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Are You Living In A Videogame?

sjohnson
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Posted August 14, 2007 - By Stephen Johnson

Oxford University philosopher Nick Bostrom has an interesting theory about your life: The professor feels there's a 20% chance that you and everything on "earth" is a computer simulation.

The reasoning works like this:

Dr. Bostrom assumes that technological advances could produce a computer with more processing power than all the brains in the world. Then, the computer's creators would run “ancestor simulations” by creating virtual worlds inhabited by virtual people with fully developed virtual nervous systems. IE: You.

Think of it like the Matrix, without the escape hatch. You could never have any way of knowing you were in a computer simulation, and the closest you could come to the truth about your origin would be speculating...kind of like you're doing right now.

If there was a way to create complicated simulations of existence itself, there would be a thousands of them, run for different reasons. So, by our way of thinking, once if you accept the possibility of a simulation of existence, there's a much better chance we live in a "fake" world than in the "real" one. After all, there's only one actual world.

Although Bostrom's theory does answer some thorny philosophical questions (Why is there Evil on earth? Because a world without Evil would be like World of Warcraft without the MOBS.), the question becomes: How should a person act in a simulation? You know, to keep from being deleted by "God?"

We think the best bet is to be as average as possible. Keep your head down! Don't anger our far-future World of Warcraft playing computer God! You need the "background" AI characters to act consistently in order to test out your simulation. Too many anomolies and everything gets re-set.

So, readers, what do you think: Do you live in a real world or a computer world? Any strategy tips or cheat codes you want to share?

New York Times: Our Lives, Controlled From Some Guy’s Couch

Are You Living In A Videogame?
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