Theories our universe is actually a simulation have been posed for centuries. French philosopher René Descartes originally theorised about the ‘brain-in-a-vat’ in his 1641 ‘Meditations on First Philosophy’, in which he said our minds are all being controlled from a laboratory. Technological advances mean many now believe we are living inside a virtual reality.
In 2003, philosopher Nick Bostrom wrote a paper called ‘Are you living in a simulation?’, which captured the imagination of tech enthusiasts.
He wrote: “Because their computers would be so powerful, they could run a great many such simulations.
“Suppose that these simulated people are conscious (as they would be if the simulations were sufficiently fine-grained and if a certain quite widely accepted position in the philosophy of mind is correct).
“Then it could be the case that the vast majority of minds like ours do not belong to the original race but rather to people simulated by the advanced descendants of an original race.
“It is then possible to argue that, if this were the case, we would be rational to think that we are likely among the simulated minds rather than among the original biological ones.”
Many leading figures in the tech capital of Silicon Valley, including Elon Musk, believe in the simulation theory, but one expert is warning against finding out whether it is true.
Preston Greene, an assistant professor of philosophy at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, argues if scientists were to find out our Universe is a simulation, it could cause the creators to cancel the experiment.
Prof Greene’s logic is in standard medical experiments when trialists are being given drugs, it is important they do not know whether they are receiving the real deal or a placebo.
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“Of course, the proposed experiments may not detect anything that suggests we live in a computer simulation.
“In that case, the results will prove nothing. This is my point: The results of the proposed experiments will be interesting only when they are dangerous.
“While there would be considerable value in learning that we live in a computer simulation, the cost involved — incurring the risk of terminating our universe — would be many times greater.”