Could We Tell If Our Universe Is A Simulation

The fact is that our universe IS a simulation, created by our own minds. What we perceive as solid objects are in fact, events in motion. Because we can’t discern motion at an atomic level, we abstract the idea that they are solid. With our minds, we create an illusion that allows us to interact with complex realities that would otherwise be difficult to comprehend.

If our universe is a simulation created by some other intelligence, we should be able to discern that is is such, IF we could perceive it at the “working” level where the illusion is created. However, if the illusion creating mechanism operates below the level of our perception, we may be oblivious to it.

The universe is a complex set of processes, most of which we cannot directly observe. We use the small and relatively simple set of surface level phenomena associated with these processes that we can observe to abstract constructs that are easy to think about. We generally consider those abstractions to be our “reality”. For the purposes of everyday living, these constructs mostly serve us well. But for dealing with the underlying levels of the processes of the universe, they are often incomplete or even incorrect. To adjust for these limitations, we use our ever increasing technology to create instruments to observe processes at more detailed levels. This new information allows us to update and improve our abstract constructs.

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

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What may have started as a science fiction speculation—that perhaps the universe as we know it is a computer simulation—has become a serious line of theoretical and experimental investigation among physicists, astrophysicists, and philosophers.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, hosts and moderates a panel of experts in a lively discussion about the merits and shortcomings of this provocative and revolutionary idea. The 17th annual Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate took place at The American Museum of Natural History on April 5, 2016.

2016 Asimov Panelists:

David Chalmers
Professor of philosophy, New York University

Zohreh Davoudi
Theoretical physicist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

James Gates
Theoretical physicist, University of Maryland

Lisa Randall
Theoretical physicist, Harvard University

Max Tegmark
Cosmologist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The late Dr. Isaac Asimov, one of the most prolific and influential authors of our time, was a dear friend and supporter of the American Museum of Natural History. In his memory, the Hayden Planetarium is honored to host the annual Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate — generously endowed by relatives, friends, and admirers of Isaac Asimov and his work — bringing the finest minds in the world to the Museum each year to debate pressing questions on the frontier of scientific discovery. Proceeds from ticket sales of the Isaac Asimov Memorial Debates benefit the scientific and educational programs of the Hayden Planetarium.

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