Imagine the universe is a simulation
What if Neil deGrasse Tyson is right? It would be such a relief to know that one could just press the reset button, and a serendipitous marriage of dream and wishful thinking would give birth to a new past, at least a new 2016, which was marked by terrible events and human sufferings.
Imagine waking up one morning and realizing all the wars, deaths, financial and economic crises, epidemics and environmental degradations were just bad dreams. Let your imagination run wild and just for a moment think the horrifying stories we read in newspapers and magazines, watched on TV channels and discussed on social
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media were just simulated scenarios — the handiwork of helpless souls mortgaged to Mephistopheles.
We can also imagine there is no civil war in Syria and thousands of people have not lost their lives in that country, and the European Union does not face a refugee crisis.
Recognition is a “change from ignorance to knowledge”, as Aristotle said, but in these times when the more information and knowledge we gather the greater pain we feel, ignorance seems bliss and hence the appeal of a simulation theory.
And simulation was the theme of the 2016 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate at the American Museum of Natural History in April. To be precise, the theme was, what if “the universe as we know it is actually a simulation”. The panelists comprised theoretical physicists, cosmologists and a professor of philosophy from leading universities in the United States, and the debate was hosted by Tyson, a leading cosmologist and astrophysicist.
With such panelists, one expected the simulation theory to be trashed. Lisa Randall, a theoretical physicist at Harvard, did say that the odds of the universe being “real” are so low as to be “effectively zero”, but however satisfying that may sound, not all scientists seem to agree, with most physicists and philosophers saying it is not possible to definitively prove that we don’t live in a simulation and that the universe is not unreal.
Tyson, in fact, says the likelihood of the universe being a simulation “may be very high”.
And he wouldn’t be surprised, he says, if we were to find out one day that “someone else” is responsible for our universe.
By using a thought experiment to imagine a life form that is as “smarter than us as we are than dogs … or other terrestrial mammals”, Tyson asks: “What would we look like to them? And then answers: “We would be drooling, blithering idiots in their presence.”
Looking at what we have done to our world today, Tyson seems right. That’s why his simulation hypothesis appeals so much. And that’s why it is comforting to believe the universe is a simulation which can be reset to allow the world to forget that the Brexit vote was real or that the US presidential election did take place.
But since that is not the case, we can only hope that world leaders don’t turn our world into a more terrible place at the end of 2017.
step of transferring 22 babies from intensive care to a new children’s wing to provide them with better neonatal care. The children were born with birth defects.
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