We’re all down with asking what if we’re living in a video game without realizing, and “I think therefore I am” and shit, but there’s actually quite a good argument for it. The Swedish Philosopher Nick Bostrom has this thing called “the Simulation Argument”, and it’s actually sort of compelling. All right, so let’s imagine life is a pretty common phenomenon in the universe because, c’mon, it probably is; stuff has been around for at least 13 billion years. Even if life is relatively rare, that’s a lot of time to do something rare a few times over at least. Then, let’s imagine some of those civilizations are technological, And sometimes they get to this thing called being post-human (or post wookie) where they’ve got these insanely fast computers that can run consciousness on them. So, they might run these things called “ancestor simulations” where they model their ancestors on a computer and run it, and if you were in one of these programs, the simulation will be so convincing, you just wouldn’t know the difference between the real world and the simulation. So, one of these statements has to be true, according to Nick Bostrom: 1) Hardly any civilizations actually get to a post-human level. Maybe, they blow themselves up first or discover tvtropes.com or something. 2) They DO get to a post human level, but they don’t give a crap about running ancestor simulations. Fair enough. Or 3) They DO run ancestor simulations, and that means we’re probably living in one. Here’s why: if you had that much computing power, you could run millions of these simulations, maybe varying each one to see what would happen. So, there might only be a few million civilizations in the Galaxy, But if 1% of them are doing the ancestor simulation thing, that means there could be billions of ancestor simulations running right now, and that means potentially trillions of people living inside of them. So, it’s far more likely you’re living in an ancestor simulation than the actual universe. Yeah, but why would you run a simulation of people in 2013? Well, if you ran it any later we might have the technology to start building our own ancestor simulations. Creating a sort of stacking effect where you’ve got simulations inside the simulations like a fucking Russian doll FROM HELL. …and that would just be plain confusing. What’s kind of interesting is that even for these post-human gods running our simulation, they must have thought about this, too and concluded that they could be living in a simulation. And maybe whoever’s running theirs have thought about it up-and-up. Never really reaching a point where you could be absolutely sure this was real reality. I mean That’s just never going away is it? However many levels up in the simulation chain you are, you’re always going to get some douchebag philosopher ruining it for everyone. What little we do know about whoever is running the simulation is a bit sinister, really. They certainly don’t seem to mind not stopping death in large numbers or suffering or political tyranny or terrible music, so they’re certainly not all benevolent and flower-power. And that’s concerning on a number of levels, unless it’s just you in the simulation and everyone’s an extra. But that’s just plain horrible to think about. So… what now? Nick Bostrom says that maybe we should take note of this and act accordingly. Like, if we [?] as a species, maybe whoever’s running it will just get bored and turn it off. There’s no reason to suspect their super moral or not super moral I mean, we’re pretty smart and still basically just territorial apes with nuclear warheads, so… intelligence doesn’t seem to correlate with the lack of interest in violence. So maybe they’re just doing it for fun. Or if computers are powerful enough, maybe we could all just be sat on some kids PC just one tab over from some feature incarnation of YouPorn and BBC news Is there any way, then, that we would know we’re in a simulation? – actual evidence… Maybe. If reality on a subatomic level turns out to be suspiciously computational looking, that might be a clue. Maybe we should modify our search for a Theory of Everything in Physics accordingly, or there might be glitches, but that seems kind of unlikely given that whoever’s doing this must be pretty tech savvy by now. Besides, they could just [?] your memory if there’s screw-ups anyway, so there’s no reason you know about it. In case You’re watching this, Computer Overlords… I’m sorry about all the war and Robert Mugabe and the Twilight Saga and everything… but we’ve been to the moon now! And you can order pizza over the internet, so we’re not doing too badly. All in all, the moral of the story, then, is live a reasonably interesting life – ride a unicycle, learn crochet, write a book or something – so you don’t all get us turned off!