Scientists to Investigate…
This is not your usual news, but it certainly is interesting. Scientists at the University of Washington have developed a way to test whether we are indeed living within a computer simulation.
Before you start laughing or shaking your head, consider the original article by Nick Bostrom that started all this. Basically, the article posits that if humans advance to the point of “post human” (meaning a super-advanced civilization capable of running computer simulations of ancesters), then it can be a logical argument to assume that it has already happened and we are merely one of these computer simulations. The article does some math based on current known constraints of computational powers and physical laws. Assuming a “post human” world encompasses the knowledge to fully access the brink of physical laws and has almost inifinte compueter processing power, then Bostrom argues that we can assume that we are a computer simulation just as safely as we can confirm “normal” reality.
If you’re still following and haven’t dropped your jaw, scratched your head, or donned your cap of skepticism, then check out this U of W article that proposes a test so we can know for sure. While it is still in it’s infancy, the idea is to show a distinct difference from the normal cone of distribution expected from the relationship of energy and momentum. What this means in lame’s terms is that we should start to notice some idiosynchrocies between “normal” and the computer simulation. I guess the idea is that if we do find these discrepencies then we can assume that we are living in a computer simulation.
I have a few problems with this. First of all, there could be other things causing these discrepencies. The answer could be more troublesome than being part of a computer simulation. Another problem is that it doesn’t really tell us anything that we can use. If we are all just part of a computer simulation, then what does that mean for us? Does it change anything? Does it make this life less “real?
But you know, part of me would not even be surprised. It wasn’t too long ago that we did not even know about the existence of DNA or pathogens, much less radioactivity or electricity. What if we next find out that we live inside a computer program? I would not change my outlook on life except to have a constantly unsettling feeling. 🙂
In any case, this is a really neat thing to think about psychologically as well as philosophically. The fact that it is now being tested with math and science just adds to the philosophical drama.
For an interesting take on this from the entertainment industry, take a look at the Star Trek Voyager episode “The Thaw”.
Let me know what you think about this in the comments. Also, if you know of any other pertinent tv or movie references, then leave those in the comments as well and I will append them to the post. Happy computing! 🙂