Published on May 20, 2017

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Transcript: Could we be living in a simulation? I think that is related first of all to the question of what we mean by a simulation. If the question is, “Could we be living inside of a computer program?” then my answer would be: of course, yes.

Because the only thing that we get with some certainty from the outside world is information. And the only thing that we find with certainty in this information is regularity. And for a system to produce regularity in information (that is, discernible differences that change in a way that is somewhat not random and somewhat predictable), for this it needs to compute. So it’s necessary and sufficient for the universe—whatever else it does—that it computes. And we cannot really know what else it does.

So in my view it’s necessary and sufficient that the universe is some kind of computer in a pretty literal sense by the way we define computers and computer science. It doesn’t mean that we know what kind of computational class this system is in, and there is I think a lot of contest and ideas in physics what kind of computational class the universe really is and what capabilities it has. What can compute and what cannot compute. But still it’s computational in some sense.

The question of whether we are living in a simulation is more related to something more narrow, that is: this computer program that you’re living in intentionally created, or is it just a natural occurrence? And of course we cannot really know this because no feature in the world points at this thing being a simulation in this sense.

I don’t see anything that would convince me that you are in a simulation. But if it is one, I don’t think it’s for our benefit. I don’t think that all these galaxies and stars and all the intricate elementary particle structures that we can observe in some sense—they are not necessary for our experience as primates on the planetary surface. It would be needed to be painted on the telescopes and microscopes by the simulator. So I don’t think that these are smokes and mirrors when we look into the sky and we see these bazillions of galaxies.