For many of us, 2016 has felt like a strange dream—almost like a bizarre imitation of our world. Now, scientists who study the nature of the reality are agreeing that this might actually be the case. Is it possible that everything that’s happening today is just a simulation being run on a computer by some higher order being? Earlier this year at the 2016 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate at the American Museum of Natural History, panelists discussed this very topic. And the answers could shock you, whether you want reality to be real or not.
Physicist Lisa Randall, for example, believes that the odds that the universe isn’t “real” are “effectively zero.” That’s a good answer for anyone who doesn’t want to consider the alternative. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, on the other hand, said he thinks the likelihood “may be very high.”
The question of whether we know that our universe is real has puzzled thinkers going far back into history—it’s been the topic of sci-fi films for years—including hits like “The Matrix.” But most physicists and philosophers believe it’s impossible to prove definitively that we don’t live in a simulation. And Tyson says he wouldn’t be surprised if we found out someone else is responsible for our reality.
Essentially, the “simulation hypothesis” is that if we can prove that it’s possible to simulate a universe by cracking its law, it makes it much more likely that it actually is simulated. Essentially, if it’s possible to do something, the chances are higher it is already being done. Of course, we’re still incapable of figuring out how to simulate a universe, but is it out of the question entirely?
Tyson tackled the topic by pointing out that humans have always assumed that they’re the smartest beings alive, but that isn’t entirely true. Tyson challenges us to imagine a life-form that’s much smarter than us.
“What would we look like to them? We would be drooling, blithering idiots in their presence,” Tyson argues. “And if that’s the case, it is easy for me to imagine that everything in our lives is just the creation of some other entity for their entertainment. I’m saying, the day we learn that it is true, I will be the only one in the room saying, ‘I’m not surprised.’”
Check out the full discussion below and tell us what you think.