Scientists try to figure out if we’re living inside The Matrix (no, really)

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"Is this real life?"

Did you ever lie awake at night thinking about how our entire existence may be no more than a vastly advanced computer simulation being run by some alien life in order to understand the evolution of life? Have you ever wondered whether everything we know is little more than bits of code floating through a matrix and being processed as data? At the University of Washington, a group of physicists want to put our universe to the test to see if there’s actually space out there or the seemingly infinite edge of the Holodeck.

Finally, I’m not alone in my insanity.

Sure, Keanu Reeves acting in The Matrix might be unbelievable, but somehow the concept of living in a fabricated world makes complete sense. As it turns out, this has not been the first time someone thought of the whole “universe as a simulation” theory.

In a 2003 philosophy paper, an Oxford professor describes how human civilization will likely go extinct before hitting a “posthuman” stage of development, and that another species will run simulations trying to find out what happened to human civilization. These researchers want to find out if we are that simulation.

How do you determine that you’re inside a computer simulation? By making another computer simulation, of course. By creating another simulation that replicates the universe, physicists can look for patterns within the simulation itself that may correlate to how the computer manages to create the universe though artificial means and limited resources. Though such a simulated universe would not be nearly as complex as the “real” one, scientists hope to find similar signature of how they both work in order to prove the simulation theory.

...And then everything went dark.

If it turns out that we happen to live in a giant version of The Matrix, scientists think that the beings running the simulation would be running other simulations at the same time. The parallel worlds would theoretically run off the same platform, and we would then be able to communicate to those outside our simulation once we figure out the software of our universe.

I wish I was making this up.

Unfortunately, we still don’t have computers powerful enough to create mini-universes. The team over at the University of Washington says that it may be a while until we can create a computer with enough power to even come close to creating a simulation that can help us understand the one we live in. Only then will we be able to theorize if the simulation we’re living in is only a simulation of a simulation in order to understand an even grander simulation of the universe. [My head hurts. —Ed.]

Until then, we’ll have to keep sending our most powerful processors to Jeopardy to earn money, or possibly win a trip to Hawaii.

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