This is Just a Simulation

Screenshot from The Sims

Are we in a simulation? What some may perceive as a trope used in science fiction is a serious topic for some researchers. Bostrom’s 2003 paper on simulation theory postulates that if humanity continues on our currently trend of increasing technological development, we will reach a state where we could eventually be able to, at least partially, simulate the reality we currently live in. We could also invent said technology, but choose not to pursue simulating a world like ours, or we could simply go extinct. If the technology is feasible and extinction is avoidable, how would we know if we are already in a simulation that others have built?

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Doubt is often given a negative connotation. Doubting ourselves or our abilities can hinder the potential of what we are capable of doing. But doubt is also important, if not pivotal, in learning more about our world and in seeking new ideas in science. Without doubt, we would never challenge that which is established in order to discover new possibilities. Doubt is the keystone of progress in science and it is also the antithesis of faith.

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The crafters of the Declaration of Independence for the United States believed that all men had certain unalienable rights, that of “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Happiness is something that may not be unique to humanity, for as far as we can understand empirically, it seems that animals experience similar emotions of happiness and sadness. Nevertheless, humans are unique in that we have built a social construct around happiness and we can synthesize happiness no matter what our present situation.

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One of the great unanswered questions in physics is that of how we progress through time. When we talk about space, our location in this physical reality, we can travel in any direction. An astronaut or cosmonaut in an orbiting ship or station can move in any combination of six directions in our three dimensional universe. But when it comes to the fourth dimension, time, we can only move at a constant rate and in one direction: forward. If we travel fast enough, we can slow down our progression through time, but only relative to others who are not traveling at the same speed. We can not move in the opposite direction. It’s a principal physicists agree upon, but we still don’t fully understand why this is so.

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