Elon Musk, mega-rich CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, outlined his argument for why it is overwhelmingly likely that we are actually all living in an advanced civilization’s computer simulation and why that’s a good thing. Oh boy, where to start…
At Vox Media’s 2016 Code Conference, which is currently going on, a journalist asked Musk his thoughts on whether or not we are actually all part of a simulation. Musk responded by saying there is a “one-in-billions chance” we aren’t.
He argues that if technology continues improving, even at an incredibly slow rate, then one day we will have the technology to create super advanced simulations, saying:
40 years ago we had pong. Like, two rectangles and a dot. That was what games were.
Now, 40 years later, we have photorealistic, 3D simulations with millions of people playing simultaneously, and it’s getting better every year. Soon we’ll have virtual reality, augmented reality.
If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then the games will become indistinguishable from reality, even if that rate of advancement drops by a thousand from what it is now. Then you just say, okay, let’s imagine it’s 10,000 years in the future, which is nothing on the evolutionary scale.
So given that we’re clearly on a trajectory to have games that are indistinguishable from reality, and those games could be played on any set-top box or on a PC or whatever, and there would probably be billions of such computers or set-top boxes, it would seem to follow that the odds that we’re in base reality is one in billions.
This was followed by some awkward silence as everyone tried to process what he had just said.
“Tell me what’s wrong with that argument,” Musk then said.
“Actually, arguably you should hope that’s true,” Musk continued. “If civilization stops advancing [thus not developing the technology to create advanced simulations like the one he believes us to be living in] then that may be due to some calamitous event that erases civilization.”
Musk’s argument is based on Nick Bostrom’s popular thought experiment “Are You in a Computer Simulation?” which you can learn more about here.
So I guess we have to choose whether we’d rather hope we’re actually simulated or that civilization will end. Tough call.
You can watch Musk’s full discussion below.