Neil DeGrasse Tyson Thinks There's a "Very High" Chance We're Living in the Matrix

Friday, 22 April 2016 - 10:05AM
Virtual Reality
Friday, 22 April 2016 - 10:05AM
Neil DeGrasse Tyson Thinks There's a "Very High" Chance We're Living in the Matrix
Could our entire universe be nothing more than a simulation? That's the subject of this fascinating panel at the 2016 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate, in which physicists, philosophers, and our friendly neighborhood astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson discuss the likelihood that we're living in the Matrix.



The simulation hypothesis began as a philosophical thought experiment (and a premise for science fiction movies), but in recent years many scientists have been treating it as a serious question. And while there's no reason to think it's impossible, the primary issue with trying to apply the scientific method to such a hypothesis is that it's likely unfalsifiable. As David Chalmers, chair of philosophy at New York University, says in the above video:

Opening quote
"You're certainly not going to get conclusive proof that you're not in a simulation. Because any evidence we ever get could be simulated."
Closing quote

There are many theories that the universe is, at its core, computational, and that we could theoretically have the computing power to simulate a universe. But even if scientists were to prove that, there would probably be no way of knowing whether our universe is, in fact, simulated by another entity. As a result, it's somewhat difficult for scientists to even approach the question, as it's essentially a "naturalistic version of the God hypothesis."

So it's no surprise that most of the panelists think that the chances of a Matrix-type situation are very low--physicist Lisa Randall went so far as to say the likelihood was "effectively zero," while Chambers facetiously and hilariously answered "Forty-two percent"--but Tyson disagrees. He believes that "the likelihood may be very high," and justifies that opinion with a thought experiment. He says that while we assume intelligent beings other than ourselves would also view us as intelligent, it's more likely that advanced extraterrestrials would be many orders smarter than us. He's already gone on record saying that aliens probably haven't contacted us because they think we're too stupid, and now he asserts that if aliens were as many orders of magnitude smarter than us as we are compared to chimpanzees (who share approximately 99% of our DNA), then it's easy to imagine that they could have created our entire universe as a high-stakes video game.
Opening quote
"What would we look like to them? We would be drooling, blithering idiots in their presence. And if that's the case, it is easy for me to imagine that everything in our lives is just the creation of some other entity for their entertainment," Tyson says. "I'm saying, the day we learn that it is true, I will be the only one in the room saying, I'm not surprised."
Closing quote
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