By all accounts, Elon Musk may be one of the smartest people alive. But he surprised more than a few people this week at the 2016 Code Convention in California when he stated his belief that we are not really real, but rather computer generated entities living inside a more advanced civilization’s video game.
Responding to a question from journalist Josh Topolsky, Musk said, “The strongest argument for us being in a simulation probably is the following. Forty years ago we had pong. Like, two rectangles and a dot. That was what games were. Now, 40 years later, we have photo realistic, 3D simulations with millions of people playing simultaneously, and it’s getting better every year. Soon we’ll have virtual reality, augmented reality.
“If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then the games will become indistinguishable from reality, even if that rate of advancement drops by a thousand from what it is now. Then you just say, okay, let’s imagine it’s 10,000 years in the future, which is nothing on the evolutionary scale.
“So given that we’re clearly on a trajectory to have games that are indistinguishable from reality, and those games could be played on any set-top box or on a PC or whatever, and there would probably be billions of such computers or set-top boxes, it would seem to follow that the odds that we’re in base reality is one in billions.”
Then he turned things around and asked Topolsky, “Tell me what’s wrong with that argument. Is there a flaw in that argument?” Topolsky replied, “The argument makes sense. But what do you think?” Musk’s replied, “There’s a one in billions chance we’re in base reality.”
Then he went on to say, “Arguably we should hope that that’s true, because if civilization stops advancing, that may be due to some calamitous event that erases civilization. So maybe we should be hopeful this is a simulation, because otherwise we are going to create simulations indistinguishable from reality or civilization ceases to exist. We’re unlikely to go into some multimillion-year stasis.”
This notion that we are just computer generated beings is growing in popularity. If you have weeks to spend exploring the theory, you can read “Are You in a Computer Simulation?” by philospher Nick Bostrom. Or you can get deeper into things at The Simulation Argument website.
If Musk is correct, there are alien civilizations out there that are far more advanced than ours. But are they any smarter? It would take a weird and twisted mind to deliberately create the programming for the 2016 US presidential race.