Ayah Orynbay
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Are You Living in a Simulation?

— Ayah Orynbay

In 2003, Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom introduced his “simulation theory,” questioning if our universe is an artificial simulated reality. Bostrom’s theory envisions a future where an advanced posthuman civilization replicates and uploads thousands of conscious human minds to a realistic artificial environment—one that our brains aren’t aware of—for various purposes, including analyzing disaster scenarios, replaying the past, and even just for entertainment. 

Bostrom presents three alternative futures to examine the feasibility of his theory. The first future states that humankind won’t reach a posthuman stage before going extinct from a global disaster. The second option is that we do reach a posthuman stage, but nobody wants to run an ancestor simulation due to morals or lack of interest. The third scenario is where we become posthuman and choose to run the ancestor simulations. Bostrom argues if the final scenario is correct, then there is a slim chance we are living in “base reality” (the real world). Many notable people, including Neil deGrasse Tyson and Elon Musk, subscribe to this theory, with Musk stating that “the chance we’re living in base reality is one in billions.” Some hypothesize that the speed of light could be the processor speed of the hardware for our simulation, since it mirrors the confines of computer processor speeds. The finite speed of light parallels the idea that there might be fundamental constraints on the rate at which data can be processed within a simulated universe.

On the other hand, many people, including physicist Sabine Hossenfelder, have stated that the theory isn’t even scientific to begin with, since we can’t prove or disprove it. She explains how believing in the theory requires faith, which mixes science with religion and “teleports us back to the age of mythology.” Not to mention the complex physics we couldn’t even begin to imagine translating into code. Physicist and mathematician Frank Wilczek agrees with the argument that the universe is too complex to simulate, and questions why, if we are in a simulation, none of us have seen a glitch yet. Since we currently cannot prove or disprove this hypothesis, perhaps we should just focus on enjoying life for now, whether it’s all pixels or not!


Ashcroft, R. (2022, September 18). Nick Bostrom’s simulation theory: We could be living inside the Matrix. The Collector. https://www.thecollector.com/nick-bostrom-simulation-theory/ 

Hossenfelder, S. (2017, March 15). No, we probably don’t live in a computer simulation. Backreaction. http://backreaction.blogspot.com/2017/03/no-we-probably-dont-live-in-computer.html 

Khan, F. (2021a, April 1). Confirmed! we live in a simulation. Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/confirmed-we-live-in-a-simulation/ 

McCormick, R. (2016, June 2). Odds are we’re living in a simulation, says Elon Musk. The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/2016/6/2/11837874/elon-musk-says-odds-living-in-simulation 

Wilcek, F. (2020, January 9). Are we living in a simulated world?. The Wall Street Journal. https://www.wsj.com/articles/are-we-living-in-a-simulated-world-11578581268