Simulation or not? Why do some scientists believe that our world is unreal?

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Simulation or not? Why do some scientists believe that our world is unreal?
Simulation or not? Why do some scientists believe that our world is unreal?

In one of the episodes of the animated series "Rick and Morty", one of the main characters, being abducted by aliens, gets into an ultra-high-tech computer simulation and does not notice it, continuing to do his usual things. But can something like this happen to us? Could it be that everything we see, feel, and hear is actually unreal? In 2003, Oxford University professor, Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom wrote an article in which he argued that our world is a computer simulation. According to Bostrom, “if we live in a simulation, then the observable universe is just a tiny piece of what physically exists. Although the world that we see is in some sense 'real', it is not at the fundamental level of reality. " But is everything in our universe - from the smallest atom to the largest galaxy - nothing more than a computer project on the hard drive of some omnipotent being?

Modeling argument

Yes, at first glance, the idea of ​​reality as a computer simulation may seem ridiculous. But if you remember the achievements of mankind in the field of computer games, virtual reality and robotics (and some games today convey the visual and physical properties of our world so well) that the question of whether we are not living in something like that no longer seems crazy.

In his seminal 2003 paper, Nick Bostrom first formulated the "modeling argument." Its essence lies in the fact that our reality is in fact skillfully modeled and controlled using advanced computer technology. The Swedish philosopher suggested that advanced civilizations, possessing technologies with enormous computing power, can run computer simulations of their ancestors - that is, you and me - and, given the complexity of the technology, we will not know that our world is actually unreal.

It is also interesting that in just a few decades, scientists have managed to develop devices capable of studying and simulating many of the basic characteristics of human intelligence. If computing power continues to grow along the existing trajectory, perhaps our descendants (or other intelligent life) can easily create a simulation of the universe.

Perhaps our whole life is unreal. But we will never know about it. Or not?

Several prominent scientists and philosophers have expressed their support for the theory of modeling. For example, in 2016, during the annual debate at the American Museum of Natural History (Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate), astrophysicist and popularizer of science Neil DeGrasse Tyson said that the chances of our universe being a simulated reality are 50/50. a gap in intelligence between chimpanzees and humans - and this despite the fact that our DNA is 98% identical. Thus, a creature many times superior to us in terms of the level of intellectual development can both exist and potentially create a simulation of our world.

Another argument in favor of modeling theory comes from theoretical physicist James Gates of the University of Maryland, who studies matter at the level of quarks, the subatomic particles that make up protons and neutrons in atomic nuclei. According to the scientist, quarks obey rules that somewhat resemble computer codes that correct errors in data processing.However, how exactly these "correction codes", which in the real world help browsers work, ended up in the equations for quarks, electrons and supersymmetry remains a mystery.

In turn, cosmologist Alan Guth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests that the universe can actually exist and at the same time be a laboratory experiment. According to his hypothesis, our world was created by a kind of superintelligence, just like biologists in laboratories grow colonies of microorganisms. In this case, the Universe, in which such an experiment would be carried out, would remain whole and unharmed. The new world would form in a separate space-time bubble that would quickly separate from the mother universe and lose contact with it.

Nevertheless, no matter how surprising and sometimes provocative theories the researchers put forward, it is almost impossible to prove that we are in the real universe, because any "proof" can be part of the program.

The nature of reality

Despite solid philosophical and theoretical arguments, some of which are outlined above, in 2017 a team of researchers from Oxford University found compelling evidence that our universe is more than a mobile app. Proof? Attempts to simulate specific quantum phenomena, such as the Hall effect, are rapidly spiraling out of control - according to a paper published in the journal Science Advances, simulating just a few hundred electrons using the quantum method requires more atoms than exists in the universe.

A shot from the animated series "Rick and Morty" in which the main characters find themselves in a simulation created by aliens.

But what happens if we assume that we are living in a simulation? Some experts suggest that as the program continues to run, problems will arise - so to speak, glitches in the matrix. According to The New Yorker, some philosophers, such as David Chalmers of New York University, suggest that more and more strange events in the "real" world may indicate that our universe is someone's simulation. Outside of the modeling of the universe, these events can represent diverging "points" in reality. Thus, every choice, however small, can create its own universe.

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