Technology is advancing rapidly. According to Moore’s Law, the speed and memory capacity of computers doubles every 18 months. If computers continue to obey Moore’s Law, they will surpass human intelligence at some point in the next hundred years. Today, we have quantum computers that are 100 million times faster than a regular computer in carrying out some tasks.
Many technologists predict that enormous amounts of computing power will be available in the future. With so much computing power available, the future generations might think of running detailed simulations of their predecessors i.e. us! In order to create a simulated universe, advanced humans would have to simulate two things: the human minds and the environment.
Simulating the human minds
Presently, there are about 7.6 billion humans living on Earth that are intelligent enough to question the purpose of their existence. Simulating human minds would be comparatively easy. It is estimated that the human brain performs about 10¹³ to 10¹⁶ logical operations per second. For comparison, the Blue Waters supercomputer at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) performs about 10¹⁵ FLOPS (floating point operations per second).
Note that the comparison is based just on the number of operations that can be performed per second. The human brain is significantly different as compared to the supercomputer. Simulating all the human minds would be impossible using current technology but posthumans would be capable of doing so.
Simulating the environment
Simulating the environment would be difficult. It would be practically impossible to simulate the entire universe down to the quantum level. In order to save the computing power, the advanced humans would think of simulating only those parts of the universe that are being observed.
Whenever there is an interaction between humans with the quantum world or the distant astronomical objects, the simulator would immediately fill in details about those parts of the universe in the simulation. If at all our universe is a simulation, is there any way we can test this?
Testing the Simulation Hypothesis
Although there have been no attempts to verify the simulation hypothesis experimentally, a group of scientists including the former NASA physicist Tom Campbell are on their way to test this hypothesis experimentally. The group will perform a set of quantum physics experiments to test the hypothesis and have already raised a funding of $236,590.
They will perform variations of the wave-particle duality experiments like the double slit experiment and study how observation affects reality. If the obtained results match with those for a simulated universe and there is no other known hypothesis that can explain the results, they will conclude that our universe is a simulation. They will repeat the experiments several times to verify the results depending on the level of funding they receive.
The simulation hypothesis has many supporters like Elon Musk, Neil Degrasse Tyson and Rich Terrile. According to Musk, there’s a ‘one in billions’ chance that we are not living in a simulation right now. For the simulation hypothesis to be true, it is first necessary for human civilizations to reach a posthuman stage. And if at all they do, they must be interested in running such simulations of their ancestors. Unless we are now living in a simulation, our future generations will almost certainly never run an ancestor-simulation.
Hope you had fun reading the article. Do you believe that our universe is a simulation? Let us know in the comments!