God as a Programmer

There is a Greek philosophical argument (for which I cannot find a reference) that one cannot prove that reality for human observers was created in this current instant. In that scenario, all our memories and all of history is nothing but information that a clever creator planted in our brains. Nothing existed prior to THIS instant, click. Of course, René Descartes in 1637 posited, “Cogito, ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am) and one would think this ended all forms of ontological speculation. It didn’t.

In 2003, Oxford philosopher, Nick Bostrom, proposed the “simulation argument” which was recently discussed in Neil deGrasse Tyson’s podcast, Star Talk.  “Bostrom imagined a technologically adept civilization that possesses immense computing power and needs a fraction of that power to simulate new realities with conscious beings in them. Given this scenario, his simulation argument showed that at least one proposition in the following trilemma must be true: First, humans almost always go extinct before reaching the simulation-savvy stage. Second, even if humans make it to that stage, they are unlikely to be interested in simulating their own ancestral past. And third, the probability that we are living in a simulation is close to one.[1]” That is 100% – cheery thought.

The movie The Matrix popularized this idea. The Star Trek “holodeck” touched on it. Even Elon Musk stated that the likelihood we live in “base reality” is “one in billions.” Other scientists have taken logical and statistical approaches to the problem to show that the likelihood of our “reality” being a simulation is about 50-50. Going beyond these philosophical and mathematical speculations with Quantum Mechanics and thinking about how quantum computing could do the simulations gets us in the weeds very quickly. One key concern is whether the simulator (the being doing the simulation) has infinite or finite computing power. (cf. Christian doctrine of God’s omnipotence)

Or we could retreat to theologian William of Ockham’s early 14th century dictum referred to as “Occam’s razor.” “All things being equal, the simplest explanation is most likely to be correct.” Maybe we live in base reality after all.

[1] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/do-we-live-in-a-simulation-chances-are-about-50-50/

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