Is the entire universe just a simulation ?

How do we know that anything is real ?
Is what we see and feel around us actually real or do we exist within some sort of computer simulation ?

It might sound like the plot of ‘The Matrix’, but the idea that we live inside a simulated universe is something that several scientists, including those who attended the 17th annual Isaac Asimov Debate at the American Museum of Natural History earlier this month, take quite seriously.

The event, which was hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, saw a group of five big thinkers take to the stage to discuss the possibility that we live out our lives in a universe that isn’t actually real.

One theory – that of philosopher Nick Bostrom – suggests that if it actually were possible for mankind to create such an indistinguishably realistic simulated universe, then it is significantly more likely than not that we are actually living inside such a universe right now.

The possibility also exists of a simulated universe being created by people who are already living inside a simulated universe – an ‘Inception’ type scenario that could lead to an infinite chain of simulated universes – each existing within the other.

If such a simulation actually does exist it also begs the question – how could we ever know about it ?

“There’s certainly not going to be conclusive experimental proof that we’re not in a simulation,” said philosopher David Chalmers. “Any evidence we could ever get would be simulated !”

In the end, the panel members each commented on how likely they believed it was that we are living inside a simulated universe with some offering a probability as high as 42% and others maintaining that there is virtually no chance at all.

The debate in its entirety, which lasts over two hours, can be viewed below.


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