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Why do so many scientists want to prove that we live in a simulation?

(AP Photo/Illustris Collaboration)

This is one of those subjects that seems to keep coming up in the mainstream media without any likely resolution being reached. There is a theory among some who study in a variety of disciplines that the universe we inhabit may not be as it seems to the eyes of humans. Some of them suspect that nothing around us is “real” in the physical sense that we perceive it, but instead we are all existing in a simulation. But what is it that makes some people so seemingly eager to brush off reality and adopt such a peculiar view?

As crazy as it may sound, researchers have posed questions that are not easily explained by the physical sciences. One of these is the issue of how the universe wound up being so perfectly suited to the development of galaxies, stars, planets, and ultimately life. They believe that “dark energy” should have torn everything apart, and yet gravity prevailed and brought together what we see around us today. But they find that result to be so unlikely that something else must be going on. (Science Alert)

A common answer is that we live in an infinite multiverse of Universes, so we shouldn’t be surprised that at least one Universe has turned out as ours. But another is that our Universe is a computer simulation, with someone (perhaps an advanced alien species) fine-tuning the conditions.

The latter option is supported by a branch of science called information physics, which suggests that space-time and matter are not fundamental phenomena. Instead, the physical reality is fundamentally made up of bits of information, from which our experience of space-time emerges.

By comparison, temperature “emerges” from the collective movement of atoms. No single atom fundamentally has temperature.

Feel free to browse the article linked above if you want to dig into the technical details such as they are. But I find myself more interested in what motivates some people to seemingly desire such an explanation for existence and the implications for mankind if the theory somehow proved to be true.

Personally, even if we assume that the supposed simulation was created by someone or something vastly more technologically advanced than ourselves, it still strikes me as an impossibility. The simulation would have to be so extensive that it is able to survive scrutiny without detection down to the tiniest microscopic level we’ve been able to see thus far while simultaneously remaining robust no matter how far we look out into the universe with our newest telescopes. The total amount of data would probably exceed the number of atoms we believe to exist in the observable universe.

But let’s brush that aside for a moment and assume that we were somehow able to confirm that our entire existence is a simulation. What would we do with that information? We would then be living in a dreary world indeed. If everything around us is simply a program running on some vast computer system, then the possibility exists that the programmer could pause at any moment and simply shut it down. We would suddenly be gone in a flash like the characters on your screen when you shut off a video game.

Also, this discovery would effectively wipe out all known religions. You don’t require a divine creation story if you’re just a vastly complex string of ones and zeros cooked up in an alien think tank. There would also be no need for morals or a recognition of good or evil. Why not simply go on a murder spree if all you’re doing is erasing some data and there will be no accountability for you once you reach the end of your part in the digital story? Suicide rates would likely spike through the roof as well. What’s the point in going on “living” if you’re not actually living at all?

With all that in mind, what is it that makes this theory so attractive to some in the scientific community? We may not be able to say for sure, but I have my suspicions. Some of these scientists may find the mystery of the universe too overwhelming and the possibility of any sort of divine presence too daunting and frightening. If your reality is too unsatisfactory for you to deal with it like an adult, just wave it away by showing that nothing exists and nothing matters, right?

Of course, I’m not a scientist of any sort. Perhaps I’m totally off base here and we are all just a bunch of non-player characters in someone else’s video game. If that’s the case, I’ll see you all when the next version is released.

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