wasting bandwidth since 1999

Living Inside The Sims

In the final scene of the movie Men in Black, it’s suggested that our world is nothing more than a marble in the collection of some extraterrestrial kid. Or in the sequel, just one more locker in an intergalactic bus station.

That added a little laugh to close out a great film (well, the first one anyway).

However, according to a philosopher at Oxford, we really could be “living” in The Matrix.

Until I talked to Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford University, it never occurred to me that our universe might be somebody else’s hobby. I hadn’t imagined that the omniscient, omnipotent creator of the heavens and earth could be an advanced version of a guy who spends his weekends building model railroads or overseeing video-game worlds like the Sims.

But now it seems quite possible. In fact, if you accept a pretty reasonable assumption of Dr. Bostrom’s, it is almost a mathematical certainty that we are living in someone else’s computer simulation.

And then what happens if we “simulated inhabitants” start creating our own simulated worlds – say like Second Life?

Adds a whole new definition to the concept of “intelligent design”, doesn’t it?

Reading this is a great way to make your head hurt over breakfast. :-)

simulation, virtual world, intelligent design


  1. Doug Johnson

    Hi Tim,

    I ran across this concept in Ray Kurzweil’s great book The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. He suggests we be as interesting as possible to keep those running the simulation from ending it out of boredom.


  2. Doug Johnson

    Oh, see: Be Nice to Your Sims for more:


  3. Aron Sterling

    You know, this just shows that Vonnegut was correct in Sirens of the Titans. His premise, in case you have never read it, is that all of us and our movements are actually the workings of a giant computer. We do not live inside of it, we actually comprise the digital code.
    In my mind, and based upon my ideas of how multiple realities exist, is a much better guess than the other. The fact that Dr. Bostrom’s idea is just a variant of religious belief, mixed with humanism, does not tread water. The fact that we have so little variation leads one to question why such a “super-human” would do so little. Also, the notion that the most complex such a “super-human” could be is to create something Sim like is so limiting, it is not funny. It is almost like the folks who describe aliens in only human terms…the limit of thinking.
    Yet, I myself would always ask my 6th grade students, “What makes you think I am not just dreaming you all right now, that you are nothing but my imagination?”

  4. The Science Goddess

    It only seems to take a short session of playing The Sims before I start looking at the “real” world in a similar way as the game is set up—where is a diamond above someone’s head? Who has a need they are fulfilling? I usually have to have some time off between Sims sessions—otherwise, everything starts to feel a bit too surreal. I really could believe that I’m just a part of some kid’s marble collection.

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