Elon Musk is one of the most brilliant minds in the world. He’s an innovator, entrepreneur, and inventor who is known for companies like SpaceX and Tesla Motors. He’s also a well-known futurist who has been talking about simulation theory for years.
This theory states that we are living in a virtual reality simulation created by our descendants in the future. In theory, we’re all just characters in a video game being played out by future humans (or AI).
Let’s take a deeper look into what exactly simulation theory is.
What is Simulation Theory?: A Complete Explanation
So, what is simulation theory? According to Elon Musk, it’s the idea that we’re living in a computer simulation. In other words, you and I aren’t real—we’re part of a video game created by some higher intelligence (or super intelligent AI). As you may have heard, Elon Musk is a big proponent of the simulation theory. He believes that we are living in a simulated world, and has said that he thinks there’s a one in billion chance that we’re actually here.
The simulation theory is an idea that has been around for decades. Philosophers have been considering it since René Descartes first wrote about it. Science fiction writers have long used it as a plot device for their stories—most notably in the Matrix.
As you might imagine, there are several reasons why this hypothesis has gained traction among people like Elon Musk. First of all, it offers an explanation for why we haven’t encountered any extraterrestrial life yet (or at least not as far as we know). Second of all, it allows us to think about our lives from a different perspective. Thirdly, and most important of all—it gives hope! If we’re living in a simulated reality where anything can happen (including time travel), then there’s no limit to what humans may one day achieve with technology and advanced consciousness.
Simulation Theory: An Exact Definition
Simulation theory is a hypothesis that suggests we could be living in a computer simulation created by our descendants or advanced civilization(s).
It was first proposed by Nick Bostrom in 2003, and it’s based on the idea that, at some point, the human race will have the ability to create such simulations, whether for entertainment purposes, deeper meanings, or socioscientific study.
But, how does this theory work? What are the elements in a simulation? Let’s take a closer look at these questions so you can get an exact definition for yourself.
How Does the Simulation Theory Work?
The simulation theory proposes that our universe is actually an advanced computer simulation of some sort, created by future humans.
In this way, it’s like the Matrix. Only instead of being created by robots with an evil agenda, it was created by future humans or advanced civilizations that wanted to see how we would handle certain situations and problems. The notion is that they made us so we can learn, adapt, and evolve, possibly into higher consciousness.
This idea has been talked about for years, but Elon Musk brought it to mainstream attention when he mentioned it as a possibility during a podcast with Joe Rogan: “If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then games will be indistinguishable from reality,” Musk said during the interview. A few minutes later, he added, “Eventually we’ll reach a point where video games will be indistinguishable from reality.”
What Happens in a Simulation?
Let’s look at how a computer would run a simulation of the world. The first thing it would need is an environment, which could be anything from an alien planet to a city block to your office space. The computer then needs some way of simulating what happens in that environment and how people interact with each other there.
So, let’s say we’re running a simulation where you’re walking down the street past your favorite coffee shop. There are people outside talking, cars driving by, and birds chirping overhead. Now let’s say your computer has set up all these variables so that it can simulate what happens when one person walks by another on this street.
They greet each other (or don’t), they stop to have a conversation, or keep walking past each other without saying anything, or any other scenario you can conceive. Each scenario and the resulting outcomes can then be tested as long as the data is there.
This simulation will run until every possible scenario is enacted. The simulation will collect data on each variable as it relates to each scenario. This could be as big or small as the test wants, meaning even the slightest change in the smallest factors involved can create more simulation variables and thus more scenarios and outcomes.
How Do You Fully Simulate Reality?
To simulate reality, you’d need to copy the exact laws of physics. You’d also have to copy the exact laws of biology; not just the way that cells and organs behave, but also how they interact with each other and change over time. You’d have to copy psychology and sociology, too—not just how people think and act (as well as why, when, and what leads to it) and how individuals interact with one another and why.
So, if we consider all the possible actions that could be taken by an organism or group of organisms or systems (in this case society), then there’s an infinite number of possible outcomes for them depending on the many different scenarios that can take place.
How Do You Create the Simulation Theory?
To create the simulation, you must first create a virtual world. You need to make this world as realistic as possible and fill it with things that will give it believability.
Next, you need to create artificial or advanced intelligence that can manipulate this virtual world in ways that are indistinguishable from real life. Otherwise, they might be able to tell if what they’re seeing is real or not.
Then, you’ll need to create some sort of system so that people can interact with other people within these scenarios to create varied factors.
Finally, you’ll need to implement the steps mentioned above by inputting all of the data on every single aspect of existence.
Where Did Simulation Theory Originate From?
Simulation theory originated from a paper by Nick Bostrom, a philosopher and professor at Oxford University.
Bostrom wrote that we are probably living inside of a computer simulation created by future humans. Bostrom may have been the first one to give a voice to the theory. However, there are many philosophers and thinkers that have written about it for years, and likely more have speculated without documenting their thoughts.
What are the Applications of Simulation Theory?
The simulation theory has a wide range of applications. It can be used to simulate various scenarios and run them over and over again to find the best outcome or create advanced intelligence.
For example, in computer science, simulation theory is used to test how a real system will behave under certain conditions without actually having to go through the trouble of building that system.
In physics, it’s used as a way for scientists to understand things about our universe without being able to physically interact with them (like black holes). In biology, it’s been used as a way to study genomes and evolution going backward and into the future.
This could help us explain part of the theory, as a simulation is a data collection tool—one with an end result or hopes of achieving a greater idea, understanding, or course of action. The possible applications for the future are immense. AI, in combination with our computer systems, can run complex simulations that could advance both our species and technology.
Benefits of Using Simulations
One of the greatest benefits of simulation is that you can test scenarios in a controlled environment. Simulations allow you to explore what-ifs and run scenarios, which help in preparing for real-world events.
For example, if a company wants to move its headquarters overseas, it can simulate what that might look like through simulations and run through different scenarios based on this information. This could help them avoid risk or even make better decisions once they actually go through with the move.
The simulation could also be used by companies to test their products before they’re released into the market. These can help prevent things like bugs or glitches from happening after launch day (and potentially costing businesses money).
Simulations are also used in science, technology, and medicine to help advance the human race and our understanding of the world around us.
Examples of the Simulation Theory in the Real World
- The Matrix
- The Sims
- HAL 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey)
- The Truman Show
- The Thirteenth Floor
You might have heard of some of these examples, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other examples that display and dramatize simulation theory.