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Neil deGrasse Tyson Says It's 'Very Likely' The Universe Is A Simulation ( 830

mspohr quotes a report from ExtremeTech: At the most recent Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate, [scientists gathered to address the question for the year: Is the universe a computer simulation? At the debate, host and celebrity astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson argued that the probability is that we live in a computer simulation.] This is the crux of Tyson's point: if we take it as read that it is, in principle, possible to simulate a universe in some way, at some point in the future, then we have to assume that on an infinite timeline some species, somewhere, will simulate the universe. And if the universe will be perfectly, or near-perfectly, simulated at some point, then we have to examine the possibility that we live inside such a universe. And, on a truly infinite timeline, we might expect an almost infinite number of simulations to arise from an almost infinite number or civilizations -- and indeed, a sophisticated-enough simulation might be able to let its simulated denizens themselves run universal simulations, and at that point all bets are officially off."
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Neil deGrasse Tyson Says It's 'Very Likely' The Universe Is A Simulation

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  • by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) * on Friday April 22, 2016 @11:01PM (#51969461)

    Like deGrasse Tyson, "back in the day" I enjoyed LSD as well, when you could get the real thing. These days, I've dialed it down to occasional weed and red wine...

    • I recall one of the Hackers / Life Extension j/ "Is uploading possible?" people reporting on someone making that argument back somewhere between 1988 and 1992.

      (Except for the bit about denizens doing their own sims and all bets being off.)

      The argument continued with the claim that, if there is one original and many sims the probability is high that any particular instance of you is a sim rather than an original.

      (My take: What's the difference? If the (simulated or otherwise) particles interact in a way th

  • He proves again... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 22, 2016 @11:04PM (#51969473)

    he is not a scientist.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by readin ( 838620 )
      Scientists are allowed to dabble in philosophy.

      And in the realm of philosophy this is actually one of the more reasonable things he has said.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 22, 2016 @11:48PM (#51969739)

        Most scientists sucks at philosophy, as they have no idea how well trodden certain topics are and do not know how to reason within the discipline. Neil doesn't do well, when he says anything about anything non-physics. Among physicists, Neil and Hawking have been criticized as being philosophically impoverished. It shows.

      • by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Saturday April 23, 2016 @12:03AM (#51969799) Journal

        You think? He is essentially opening the possibility of there being a creator who designed the universe to appear naturally occurring.

    • This *IS* science.

      He's forming a hypothesis based on observed evidence. That's literally what science is.

      The only thing missing is the ability to replicate the results... but that's a tall order in this case.

      • "He's forming a hypothesis based on observed evidence."

        No, he isn't. He is just making a reasoned inference.

        "The only thing missing is the ability to replicate the results..."

        Because there're no results to come with.

        Hint: keyword here is INFINITE.

      • by thinkwaitfast ( 4150389 ) on Friday April 22, 2016 @11:55PM (#51969769)
        He didn't form anything. It's a very old philosophical argument ( and was made into a major motion trilogy 15 years ago ( Also known as the simulation argument, there ave been a few philosophical papers written on it in the last few years, notably one that says odds are we are likely in a simulation that came out about ten years ago (along with he proof).
        • by khallow ( 566160 )

          notably one that says odds are we are likely in a simulation that came out about ten years ago (along with he proof).

          Remind me, what does "proof" mean again in philosophy?

          • by naasking ( 94116 )

            Remind me, what does "proof" mean again in philosophy?

            The same thing it means in every other discipline: a logical argument proceeding from assumptions to conclusions. Bostrom's simulation argument [] is a very convincing proof, and I highly recommend reading it. Abstract:

            This paper argues that at least one of the following propositions is true: (1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage; (2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a signi

            • by khallow ( 566160 )
              I can already tell you it's not a convincing proof because it's not a proof. A huge gaping flaw is the absence of a measure by which we can compute likelihood. It may not only be missing, it may be mathematically impossible to compute likelihood (say if number of universes with sentient life exceeds the cardinality of the real numbers).

              Basically, if you accept the proposition that humans will continue to exist long into the future, and you accept that future humans have just as much interest in simulating their ancestors as we have in simulating our ancestors, then we are almost certainly living in a simulation.

              No, it doesn't follow. You still don't know how many universes have humans naturally appear in them in the first place. You also implicitly assume that the only means for sen

      • Not science (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Saturday April 23, 2016 @12:38AM (#51969955) Journal

        This *IS* science. He's forming a hypothesis based on observed evidence.

        No this is not science. Science is coming up with a testable hypothesis which explains an observation making the fewest possible additional assumptions (Occam's razor). This is a wild guess which explains nothing, is untestable and requires the existence of a vast chain of increasingly complex universes filled with intelligences each of which have created a simulation of a universe. If this is science then so is every religion we know of since they only assume the existence of one (or more) intelligences with the ability to create universes not a semi-infinite chain of them.

        • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Saturday April 23, 2016 @07:08AM (#51971191)

          From a science standpoint arguing that we are living in a computer simulation is no different than arguing god created the universe. Either way you are saying "Something outside the universe, and greater than it, is responsible for its creation and upkeep." As such it is completely untestable and not science. You can't test for something literally outside of the confines of our reality, especially not presuming that thing is omnipotent as a god or creator of a simulation would be since even if you worked out a test they could change the results, change the parameters, etc.

          It really annoys me how the computer simulation crap has become the creation myth for a number of science and geek types. They'll laugh at the silly Christians for believing in some omnipotent being that was able to create all reality, but be perfectly ok with the idea of some effectively omnipotent (from our perspective) being or beings that managed to create all of reality by writing a computer program in some higher order reality. Either way it is invoking a god myth.

          If people want to believe in computer-god instead of religious-god ok I guess, but don't try to pretend it is any different and that it is any more than superstition.

          • by c ( 8461 ) <> on Saturday April 23, 2016 @08:12AM (#51971371)

            From a science standpoint arguing that we are living in a computer simulation is no different than arguing god created the universe.

            Living in a perfect computer simulation is no different.

            If, on the other hand, it's impossible for any universe to have enough computational power to perfectly simulate another universe then it's a very, very different situation.

            If the simulation is imperfect then we can start from that hypothesis and, in essence, look for the pixels and rounding errors in our reality, and eventually break out of this little honeypot into the rest of the network (or force the hand of whoever's running the experiment).

            • Because even if it is imperfect, the beings running it can work around that. They can change things, delete things, roll back things, etc. If they control the hardware and the software that comprises the simulation, then they are gods for our perspectives and can change anything they wish, including suspending or shutting down the whole thing.

              Also arguing about an imperfect simulation is rather silly since there is NO evidence of such a thing. That either means it isn't a simulation, is a perfect one, or an

      • I'm not so sure I agree. This feels a lot more like the scientific equivalent of believing in an all-powerful, all-knowing God that created the universe. Or if you rather, call it philosophy with a technical twist. The article itself all but admits that, mentioning the "Descartes approach", which is to muse about the implications of this from the top down. Philosophy, in other words.

        It seems to me like the notion that any civilization will ever have the computational horsepower to simulate an entire uni

    • Heh. All that statement proved is that YOU aren't a scientist... or even know what one is.

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      My God, the moderation in the MS thread was so bad I thought MS bribed /., but the moderations in this thread are just as stupid. A guy who's not even logged in gets modded up to a 4 for saying Tyson, who holds a PhD in astrophysics isn't a scientist??


  • by kylemonger ( 686302 ) on Friday April 22, 2016 @11:10PM (#51969501)

    What's the fastest way to get the plug pulled on the simulation you're living in? Convince a significant fraction of the population that their existence is pointless because they live in a simulation. This will corrupt whatever experiment that's supposed to be occurring and the outraged grad student will ragequit the simulation and start over. Or maybe he'll restore from decades-old backups and arrange bizarre and agonizing deaths for Tyson and that meddling philosopher Bostrom.

    • by chuckugly ( 2030942 ) on Friday April 22, 2016 @11:15PM (#51969541)
      For who and who?
    • by DaHat ( 247651 )

      That or we happen drive to a place where we never would have considered going otherwise: []

      • Except that we would be entirely incapable of doing so. Our lives would be prescribed, our actions determined entirely by machine state. We may think we have free will, what we actually are is an equation determined by state.

      • I was looking for this reference before I made it. Good thing, it seems.

    • If you are living in a simulation then somewhere the is also a set of player avatars. And guess what, they are not playing code monkey's. They are people like Steve Jobs or Prince. Gliteratti. Your highest purpose in life is to be a groupie to some rock star. Seriously. Anything else and you are a Orc in Warcraft.

      The laws of physics make sense in a simulation. Pixelation for example is the same as the law of diffraction. quantumness is the fact that textures are calculated from hidden variables and

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Slashdot is deleting [] comments []. What is the point of living anymore? Are they trying to bump up the suicide rates even higher? *sigh*

      • by Khyber ( 864651 )

        Uhh, just FYI, that story doesn't even exist. When you remove the comment target in the URL itself and leave the story ID in, the story isn't there.

        Kinda hard to get a comment on a STORY THAT DOES NOT EXIST.

        Are you just pissy that you commented on something in the firehose and it got pushed out eventually? Try learning how the fucking site works before bitching needlessly.

    • You think people would start to act differently if they knew for a FACT that they are in a simulation? I dare say they wouldn't.

      Let's face it: Can we leave it? No, at least we know of no way. Is there a place for us outside of this simulation? Not likely. Either we can't even exist outside the simulation because we're only something akin to artificial intelligences that depend on the simulation for their very existence. Then we cannot exist without the simulation. Or we do have an existence outside of the s

    • "This will corrupt whatever experiment that's supposed to be occurring and the outraged grad student will ragequit the simulation and start over."

      You'll know it is in fact happening because dolphins will disappear all of a sudden (well, you may find a farewell note thanking for the fishes, but that will be all).

    • What's more likely is that some alien mother will come in and tell the alien child "Time for bed, shut that off now." Then the alien child will say "But moooom! This is the best part, they're trying to figure out if I exist or not!

    • Isn't that what The Game is about?

      btw I just lost the game.

    • There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.

      There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

        Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

  • make something wild up and toss it out their as "maybe its real or can become real."

    The descent into madness.

  • by Austerity Empowers ( 669817 ) on Friday April 22, 2016 @11:20PM (#51969573)


    Nothing. Clearly he is wrong.

  • by perpenso ( 1613749 ) on Friday April 22, 2016 @11:20PM (#51969575)
    Personally I'm worried about the griefers who are now going to try to crash the sim.
  • Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by readin ( 838620 ) on Friday April 22, 2016 @11:34PM (#51969661)
    My guy reaction was that he was joking. But thinking about it, it makes sense. We live in a universe where it is possible, at least in theory, to simulate a smaller universe. Given the vastness of time and space, if you assume that life has a high enough probability of arising that there are a lot of aliens out there, there are going to be a lot of simulations that are sophisticated enough to contain AIs that don't know they are simulations.

    If only 10 alien races create 10 simulations each, that's 101 environments that can contain intelligence (100 simulations plus the one non-simulated universe). The odds then less than 1% that we're in the original non-simulated universe.

    It still doesn't sit right with me - my skeptical gut tells me it is silly - but where is the flaw in the logic?
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday April 22, 2016 @11:34PM (#51969665)

    Kinda like looking at the resolution limit of the simulation. Like looking reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally close at your monitor and noticing that all the colors are just reeeeeeeeeally tiny LEDs in RG and B and that none of those other colors really existed.

  • Even if it were true, it amounts to the same thing as intelligent design, which is supposed to be off limits for any self respecting scientist, right?
  • There are many more infinite universes where we aren't a simulation than ones where we are, for each universe may contain a universe simulation but the chances are slim that it does because of the GPU requirements.

  • sub Simulate()
      call DoStuff
      call Simulate
    end sub

    • If they don't do proper tail recursion, then it would be interesting to watch it unwind on the first exception.

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Friday April 22, 2016 @11:51PM (#51969747) Homepage Journal
    And not a very good simulation at that. Whoever wrote it couldn't even synchronize time, even at a local level. And that hard coded top speed limit? Because "No one in there is ever going to need to go that fast anyway" I bet. And the way it shits itself when you put too much mass in one place? Very sloppy! It's probably just the N-Dimensional equivalent of a potato battery, proudly displayed at "Take your Kindred-Daughter to work day", for a very inefficient method of converting hydrogen into plutonium.
  • So.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by spiritplumber ( 1944222 ) on Friday April 22, 2016 @11:54PM (#51969763) Homepage
    it's LOGO turtles all the way down.
  • by Beeftopia ( 1846720 ) on Saturday April 23, 2016 @12:10AM (#51969845)

    The universe is a weird place. At one point in time, the whole thing occupied the same amount of space as my mouse. Where did THAT object come from? I know, we're not supposed to bother thinking about it since conventional wisdom says we can't find out about it.

    "The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be." -- Douglas Adams

    The fact that the seeds of life and consciousness - us - are embedded in the fabric of the universe is interesting. A dust devil starts in space, a gravity well forming in a gas and dust cloud, the solar system starts coalescing. Sub-whirlwinds start in the spinning cloud, coalescing into planets. On the third one from the center, life appears. Let it spin for a few billion years more, and here we are, contemplating the mechanism that spawned us.

    "A physicist is an attempt by an atom to understand itself." -- Michio Kaku

    I find flights of fancies like Tyson's to be rather interesting.

    • And what does life do? It replicates, creates entropy - and gathers information. That's why I found this article from a few months ago [] so interesting:

      "To do this, he begins with a mental leap: Life, he argues, should not be thought of as a chemical event. Instead, it should be thought of as information. The shift in perspective provides a tidy way in which to begin tackling a messy question. In the following interview, Adami defines information as 'the ability to make predictions with a likelihood better th

  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Saturday April 23, 2016 @12:56AM (#51970019)

    odds are that you're not you.

  • by thisisauniqueid ( 825395 ) on Saturday April 23, 2016 @05:37AM (#51970961)
    This *is* a simulation. Except that the computing substrate is atoms and molecules rather than electrons and transistors. The only remaining questions are, who is running the simulation, and why are we inside of it?
  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Saturday April 23, 2016 @12:19PM (#51972579)

    This is a limit-argument in the sense of a mathematical limit for time towards infinity. There is no reason to believe it is accurate in physical reality. It additionally assumes that if you simulate a human being perfectly, you get the same human being as an earlier copy, and that such a simulation is possible in the first place. It is only if you assume physicalism as ground truth, yet there is no valid scientific reason to do so. In fact, there are a number of unsolved problems with physicalism.

    Note that I do not see the variant where religion has hijacked dualism as an alternative: That is a pure result of human shortcomings. Dualism does not need religious ideas in any way. But assuming physicalism is true is not science, but belief, and as such a fundamentally religious thing to do. The current scientific state of the dualism vs. physicalism problem is simple "we do not know", with some indicators pointing to dualism, but nothing solid.

    Hence, while it is decidedly possible that the physical universe is a simulation, things are much, much murkier when you add human beings as objects of that simulation and the argument made by Mr. Tyson is actually not a good one at all.

Matter cannot be created or destroyed, nor can it be returned without a receipt.