteria, cells, photons but also distant galaxies would only have to be drawn when they are under observation. Similar to an engine that only calculates the part of the world that the player currently has in view and fills objects with more details the closer they get. According to Barrow and Campbell, this is where the evidence for the pros and cons could be discovered. For example irrational fluctuations in natural constants such as the speed of light, gravity, quantum electrodynamics, cosmic background radiation and the like.
Will we ever know the "truth"?
Waiting for evidence for or against a simulation takes too long for some. The iPhone hacker and developer George Hotz called on the simulation in his lecture at this year's SXSW Conference, enforcing numerous “You might be watching us” jailbreak. If there is one, then, like in a video game, there must also be ways of triggering errors with certain actions. This could then allow the program behind it too exploit and doing things that are not intended: we could Cheats use it to stop climate change, turn diseases off, or even simulate in the world above to leave. Possible means, believes Hotz, could be upcoming experiments with particle accelerators or quantum computers. They have the potential to overload components of a simulation, if it is there, and exploit possible bugs.
Hotz is not entirely convinced of simulation theory. But believing in a simulation, he says, is no crazier than believing that the world and everything in it was created by an Almighty God. “Why shouldn't it be true?” Asks Hotz. Two tech billionaires from Silicon Valley are said to be more convinced. US investor Sam Altmann claimed that they secretly hired a group of scientists to find out whether and how one could escape the simulated world of appearance.
But even if that could succeed, it would not be certain, as in the Truman Show,behind the hypothetical exit the real world waits. Possibly there are other simulated realities created by civilizations that are also likely to doubt and try to break out.
In addition, it cannot be ruled out that the developers of a simulation might have considered that we were looking for errors in the matrix or outputs. Any attempt to find evidence for a simulation could be undermined with the exact data intended for it. According to Bostrom himself, the only strong evidence for a simulation would therefore be that mankind itself realizes such a simulation as he describes it. Or when a Windows window appears in the sky that says “You live in a simulation” and “Click here for more information”.
What do you think, dear @members of 1E9? Are we living in a simulation? Vote and tell us why you voted that way.
- Yes, we live in a simulation!
- No, that's nonsense!
Teaser image: Getty Images
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