Nick Bostrom, a Professor in the Faculty of Philosophy at Oxford University, wrote in 2001 that “we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.”
Bostrom’s reasoning is based in part on the idea that a future human civilization will have virtually unlimited computing power. This computing power would then we used to run what he refers to as “ancestor-simulations:”
Nick Bostrom, Faculty of Philosophy at Oxford University
From buddhist concepts of ‘Māna’, to Abrahmic visions of Heaven and Hell, from Plato’s Allegory of the Cave to Descartes’ Dreaming Doubt,’ most prophets, philosophers and thinkers are in agreement: our world is a semblance of reality.
Bostrom’s innovation is in taking this age-old conundrum and exploring it through the language of Moore’s law and computerized simulation.
In addition, his study demonstrates how a material technology based on science and observed phenomena can, when it reaches a critical phase of sophistication, lead to questions that involve a consideration of good and evil; the metaphysical and the mystical.
This approach is suggestive of a wider trend. When the questions presented by a sufficiently advanced technology affect what it means to be human, and how future civilizations will form, the artificial division of the sciences and arts into separate disciplines breaks down. Is technology unraveling the enlightenment? Perhaps.
So, how does the simulation work? We’ve summarized some of Bostrom’s key points, and flagged up three lingering questions, below.