A short while back I wrote an article on how to prove if we are living in a simulation or not. However the problem with that proof was that it was very much based on a future premise.
Essentially I claimed that if there were such things as NP problems. That is to say problems which take a supercomputer longer than the age of the universe to work out, then we probably aren't living in a sim.
However if P = NP, in other words there is no such thing as a non-polynomial problem, then there is every chance that we might be living in a sim.
Two problems arise with this theory, the first being that we have to wait till powerful quantum computers are invented. Which to be fair will probably happen reasonably soon.
The second and much more apparent problem is that even if P does indeed equal NP, then we are still unsure as to if we are in a simulation or not.
It turns out though that there is a much more compelling proof that we most definitely are living in a sim, and that proof comes in the form of the good old double slit experiment.
The double slit experiment is a very famous test, first devised in 1801, to work out whether light is a wave or a particle. When it was first performed its stunning results found out that light behaved as both a wave and a particle.
To understand this let's take a simplified look at the experiment below, and then how this proves that we are in fact living in a simulation.
Let's imagine that you have a machine that fired ping-pong balls and you had a whole bunch of balls dipped in ink. Then a few feet in front of the machine you had a wall with two slits big enough for a ball to pass through, carved into it. Then behind that wall you had a white screen.
Okay, so the machine randomly points at one of the slits or another and fires a ball. Once all the balls ran out and you inspected the screen what do you think you'd see?
If you answered that you would see two columns of dots where the balls had struck, then you'd be absolutely correct.
Now if we change the experiment slightly and instead of ping-pong balls and a machine to fire them. We swap them for a wave machine and dip the entire experiment in a huge swimming pool. This time we don't use ink, we simply dim the lights and observe the patterns hitting the white screen and take several photos of the screen.
After this experiment we would see a certain pattern of waves hitting the screen, however we would see dark segments whereby the wave had interfered with itself as it passed through both slits at once.
OK great, so we now use a single light source and shine that at a wall with two slits in it. If we see a dotted pattern we know light is a particle, if we see an inteferrence pattern we know light is a wave right?
Ah, well this is where things get a little weird.
A Question Of Measurement
When the experiment was first carried out the results were a wave pattern. Problem solved! Light is a wave, let's all pack up and go home, woohoo, yay for physics!
Ah, wait a minute.
The experiment was repeated whereby one photon at a time was fired at the slits, and the wave inteference pattern still happened.
This means that each photon appeared to be passing through both slits at once.
Alrighty then, let's place a measuring device at one of the slits so we know definitively which slit it has gone through.
Ready for some quantum strangeness?
When we measure which slit the photon goes through, the pattern we get on the screen is the ping-pong ball pattern of dots.
How can this be? How can the mere act of measurement change the very properties of light.
That would be the same as if I don't measure Alan he appears to be six feet and six inches tall and indeed bumps his head on a low door frame. But then as soon as I measure him, he is only five feet and five inches and passes through the door frame just fine!
Erm, O-kay . . .
Then one day some bright spark (pun intended then immediately regretted) worked out a way to measure each photon after it had already passed through either slit A or slit B.
This resulted in . . .
A ping-pong ball pattern!
Okay let's recap.
If you fire one photon at a time at a partition with two slits in it. The resulting pattern on the other side is that of a wave, as if each photon passes through both slits.
If you do exactly the same experiment and measure which slit the photons pass through, either before or after they've passed, the wave pattern collapses and becomes a definitive dot pattern.
It's as if our measurements, or lack thereof, determine how light behaves, as if it somehow knows it is being measured.
Uh-huh, so what has this got to do with living in a sim?
Grand Theft Auto And The Simverse
Have you ever played Grand Theft Auto, or any other game whereby you are in a simulated world?
Well as you play Grand Theft you are presented with a huge city called Los Santos. As you drive around performing all sorts of despicable acts of crime, it seems as if all of the city is there all of the time.
But in fact this is not the case, it is an illusion made possible by clever programming and powerful hardware to run the game engine on.
As you drive through the city, the places you have left behind and the places you are yet to get to, do not exist. This is because it would take so much more computing power to create a city that was always there.
Better gameplay is delivered to you by using this technique. It isn't a new one, however it is getting more and more refined. In fact the better it gets, the more seamless it becomes.
Put simply, the city of Los Santos only exists as you play the game.
Aha! I hear you cry. But Cryptogee, I have played Grand Theft, and when I'm in a plane or helicopter, I can see the entire map. I can see cars driving around, boats in the water, and I can blast them from the air.
This is very true, however the detail to which you are seeing them is not as refined as if you are at ground level, simply because they don't have to be.
Grand Theft Universe
The computer game described above is played on modern machines with processors capable of tens of millions of calculations per second, sometimes more.
However imagine if they were played on machines which could calculate trillions of individual calculations per second. How much more detail could you get then?
Perhaps you would not notice anything until you looked down at the quantum level.
If indeed we are in a simulation, then the machine we're running on has to take into account billions upon billions of objects and their relation to one another at any one time.
However since we discovered quantum mechanics, we are aware of many trillions more particles. So perhaps the double slit experiment is in fact the same as the way Grand Theft Auto only shows you detail when you're looking for it.
As soon as you measure, the simulation now knows that someone is observing the particle and gives it a definitive path. If nobody is observing, then it can give it the vague outline.
Uncertainty In A Certain World
Albert Einstein himself was not happy with this uncertainty in quantum mechanics. Because it is not just light that has this quantum strangeness built in, but all particles that can be considered quantum.
An electron circling an atom does not have any fixed position, until it is measured. In fact it is said that you cannot know for sure the position and the speed of a particle, because measuring one, collapses the property of the other.
When I first heard of the uncertainty principle and the double slit experiment, I felt it was a matter of not having precise enough equipment to make the measurements. Therefore it was the fallacy of our technology that was letting us down.
It turns out that actually these are very real phenomena, and in the case of the double slit experiment we have proven real quantum strangeness.
Does this prove we are in a simverse?
I'm not sure, but the argument is a strong one. If the answer is yes, then I guess the next question is; does it matter?
Ultimately it is real to us, if we are all just NPC characters in a huge simulation then it doesn't really matter as long as it is left to run as it has been for the last 14.5 billion subjective years.
My only hope is it isn't turned off anytime soon.
Double Slit Experiment -Wiki
Physics In A Minute - Double Slit Experiment
Copenhagen Interpretation - Wiki
What Is Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle? - Guardian Science
Can We Prove We Are Living In A Sim? - Yes We Can!
WHAT DO YOU THINK; ARE WE LIVING IN A SIMULATED UNIVERSE? WILL WE BE ABLE TO PROVE IT ONE WAY OR ANOTHER? DOES IT MATTER? OR DO YOU THINK THAT THE DOUBLE SLIT EXPERIMENT PROVES IT BEYOND A SHADOW OF A DOUBT?
AS EVER, LET ME KNOW BELOW!
Title image: Joel Filipe on Unsplash