NASA scientist believes we could all be in a video game

The universe as we know it may be a simulation created by programmers from the future, according to NASA scientist, Rich Terrile.

The universe as we know it may be a simulation created by programmers from the future, according to NASA scientist, Rich Terrile.

Last week we pointed to an interview Vice did with Terrile – who is the director of the Center for Evolutionary Computation and Automated Design at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. In the interview, he said that the growing power of computers means it is possible that in the future humans can create their own universes and simulations, and that we in turn could be living inside a simulation right now.

"Right now the fastest NASA supercomputers are cranking away at about double the speed of the human brain," Terrile told Vice. "If you make a simple calculation using Moore's Law [which states that computer power doubles roughly every two years], you'll find that these supercomputers, inside of a decade, will have the ability to compute an entire human lifetime of 80 years – including every thought ever conceived during that lifetime – in the span of a month.

"So think of 100 million consoles, each one containing 10,000 humans"

Terrile says that in 30 years when a new PlayStation comes out (presumably the PlayStation 7, given that console cycles tend to last six to eight years), it will be able to compute 10,000 human lifetimes simultaneously in real-time, or about a human lifetime an hour.

"There's how many PlayStations worldwide? More than 100 million, certainly," he says. "So think of 100 million consoles, each one containing 10,000 humans. That means, by that time, conceptually, you could have more humans living in PlayStations than you have humans living on earth today."

Terrile says that we can't know for sure whether or not we're living in a simulation created 30 years into the future. He draws on Grand Theft Auto IV as an example of the natural world behaving in the same way as a simulation game and the ability of players to explore the game's world in detail.

"I made a calculation of how big that city is, and it turns out it's a million times larger than my PlayStation 3. You see exactly what you need to see of Liberty City when you need to see it, abbreviating the entire game universe into the console," Terrile says.

"You could have more humans living in PlayStations than you have humans living on earth today"

"The universe behaves in the exact same way. In quantum mechanics, particles do not have a definite state unless they're being observed. Many theorists have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how you explain this. One explanation is that we're living within a simulation, seeing what we need to see when we need to see it."

Terrile adds that he finds inspiration in the concept because it tells him that scientists are on the threshold of creating a universe, and that humans in turn could be living in a simulation which could be within another simulation.

"What I find inspiring is that, even if we are in a simulation or many orders of magnitude down in levels of simulation, somewhere along the line something escaped the primordial ooze to become us and to result in simulations that made us," he says. "And that's cool."

Terrile's full interview with Vice can be read here.

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