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Video games are evidence we're living in a simulation, says Elon Musk

Based on the rapid progress of video game technology in the last 40 years, SpaceX and Tesla Motors chief Elon Musk argues that we have good reason to think we're actually in someone else's video game.

Alex Wawro, Contributor

June 2, 2016

2 Min Read

"The strongest argument for us being in a simulation is the following: 40 years ago, we had Pong. Two rectangles and a dot. Now, 40 years later, we have photorealistic 3D with millions playing simultaneously."

- SpaceX and Tesla Motors chief Elon Musk.

What's the difference between reality and a sufficiently realistic simulation of it?

That's a line billionaire Elon Musk toed at the Code Conference in California this week, when he posited that the world as we know it could very reasonably be just a simulation operated by an advanced entity or civilization. 

Game developers may appreciate that his primary piece of evidence was the pace of technological advancement in the game industry.

"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," he said, according to Vox.

"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."

He went on to suggest that from a certain perspective, the possibility that virtual world rendering technology has advanced to the point that we're all just simulated historical recreations of ourselves is a good thing -- it means that human civilization has survived and advanced beyond our understanding.

You can watch the recorded version of Musk's full conversation over on the Recode YouTube channel, and you can bone up on the "Simulation Argument" he's referring to by checking out Nick Bostrom's dedicated website on the topic. Bostrom, incidentally, popularized the argument in his 2003 paper "Are You Living In A Computer Simulation?" 

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