I thought The Matrix was a terrific movie. I like the sequel, too. (The last film in the trilogy, eh, not so much.)
But I had no idea that reputable scientists were seriously considering the central premise of The Matrix — that what we think of as the real world is in fact a huge computer simulation run by machines and designed and policed to enslave humanity. In fact, a scientist named Rizwan Virk has written a book, entitled The Simulation Hypothesis, about that possibility.
The Matrix concept is gaining traction for several reasons. One is that computer technology, and games-playing technology, apparently is developing to the point where sophisticated multi-player, on-line games are routine and it’s becoming harder and harder to distinguish reality from simulation. (I say “apparently” because I’m not a gamer — that is, unless I’m really trapped in a computer simulation and playing, unwittingly, just by living my life.) If our technology is developing in that direction, the argument goes, isn’t it possible that we are living in a more advanced simulation created by more advanced computer system developed by a more advanced civilization?
And there’s also a weird statistical argument for the simulation hypothesis that goes like this: once a civilization creates computers that are powerful enough to create plausible simulations for millions or billions of players, it’s comparatively easy to create entirely new, realistic settings for entirely new simulated players that are all artificial intelligence. Crossing that technological-capability threshold means that trillions of AI creations could be living in games — making it statistically likely that you’re an AI creation rather than a flesh-and-blood being.
And here’s an even weirder concept: if we’re all players in a video game, maybe our scores are being kept somewhere for some purpose that we don’t quite know yet, and won’t know until our own experience in the simulation ends. It would help to know the rules of the game, wouldn’t it?
Are we living in a simulation? I don’t see how you can prove or disprove that, from our perspective as potential players in an ultra-advanced game created by an ancient alien civilization. But I do know this: if that is our reality, I’m glad the programmers have finally allowed the weather to warm up a bit.