Starting around 20 years ago, some otherwise intelligent people began asking whether we might live in a simulation created by computers. In other words, a fake reality conjured by devious entities. You’d not even know you were unreal. The idea was triggered by advancements in video games, CGI, and specifically “The Matrix,” which accelerated paranoia among conspiracy theorists, followed by people who ought to know better. The latter use disclaimers to appear sane, but some take it seriously.
At first, second and third glance, the whole thing reeks of blind faith in technology and chronic detachment from nature. Yes, there are visually impressive video games and 3D immersive experiences, but that’s all they’ll ever be in the world outside of Silicon Valley or Hollywood. The simulation hypothesis is the latest stretch of thinking that places people and machines above the very laws of nature. It’s the embodiment of a God complex. Anthropocentric arrogance is prevailing over everything, including “green” ideology.
Here’s why a simulated planet or universe defies logic:
- Who or what built the computers, and what materials, energy and social structure maintains them? Is it powered by nuclear fusion? Just like the (planet-bound) “100% renewable energy” fallacy, no machines can exist or replicate in a vacuum.
- Where do these creatures or entities live, if not on an actual planet, and where is it physically located? If they are actually us, it gets even nuttier, like looking at endless mirrored reflections. One may as well try to prove God exists.
- Why would they go to such lengths? The notion that someone wants to “control us” can be explained by banal things like marketing. There’d be no logical gain in making a virtual society, just twisted entertainment for someone.
- No computer is 100% reliable, even the combination of millions networked online, so the system would occasionally crash. Billions of people would notice something’s wrong, as would other species caught up in a simulation.
- How can countless discrete instances of self-awareness exist in a computer? Simulating an external environment is one thing, but so many different selves wandering around is a tall order, including the minds of other species. As with belief in ghosts, people get confused by entertainment media vs. things they’ve truly seen.
- Why would the makers allow accidents, diseases and the pitfalls of aging in a virtual environment? If it was done for a serious purpose you’d think they’d strive for Utopia. But if it’s all unreal, why would it even matter? The conflicts are endless.
- Would the deep oceans and atmosphere all be part of it, or just the immediate surroundings that individuals perceive? Why would they allow numerous environmental problems to escalate or begin in the first place? A “runaway simulation” is absurd because the very capability of creating it should allow the ability to shut it down or destroy its hardware (again, the question of who’s maintaining the whole scheme).
Scientists have already debunked the hypothesis with other types of reasoning, if one needs more detail. Being dazzled by computer power doesn’t make Moore’s Law infinite, and YouTube will eventually run out of server space, if the power even stays on. People treat fallible systems like bedrock just because they still happen to work.
Elon Musk’s obsession with “population collapse” is a dangerous, unscientific extension of his growthist technology visions, including disruptive Starlink satellites. His claim that Earth’s environment would be “fine” with a doubled world population (equaling 16 billion when he said it) reveals little concern about wildlife and wilderness development, or chronic human hunger. Everything comes down to people as laborers for rich industrialists. On a finite planet, an aging workforce is less of a real problem than unsustainable credit and natural resource depletion. Peak Oil will squelch “renewables” fantasies unless nuclear fusion finally works. Like the sprawling wind power industry, Tesla electric cars ride on a contrived green sales pitch. Many EV buyers have become speed gluttons and drag racers, rather than hypermilers.
If someone insists we’re actually living in a simulated world (no less crazy than solipsism) they ought to join the Flat Earth club as well. Wild technology concepts distract people from human overshoot on a physically real planet.
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What always strikes me most about the “simulation hypothesis” claptrap is that somehow its exponents get credit for sweeping originality of thought–when really it’s just a tedious rewarming of ideas like Descartes’ Evil Deciever (see the Meditations, close to four centuries ago) or even Plato’s Cave (~2500 years ago). This suggests that our “intellectual” classes are not only afflicted by a mindless tendency to worshipfully parrot anything that falls from the lips of some designated “thought-leader”, but are mostly ignorant of even the most basic points of intellectual history.
Our future seems to be borne along implacably on a vast slough of technocratic pseudo-thought, two miles wide and half an inch deep.
Good points. Elon Musk in particular seems too ambitious. Better make those cars a lot more reliable before sending people to Mars on his latest rocket.