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Simulated Reality

Simulated reality, the idea that reality could be simulated, is a computer-simulated environment in some instances, indistinguishable from 'true' reality.

The "Simulation Hypothesis" claims we actually are living in such a simulation. It claims that our conscious minds may or may not know that they are inside a simulation.

This is different from the current, technologically achievable concept of virtual reality. Virtual reality is easily distinguished from the experience of 'true' reality; participants are never in doubt about the nature of what they experience.

Simulated reality, by contrast, would be hard or impossible to distinguish from 'true' reality.

The idea of a simulated reality raises several questions:

  • Is it possible, even in principle, to tell whether we are in a simulated reality?
  • Is there any difference between a simulated reality and a 'real' one?
  • How should we behave if we knew that we were living in a simulated reality?

Types of Simulation

In a brain-computer interface simulation, each participant enters from outside, directly connecting their brain to the simulation computer.

The computer transfers sensory data to them and reads their desires and actions back.

In this way, participants interact with the simulated world and receive feedback from it.

The participant may even receive adjustment in order to temporarily forget that they are inside a virtual realm ("passing through the veil").

While inside the simulation, the participant's consciousness is represented by an avatar, which could look very different from the participant's actual appearance.

Virtual People

In a virtual-people simulation, every inhabitant is a native of the simulated world.

Inhabitants do not have a 'real' body in the 'outside' reality, rather, each is a fully simulated entity, possessing an appropriate level of consciousness that is implemented using the simulation's own logic (i.e. using its own physics).

Virtual people can be downloaded from one simulation to another, or even archived and resurrected at a later date. It is also possible that a simulated entity could be moved out of the simulation entirely by means of mind transfer into a synthetic body. For example, when SID 6.7 escapes his simulated reality in the movie Virtuosity.

This category subdivides into two further types:

  1. Virtual people-virtual world - an external reality is simulated separately to the artificial consciousnesses;
  2. Solipsistic simulation  - consciousness is simulated and the "world" participants perceive exists only within their minds.


In an emigration simulation, the participant enters the simulation from the outer reality, as in the brain-computer interface simulation, but to a much greater degree.

On entry, the participant uses mind transfer to temporarily relocate their mental processing into a virtual-person.

After the simulation is over, the participant's mind is transferred back into their outer-reality body, along with all new memories and experience gained within.


An intermingled simulation supports both types of consciousness: players from the outer reality who are visiting (as a brain-computer interface simulation) or emigrating, and virtual-people who are natives of the simulation and hence lack any physical body in the outer reality.

The Matrix movies feature an intermingled type of simulation: they contain not only human minds (with their physical brains remaining outside), but also the 'agents', who are sovereign software programs indigenous to the computed realm.


The Social Aspects Of Simulation

It is possible that a civilization could create a computer simulation which contains individuals with artificial intelligence.

Some claim that intelligent races will never reach a level of technology where they can run simulations of reality so detailed they can be mistaken for reality; or
races who do reach such a level do not tend to run such simulations; or
we are almost certainly living in such a simulation.

Others argue the premise that given sufficiently advanced technology, it is possible to simulate entire inhabited planets or even larger habitats or even entire universes as quantum simulations in time/space pockets, including all the people on them, on a computer, and that simulated people can be fully conscious, and are as much persons as non-simulated people.

If we then assume that the human race could reach such a technological level without destroying themselves in the process , it would also be assumed there would be no legal or moral strictures on running such simulations

However, recent observations suggesting an accelerating universe mean that the Big Crunch, on which the theory was originally predicated, is now thought an unlikely scenario.

NEXT: Mixed Reality

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