There’s another possibility, another answer to both the Fermi paradox and the Great Filter: Maybe we seem to be alone in the universe because the universe and everything in it – including us – is a simulation. If you grant that humans in the future will have vast amounts of computing power available to them and will most likely run simulations of their ancestors – people like us – with lives, thoughts, emotions, and conscious experiences that are indistinguishable from the real thing, then the chance that we are simulated humans is far, far greater than the chance that we are real-life humans. After all, if future humans run simulations they will almost certainly run them countless times. And real-life humans only lived once. So statistically speaking, you’re most likely a sim. It would certainly explain a lot: Perhaps we’re alone in the universe because there’s no need to fill it with other simulated intelligent life. And perhaps the explanation for the astounding, almost unbelievable, responsibility that we humans alive today have on our shoulders to steer the human race safely through our coming existential risks is because seeing how we will take on existential risks is exactly the point of the simulation. There’s one last strange point the Simulation argument makes, one that also hints at our chances of making it through the Great Filter: If we don’t live in a simulation, then it suggests no future generations of humans made it to an advanced state where they could run simulations. If we don’t live in a simulation, then perhaps that tells us that we don’t end up making it through the Great Filter after all. (Original score by Point Lobo.)
- Nick Bostrom, Oxford University philosopher and founder of the Future of Humanity Institute
- Anders Sandberg, Oxford University philosopher
- Seth Shostak, director of SETI
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