Scientist Reveals How to Escape Our Simulation

·3 min read
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Scientist Reveals How to Escape Our SimulationMatthias Kulka - Getty Images
  • For two decades, scientists have seriously considered whether we're living in a simulated universe.

  • A computer scientist at the University of Louisville explores ways that humans could try to hack our way out of this reality and enter the baseline reality.

  • So far, techniques ranging from all the world's religions along with the immense complexity of the Large Hadron Collider seem to have no effect on our theoretically simulated reality.

The red pill or the blue pill—the famous question that frames the entirety of The Matrix. In the 1999 film, a surprisingly resolute Neo takes the red pill and decides to “see how far down the rabbit hole goes.” The moment is one of the most iconic scenes in sci-fi history, but it also explores a relevant philosophical question: If reality is a simulation, can humans decide to leave it?

University of Louisville computer scientist Roman Yampolskiy explores this very question in a detailed post outlining how to possibly hack our way out of our simulated existence.

The idea that humans possibly live in a simulation is a surprisingly old one. French philosopher René Descartes tossed around the idea back in the 17th century, but the idea really captured the science community when Oxford University philosopher Nick Bostrom wrote an influential article on the possibility of a simulated reality back in 2003. Bostrom put the odds of us living inside some super-advanced alien computer at about 20 percent.

Yampolskiy continues this tradition of exploring the boundaries of a possible simulation and specifically exploring ways to escape it. Yampolskiy pulls examples from real-world examples of hacks, exploits found in video games, as well as more philosophical meanderings about attempting to communicate with our simulator overlords with an avatar.

Yampolskiy also includes a compendium of sorts of escape plans theorized by other thinkers, which include “generating an incalculable paradox” or stressing the simulation’s computational capacity, such as requiring millions of people to meditate at the same time and then suddenly becoming very active.

The article admits that there are some compelling bits of evidence that are potentially damaging to the idea of escaping the simulation—or if there’s a simulation at all. For example, knowledge of the simulation itself doesn’t seem to impact its existence, nor do religions, which all appeal to some outside simulator, have no measurable effect or intervention (previous researchers have proposed this very idea). Also, running incredibly complex machines that deliver astounding results, such as the Large Hadron Collider, appear to have no effect on any sort of simulation.

Of course, there’s the question of why would humans want to leave the simulation—after all, Neo’s experience exiting the matrix wasn’t exactly pleasant. Yampolskiy argues that access to the baseline reality could increase our computational ability and give us access to “real” knowledge rather than the simulated physics of our known universe. The consequences of such an escape plan is also unknown.

Yampolskiy admits that such investigations come with existential risks, and even posits the possibility that simulators have rebooted the simulation with improved security features, effectively wiping our collective memory.

It’s likely impossible that we’ll discover with 100 percent certainty whether we live in a simulation. For now, we have to stick with the blue pill.

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