Are we living in a simulation? Researchers calculate probability

Researchers calculate how likely it is that we are just living in a simulation

  • Do we live in a simulation? Two researchers from Canada have now found answers to this question in a new study, as "Scinexx" reports.
  • In the study, the researchers conclude that the probability is less than 50 percent because of the computing power required to do so.
  • Simulation theory, however, could explain why we humans have never encountered extraterrestrial life, researchers note.
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Is our world real or are we trapped slaves in a computer generated dream world, a simulation? This question is not only dealt with in science fiction novels and movies such as "Matrix", but has also been occupying researchers for quite some time. But is living in a simulation technically feasible at all? Scientists from Canada have now calculated how likely it is that we live in a simulation.

Supporters of the so-called simulation theory of philosopher Nick Bostrom there are some. Among them are also well-known representatives such as Tesla CEO Elon Musk. The entrepreneur believes that there is only a one in a billion chance that we are not living in a simulation. In his view, we live in a simulated world without knowing about it.

Researchers Alexandre Bibeau-Delisle and Gilles Brassard from the University of Montreal have now calculated how likely the so-called "Matrix scenario" is and whether we are living in a simulated world. They published the results of their study in the journal "Royal Society", as "Scinexx" reports.

In their new mathematical model, the two researchers also investigated the extent to which thought processes and interactions can be simulated by quantum computers. Their assumption: "Trying to replicate our entire physics with classical resources alone hardly seems feasible," the researchers say. The two scientists also calculated the amount of energy needed to run such a complex simulation and used their findings to see if simulated beings could also run simulations.

Huge computing power would be needed

One thing is certain: if we were in a simulation, unimaginable amounts of computing power would be required to maintain the simulation. An average human brain with a mass of 1.4 kilograms performs between 10 14 and 10 16 operations per second, researchers say. In theory, civilizations with the appropriate technology could perform 10 50 operations per second and kilogram.

According to the study, it would be possible to simulate our human brain several times through advanced technology. However, it becomes more complex if the interactions of the simulated beings in our environment are to be captured as well. As soon as the physical laws in the simulation correspond to those in reality, the effort and the required computing power of a simulation increases exponentially.

In addition, there is the theoretical possibility that simulated beings also develop their own simulations. So it comes to a simulation in a simulation. This phenomenon is also called recursive simulation. This further increases the required computing capacity immeasurably.

Can the Fermi paradox be explained by simulation??

According to their calculations, Bibeau-Delisle and Brassard come to the conclusion that the probability that we live in a virtual world is rather low and is far below 50 percent. "The main factors for this low probability are the enormous effort required to convincingly simulate a civilization’s environment, the inevitably imperfect efficiency of any computer operation, and the fact that simulations can be recursive," the scientists write.

But why has our civilization then never yet encountered extraterrestrial life? This question has also occupied researchers for decades. A simulation would be a possible answer to the so-called Fermi paradox. Because if we actually live in a simulation, the simulation probably doesn’t bother to simulate advanced life on distant planets. "The fact that we have not detected any evidence of extraterrestrial civilizations so far could therefore be seen as the most convincing argument for the simulation theory," the researchers state.

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