Are we living in a simulation? Would we even know if we were?
I think most likely not.
Today we are looking at Nick Bostrom’s theory of this mind bending topic.
Could we be living in a Computer Simulation?
Many works of science fiction and forecasts predict that enormous amounts of computing power will be available in the future.
So Let us suppose for a moment that these predictions are correct. One thing that later generations might do with their super-powerful computers is to run detailed simulations of their ancestors or of people like their ancestors. Because their computers would be so powerful, they could run many such simulations.
Suppose that these simulated people are conscious. Then it could be the case that the vast majority of minds like ours do not belong to the original race but rather to people simulated by the advanced descendants of an original race.
It is then possible to argue that, if this were the case, we would be rational to think that we are likely among the simulated minds rather than among the original biological ones.
Therefore, if we don’t think that we are currently living in a computer simulation, we are not entitled to believe that we will have descendants who will run lots of such simulations of their ancestors.
Okey so i have tried to make like a graphical explanation of this. So if we start on top left we see the birth of a civilization was in Year 1. Then time goes on and they reach technological maturity in year 14050.
So then they can approach to the next level witch is starting to simulate all of the years and the people who have died and all of their ancestors prior to this year.
So then we can have a look at the runtime of the simulation. If they started from year 1, the birth of the civilization. Then they run this simulation all the way up to year 14050 .
I guess we would be like, if we are in a simulation now i guess we would be like around here somewhere in 2022. So, who knows..
That is the basic idea of the theory, now let’s dive a bit deeper in.
What is Technological Maturity?
The theory is based on that one of three propositions is true. But first i just want to clarify what we mean by the term “Technological Maturity”
Technological maturity in this theory means where humankind has acquired most of the technological capabilities that one can currently show to be consistent with physical laws and with material and energy constraints. Such a mature stage of technological development will make it possible to convert planets and other astronomical resources into enormously powerful computers.
The 3 propositions for a computer simulation
Then let’s have a look at the 3 propositions:
1. All civilisations at our current stage of technological development go extinct before they reach technological maturity
2. There is a very strong convergence among all technological mature civilizations that they all lose interest in creating simulations of their ancestors. Ancestors simulations is a very detailed computer simulation of people who used to live. So detailed that the simulations would be conscious.
3. The last proposition is that we are almost certainly living in a simulation.
If the first proposition is false, that means that a civilization in the future or the past did reach technological maturity.
And if the second proposition also is false, meaning that a fraction of the civilization who did reach technological maturity do use some of the resources for the purpose of creating ancestors’ simulations.
Then we can mathematically show that the number of people with our kind of experiences that would be living inside these ancestors’ simulations will be vastly greater than the number of people that would be living in unmediated original history.
What is the chance that we are living in a simulation?
As just a reference In 2022 it is estimated that 109 billion people from our civilization have existed, so if we do some quick math we end up with 94% percent of our civilization having lived and died.
So that means that the vast majority of people will be simulated rather than non simulated. And on that condicion you are most likely one of the simulated people, just based on probability. There are more people that have lived and died, then that have original histories.
So the theory then is that if you don’t believe in the two first propositions, you will have to believe the third one is real and that you are most likely living in a computer simulation right now.
To expand a bit on this theory we will just take a look at how likely it is that a technological mature civilization will use some computing power resources to produce an astronomical number of ancestors’ simulations.
This comes from comparisons between an estimate of the kind of computing power that a technological mature civilization would be able to master by converting planets into structures optimized for computing.
How much comptuting power could excist in the future?
And on the other hand an estimate of how much computing power that is required to simulate one human brain and therefore to simulate all human brains that have ever existed.
Of course we don’t have exact values for this, but we can set the lower bound on the amount of computing power a mature civilization would have. And then we can estimate roughly the amount of computing power it would take to simulate the whole of human history.
And this estimate is that the amount of available computing power and the required computing power needed to simulate human history differ by a vast number of orders of magnitude.
Such that using 1% of the compute power available of one planetary size computer even just for one minute would enable you to create millions of runs of all of human history.
So to sum this up. If we believe that one of the 3 propositions is true, then the theory could support that we are in a simulation.
So I hope you found this as mind boggling as I do, it is a really interesting theory to think about.