Tech UPTechnologyThe Science of the Matrix: Do We Live in...

The Science of the Matrix: Do We Live in a Simulated Universe?

The Matrix turns 20. On March 31, 1999, this science fiction film by the Wachowski sisters was released in American theaters. The film was hugely popular for its special effects , and for having a script that perfectly combined action, technology and philosophy.

Human civilization has reached a point of technological evolution where it was in awe of advances in artificial intelligence. Until the machines took control and enslaved the human race using them as a source of energy. And instead, the Matrix is the world that people believe they live in, a simulation created by machines to keep them enslaved.


The main thesis of the film is in fact a highly debated question by scientists today. Could we be living in a simulated reality?

Many scientists believe so

Reputable personalities in the world of science believe that it is. Elon Musk stated in September 2018 that there are only two possibilities: that technology continues to evolve so much as to improve Virtual Reality and that it is indistinguishable from reality; or that we don’t get to do it because we become extinct first.

But Musk is not alone; other scientists have also hypothesized that we actually live in a simulation. Stephen Hawking himself shortly before his death developed the thesis of the hologram universe ; a concept that arose from string theory, whereby atomic particles are lines of space-time or strings that vibrate in more than 4 dimensions.

According to Hawking, the hypothesis of the hologram universe fits perfectly with the postulates of quantum physics and also with Einstein’s General Relativity.

Neil Degrasee Tyson , popularizer and director of the Hayden Planetarium Museum, also believes that the probability may be very high. During his participation as moderator of the annual debate of the Memorial to Isaac Asimov at the American Museum of Natural History in 2016, he set an example for humans with chimpanzees: both species share up to 98% of our DNA. Therefore, there could be somewhere an intelligence much greater than ours that has designed the simulation in which we live as mere entertainment.

But to assume this, we would have to take certain postulates to be true.

Philosopher Nick Bostrom, director of the Institute for the Future of Humanity at Oxford University offers three possible scenarios:

  1. That all civilizations become extinct before technologically maturing
  2. That all technologically mature civilizations lose interest in creating simulations
  3. That humanity is literally living in a computer simulation

According to Bostrom, if a single civilization anywhere in the cosmos could generate such simulations, the simulated worlds would multiply rapidly and humanity would almost certainly be in one . Our universe would then be a richly detailed software simulation of people and their historical ancestors, by a highly technologically advanced civilization.

A similar opinion is shared by David Brin, science fiction writer and space scientist, who affirms that, in reality, it could be the year 2050 and that people are living in a simulation of what life was like at the beginning of the 21st century; Or, billions of years have actually temporarily passed, and our simulation would deal with what planets and primitive people were like.

Other scientists have commented on similar postulates in favor of the hypothesis that we live in a simulated universe. During the same lecture at the 2016 Isaac Asimov Memorial Meeting, Max Tegmark, an MIT cosmologist, argues that the rigid laws of mathematics are the proof of this simulated universe.

For his part, the scientist Ray Kurzweil goes a step further; postulates that, in reality, the same physical laws would be a set of computational processes, so that our own universe would be, in reality, a computer.

And, that the basis of fundamental reality is not what we see and feel, but information. Zeros and ones.

Our brain, easy to fool

In fact, neuroscience’s knowledge of the brain fits the simulation universe hypothesis, because our brains are so easy to fool, and all we perceive could simply be electricity in our brain.

Hence another question arises: that we need a physical support to generate these neural processes; which questions that, if we live in a simulated reality, on what plane is our physical support that allows us to experience it?

Other films such as Abre los ojos or the chapter of Black Mirror San Junípero respond to this question: they pose a simulated reality, not by another civilization, but by humans themselves, as an alternative to mortality, and to live eternally in a simulation.

While our body remains cryogenized or in some way, it is kept in large information servers.

And could it be that we are only talking about science fiction? Scientists cannot claim or disprove that we live in a simulation; but there are researchers who have tried to prove it.

For example, in 2017, physicists from the University of Oxford and the Hebrew University in Israel attempted to perform a computer simulation of a quantum phenomenon that occurs in metals.

They found that this simulation was impossible as a matter of principle, because the computing power necessary to simulate the universe down to the quantum level would require a memory made of more atoms than there are in the universe.

How to know if we live in a simulation?

And, if we live in a simulation, how could we find out? According to science popularizer Bill Nye, we couldn’t; given that the proposals or conclusions that we would think we were reaching would also be the result of this simulation. We would have no escape.

Again, at the 2016 Isaac Asimov Memorial meeting, James Gates, a physicist at the University of Maryland claimed to have discovered strange codes and error-correcting equations in supersymmetry.

This may suggest that the programmers of our simulated universe would have left some doors ajar.

And you … Do you think we could live in a simulation?


The universe could be a hologram:

Are you living in a computer simulation? By Nick Bostrom:

The refutation that we live in a simulated universe:

2016 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate: Is the Universe a Simulation ?:


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