The idea, which was covered extensively in the movie ‘The Matrix’, maintains that we are all hooked up to a massive computer simulation that exists somewhere in the distant future.
Perhaps this sophisticated simulation was designed to enable us to experience what life was like for those who actually did live in the 21st century or maybe the whole thing was put together as a complex science experiment by an advanced extraterrestrial race.
It could even be that our entire universe is a simulation being generated from somewhere else.
Philosopher Nick Bostrom, director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, describes such a simulated universe as a “richly detailed software simulation of people, including their historical predecessors, by a very technologically advanced civilization.”
“Instead of having brains in vats that are fed by sensory inputs from a simulator, the brains themselves would also be part of the simulation. It would be one big computer program simulating everything, including human brains down to neurons and synapses,” he said.
But if we were all part of a simulation then how would we ever be able to tell ?
“If we are living in a simulation, then everything is software, including every atom in our bodies,” said science fiction writer David Brin. “There may be ‘back doors’ that the programmers left ajar.”
If this whole idea sounds somewhat fantastical then have a look at some of the upcoming virtual reality headsets such as Oculus Rift that are due to be released next year. While these early developments in digital immersive entertainment are unlikely to provide an experience that is indistinguishable from reality that could easily change over the next few decades.