A Short Guide To Bostrom’s Argument About Simulation

“Are You Living In A Computer Simulation?” is an extremely interesting article which is published in Philosophical Quarterly by Oxford Professor Nick Bostrom in 2003. The author, Professor Bostrom claimed that we are likely living in simulated world. Bostrom’s argument in a non-technical fashion is shown here basing on the philosophical implications.


A bold claim to be sure, but not so outrageous as it might first appear. Our technology is expanding at an exponential rate. We are now able to run extremely complex simulations of things like weather, traffic, and even the human body. Some scientists predict that we will have the computing power to completely simulate the human brain in the next 20 – 50 years.


With that in mind, consider Professors Bostrom’s premise that one of the following must be true:


Most civilizations die out before they become technologically advanced.
Civilizations that are able to run universe simulations don’t having any interest in doing so.
We’re probably living in a computer simulation.

To understand his argument, assume that the first proposition is false, and a large percentage of civilizations become technologically advanced enough to run a universe simulation. If number two is also false — that some or most advanced civilization actually do want to run simulated minds — then that means there are simulated humans, and the number of simulations will far outnumber the “real” human population. (See the article for a more thorough explanation of the math).


Strangely, even if we are living in a simulated world, nothing really changed. To our minds, everything is real. We can’t step out of our simulated world as in the movie The Matrix. In fact, it may be the case that whoever is running the simulation of our universe is living in a simulated universe themselves!


The philosophical ramifications of the Simulated Universe Theory are vast and complex. To learn more about this fascinating theory, visit professor Bomstrom’s website.


Heike Ziegler

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