Hey Bill Nye! Is "We Are Living in a Computer Simulation" a Testable Hypothesis?
When we asked Bill Nye the Science Guy if he thinks we are living in a computer-generated simulation, he turned to some basic scientific principles to justify his answer.
Bill Nye, scientist, engineer, comedian, author, and inventor, is a man with a mission: to help foster a scientifically literate society, to help people everywhere understand and appreciate the science that makes our world work. Making science entertaining and accessible is something Bill has been doing most of his life.
In Seattle Nye began to combine his love of science with his flair for comedy, when he won the Steve Martin look-alike contest and developed dual careers as an engineer by day and a stand-up comic by night. Nye then quit his day engineering day job and made the transition to a night job as a comedy writer and performer on Seattle’s home-grown ensemble comedy show “Almost Live.” This is where “Bill Nye the Science Guy®” was born. The show appeared before Saturday Night Live and later on Comedy Central, originating at KING-TV, Seattle’s NBC affiliate.
While working on the Science Guy show, Nye won seven national Emmy Awards for writing, performing, and producing. The show won 18 Emmys in five years. In between creating the shows, he wrote five children’s books about science, including his latest title, “Bill Nye’s Great Big Book of Tiny Germs.”
Nye is the host of three currently-running television series. “The 100 Greatest Discoveries” airs on the Science Channel. “The Eyes of Nye” airs on PBS stations across the country.
Bill’s latest project is hosting a show on Planet Green called “Stuff Happens.” It’s about environmentally responsible choices that consumers can make as they go about their day and their shopping. Also, you’ll see Nye in his good-natured rivalry with his neighbor Ed Begley. They compete to see who can save the most energy and produce the smallest carbon footprint. Nye has 4,000 watts of solar power and a solar-boosted hot water system. There’s also the low water use garden and underground watering system. It’s fun for him; he’s an engineer with an energy conservation hobby.
Nye is currently the Executive Director of The Planetary Society, the world’s largest space interest organization.
Bill Nye: So are we living in a videogame? Are we actually part of a giant simulation? I don’t think you can know. I think you can argue that whoever has written the simulation, whatever super entity has written the simulation could make it so sophisticated that even your memories are a result of this being programmed by the simulator or simulatrix. So the question is at some level irrelevant but another level I think we would have to agree it’s unknowable. You can just presume any level of sophistication that makes it undetectable to us. With that said there have been a lot of science fiction stories where people discover that they’re living in a dome or inside a hollow world or underground and the metaphors for this are from our everyday experience. You hear about kids who have been kidnapped and kept in a room until they’re 14 and they know nothing of the world outside. And the human mind apparently at some level is uncapable of detecting that outside world unless something goes wrong. For me as a philosopher to prove that we’re living in a videogame is an extraordinary level of effort. But if you can do it bring it on. But it seems to me it’s a hard question to resolve because it’s easy to imagine a game designer, a simulation designer making it so sophisticated that you can’t tell. Good luck out there.
Are we living in a holographic simulation created by a supercomputer beyond our comprehension? That question occurs again and again in science fiction, perhaps most notably in The Matrix, a film in which unreality is so pristine that no one notices the truth. That we are all actually, truly living in such a matrix seems laughable until you consider the advances made by video games in the last few decades.
Not long ago, all we had was pong: two rectangles and a circle. Today we have virtual reality consoles which are edging toward an experience indistinguishable from reality, or at least what we think of as reality. Elon Musk, Tesla and SpaceX cofounder, was recently asked this question: Is it possible that the world as we know it is just a simulation made by someone else?
His response is perhaps startling, saying that the chances of this reality being a "base" reality are "one in billions." To make matters even more confusing, humans are increasingly turning to virtual reality devices to escape this "reality." Thorsten Wiedemann, for example, spent forty-eight hours wearing his Oculus Rift device, proving it is possible to live within a virtual reality at least for a short time.
When we asked Bill Nye the Science Guy if he thinks we are living in a computer-generated simulation, he turned to some basic scientific principles to justify his answer. Science ultimately demands testable, repeatable hypotheses to proceed, but how do you test whether we are living in a computer simulation or not? There just doesn't seem to be a way.
There is every possibility that this is a hyper-real version of The Sims, and we wouldn’t know. If we had never seen the outside world, there’s no reason we would know it exists, that we’re missing it. So if we as a people had only ever existed in this hyper real video game, we wouldn’t know it was all just a game.
That is why it is "unknowable," according to Bill Nye. If we were in a video game, human minds would not be able to detect the outside world until "something goes wrong," i.e. a glitch in the matrix. Still, Nye wishes luck to anyone wanting to design such an experiment. It might take some time, but perhaps could be done...
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