Are we living in the Matrix?!

The question has been pondered over many times since the movie. Many great scientists have given their views on it. A quick search on the web reveals many articles and videos, with most of them concluding that it is not possible to say for sure with current technology. One of the articles gave a very interesting explanation - "If our computers become powerful enough to one day simulate a virtual universe with virtual beings with AI as evolved as we humans, then there is a high probability that we are also virtual beings inside a computer simulation."

So, do I have anything new to say on the topic? If physicists do not have a definite answer to the question, I am certainly not qualified enough to prove or disprove anything. But, I have some compelling observations to share that hint towards the fact the we might be actually living inside a simulated world. And we are merely highly advanced, intelligent algorithms, who have just started to push the limits of the environment we are in.

It struck me first when I was working on Unity 3D. Unity is a game engine designed to simulate the mechanics of real world. It includes a physics engine that simulates force, friction, speed, gravity, collision etc. So, I was working on a game and was trying to bounce a Ball off a rigid wall. Now, its a known problem with unity that if the speed of the object, the ball in this case, it over a certain value, the engine is not able to detect the collision and the ball goes straight through the wall. I thought, this is exactly what quantum tunnelling is!

Unity 3D Game Engine - When a ball is fired towards the wall at high speed, instead of bouncing back, it goes through the wall to the other side!

In quantum tunnelling, if a small particle like electron, travelling at the appreciable fraction of the speed of light is fired at a barrier, a small fraction of electrons pass through as if there was no barrier in their path at all. I believe that the computers that the Super Intelligent Beings or SIB's have used to create this world that we are in, have computational limitations. Their simulator is not able to detect the collision when the electrons are moving at speed approaching the speed of light. Maybe they knew this limitation and they have put a hard cut off at c, the speed of light! Therefore, nothing can travel faster than the speed of light.

However, when billions of particles are colliding a barrier at an appreciable fraction of that speed, probably their computer is not able to detect all the collisions and few of them pass through the barrier.

Here is a very good documentary on quantum mechanics which explains some of the weird stuff that happens at microscopic level.

If you watched the documentary, you must have been amazed by the double slit experiment. The original experiment gave us the concept of wave-particle duality. A particle like electron, travelling at a high speed exhibits the properties of a wave as well as a particle.

In a variation to the original experiment, the act of observing the electron, changes its behaviour. If we observe the electron when it leaves the gun, it behaves as a particle. But if we do not observe it till it has hit the photographic plate, it exhibits the behaviour of a wave. Even if we delay the act of observing the electron till it has passed the double slit, it go backs in time and exhibits the behaviour as if it was a particle all along.

This phenomenon can be explained by Lazy Abstraction. Again, at this microscopic level, the computational limits of the computers that SIB's have used is reached. To calculate the precise position of billions of electrons is computationally heavy. So, probably they have used a technique called as Lazy Abstraction. In which, the evaluation is not done till the result is actually used. To save computation, when we are not observing, the path of electron is simulated as a wave. And if and when we observe, the behaviour is changed to particle.

Another phenomenon that occurs at microscopic level is called as quantum entanglement. When two particles are in quantum entanglement, their properties such as spin, position etc. are linked. If you change the spin of one particle, it changes the spin of other particle also which is in quantum entanglement to it. Even if they are separated by billions of light years.

Probably the process of quantum entanglement causes two references to be created to the same object. If you change one, the other one also reflects the same value.

The Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics seems quite rational in this case. Universe splitting into mutually unobservable universes can be explained by Game Trees. Many Worlds interpretation, in layman's terms means. that every time we make a choice, the universe splits into two, and one universe proceeds with the events that occur when we made the choice and other proceeds where we didn't make it. Game trees work in similar way, at every step, all the possible options are tried and evaluated, and the one with most favourable outcome is used.

Many Worlds theory - everything that can happen, does happen in one of the universes! Watch the video

Imagine if you created a simulated world on your computer, with a character inside it who's AI is as evolved as you. Who can think like you, can learn new things. Also it has access to all the collective knowledge of human beings just like you do. What if it realises that it is inside a simulated world. Wouldn't it like to break free? But is it possible? What can it do? Maybe it'll try to push the limits of the system you have built. What if it crashes it?

An intelligent character in a simulated environment would surely try to break out.

But its existence is dependent on the system itself! If it crashes the system it will also be wiped out. Aren't we trying the same things now? Trying to push the limits of our world? Constructing large particle accelerators which collides particles at near the limiting speeds. Hoping we might be able to scratch the surface?

What I think of the quantum mechanics is we are getting closer to the level where the SIB's stopped adding further details to the system. Maybe they thought its not required. Just like when we design a display, we try to make pixels small enough so that s single pixel in not visible to naked eye. But making it further small is not very necessary.

What happens when they come to know about it. Would they want to upgrade the system? One fine day we'll realize that the limiting speed has been changed to 100 times the original! Or they would decide to pull the plug and redesign completely? Who knows?

Somil Bhandari

Somil Bhandari, A programmer, traveler and an amateur photographer. Loves adventure, hates stagnant life. Always looking out for something new.

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