Can we create a new reality?

Humans have been around for hundreds of thousands of years and throughout our existence, one question has stood the test of time - why on earth are we here?  As time's gone on, each society has taken a crack at it - from the Greeks to the Victorians to kids at school daydreaming their way through maths. But recently, as we move towards a technological future, a new group has surfaced bringing forward the idea that we're being simulated. This theory's gaining momentum with big names such as Elon Musk even going so far as to send people out to prove it. But what realistically are the chances of them actually being right?

An important thing to note is that you wouldn't need to simulate the entire universe to create a convincing reality, only what the people inside can see to fool them. It's probably impossible to recreate the trillions upon trillions upon trillions of galaxies, stars and planets that we can see so maybe the best simulation would only have to project a convincing image for us to believe they are real. 

The chair you're sitting on may contain nothing but empty space until you cut it open, after all, what’s the point of simulating the whole chair if you have the option to do otherwise - the people inside only need to believe that they are real. This would mean that more power could be directed towards more important areas such as simulating your consciousness.

This is probably the biggest task for creating a simulation due to the sheer computing power you would need. The fastest computer we currently have is in the US and it can do the equivalent of 2 quintillion operations per second which is insane (your computer at home can maybe do about half a billionth of that). Even that doesn't even come close to the sort of power we would need.

The human brain does about 10 quintillion operations per second and we're talking about simulating the whole of the human race so, at the moment, we're barely scratching the surface of the sort of power that we would need. A computer like that could well be the size of countries or even planets which is moving away from science and towards science fiction. 

However, what if the past never really happened, only the present? I've been watching Westworld recently which is set in a theme park of the far future - a simulation of the wild west. The people that you meet in there are all robots who have their memories pre-placed in their head. The same day repeats over and over again but they don't realize as they are reset on a daily basis. 

They have memories of past experiences that never really happened, those memories have been given to them. This hurts my head - maybe yesterday didn't really happen, we have just been told it did, and the only day we will ever live is today. This simulation is more grounded in the bounds of reality as only simulating one day is much more manageable. 

A society with the sort of technology to create such a simulation would be so advanced they would seem almost like gods to us. How do we know what these people want? Would they even want to simulate us?

Imagine for a second that you’re playing football and you see a fly buzzing around watching you – it wonders what you are doing. You can try and explain to the fly what football is and why we play it but the fly will never understand. The concept of goals or offside makes no sense to a fly no matter how hard it tries to understand. In the eyes of an advanced civilisation, we would seem like flies. We can try as hard as we like to comprehend what these people would do with their lives but the chances are that we will never get it right. A simulation interests us, but it may not interest more advanced societies.

In the end, this all depends on whether the technology of this level is possible but with the rate that it's currently progressing, the power to create a new reality could soon be in our grasp. The only question is that whether it's already been done before us and we are the result.

Written by Ben Marrett

Want to read more from RLR Distribution? Check out the "What will happen when the world ends?" post