Mind Blown, Science!

Mind Blown- We are a computer simulation

Despite my overwhelming nerdiness, I’ve never really been much of a gamer. Video games just never held that much interest to me. With the sole exception being Sid Meier’s Civilization series. It’s possible for me to lose entire weeks to those games and not even notice. And sometimes during those sleep-deprived binges, I wonder if it’s possible that I’m just an NPC in some galactic alien simulation. Turns out I’m not the only one who is kept up at night by this idea, more than a few theoretical physicists have put for the theory that everything we know may just be one big game of civilization. In this week’s edition of Mind Blown I ask the most dangerous question of all: Are We Simply a Computer Simulation?
The idea that reality is a lie dates back as far as Plato (though the Matrix movies sure made it popular); but what is now known as the simulation theorem was first formalized in 2003 in a paper written by Nick Bostrom. In it he puts forth three possibilities:  (1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage; (2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof); (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.
The idea isn’t that we are human beings jacked into a simulated environment, but rather that the human mind is substrate-independent; that is human consciousness is not dependent on a biological brain and that with enough computing power we could simulate a subjective identity that would be indistinguishable from actual consciousness (at least for the mind being simulated). The computing power necessary to pull this off would be enormous. Well beyond anything we’re likely to achieve in the next millennia or five.
Are you reading this and beginning to have series doubts about whether you’re real or simulated? Never fear! There’s an equation for that. It goes like this: the probability that you are a simulation is equal to the number of simulated minds divided by the total number of all human-like minds ( both real and simulated). Those are a lot of variables that we don’t have real numbers for so let’s simplify by saying these simulations will accurately be coded by the future humans who run them to reflect the actual number of real minds that existed. This means that the number of simulated minds is simply a multiple of the number of real minds that have existed. So by factoring out all the real minds we get the equation The Probability you are a simulated mind equals the number of simulations divided by the number of simulations plus one.
So if even one simulation is run, there is a 50% chance that you are a simulated mind. And the more simulations that have been run the closer to 100% that chance approaches (though it will never quite hit 100% it could get pretty close). The fact is there is a fairly high probability we’re all just human minds living in a virtual world.
Mind Blown yet?

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