What is computer simulation theory

We are living in a world where an Android Robot has an Instagram page posting about the machine and human relations. She had even been invited by developed nations to speak and interact. One could wonder what is still not possible in the current world.

Artificial intelligence is one of the biggest discoveries of modern science that has started the centuries-old debate on the human mind, consciousness, and the very basic question, what exactly is life? Video games are quite popular throughout the world in which we play a certain character on the screen going through various adventures.

As the technology is booming, the graphics, detailing in the program keeps on improving and characters inside the screen begin to seem more human than ever before. Elon Musk, like he usually does, created a controversy that we are probably living inside a simulation.

His logic is that, if you assume any rate of improvement at all, games will eventually be indistinguishable from reality. So are we all characters inside someone’s highly advanced computer?

Is there a cosmic overlord simulating us like we simulate Fortnight characters? Let’s understand a few concepts.

Nick Bostrom’s Computer simulation theory

Computer simulation theory was first popularised by Nick Bostrom, a Swedish philosopher with a background in theoretical physics, computational neuroscience, logic, and artificial intelligence. He hypothesized that there is a significant chance that all of humanity reaches a post-human stage where we could run simulations of our ancestors.

The posthuman stage is characterized by the phase where we will reach the level of technological supremacy and will be able to build large-scale supercomputers having enough power and memory to produce simulations of the Earth’s history. To create an artificial mind on the computer, we need very fine detailing of the brain structure up to the level of synapses.

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Basics of Memory Types

A computer has memory in the form of Random Access Memory (RAM) and Read-only Memory (ROM). Bigger RAM is a necessary requirement for the smooth functioning of the computer.

RAM holds the memory of the program being run on the computer and is necessary for the switching between different operations being performed at the same time. As the number of programs increases, we have to increase the RAM.

For a gaming laptop, larger RAM memory is required in comparison to the computer with conventional programs being performed on them. To run a program, we need a lot of operations being performed in an instance and the memory of each operation is stored in the RAM.

Creation of Artificial Mind

For creating an artificial mind in the computer program, we have to perform approximately 10^14 operations per second as per various researches done in the field of the functionality of nervous tissues. There are various alternating figures such as 10^16 to 10^17 operations/second.

Calculations to simulate entire world

There are nearly 8 billion people living currently on the planet. If we can assume from the very first humans to now, approximately 100 billion humans have lived on the earth. Assuming that each human lived 50 years and we know mathematically that there are 31 million seconds each year.

Taking the product of each measurement, we can reach a figure to simulate 100 billion people who have ever lived on Earth, living nearly 50 years of life, and performing 10^14 – 10^17 operations/sec.

We will be required to run a total of 10^33 10^36 operations. Taking in account billions of animals, flora and fauna, this figure will reach even high up to 10^50 operations per second.

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Eric Drexler’s Calculation

Eric Drexler, an American Engineer, has been doing research in Nanotechnology and has calculated the possibility of a computer of the size of a sugar cube performing 10^21 operations/second.

That very much sounds like a dream and its feasibility is very much in question. A computer of the size of Earth could run as much as 10^42 operations/second.

So, if we can build a system as large as the size of Earth, we can simulate at least half of the history of mankind. This sounds very much like science fiction but theoretically, it is possible.

Quantum Computers and Supremacy

Recently Google announced that it has reached Quantum Supremacy. What it means is that they have achieved a stage in their computation using the application of quantum mechanics that they are able to solve any mathematical problem which a classical computer could not, in a given amount of time.

Quantum computers run on the principle of quantum superposition. A quantum particle can have multiple states that means it can have multiple values at the same time and therefore is very useful in computation problems.

A quantum computer can hold much larger values than classical computers at a given amount of time. Thus, quantum computers can perform a large number of operations with the size of the computer still in range of human capacity.

Seth Llyod’s upper limit for Quantum Computers

MIT professor Seth Lyod set an upper bound for a 1-kilogram computer in a quantum state that can perform 5.42 x 10 50 operations/ second. You can find the associated research paper and resources in the description box below.

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So there is a small possibility that we can simulate our ancestors on the computer screen. But if that is the case, are we simulated too? Or it can go at a much weird level. What if the one simulating us has been simulated by another major post-human? Okay, this definitely will go into the realm of science fiction.

But there is a silver lining between fiction and reality when we talk about the field of science. Another question is how can we know that we are living in a simulation? Do characters in our video games know they are not real and are part of computer programs written in 0s and 1s? How do we know what is reality?

The reality in layman’s terms is anything we get to perceive by our 5 senses. What are the senses of a character in video games? Like our body is governed by the neural network present in our brain, an artificial system can be controlled by the Artificial Neural Network (ANN), where we are seeing quite a few developments in recent times.

Theoretically, it’s possible that we are living in a simulation and we can simulate too when we will be technologically superior in the far future.

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