Is it actually more likely than not we are in a simulation of reality?

I heard an argument once that not only is it possible we are living is a simulation (like ‘The Matrix’), but it’s actually more likely than not.

IIRC the reasoning is that it seems inevitable that reality simulations will exist, and even exist now if you count our primitive stuff like ‘The Sims’.

The idea is that the chances of us actually being in true reality are only 1/X, where X is the number of all simulations that will ever exist. Using this logic, X only has to be 3 for the chances of being in a sim to be 66.66 percent.

My gut feel is that I don’t believe the results of this train of logic, but I cannot really think of a valid argument against it.

I don’t play “The Sims”, but I very much doubt those simulated are capable of conceiving of the question.

In any case, what’s the difference?

we’re in a simulation if you believe in god, otherwise no.

next question.

Is this a rehash of the ‘brain in a vat’ argument? You cannot really argue with solipsism - and that is where this sort of argument always leads. Somewhere you just have to make a jump and decide.

shijinn I agree, but could you explain your reasoning a little?

From this article dealing with this exact subject, as well as the logical morality one should adopt if they are, in fact, simulated. Interesting stuff.

DaLovin’ Dj

Grrr. Try this link.

Actually the only way to tell is to try to overload the simulating software…
if we proceed to convert the entire visible universe into a series of computers which are running simulations of billions of universes each as complex as we can possibly make them, the
hypothetical simulating entity which may or may not be simulating us will have to increase the size of the program we are running on.
If we are lucky, the simulating entity will run out of hard drive before we do.
When that happens, his or her system will crash and we will all cease to exist, happy in the final thought that we have escaped the Matrix.
If on the other hand his or her system is bigger than our universe by a comfortable margin, this will not happen and we will prove nothing.
But at least we will have conquered our virtual universe -
so it’s a win -win situation.
sort of.
A story another

A valid argument against it is, statistical likelihood doesn’t apply because reality is already happening. The chance that we’re in a simulation is either 0%, or 100%, depending on whether or not its true.

If you don’t like that, then consider this. We didn’t always have X simulations. For a very long time, we had exactly 0. Yet, the probably of reality being a simulation isn’t going to have been varying every time somebody makes a computer game.

And, further, all simulations that only exist in this reality are not candidates for being this reality, obviously. That’s even if you limit it to the number of simulations that could be mistaken for reality (which, at this time, is exactly 0). So, how many simulations do we know of that exist outside of this reality? Exactly 0.

The logic of this argument is foul to the core. What is the definition of ‘reality’? This argument explicitly says that reality is a simulation, period, just a particular simulation. (Look at it. It says, of X total simulations, we have a 1/X chance of being in reality. That means that ‘our’ reality is being drawn out of that pool of X simulations, with a 1/X chance of being some specific simulation, that for comeletely unknown reasons that argument has decided to call ‘reality’.) Therefore, this arguement assumes the answer from the beginning.

The meaningful question that this argument is trying to address is, is our reality the ‘most’ real question there is? The answer: there is no way of knowing. Not even by counting the number of computer games on your shelf can you tell. shijinn does have a point; if you choose to believe in most dieties, then there are ways of thinking of things that place God in a ‘higher’ reality, to which ours is a simulation. (You can also choose to assume that God shares this reality with us, and simply doesn’t live next door, but rather on another co-existent plane that we have difficulty observing. After all, if there is any way to observe him or his effects, aren’t all those manifestations occuring in our reality? Either way, your choice.) hawthorne has a better point, though:

I don’t know. Does the “brain in a vat” argument claim that it is not only possible, but likely we are brains in vats?

The meaning of life? If our job is to entertain, then we better do it well, lest we get deleted.

I’m reminded of a Twilight Zone episode (from the later in-color series) in which a bunch of aliens show up and and get ready to destroy humanity with vastly superior technology. The leaders of Earth are told that humanity was ceated by them a very long time ago. They left for a million or so years, and came back to collect their project. Unfortunately for humans, they have now been totally disappointed because humanity has a small talent for a little thing called “War”.

The leaders of the world beg and beg for another chance. The aliens decide to give it to them. They say “We’ll come back in 24 hours. You have 24 hours to change.” The leaders have a marathon session at the UN to make one final shot at peace. They work hard and all of the people of the world come to an agreement to unite and declare peace on Earth at the final hour. Missiles are destroyed, borders are opened, humanity joins together.

Awesome. Heartwarrming. Cool. I was really digging this episode at this point. Like President Reagan once commented, perhaps humanity just needed an outside threat to join together and see past our differences. Inspiring. Then the aliens come back. They see what the humans have done and they laugh. They laugh long and hard. “What’s so funny?” the humans want to know. Well it turns out when the aliens said “A small talent for war.” they meant “too small”. The aliens were a race of warriors who wanted fierce soldiers. They saw this overture for peace as a weakness. What the humans should have done was kick up a real nice war. Instead, the last scene shows the ships coming down to the Earth’s surface to wipe humanity out. Fade to black. Ouch.

Point is, if we are simulated, or have some purpose, it would be nice to figure out what that purpose is. Particularly if we will be destroyed (or shut off) if we fail to entertain/meet our purpose. The next question is, if there is a god running a simulation, and it favors entertainment via war, sex, selfishness, fame, aggressiveness should we conform to those ideals? Or rebel against the nature of the simulation on moral grounds?

DaLovin’ Dj

In brief it puts forth the (unrefutable) argument that since one cannot prove via appeals outside of oneself the existence of an external reality then one has no basis for claims as to the existence of anything outside ones own conciousness. It can then take that extra step, from an already fairly radical skepticism all the way to solipsism - nothing outside ones own conciousness exists.

Perhaps in the higher reality, the laws of probability and physics, and for that matter, logic, do not hold, so calculating the probability based on a higher reality that in all likelihood would be very different from ours is impossible.

UnwrittenNocturne, begbert explained it more or less. if you believe in god then we’re his/her/whatever little experiments; unless this particular god aren’t the all powerful, reality making type.

i thought one of the tenets of curiousity is to pursue all knowledge? after all you’ll never know what you’ll learn on the way…
(off topic) one of the side benefits of being in a simulation is that time travel would be really possible then :wink:

“IIRC the reasoning is that it seems inevitable that reality simulations will exist, and even exist now if you count our primitive stuff like ‘The Sims’.”
We are talking about a simulation that simulates the entire universe so it’s not at all clear that this premise is true. Futhermore you would need only one such simulation so the probablistic argument doesn’t really apply. So I don’t really buy the argument in the OP.

Having said that I do buy the solipcism argument in a limited way. I don’t think there is any way of telling one way or another that there is a “real world” out there apart from one’s own consciousness or even that the question makes much sense. I think the logical position is to be agnostic about this. Whether this has any implications for one’s actions is another matter and you could make well make the argument that it doesn’t.

BTW I found an article about the argument in the OP ; it was made by a philosopher called Nick Bostrom. The article doesn’t buy Bostrom’s argument either.

Why stop at one simulation/ with dataccompression you could make billions- you need not for instance model the insides of planets and stars to a great degree of accuracy, and they make up the majority of the matter in our ‘universe’-
you could have many different types, each with a different alternate history inside- the Greeks win at Syracuse, the French at Moscow…
or ones with 5 dimensions, or none.

I was wrestling with this stuff in this thread. Some folks seem to think it is impossible to simulate all of the particles in the universe in something smaller than the universe. How can we get around this? I’ve been thinking that if we use the same atom or whatever over and over we can have that atom represent more then one atom. Shouldn’t it just ultimately be a matter of enough calculations? You would need to be able to plot the course of all particles over the lifetime of the universe. Can we do this quickly using a small finite computer?

This is the second time today I will have linked to my simulated universe thread of long ago.

I still can’t shake off the idea entirely, but I’m not suggesting a matrix-style or brain-in-a-vat scenario, I think that if we are inhabiting a simulated universe, then the simulation is much more along the lines of Conway’s Life and that everything above the very basic level (including ourselves) is simply an emergent phenomenon.

Maybe if our reality is a simulation, then the “maker” or diety is like the programmer, and has made many simulations but doesn’t actually control “our” particular reality. He’s sitting on a higher plane beach somewhere, rich off of his invention. And the “controller” of our reality is some kid who just bought our simulation program and hasn’t figured out how to really use it yet. That’s why bad things happen to good people, because just like in The Sims. If you are controlling one person, some of the others will walk into walls and fall off stairs and hurt themselves. Maybe “our controller” is more entertained by the outcome of our football games and well being of the movie stars than us normal folks. So he ignores us, meanwhile we are getting diseases, killing ourselves and walking into walls.

It doesn’t matter though because in two months a competitor diety will come out with Version 2.0, and our kid controller will ditch us like yesterday’s news, leaving us to gather dust and eventually become uncompatable with any currently used platform universe, like Atari “Pong”.