Elon Musk thinks we're probably living in a simulation

i’m still trying to understand what “simulation” means – that it’s all in our heads somehow?

every computer we know of is built of parts, maybe the parts of our simulation are just the quarks, and atoms of our world. that would mean the word simulation here is really just computation.

rudy rucker wrote a great book about that idea:

i guess - writing this down – a simulation maybe implies you could stop it at any time ( our universe seems self-powered, and without a plug ), and perhaps that there exist a someone or someones to observe results. ( multi-dimensional beings disguised as lab mice? )

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Well, that’s more or less the solipsism option I comment on above. But that scenario is a markedly different deal than the proposition that our entire world is being simulated.

And I’m really not sure about the possibility of just simulating higher order phenomena in “low res.” Almost nothing would work the way it does without going super deep. The water sloshing around in my glass wouldn’t behave the way it does without practically every atom participating. And weather certainly wouldn’t behave the way it does. Sure, again, this would be manageable if the sim is for one person only - but like I said, that’s a completely different animal.


I thought of mice as well.


Not only solipsism, but this argument would make many a sociopath very happy. I was only robbing simulated victims, your Honor. The so-called people I ran over didn’t actually suffer - they only seemed to.

If this is a simulation, then President Trump is a fine idea.


Go back only as far as the first Pixar movies, and water and hair couldn’t be simulated realistically. Now they can. In real time. One home computers.

In a simulated reality - whether it’s with 7 billion people or with just a few thousand for the “tourists” to see - sure, you might need to simulate water down to the molecular level. (10,000x larger than molecular level may be good enough to simulate water sloshing around in a glass.) But only for what those in the simulation see.

Water in your pipes, or 99.999999% of the water in lakes and oceans, can be covered by a few general rules rather than simulation in detail.


Yeah, my problem with this idea is that I totally understand my motivation to play video games. How shitty is reality if I’m choosing to do this.


Nope. You really have to read some stuff on chaos theory.

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Spoken like a being who expects to be back for the next simulation.

SMBC talks about this a fair amount…but my favorite is this one:

Because honestly, it seems like that’s all the simulation argument is. We know that lots of things designed to look like the universe will end up looking like the universe, so we say the universe should be one, despite having no knowledge of alternative chances. Humbabella gave some nice exposition about an argument the universe looks designed back here; I’m not sure why this one is any better for being simple.


This is the lesson of all those Philip K. Dick false-memory, false-human, false reality stories like Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, Blade Runner, Minority Report, Paycheck, etc.:

Anything you can’t wake up from, IS reality.


You really have to read some stuff on simulation.

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Here is a fun TED Talk by Juergen Schmidhuber in which he suggests that it would only require ten lines of computer code in order to simulate not just our own universe, but every possible alternate universe that has ever existed.

Well, let’s both agree that there are large areas in our respective knowledge that have not been fully simulated.


That sounds about right!

We should instead team up against the “universe simulated in ten lines of code” guy.


I don’t even want to watch that… Some of the TED stuff veers dangerously close to pure woo territory and this sounds like a peachy specimen of just that. On the other hand - simple rules can produce very complex behavior - e.g. Langton’s ant.

Re the chaos theory - I didn’t mean that remark as a dis. I, obviously, didn’t know anything about it either before happening upon some books. But it’s really an eye-opening perspective on why complex stuff behaves the way it does (some of the first forays came from people wondering why weather predictions don’t really predict very well and fall apart completely past a horizon of several dozen hours). I’m sure you’d find it interesting.


Seriously underrated story (though my I humbly recommend adding a spoiler alert warning to your comment?).

I can think of five possible answers (fuckers usually come in threes, so that’s encouraging).

  1. We’re not in a simulation. This material universe, or the tree of material universes it’s part of, are their own substrate and not running on a platform.

  2. We’re in an artificial (as in artifact, not as in fake) simulation that can’t be hacked from within.

  3. We’re in an artificial simulation that can be hacked from within.

  4. We’re in a naturally emerging simulation which evolved within a parent universe and which has no conscious programmers.

  5. Our limited knowledge means we don’t fully understand the disction between what is and what is not a simulation, and that both might be categories in a larger Outside Context Problem (to borrow a brilliant term from the late Iain M. Banks). I think Stapledon’s hypothesis might qualify as a subset of this.

As with the distinction between transfinite and infinite numbers, and as with Spinoza’s so-called First Mover Problem, I find #5 to be the more compelling possiblity, mainly because I have more faith in the limits of human knowledge than in any as-yet un-testable (and so as-yet un-falsifiable) humanmade theories. This isn’t cynicism, just a recognition that we’re very young compared to even the part of the cosmos we can observe.


I thought the universe WAS the ‘computation’

Makes sense that there might be many many universes stacked or braned off from one another (different Planck Length, other 'constants, more or fewer ‘dimensions’ etc I’m no scientist so…) add in time (cyclical?stochastic? weird?) a sprinkling of quantum magic and viola!

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If this is an enormous simulation, I want Elon Musk’s cheat codes.


idspispopd does not work. I nearly broke my nose trying to walk through the wall.


That sounds like a great story, Stefan! I’m gonna check it out, thanks!