Whatever, We’re Probably Living In A Hologram Anyway, Says Neil deGrasse Tyson

Look around you. Your shoes, that tree, the Starbucks cold brew you’re clutching—it’s all very much right here in the real world. But what if the “real world” we live and move around in is just a computer simulation? Neil deGrasse Tyson, everyone’s favorite astrophysicist, thinks there’s a very high chance that everything we know is just a hologram. He’s just one of a growing number of people who believe it.


Philosopher Nick Bostrom proposed the simulation hypothesis in 2003, and the belief has only snowballed since then. Most notably, Elon Musk and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson have jumped on the nothing-we-know-is-real bandwagon. Tyson hosted the 2016 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate at the American Museum of Natural History, which addressed this question head-on: Is the universe a simulation? At the event, Tyson was joined by panelists Lisa Randall, a theoretical physicist at Harvard; Max Tegmark, a cosmologist at MIT; David Chalmers, a professor of philosophy at NYU; Zohreh Davoudi, a theoretical physicist at MIT; and James Gates, a theoretical physicist at the University of Maryland.

The opinions on the simulation hypothesis varied (Chalmers had a real mind-boggler: “We’re not going to get conclusive proof that we’re not in a simulation, because any proof would be simulated.”). Tyson himself said, “I think the likelihood may be very high. […] it is easy for me to imagine that everything in our lives is just a creation of some other entity for their entertainment.” But whether or not everyone is in agreement about the matter, the concept is legitimate enough for the top minds in theoretical physics to meet on and parse out.

It’s Time To Meet Your Simulator

 Okay, let’s play along. Say nothing is actually real and we’re all just a bunch of cosmic holograms living out our lives in someone’s elaborate computer simulation. Who is that someone? Martin Savage, a physicist at the University of Washington, has some thoughts. Savage, along with two colleagues, published a paper that explores this issue in November 2012. In a conversation with Talk Nerdy To Me, Savage explains that the simulators may be our own descendants from the far future. Whoa. In the same way archaeologists dig up bones and other artifacts to piece together our past, perhaps future generations will have the ability to recreate simulations of how their ancestors (us) once lived. Yes, maybe your great-great-great-great-great-grandkid is studying you right this second. Hi, kiddo!

2016 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate: Is the Universe a Simulation?

Watch the video discussion. URL:


The Simulation Hypothesis: Is Reality All Just A Computer Simulation?


As technology improves, the possibility that our world may be a simulated one is becoming more and more probable, argues Universe Today founder Fraser Cain. But can we ever prove that we live in a simulation of a reality?


All the world’s a stage. Or is it a simulation?

The idea that what we consider reality is actually a simulation was first proposed by scientist Nick Bostrom, and it is frequently addressed in fiction (e.g., “The Matrix” trilogy) and by innovators and educators such as Elon Musk, who brought up the topic at the 2016 Code Conference.

Those who believe that we live in a simulation often cite Bostrom’s argument regarding what he calls ancestor simulations. “One thing that later generations might do with their super-powerful computers is run detailed simulations of their forebears or of people like their forebears,” write Bostrom. “Because their computers would be so powerful, they could run a great many such simulations.”

That prediction is becoming more and more a possible reality. Today’s computers are powerful enough to simulate things that we never witnessed, such as the Big Bang or the creation of the planets. Currently, scientific simulations seem to be better, though, with large-scale situations.

But will we ever know for sure if we live in a simulation?


According to Fraser Cain from Universe Today, there is one way to find out, and that is to detect tricks that the simulation uses to approximate a reality that it can never copy exactly. A computer in a simulation will not have the same processing power as the computer that’s running the simulation, Cain explains, so there will be inconsistencies or tell-tale signs, perhaps glitches, that reveal the underlying grid on which our world or universe runs.

A team of scientists from the University of Washington, for example, believe that we can detect the resolution that our simulated world is running on by observing the energy limitations of ultra-high cosmic rays in the universe.

At this point, Cain argues, we can’t really tell, sort of like with the Kantian phenomenon/noumenon dichotomy. We’ll just have to “live our lives as if we’re real, until better evidence comes along, or our simulations get so good, their inhabitants start questioning their own existence,” says Cain.

Or maybe until someone offers you the red pill. If they did, would you take it?

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