Podcast 29: The Simulation Hypothesis


What would you say if I told you that everything you see, everything you taste, touch, and do, it’s all an illusion? Would you say I’d seen The Matrix a few too many times? Well, this seems to be an affliction affecting some prominent physicists and philosophers these days.

Turns out there’s actual scientific evidence for the idea that we are all living in a carefully crafted simulation. Are we in fact merely sprites in a video game played by some disaffected teenager sitting on a cosmic bed in some “greater” reality?

The Simulation Hypothesis is a documentary offering a brief overview of the theories and science behind this notion. It’s not all as implausible as it sounds.

Witness Neil DeGrasse Tyson incredulously grilling Dr. James Gates Jr. on his opinion that actual, apparently human-designed computer code has been found at the foundational level of reality. Witness top scientists discovering that we appear to be holographic projections in an information-based universe. Witness the delayed choice quantum eraser experiment – which, amazingly, seems to definitively show that reality doesn’t render unless someone’s actually perceiving it.

It’s the age-old question about the tree and the forest, but its implications are far deeper and far scarier than ancient philosophers ever suspected.


The movie is slick, well-made, occasionally threatening to go over the event horizon into woo-woo new age territory. However, it does bring up some fascinating points, and nothing it says appears to be actually, factually wrong.

Our main objection is the way it makes definitive statements about things which are anything but definitive. Stuff like, “this ONLY makes sense if we live in a simulation.” Clearly, no one on this earth knows enough about the nature of the universe to be able to legitimately make statements like that. Clearly, with a little imagination, we could come up with some other possibilities, other hypotheses that might explain what we see in these experiments.

And then there’s the question of semantics. Just because reality appears to “exist” in a state of probability until it is observed, doesn’t mean we live in a simulation. This could simply be the nature of reality.

So the movie… we both gave it a reluctant 4 out of 5. The film could have been more substantial, less dogmatic, and less What the Bleep Do We Know-slick. On the other hand it offers an excellent introduction to this subject, and the ideas it raises will keep you wide awake in the middle of the night.


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