The idea that we can be virtual beings living in a computer simulation is not new, but a new analysis shows that the odds we live in basic reality – which means an existence that is not simulated – are pretty much 50-50, according to astronomer David Kipping from Columbia University.
Anil Ananthaswamy for Scientific American:
But the study also shows that if humans ever develop the ability to simulate conscious beings, the chances will overwhelmingly tilt in favor of us also being virtual citizens inside others’ computers. (A warning to that conclusion is that there is little agreement on what the term “consciousness” means, let alone how one can proceed to simulate it.)
Before Bostrom, the film The matrix had already done its part to popularize the notion of simulated realities. And the idea has deep roots in Western and Eastern philosophical traditions, from Plato’s cave allegory to Zhuang Zhou’s butterfly dream. More recently, Elon Musk added fuel to the concept that our reality is a simulation: “The odds that we are in basic reality are one in billions,” he said at a 2016 conference.
Musk is right if you assume [propositions] one and two of the trilemma are false, says astronomer David Kipping from Columbia University. “How can you assume that?”
Kipping decided to resort to Bavarian reasoning. This type of analysis uses Bayes’ theorem, named after Thomas Bayes, an English statistician and minister from the 18th century. Bayesian analysis allows one to calculate the odds of something happening (called “posterior” probability) by first making assumptions about what is being analyzed (assigning it an “earlier” probability).
Kipping began by turning the trilemma into a dilemma …
Kipping, despite his own study, is concerned that further work on the simulation hypothesis is on thin ice. “It can undoubtedly be tested whether we live in a simulation or not,” he says. “If it is not falsifiable, how can you claim that it is really science?”
MacDailyNews Take: As Kipping himself refers throughout the article, look at Occam’s razor for the unanswerable answer: The simplest explanation is most likely the correct one.