Okay, it sounds ridiculous. Obviously it does. The Matrix was a cool movie, and it got a huge cult following. Would anybody really be surprised that some easily persuaded folks might take it too seriously and think it hit too close to home? Well, the thing is, it's not all easily persuaded folks that think we might be living in a computer simulation. There are some bright minds out there who think it's possible, too – and their theories aren't completely laughable.
In the spring of 2016, Neil deGrasse Tyson moderated a debate on whether or not we're all living in a simulation run by super-intelligent, highly advanced beings.
He put the odds that we are at a surprisingly high 50-50, noting the difference in intelligence between humans and chimps despite sharing 98 percent of our DNA. “We would be drooling, blithering idiots in their presence,” he said. “If that’s the case, it is easy for me to imagine that everything in our lives is just a creation of some other entity for their entertainment.”
Neil was backed up by Max Tegmark, an MIT cosmologist, who noted that the mathematical laws that govern the universe look a lot like computer code.
“If I were a character in a computer game, I would also discover eventually that the rules seemed completely rigid and mathematical," he said. And University of Maryland theoretical physicist James Gates said he “was driven to error-correcting codes—they’re what make browsers work. So why were they in the equations I was studying about quarks and electrons and supersymmetry? This brought me to the stark realization that I could no longer say people like Max are crazy.”
The theory was first put forth by Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom in a 2003 paper in which he suggested that sufficiently advanced beings would have computers powerful enough to run simulations of the lives of their ancestors.
Not only that, but there would be so many simulations running that artificial minds would outnumber real minds. Statistically speaking, it would be more likely for us to be a simulation than real. He has some notable followers, too, including Elon Musk.
Many other adherents point to weird occurrences, like the crazy Super Bowl finish, the crazy Oscars finish, and the crazy World Series finish, as proof we're living in a simulation and it's glitching. What do you think?
There are plenty of skeptics too, of course. Harvard theoretical physicist Lisa Randall, who was also in that spring debate, says the chances we're living in a simulation are "effectively zero... The argument says you'd have lots of things that want to simulate us. I actually have a problem with that. We mostly are interested in ourselves. I don't know why this higher species would want to simulate us."