Bostrom’s simulation theory focuses on computing power, much like The Matrix and its sequels did when discussing the idea of humankind simulation. It might be hard to believe there exists a computer powerful enough to simulate our entire existence but, if such a computer did exist, we would never be able to recognize it to begin with as we’d be inside of it, or rather, a part of its simulation.Bostrom’s theory of simulation sees the odds at nearly 50-50 and Columbia University astronomer David Kipping used Bostrom’s theory as a guide for arriving to his own odds. Kipping’s theory dictates that simulations cannot spawn their own additional simulations.
“That is because as simulations spawn more simulations, the computer resources available to each subsequent generation dwindles to the point where the vast majority of realities will be those that do not have the computing power necessary to simulate offspring realties that are capable of hosting conscious beings.”
As Popular Mechanics points out, think of Russian nesting dolls. Each subsequent doll after the first doll must fit into the doll that came before it. As a result, each doll grows smaller and smaller in size and scale as you go deeper into the nest of dolls.Basically, we are either in a simulation or we are not in a simulation. If humankind never creates its own simulation using conscious beings, then the odds of us living in a simulation tip further toward “yes,” because if we are in a simulation, then we likely wouldn’t be able to create one. If humankind does create a simulation of its own using conscious beings, then Kipping and Bostrom’s theory about computing power are closer to being proven wrong and the odds of us living in a simulation shift more towards “no.”
Regardless, it’s probably not a bad idea to let Keanu Reeves know now just in case.
For more science, read about how some scientists claim evidence of a parallel universe where time runs backward and then read about how this simulation might not matter because various species on Earth keep evolving into crabs.
Wesley LeBlanc is a freelance news writer and guide maker for IGN who became increasingly more existential while writing this story. You can follow him on Twitter @LeBlancWes.