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Tech Billionaires Are Asking Scientists For Help To Break Humans Out of Computer Simulation (businessinsider.com) 1042

Many believe that we live in a computer simulation. But it takes a billionaire and his money to ask scientists to help break us out of the simulation. The New Yorker recently did a profile about Y Combinator's Sam Altman. In the story, Altman discusses his theories about being controlled by technology and delves into the simulation theory. From an article on The New Yorker: Many people in Silicon Valley have become obsessed with the simulation hypothesis, the argument that what we experience as reality is in fact fabricated in a computer; two tech billionaires have gone so far as to secretly engage scientists to work on breaking us out of the simulation. Business Insider adds: The piece doesn't give any clue as to who those two billionaires are -- although it's easy to hazard a few guesses at who they might be, like Musk himself or Altman's friend Peter Thiel -- but it's fascinating to see how seriously people are taking this theory. According to Musk, it's the most popular topic of conversation right now.Earlier this year, at Code Conference, Elon Musk said there's "one in billions" chance we're not living in a computer simulation.
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Tech Billionaires Are Asking Scientists For Help To Break Humans Out of Computer Simulation

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  • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:03AM (#53024059)

    And many believe that vinegar disintegrates chemtrails.

    • by The-Ixian ( 168184 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:08AM (#53024105)

      I propose that we study this link between chemtrails and simulated reality... I bet you there is a connection....

    • by RogueWarrior65 ( 678876 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:14AM (#53024169)

      There are those who believe that life here began out there, far across the universe, with tribes of humans who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians, or the Toltecs, or the Mayans. Some believe that there may yet be brothers of man who even now fight to survive, somewhere beyond the heavens.

      • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @12:41PM (#53025543)

        There are those who believe that life here began out there, far across the universe

        Or reality could have been created 5 seconds ago, with your memories of the past already prefabricated in your mind.

      • by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @12:55PM (#53025725)

        And they're nuts. Humanity has a solid evolutionary record on this planet. Life might have originated elsewhere, but it became human here. If humanity exists elsewhere in the universe, it almost certainly originated here and was exported, either via alien influence, or some improbable human culture that developed the ability to travel between worlds without leaving any archaeological evidence. The only other option is convergent evolution - and to converge enough to be called human (say, able to interbreed?) is so outlandishly unlikely as to make the alternatives seem positively mundane in comparison.

        Yeah, yeah. Battlestar. Whoosh. etc.

    • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:22AM (#53024251)

      Logically if this is a simmulation then one would guess that the players controlled by external overlords would be the most powerful sims. that is to say movie stars or Tech billionaires or Trump like dictators.

      Thus your highest calling if you and under-sim is to go be a groupy to one of the "real" players.

      So it's a little strange to hear the Real players asking to be broken out of the Simulation. Something is fishy here.

    • The Ultimate Conspiracy Debunker [youtube.com]

      TL;DW, a good first test (not only, just first) for whether a conspiracy theory might be true is "if true would this theory have a negative effect on rich people?"

      You don't see rich people campaigning against chemtrails even though they breath the same air we do, so you can be pretty sure chemtrails aren't real.

      Here is a theory that if true would have a negative impact on rich people (at least to the extent that you regard being alive in a simulation as a negative) and
  • Must be nice .. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:04AM (#53024067)

    to have so much money that you're completely and utterly disconnected from reality. Idiots.

    • The wealthy always indulge themselves in expensive crackpotism, be it mediums, shamans, monkey glands, witchcraft, Tulip bulbs, south sea bubbles, crime etc. Basically they are both bored and suffering from a surfeit of self importance that enables them to search for bollocks and to declare it to be the "answer". This sort of nonsense used to be the hobby of royalty so it is at least encouraging that there is enough wealth around for business people to be exhibiting the same fashionable behavior. It is also

      • Re:Must be nice .. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <.gameboyrmh. .at. .gmail.com.> on Thursday October 06, 2016 @11:38AM (#53024925) Journal

        On the quiet it is not unlikely that the wealthy are also investing in genetic research, head transplants and other medical life extension investigations that are not at all crackpot, just mainly unsavory. But we will not be told about them of course.

        Information still leaks out...like the rumors that Peter Thiel is getting blood transfusions from young people. There may be some merit to such a procedure. Other than that, there's cryogenic corpse-freezing (which the rich are quite interested in) and then just the various crackpot stuff.

  • Kill yourself (Score:4, Interesting)

    by The-Ixian ( 168184 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:04AM (#53024069)

    If you are jacked in, perhaps that is the "veil" that is commonly referenced in religious texts... as in, we come from the after-life and we return to the after-life once our trials are done here.

    So, if you just die... you will end the simulation and wake up in reality.

  • by tekrat ( 242117 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:05AM (#53024075) Homepage Journal

    Seriously people. This is reality. Deal with it. Just freaking get over it. Just because the universe doesn't fit into your limited imagination is no reason to suspect that we are in a simulation or that an invisible man in the sky created the world, or that we are reincarnated from aliens chained to a volcano.

    • by PvtVoid ( 1252388 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:08AM (#53024103)

      It's called Gnosticism [wikipedia.org], and it has been around since at least the Second Century.

    • by Troed ( 102527 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:56AM (#53024551) Homepage Journal

      The argument is of course not Musk's, but Nick Boström's:

      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 significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof); (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation. It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor-simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation. A number of other consequences of this result are also discussed.

      http://www.simulation-argument... [simulation-argument.com]

      I cannot find any flaws in the statistics. I thus agree we're _likely_ living in a simulation.

    • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Thursday October 06, 2016 @11:02AM (#53024609) Homepage

      And even beyond that, if we are in some way "in a simulation", we have no reason to think that we will be able to detect it, let alone break free of it. If you actually think about it, for any enclosed simulation, the simulation is reality, and there's no opportunity to see beyond that horizon. If the block in a game of Pong became sentient, it would find itself in a 2D world with no gravity, where the laws of physics include conservation of momentum, no friction, and no energy transfer when object collide. There would be no information in these rules of physics that would allow the Pong block to determine whether these physical laws were artifacts of computer programming or the "real" laws of physics. What's more, even if the Pong block were to assume it was in a simulation, there would be no avenue to investigate what the "real" laws of physics are outside of the simulation. Imagining what the "real" laws of physics were might be interesting, but it couldn't be based on anything empirical.

      I could see a billionaire having a conversation with a scientist or philosopher, and asking if they can think of any way we could even know whether we were in a simulation-- and that may have been what these conversations were really like. But offering them money to research "breaking out" is pretty stupid.

      • by Coisiche ( 2000870 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @11:33AM (#53024875)

        But offering them money to research "breaking out" is pretty stupid.

        They, like too many people, are afflicted by specialsnowflakeitis, the condition that just might bring about the end of the species.

        And they haven't thought it through. If they are in a simulation then all their wealth is simulated and they would have nothing after a hypothetical transfer from the simulation to a higher reality. But I guess their specialsnowflakeitis would see them through wherever they end up.

    • by Nemyst ( 1383049 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @11:07AM (#53024641) Homepage

      Seriously people. This is reality. Deal with it. Just freaking get over it. Just because the universe doesn't fit into your limited imagination is no reason to suspect that we are in a simulation or that an invisible man in the sky created the world, or that we are reincarnated from aliens chained to a volcano.

      Eh, I'd say the actual point is that our universe is indistinguishable from a sufficiently advanced simulation, so "breaking out" of it is pointless. We may as well just appreciate the fact our universe, be it real or not, is relatively stable, systematic and logical. What does it matter if it's a simulation or not, when for us it's all there is?

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      It sounds like one of Dr. Evil's plans to destroy the planet, seeming to forget that he lives on it.

      Seriously, if we "break out" of the simulation, but are that simulation, won't that be bad for us? If the universe.exe crashes what happens, the user reloads from the last save point? Do they even have save points?

  • by Hoi Polloi ( 522990 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:06AM (#53024083) Journal

    Can the next release make these billionaires go broke? Thanks

    • Can the next release make these billionaires go broke? Thanks

      Maybe the reason they are billionaires in the first place is because they used the cheat codes :)

  • by Bomarc ( 306716 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:06AM (#53024085) Homepage
    It will take about one year, and cost only $20 million. Trust me.
  • by Simulant ( 528590 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:10AM (#53024119) Journal

    The Talos Principle is a Portal-like puzzle game in which you try to break out of a computer simulation... or at least break it.

    It has one of the most gratifying video game endings ever, IMO.
  • by Thud457 ( 234763 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:10AM (#53024125) Homepage Journal
    As Charles Fort noted:

    It's steam engines when it's steam engine time

    People use the predominant zeitgeist as a model to understand everything.
    In Victorian times, we had steam engines and the blind watchmaker. In the 1910's everything was electricity this and xyz-rays that. Today it's all digitalizamizated technomolology and iPhones.

    That and these billionaires think their smarts in one realm of knowledge make them experts in everything everywhere all the time.

  • by 0xdeadbeef ( 28836 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:10AM (#53024135) Homepage Journal

    So the kind of people who take Dork Enlightenment [rationalwiki.org] and Roko's Basilisk [rationalwiki.org] seriously now want to create an actual Tower of Babel.

    Can't we just take it down a notch and worry about something reasonable - like the AI apocalypse or being wiped out by aliens?

  • by Sumus Semper Una ( 4203225 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:11AM (#53024139)

    We are all aware that the senses can be deceived, the eyes fooled. But how can we be sure our senses are not being deceived at any particular time, or even all the time? Might I just be a brain in a tank somewhere, tricked all my life into believing in the events of this world by some insane computer? And does my life gain or lose meaning based on my reaction to such solipsism?

    Project PYRRHO, Specimen 46, Vat 7
    Activity Recorded M.Y. 2302.22467
    TERMINATION OF SPECIMEN ADVISED

  • by Improv ( 2467 ) <pgunn01@gmail.com> on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:15AM (#53024177) Homepage Journal

    "Do you have any evidence for any of this?"

    Keep asking that and the whole thing falls apart.

    • Oh they have tons of evidence, just none that someone who isn't already a solipsist would accept.

  • Elon Musk knows! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sgage ( 109086 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:17AM (#53024197)

    "Earlier this year, at Code Conference, Elon Musk said there's "one in billions" chance we're not living in a computer simulation."

    Elon Musk said it, I believe it, and that settles it. (rolls eyes)

  • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <moiraNO@SPAMmodparlor.com> on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:19AM (#53024211)

    The desire for religion must really be genetically programmed if influencial bigwigs like this dream up a new one after the old ones have been debunked.
    Truely amazing.

  • by jsepeta ( 412566 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:20AM (#53024221) Homepage

    then I'm thankful nobody's put me in a room with no door and no toilet. Wait! I'm in a cubicle, so it must be true.

  • by OpenSourced ( 323149 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:22AM (#53024247) Journal

    If we lived in a computer simulation, surely we would have some remaining concept of a Scientist that created the Simulation, and us inside it. The Scientist, who can change the software parameters, and can do absolutely anything in our Universe, and knows everything too, but limits His own powers to observe what we do, and, even if He knows the end result, let us choose our destiny with free will (FreeWill_Parameter = True).

    As no such idea exists anywhere, I guess it's safe to say that we aren't in a simulation.

  • Double standard? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vermonter ( 2683811 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:24AM (#53024269)
    So if you believe in God, the science world think's you're crazy/stupid, but if you believe in a programmer of the universe, it's totally cool and many of them agree. Gotcha.
    • by Translation Error ( 1176675 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:57AM (#53024557)
      Maybe it depends on whether you declare your belief to be the absolute truth 'because' or if you start looking for evidence to support/refute your belief, test hypotheses, and are willing to change your viewpoint on what is discovered.
    • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:58AM (#53024567) Homepage
      Completely missing the point. The actual argument for a simulation doesn't rest on anything remotely like that. The primary argument is that it looks like under the laws of physics, simulations should be possible. It also seems likely that an advanced species would be interested in making simulations of their ancestors and would likely make many such simulations. Thus, if one thinks that society is likely to survive to a very high tech level, one should expect if one is a remotely interesting time period that one is much more likely to be a simulation than the original. There are problems with this argument (and I don't buy it), but it is far more interesting than simply dismissing it as akin to belief in religion or gods. It is unfortunate that you and many others in this thread are simply ridiculing the argument rather than actually addressing it.
  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:24AM (#53024275)

    Many believe that we live in a computer simulation. But it takes a billionaire and his money to ask scientists to help break us out of the simulation.

    Somebody has spent WAY too much time watching The Matrix and has lost their grip on reality.

    But let's take it at face value and presume we are part of a simulation. There would be no way to "break out" of the simulation (whatever that means) because we don't exist outside of it. It would be akin to trying to bring Pac-Man to life in the real world. It's a non-sequitur.

    Never mind the fact that there is zero evidence whatsoever to support the notion that we live in a simulation any more than there is evidence of a divine creator. It's a hypothesis that isn't falsifiable as far as anyone can tell and therefore it is outside the realm of science and firmly in the realm of religion.

    Earlier this year, at Code Conference, Elon Musk said there's "one in billions" chance we're not living in a computer simulation.

    Elon is a smart and talented entrepreneur but he's out of his depth on this one. His argument is basically naive extrapolation run amok combined with an argument by analogy.

  • by shess ( 31691 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:26AM (#53024289) Homepage

    What's your first response to seeing evidence of malware on your system? Reimage the shit out of that thing.

    This is even ignoring the likelihood that the simulation even simulates anything related to the world the hardware is in. I mean, at the end of Tron Legacy the gal gets to come to our world through ... the power of boners? I mean, I can see how the simulation can simulate a real-world person (I mean, his meat body would have died meanwhile), but the real world isn't setup to actualize a simulation, you can't just wish things to happen.

    Or maybe we break out into a cold dark universe where all matter has been converted into computational elements in service of the simulation. Hell, maybe it's running in sound-wave interference in a black hole. That'll be quite fun! Or, again, maybe the enclosing universe has no relationship to our universe, so not only do we have to understand our universe so thoroughly we can break out of it, we have to understand the enclosing universe thoroughly enough to break into it.

    And then, of course, when you come down to it, if you prove that we live in a simulation by breaking out of the simulation, now what you know is that it is possible to simulate a universe detailed enough to be thoroughly believable. So how the hell do you know you broke out of the simulation, as opposed to just running a new scenario in the simulation? If you actually did break out, how do you know that the new level isn't a simulation?

    • by SuuSt ( 151462 )

      how do you know that the new level isn't a simulation

      As I understand it, that's the logical basis for "the universe is almost certainly a simulation". The idea being that a sufficiently advanced society will at some point want to, and have the ability to, simulate a universe (or at least simulate it to the satisfaction of the people being simulated). As technology within that society progresses they will improve the simulated universe to the degree that the simulated universe can, as societies are wont to do, simulate a universe. Also, there's no reason t

  • Why break out? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by garyok ( 218493 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:28AM (#53024307)
    The smart move is to try and figure out how to access the admin console and object browser. Then, instead of 'escaping' to a reality you're not equipped to survive, you can make this shit show into your own personal paradise.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The smart move is to try and figure out how to access the admin console and object browser. Then, instead of 'escaping' to a reality you're not equipped to survive, you can make this shit show into your own personal paradise.

      You are talking about billionaires, they already did that. That is how they know we are in a simulation.

  • by yodleboy ( 982200 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:40AM (#53024411)
    So which one of you people is really Dwayne Dibbley?
  • by AndyKron ( 937105 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @12:35PM (#53025483)
    What would they do once they "broke out"?

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