The question “What is real?” can be traced back to the shadows in Plato’s cave. Two thousand years later, René Descartes lacked knowledge about arguing against an evil deceiver feeding us the illusion of sensation. Descartes’ epistemological concept later led to various theories of what our sensory experiences actually are. The concept of ”illusionism”, proposing that even the very conscious experience we have – our qualia – is an illusion, is not only a red-pill scenario found in the 1999 science fiction movie ”The Matrix” but is also a philosophical concept promoted by modern tinkers, most prominently by Daniel Dennett. He describes his argument against qualia as materialistic and scientific.
Reflection upon a possible simulation and our perceived reality was beautifully visualized in “The Matrix”, bringing the old ideas of Descartes to coffee houses around the world. Irish philosopher Bishop Berkeley was the father of what has later been coined as “subjective idealism”, basically stating that “what you perceive is real” (e.g., ”The Matrix” is real because its population perceives it). Berkeley then argued against Isaac Newton’s absolutism of space, time, and motion in 1721, ultimately leading to Ernst Mach and Albert Einstein’s respective views. Several neuroscientists have rejected Dennett’s perspective on the illusion of consciousness, and idealism is often dismissed as the notion that people want to pick and choose the tenets of reality. Even Einstein ended his life on a philosophical note, pondering the very foundations of reality.
With the advent of quantum technologies based on the control of individual fundamental particles, the question of whether our universe is a simulation isn’t just intriguing. Our ever-advancing understanding of fundamental physical processes will likely lead us to build quantum computers utilizing quantum effects for simulating nature quantum-mechanically in all complexity, as famously envisioned by Richard Feynman.
Finding an answer to the simulation question will potentially alter our very definition and understanding of life, reshape theories on the evolution and fate of the universe, and impact theology. No direct observations provide evidence in favor or against the simulation hypothesis, and experiments are needed to verify or refute it. In this paper, we outline several constraints on the limits of computability and predictability in/of the universe, which we then use to design experiments allowing for first conclusions as to whether we participate in a simulation chain. We elaborate on how the currently understood laws of physics in both complete and small-scale universe simulations prevent us from making predictions relating to the future states of a universe, as well as how every physically accurate simulation will increase in complexity and exhaust computational resources as global thermodynamic entropy increases.
Eventually, in a simulation in which the computer simulating a universe is governed by the same physical laws as the simulation and is smaller than the universe it simulates, the exhaustion of computational resources will halt all simulations down the simulation chain unless an external programmer intervenes or isn’t limited by the simulation’s physical laws, which we may be able to observe. By creating a simulation chain and observing the evolution of simulation behavior throughout the hierarchy taking stock of statistical relevance, as well as comparing various least complex simulations under computability and predictability constraints, we can gain insight into whether our universe is part of a simulation chain.
Keywords: governance model, hybrid communities, democracy, futarchy, blockchain