Elon Musk is the founder of Space X and Tesla Motors. He is arguably one of the greatest minds in our lifetime, leading the way for renewable energy and even interplanetary travel. Shockingly, he also believes there is a chance that our universe is nothing more than a complex simulation. Like a videogame.
As crazy as this idea may sound it is grounded in real world principles. Musk believes that as humanity continues to advance it will eventually reach one of three conclusions. The first: humanity will destroy itself, whether through a technological calamity such as nuclear weapons or environmental change. The second: people will eventually leave Earth. Resources are finite, and sooner or later humanity will need to colonize other planets. And the last conclusion? We’re in the aforementioned simulation.
The theory that we are living in a simulation can be elaborated with Moore’s Law, which states that the number of transistors we can fit on a single integrated circuit will double every eighteen months. The underlying technology, therefore, will continue to advance at an exponential rate.
Musk mentions that video games started as 2 paddles and a dot darting back and forth across the screen, and have advanced far enough that we have virtual reality games that get better every year. It’s reasonable to think that one day real images and images rendered by a computer will be indistinguishable from one another. In other words, one day we’ll inevitably create a virtual reality indistinguishable from the real world.
Musk believes humanity may come to a point where the only solution to sustaining life is by simulating it. In the same way you would back up a computer, we might back up human consciousness. If an inevitable world-ending disaster were to present itself and, if humanity has the technology to simulate life, then the logical conclusion is to do so. So what does this future look like? Are we in a giant computer floating out in space? The short answer is simple: no one really knows.
You may conclude the probability of this happening is almost non-existent, right? Well, most people would agree. Musk himself said it’s one in billions of unique outcomes. That doesn’t change the reality that in the distant future humanity will have to make decisions about our place in the universe. What that looks like will be up to future generations.