Simulated reality, the idea that reality could be simulated, is
a computer-simulated environment in some instances, indistinguishable
from 'true' reality.
The "Simulation Hypothesis" claims we actually are living
in such a simulation. It claims that our conscious minds may or
may not know that they are inside a simulation.
This is different from the current, technologically achievable
concept of virtual reality.
Virtual reality is easily distinguished from the experience of 'true'
reality; participants are never in doubt about the nature of what
Simulated reality, by contrast, would be hard or impossible to
distinguish from 'true' reality.
The idea of a simulated reality raises several questions:
- Is it possible, even in principle, to tell whether we are in
a simulated reality?
- Is there any difference between a simulated reality and a 'real'
- How should we behave if we knew that we were living in a simulated
Types of Simulation
In a brain-computer interface simulation, each participant enters
from outside, directly connecting their brain to the simulation
The computer transfers sensory data to them and reads their desires
and actions back.
In this way, participants interact with the simulated world and
receive feedback from it.
The participant may even receive adjustment in order to temporarily
forget that they are inside a virtual realm ("passing through
While inside the simulation, the participant's consciousness is
represented by an avatar, which could look very different from the
participant's actual appearance.
In a virtual-people simulation, every inhabitant is a native of
the simulated world.
Inhabitants do not have a 'real' body in the 'outside' reality,
rather, each is a fully simulated entity, possessing an appropriate
level of consciousness that is implemented using the simulation's
own logic (i.e. using its own physics).
Virtual people can be downloaded from one simulation to another,
or even archived and resurrected at a later date. It is also possible
that a simulated entity could be moved out of the simulation entirely
by means of mind transfer into a synthetic body. For example, when
SID 6.7 escapes his simulated reality in the movie Virtuosity.
This category subdivides into two further types:
- Virtual people-virtual world - an external reality is simulated
separately to the artificial consciousnesses;
- Solipsistic simulation - consciousness is simulated and
the "world" participants perceive exists only within
In an emigration simulation, the participant enters the simulation
from the outer reality, as in the brain-computer interface simulation,
but to a much greater degree.
On entry, the participant uses mind transfer to temporarily relocate
their mental processing into a virtual-person.
After the simulation is over, the participant's mind is transferred
back into their outer-reality body, along with all new memories
and experience gained within.
An intermingled simulation supports both types of consciousness:
players from the outer reality who are visiting (as a brain-computer
interface simulation) or emigrating, and virtual-people who are
natives of the simulation and hence lack any physical body in the
The Matrix movies feature an intermingled type of simulation: they
contain not only human minds (with their physical brains remaining
outside), but also the 'agents', who are sovereign software programs
indigenous to the computed realm.
The Social Aspects Of Simulation
It is possible that a civilization could create a computer simulation
which contains individuals with artificial intelligence.
Some claim that intelligent races will never reach a level of
technology where they can run simulations of reality so detailed
they can be mistaken for reality; or
races who do reach such a level do not tend to run such simulations;
we are almost certainly living in such a simulation.
Others argue the premise that given sufficiently advanced technology,
it is possible to simulate entire inhabited planets or even larger
habitats or even entire universes as quantum simulations in time/space
pockets, including all the people on them, on a computer, and that
simulated people can be fully conscious, and are as much persons
as non-simulated people.
If we then assume that the human race could reach such a technological
level without destroying themselves in the process , it would also
be assumed there would be no legal or moral strictures on running
However, recent observations suggesting an accelerating universe
mean that the Big Crunch, on which the theory was originally predicated,
is now thought an unlikely scenario.
NEXT: Mixed Reality
Back To Top