Few days ago, at a tech conference in California, the great visionary Elon Musk made quite a statement in response to an interesting philosophical question from the audience about our civilization living in a simulation. Musk’s key conclusion to the response was that “There is only a ‘one in billions’ chance that we’re not living in a computer simulation”.
What? Really? How the heck did he get to this point?
The facts: Musk’s statement on the simulation and in which context.
To understand his logical argument in support of this statement, you should view this 3m49s video: http://www.independent.co.uk/…/elon-musk-ai-artificial-inte…
The simplified schema of Musk’s reasoning is the following: since we have been making substantial improvements in technology (and especially in video-games) in the last 40 years, at this rate (or even at a 1000-times slower rate) we will be able to reach relatively soon advances in such technologies which will not allow to distinguish anymore between reality and virtual (or digital) reality. Hence, it is much more likely that we are already living in this future and in one of these virtual realities, implying also that someone “got there before us”. If that is not the case, it is more likely that our civilization will cease to exist (because it is very improbable that we will not progress to that stage of digital simulations). [Apologies for the over-simplification of his argument, but it is for the sake of analysis, on the hope I have not removed any key element from the logic.]
Now, since at the minute 2m32s Musk asks “Tell me what is wrong with that argument”, I will give it a quick logical shot below. [I do it just for the fun of it, given the innate passion I have for the field of ‘future studies’ and for the appreciation I have for Musk’s numerous thought provocations in the fields of Artificial Intelligence and Simulation. I am sure Mr. Musk knows his statement was subject to lots of logical attacks, anyway. 😉 ]
One logicical argument to prove Elon Musk wrong.
While I do not argue much on the incredible rate of progress in video games and virtual realities development in the last 40 years, nor on the rate that will keep up or even increase in the future, my challenge to the tech-visionary is the following. Would this argument be right (i.e., we would most likely be already in a big simulation game, being just a set of complex pixels to watch and electric inputs to perceive) how can we be certain that progress has brought to us advanced video-games in a matter of 40 years (or that brought us any other technological advance as such rates we declare to know)? Were these really 40 years, or 4000 or 4 minutes? Would time even have any sense in a simulation of a system that can probably be restarted periodically if the results are not as expected by the people ‘who run the show’?
Hence, since giving a very high probability to the fact that all we are experiencing is in fact a digital artifact, implies the same high probability that anything we experience (including technology rates of progress) is inversely likely to be true. So, if we are indeed in a big simulation, most probably that simulation is not happening. Net net, the logical argument is flawed. Tell me what is wrong with *this* argument, Mr. Musk. 😉
Obviously there can be multiple perspective to take to evaluate the robustness of this bold statement by Mr. Musk… but since he asked, I gave him one perspective that might make him think again about banning this fascinating topic from his hot-tub conversations with his brother. (Sorry, was getting bored on this Saturday morning).
Happy to hear any one of you that has something to add to (or subtract from) the argument.