The simulation hypothesis, first proposed in 2003 by philosopher Nick Bostrom, posits that if many sufficiently advanced civilizations exist, and if they’re likely to create simulations of the universe (or a slice of it), then we are almost certainly living in a simulation.
Here’s Musk’s argument in full:
Now, 40 years later, we have photorealistic, 3D simulations with millions of people playing simultaneously, and it’s getting better every year. Soon we’ll have virtual reality, augmented reality.
If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then the games will become indistinguishable from reality, even if that rate of advancement drops by a thousand from what it is now. Then you just say, okay, let’s imagine it’s 10,000 years in the future, which is nothing on the evolutionary scale.
So given that we’re clearly on a trajectory to have games that are indistinguishable from reality, and those games could be played on any set-top box or on a PC or whatever, and there would probably be billions of such computers or set-top boxes, it would seem to follow that the odds that we’re in base reality is one in billions.
Tell me what’s wrong with that argument. Is there a flaw in that argument?
This came in response to a question from journalist Josh Topolsky, who pressed Musk further. “The argument makes sense,” Topolsky said. “But what do you think?”
“There’s a one in billions chance we’re in base reality,” Musk replied. He continued:
Arguably we should hope that that’s true, because if civilization stops advancing, that may be due to some calamitous event that erases civilization. So maybe we should be hopeful this is a simulation, because otherwise we are going to create simulations indistinguishable from reality or civilization ceases to exist. We’re unlikely to go into some multimillion-year stasis.