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Finally, Perhaps, Answers to the Question of Whether We Are All Sims

• December 11, 2012 • 3:09 PM

University of Washington scientists think they’ve found a way to test Nick Bostrom’s controversial 2003 theory.

And now for a bit of news that you (and I) will almost certainly not understand: scientists at the University of Washington say they’ve devised a test that may prove whether or not the lives we live are actually just one giant computer simulation created by our future descendants.

Yes, you read that right.

The researchers are responding to a 2003 paper published in Philosophical Quarterly by Nick Bostrom, a philosophy professor at the University of Oxford, who posited that somewhere down the line humans will become smart enough (and computer processing powerful enough) to model entire universes, and that we might be one of them.

“The belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor simulations is false, unless,” he wrote—bum bum BUM!—”we are currently living in a simulation.”

Though the day when such simulations are possible is way, way off, the U-Dub scientists and their colleagues think that even when it is possible, the simulations will suffer from many of the same resource constraints as the primitive versions possible now, and that the known signatures of these constraints — if we can find them — may definitively prove whether we are all, in fact, Super Mario Brothers controlled by the thumbs of our genius heirs.

I’d go into more detail, but I’ve just ran out of processing power myself. Best you get the rest here.

Joel Smith
Joel Smith is a web producer at Pacific Standard. His previous work includes seven years as a staff writer and media editor at the Pacific Northwest Inlander, the alternative weekly in Spokane, Washington.

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