Detecting the Reality Simulation

Do we all live in a simulation? The question is not new. Philosophers such as Descartes and Berkeley explored similar ideas 100s of years ago.  Movies like the Matrix have familiarized most people with the potentiality. But that’s just a movie, right? Maybe not.

The Matrix - Simulated Reality

The Matrix – Simulated Reality

Without getting too deep into probability and statistics, some scientists say that it’s a very strong possibility that we live in a simulation. Think of it this way. At our current stage of technological development, how many simulated worlds exist in the gamer universe? 100s, 1000s?  It’s only a matter of time before the simulations we create, and the characters within, reach a level of complexity on par with our reality. These manufactured realities would be indistinguishable from our own.  Imagine 100 or 10,000 years into our future when simulations contain characters possessing artificial intelligence and consciousness. Entities will be born, grow old and die within simulations. These simulations could replicate many different time periods, even the 21st century, ours. If our future selves only create 3 simulations that are indistinguishable from our reality, that’s 4 “realities” in total. Ours + the 3 they create. That means there would be a 1 in 4 chance that we are in the “true” reality. But why stop at 3 created realities? Why not, 10, 1000 or one for every person? In this scenario it’s almost guaranteed statistically that we are not in the original reality. We’d be more likely to win the lottery than be in the original reality.

There has been quite a bit of research regarding this issue. Some physicists say that cosmic rays may hold the key to answering this big question. I think other clues can be found at the quantum scale where “spooky actions at a distance” occur. See

The observer effect in the double slit experiment fascinated me as a teenager. See

Observation Effects Reality

Observation Effects Reality

One of the conclusions derived from this experiment was that observation effects reality. Maybe this effect, or others like it, hold a clue that will help scientists determine if our reality is a simulation. The two slit experiment requires sophisticated technology. Uncovering the actions of an individual photon is beyond the ability of our eyes or ears. Were it not for our technology, we would be blind to the true nature of things. The senses bestowed upon us by evolution are not adequate to detect a simulation, if there is one.  Would the creators of the simulation expect the conscious entities inside to eventually figure out the truth? It’s possible that our technology will reach an “intersection point” where our advances reach the level of the technology on which the simulation runs.

Could the creators themselves be a part of an even larger simulated reality? We would be a simulation within a simulation. How many simulations deep could one go? Theoretically, the only limit to the number and depth of simulated realities would be computing power. I imagine that it would be quite disconcerting if we were to to learn that we were say, 25 simulations removed from the true reality.  What if the number was more shocking, like 1000 or a billion?



47 thoughts on “Detecting the Reality Simulation

  1. IgCho

    Thought provoking post. There are theories that as we reach closer and closer to the ability to simulate realities on our own that it is not only possible, but statistically likely that we live in a simulation, since if we can reach a simulacrum of our own universe there’s nothing stopping our simulation from creating a simulation. Thus the odds of our own universe being a simulation increase.

    1. misskrystal1982

      I have thought something like this, but about the alternate realities we create in games. What if they aren’t just simulations? What if they really do exist on some level and are doomed to die repeatedly?

      It’s all a bit mind boggling, honestly. The possibility that our “luck” or “bad luck” is actually the result of something or someone altering our path is a bit frightening as well!

  2. richj8am30

    Indeed I think that this is a possibility. the likes of Philip K. dick, a renown sci fi author, had done some extensive work intended to make us think about this possibility. I think that the way our media seems as if smoke and mirrors is a huge indication of the wool being pulled over our eyes. I for one do not want to admit that I am one of the herd living in an alternate reality that is far from the truth, but I think that we have to take much consideration on this notion. the next question is how to we get out and will we be able to survive outside of this illusion.

  3. UnslaadKrosis

    It is entirely possible that we live in a simulation of our world and our time. That we are just parts of a world created entirely to satisfy the ‘cravings’ of future humanity. That we are just a mass of coded data, functioning just like we, as programs are meant to do.

    But, that very thing begs the question, why? What is the purpose of this simulation? If history has something to say, humanity has always craved for a stable world for a simulation/alternate reality. (with conflicts, war, poverty etc, etc, but a stable one, at least technologically). Not a continuously progressing one. So why create such a simulation that is progressing so rapidly so as to create its own simulation in the very near future?

  4. animos

    We perceive reality through the chemicals and stimuli fed into our brain. There have been studies where researches have tricked the brain into feeling, tasting, or smelling something that does not exist so I wouldn’t be surprised if more advanced technology and understanding of the brain could create a virtual reality that tricks the brain into thinking its real.

  5. sheebah7

    This post in brilliant and makes me think about the popular game The Sims. We control…or the player controls the actions of the simulated people on the game…this is so interesting and to think we could be controlled by the powers that be. Essentially we are being controlled through the media..and I think Television is also a tool to control people. Experts have said that an enormous amount of computing power will be available in the future. I suspect many simulations with super-powerful computers may be in store…what type of simulations..I am really not sure of.

  6. staplerashtray

    If you really want to dive into that thought pattern, continuing the idea of your last sentence, who’s to say that there is a “true reality”? If we hypothetically found out that we live in a simulation and a different kind of beings created this simulation, and by consequence, us, how could you even know that they are the true creators and aren’t just another carriage in a never ending train of simulations? I’d go as far as to say that we could create a paradox by imagining those simulations going full-circle and just creating one another.

    1. ScooterBrandon

      AHH well that one really cooks the noodle! That’s a really interesting idea.
      Do you think we could ever “jump ship” and somehow get our unconscious into the next level up of reality?
      Imagine you keep going up and up until you find yourself back in the first reality!?

  7. PunishedKom

    It’s a really fascinating subject and we may not have the answer right now, but maybe one day. Who knows though, there are a lot of implications here and a lot of them are nihilistic… We lose a lot of meaning if it were true as in a sense we ourself would cease ‘being’ true, you know? Geez haha. Funny how the first Matrix movie brought up great questions like this but completely dropped the ball in all the films thereafter…

  8. Redtick

    This issue becomes existentially crippling to me in the same way the argument for intelligent extraterrestrial life in the universe does. Mathematically, we know that it’s practically a certainty that there are sentient organisms on other planets. And in the same way, statistics paint a startling picture of the potentiality of simulated realities.

    We have made impressive strides in regards to creating simulated experiences. Things like the Oculus Rift hint at a future where we’re able to fool our own senses quite satisfactorily. The question then becomes at what point does artificial intelligence advance to the point where it fools its own form of consciousness. And of course that begs questions as to the nature of consciousness. Trippy stuff.

    Scott Adams (the creator of the popular comic strip Dilbert) penned a fun little thought experiment about this in his blog. He convinced me that we are digital simulations in a matter of a couple sentences. I spent the next couple days in the fetal position babbling incoherently. I’d highly recommend it.

  9. Sharpie1987

    A very interesting post. I really like it when the human mind gets to this point where they start thinking down this path. I truly enjoyed the concept of the Matrix movies(even if they didn’t do a very good job at the last 2 movies), and love entertaining ideas such as that.

    It’s also interesting to see how close humans are to simulating realities entirely. Virtual Reality is becoming more and more an actual thing than a concept, and even our phones are starting to dabble in VR. I don’t think it’s the next step, but it could be the next next step.

  10. spynonimous

    This is the sort of thing I try not to contemplate for to long, I like to sleep at night lol. The idea that we are possibly just a simulation, or many simulations removed from the original, tends to make me feel that nagging curiosity of “Reality”.

    This to me becomes a frustrating look into “Schrodinger’s cat”. Like you mentioned with the observation of photons, what we can figure out with our own senses is not enough. Let alone technologically we are yet unable to find the answer. It would then stand to wonder, if we reach the point in which we could detect the simulation could it then not change again to prevent us from doing it? Perhaps the simulation itself it to define if and when we could figure out what is reality or not?

  11. JerPostr98

    Wow. This post made me sit back for a minute and think. I remember when I was in school, we learned about the double slit experiment in physics. I too thought it was a fascinating topic. I am interested in seeing articles and research to be done on this in the future. How can we prove that our reality exists? Some tough questions. Thanks for the read!

  12. PenguinManiac

    Thinking our whole universe could be just a toy inside a much more complex toy box is mindblowing, and even just trying to realize that takes a lot of effort. However, we’re seeing it happen just right before our eyes: each time we play a game, or read a book, a new universe comes to life, and we see it live to our own rules. After all, what defines “reality”? Just because we can’t feel it with all of our senses, does it mean we can say that something does not truly exist? Can we even say the one we’re living right now is reality?
    It’s a concept that has always fascinated me, ever since I was a kid. I’m glad I was not the only one wondering this.

  13. dihewe

    It’s a scary thought for sure. Considering how many people try to find meaning in life. Everyone has their existentialist thoughts. Imagine it was all a lie, a simulation. It really makes everything seem so irrelevant. The daily trials and tribulations we all go through, love and pain, all of it. I don’t if the fact that it’s fabricated would make it more amazing or less. The fact that we basically thought of the idea of a simulation and that it’s something we could also be in. An episode of Rick and Morty has an idea just like this one where the main character builds a little world in his battery where a civilization makes energy to run his ship. In that civilization a scientist builds another world which does the same thing and so on and so on. I’d really like to believe that we are the original reality and that no one is ever subjected to having some weird false consciousness in a simulated world because that is just too mind-bendingly scary.

  14. forwardthinker

    I guess we’ll never know if we live in reality or a simulation of it or perhaps we live in alternate reality with other versions of ourselves and this earth going about our daily lives in other dimensions. Lots of possibilities but either way does it really matter? As the Talosians (an alien race from the original Star Trek episode “The Cage”) said to Captain Pike, “She has an illusion and you have reality. May you find your way as pleasant.” Now if there was a way to manipulate our existence, I might even prefer to live in a simulation! One could customize their life and make everyday a celebration never knowing hardship or loss. Some say life is just an educational stage of human development and that Heaven is where people are truly alive. We can debate which reality or simulation we’re in but until our days repeat themselves in a continuous loop or some higher power tells us differently, the mystery of life will continue unsolved.

  15. DangerSuit

    This is a great exposition on the idea of reality as a simulation, thank you for sharing. When I initially began to think about this possibility, of our world being a simulation created by a civilisation more advanced than our own, it plagued me with fear. What if one day they decided to cease the simulation? What if they added new parameters which changed the fundamental forces of nature in our universe? This fear is derived from a lack of control, a lack of say over how our universe works.

    But then it dawned on me – as it stands, believing that our reality is the one true reality, we have no say in how our universe works. We are perpetually at the mercy of physical forces, the position of bodies in space, the passing of time. We have only just begun to master the small-scale science of our own planet – influencing the weather, controlling the ageing and vitality of our own bodies – but to a large extent we, as individuals, are powerless to change the vast majority of our existence. This does not even branch out into the argument that all of our actions are pre-determined which is another Pandora’s box of existential crisis.

    So if we know this to be true, that our current standing in reality is as a powerless pawn in the universe’s timeless ebb and flow, would it not be more comforting to believe that our lives are instead at the mercy of some advanced creator, who might one day take pity on us and potentially save us from ruin, rather than divined by some arbitrary universal forces which care not whether we live or die? Or is it even more concerning that, if there is some games master or sentinel that created the simulation, they have just left it to run its course no matter the outcome and that they could have potentially intervened on tragedies that have occurred in our world, but didn’t?

  16. Xrnx

    It’s a little depressing, isn’t it? That potentially, what we live in is merely code generated procedurally. It’s not real. It could perhaps even be edited by the creator at a whim. That’s not comforting.

    But we have to look forward. Perhaps in the distant future, we could design a universe as rich and vibrant as our own? And even if we did live in a simulation… so what. It’s a pretty nice simulation. All we can do is enjoy our time here and make the most of it.

  17. madetofly

    But if we are really living in a reality simulation, where does this simulation come from? Somebody created it, but how can we know who. The universe is so big, there’s a lot of questions we don’t know the answer to. I always think of the big bang, it was an explosion, but what created it, for something to explode, matter must have existed before that.

  18. hope_floats

    Even religion has a similar idea. There is a creator who is given many names by different cultures wnd religions. Then there is earth which can be the paradigm within which the simulation occurs. We, the many species that exist on earth, are the objects of the simulation. The theme of simulation is recurrent, but then I wonder, what would the purpose of this simulation be?

  19. Personablue

    Wow, it’s really scary to think that way. It’s like our past, present, future is already set in stoned aka stimulated beforehand and we are just following the plan. Its already decided what will happen to me tomorrow by the creators and it is beyond our power to change it. Stimulations within stimulations .

  20. paultraining

    I imagine if we were in a simulated reality it’s possible we could become aware of this, gradually or completely, and deny it because it conflicts with our happiness. If something conflicts with our happiness we can block it completely out of our mind and forget it. If we are not happy it would be hard to function.

    This would be much similar to the character in the Matrix who bargains with an Agent to forget everything about the real world, go back into the Matrix, and who ends up trying to kill the passengers on the ship.

  21. ciaran071198

    This leads to many TV show scenarios where it becomes apparent that we are in a simulation, which we then find out and discover our overlords, only to find that our overlords are also simulated and they then discover their overlords etc etc. (Rick and Morty is where I saw this idea)

  22. hafiz93

    The thing that fascinates me about this topic is how deep does it go. How many layers does it have? And when we found the ultimate reality that’s been controlling all of the simulation, what’s it like? How different it is from ours? There’s just so many question for it and that makes it even more intriguing. This also reminds of a piece from William Shakespeares, where it says All The World’s A Stage, where we’re all just actors on a stage, playing our parts.

  23. byh

    I once read an award-winning short story in a writing magazine that explored the topic of reality simulations. A gamer read about drive-through viewings at funeral homes and drifted into a nap. He then dreamed about the drive-through viewings going high-tech into the cybersphere. Loved ones too distant or broke to travel to attend the memorial or drive-through could then engage in online viewings. It’s certainly an expansion upon the use of online obituaries and tributes. When the gamer awoke, he found himself in an online viewing – his own – with no hope of escape. It turned out he’d spent too much time online and not enough in the real world. How many realities and which one, indeed. Good post.

  24. fermin420

    Even as a kid I have always thought this is absolutely true. A greater intelligence creating the world and then human beings to live in, sound like a definition of simulation. Sadly there’s no way to really know the truth unless you die, probably. Many things through my life such as dreams, feelings or Deja Vu’s have led me to think I have been here before. Are we being reset after this life to continue living? that would be like living in a game or simulation, and that’s what many religions say also.

  25. kaiiren

    I agree with the main crux of this article: that reality is indeed a simulation. However, exactly where is this simulation occurring? I’ll tell you where: in the human brain.

    I mean, if everything we experience is the product of our brain processing data from our senses, then everything we experience is a simulation born of this processing.

    There’s no objective observer, there are no “human beings” – there’s only one human being – YOU – and 5,999,999,999 simulations walking around inside your brain.

  26. fueledbycaffeine

    We will probably never know anyway, unless there is a fault in the simulation, and I doubt it. We might as well be the only objective observer, because “we” are a functioning brain, and whatever we sense and feel might just be our minds fooling themselves. It’s pretty beautiful, in a creepy way. I love simulation theory in that way.

  27. Sparkster

    My understanding is that the reality we experience is indeed a kind of simulation created by (universal) consciousness so that it can experience itself subjectively. Time is a dimension created by consciousness and is the measurement of motion/change – without time, nothing would ever change and there would be nothing to measure – existence would be mundane and meaningless without it. Also, hypnosis seems to indicate that reality is a simulation based on our inner collective consciousness with the collective unconscious of humanity influenced and manifesting our reality. For example, by using hypnotic techniques it’s possible to carry out things which shouldn’t be possible according to science – such as precognition, chronesthesia and telekinesis, all of which I have personally experimented with, with success.

  28. MarkOfDavison

    I have heard some theory that we are in a simulation, and while I admit that it sounds amazing, the part about the reality that is simulating ours not being the original, but instead another simulation is new to me. As unusual and full of unexplained events as our world is, I truly would not be surprised if it was a simulation. It makes me think about whether my thought are even my own, or lines of come computer code. Am I a person, or am I data on someones hard drive, only existing while their system is running. Is there a chance that some mother some where may tell her kid to quit playing on the computer, and we get turned off for the night?

  29. puneeth8994

    This is a creepy yet intriguing topic. The idea that we are indeed trapped in a world of simulation is amazing. It kind of let’s you think about all these various possibilities about who put us in the simulation and how different the world would’ve been to us without the simulation and would we even exist without the simulation. The topic is depressing as well. It kinda suggests that our lives don’t have much meaning to them.

  30. oportosanto

    Fascinating entry, to be honest it reminds the matrix movie concept. But in fact, in my opinion, we do live in a reality simulation made by our creator. He put us in this world, gave us free will and instead of thinking and seeing out of the box we are destroying the box and destroying ourselves. Enlightening about who we are as a mankind.

  31. nazeerabdalmumen

    It would be crazy to wake up one day and find out that the world we live in is in fact a virtual reality within a true reality. There are a lot of clues within our universe’s history that could point to these theories. How come only our planet is suitable for human life it seems that we were luckily placed on the only planet in our solar system that can have life. These odds have to be more than a coincidence, maybe we were put here for a reason and this reality was created by someone else. People have played with the idea of creation for years in both science fiction and religion. An alternate reality is just another creation concept.

  32. JusApee

    Anyone perceives reality as he wants. What will change if you find out you’re a simulated being? Will the simulated world suddenly collapse or will the apocalypse arise? I doubt. It would be an interesting matter to find out that we actually are simulated beings. That way, God would be explainable, am I wrong? I’m not saying that after you die you get out of the simulation, no, no, but people’s visions of God could simply be a real individual’s influence on his simulation.
    As I said, anyone perceives reality as he wants, and finding out that we’re just living in a simulated world won’t change the fact that we’re actually here, living, breathing. We exist.

  33. oportosanto

    That is true, we all perceive what we want, but if we are in some sort of matrix indeed wouldn’t it be interesting to get out of that simulated reality and see reality as it is? Wouldn’t it be interesting to get out of the cave?

  34. Novelangel

    This topic made for an interesting movie called, The Thirteenth Floor. I suggest you all find it on DVD and view it. Problem is, something so advanced is well beyond our current technological capacity and will remain so until the point where we can completely recreate an entire human being’s mind inside a computer-generated program. Then we need to have the memory capacity to do so with an entire population of people. Then we need a power source and extra memory to keep such a program running perpetually, because if they are “alive” and sentient, wouldn’t it be murder to allow them to die? And if they are alive then why wouldn’t they attempt to build yet another world within the world, thereby complicating the issue even further?

  35. NeosPet

    We very well could be in a simulation.
    Everything we know is just a different arrangement of electrons…..we’re all made of the same stuff….everything is made of the same stuff…..

    So if we are in a simulation, do we really die? is our soul just our AI?

    Clutching at many straws here but I love this theory 🙂

    1. oportosanto

      I do believe that we live in some sort of a dream, a bad one by the way haha, and that we have the capacity to wake up, but I find hard to believe that it’s a computer simulation like in the Matrix. Something similar though, but we are causing our own ignorance by focusing on superficial goals.

  36. OursIsTheFury

    I have often wondered whether or not everything around me is real. Is this reality, or just a simulation that I am seeing since I was a child? Am I really just in my dying moments, reliving my life through my last seconds? Is this just one long dream? These are very scary ideas, to think that your life is all a lie, a simulation, a farce. I think the only way to know for sure is dying in this “state”, and then you will finally find out if it is just you wake up in the end of all this. Though I have my doubts, I will still keep playing this “game”, and maybe we will know someday the truth about it.

  37. sahara1981

    I truly believe that there are more dimensions that exist around us but that we as humans with our physical and emotional limitations are just not able to see them. We have a very vivid fantasy about how these different dimensions could look like and the movies we see often try to capture those fantasies, yet, maybe there has to be more a focus on our eyes and the layers that exist in our eyes. Maybe one of these layers is responsible for stopping us to see further than we can….

    1. oportosanto

      I share your view sahara, for me there is no question that there are other dimensions, just our sense and mind are cannot see them. What can we do then, see reality simulation as entertainment (that it is) or try to look for the reality hidden from our senses?

  38. arunava2016

    No. we live in the real world but dream of living in a simulation. All of us are living the dream of a perfect dream that only belongs to us. We think about living in a perfect world where everything does according to our own well-being and that is what we can call a simulation, a virtual world away from the realities of life. We imagine things to be in our favor and write a surreal story of a blissful life that doesn’t exist. Gabriel Garcia Marquez is the greatest advocate of that imaginary blissfulness and we all follow suit all our lives.

  39. iRoxas

    This post is splendid and makes me consider some simulation games out there right now. We control, or the player controls the activities of the recreated individuals on the diversion, this is so fascinating and to think we could be controlled by the forces that be. Basically we are being controlled through the media, and I think TV is likewise an apparatus to control individuals. Specialists have said that a colossal measure of registering force will be accessible later on. I think numerous reenactments with super-effective PCs might be in store, what kind of simulations, I am truly not certain of.

  40. oportosanto

    Matrix is one of my all times favorite movies and even if I doubt that we live in a simulated reality the argument they use is totally plausible. Simulation games are another thing and they are getting more and more real as we get immersed in an alternative world and we can really enjoy what real life doesn’t offer us.

  41. anorexorcist

    This is so interesting man, and I can’t really see why this shouldn’t be a possibilities nowadays that technology has reached its highest point, and not only that… When I was a little boy I used to thought that when I fall asleep I entered in a new reality, maybe in a new dimension, or even in another world where things seems to be the exact same way but it you really pay attention to them, there’s always something different about every reality. It sounds really stupid but if it was real, imagine how many realities we have been in?
    Stuff like that really makes you think, huh?

  42. SFOMH88

    I think the observer effect is caused by the mass of the actual observer. To suggest our reality is a simulation like the Matrix seems a bit far fetched. Interesting read, nonetheless.

  43. Wheezybz

    This brings to mind the Mandela Effect, memories people have of things that never happened but they’re sure happened like the origin of it where many people remember Nelson Mandela dying in prison. Some people believe this is proof of a simulated reality glitching.

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