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How to test if we’re living in a computer simulation

How to test if we’re living in a computer simulation

Physicist Seth Lloyd explains the supporting evidence and ways of testing whether the universe is a computer simulation

We've been long wondering if we're the only planet with life forms, or if our universe is just one massive simulation controlled by a higher being.

Elon Musk himself has asserted: 'We're most likely in a simulation.'

Over decades, scientists have communicated through theory, research and observation that we may be living in a simulation.

One physicist Seth Lloyd from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US explains that there are a few ways to test the simulation hypothesis.

This idea is called information physics, which suggests that space-time and matter are not the only forces at play in our universe.

Yuichiro Chino / EThamPhoto / Getty
Yuichiro Chino / EThamPhoto / Getty

Instead, our physical reality is made up of bits of information from which 'our experience of space-time emerges.'

Think of it like temperature being controlled by a collective group of atoms, rather than individual.

Lloyd states if we're living in a simulation, there would be lots of tiny information everywhere - like new pieces of code.

A new idea called the mass-energy-information (M/E/I) equivalence principle says that information bits should have a small mass. This led Lloyd wanting to conduct an experiment where he could remove the information within basic particles and their anti-counterparts and make them disappear in a burst of energy - creating light (photons) in the process.

Lloyd said that he's predicted the specific frequencies of the photons based on their information - and is currently trying to raise fund for the experiment through crowd funding.

One of the most supportive pieces of evidence supporting the simulation hypothesis can be derived from quantum mechanics. This type of science explores that particles don't actually exist unless you observe them first hand and is known as the observer effect.

For example, if you didn't see something happen, did it really happen?

Scientists tie this theory with virtual reality - where an observer or programmer is needed for things to occur.

Yuichiro Chino / EThamPhoto / Getty
Yuichiro Chino / EThamPhoto / Getty

Another aspect that challenges our understanding of reality is the set maximum for forces, such as the speed of light. If a limit has been set, a higher being or simulation programmer must have done so. Lloyd explained that if limits are exceeded, it leads to slowdowns - as seen in virtual reality.

Checking for errors is another way to see if we're in a simulation. Forces of nature can randomly change, leading to contradictory results and anomalies. Late physicist, John Barrow, believes that in a simulation, 'minor computational errors' would result in the programmer needing to fix them.

The simulation hypothesis is not a recent idea. In 1989, John Wheeler, theorised that the universe is 'fundamentally mathematical' and it can be seen when information is formed.

And he's not the only one. In 2003, philosopher Nick Bostrom from Oxford University formulated his simulation hypothesis.

All in all, if we are in fact living in a simulation, there's not much we can do about it. One Reddit user responds to the hypothesis stating that 'this reality of being a simulation doesn't take away any of the "realness" of what we experience.'

Featured Image Credit: Yuichiro Chino / EThamPhoto / Getty