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Truly Random Numbers and Why We Might Be Living in a Computer Simulation

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There’s a Doctor Who episode that theorizes we could all be part of a computer simulation. To prove this, each character generates a supposedly random string of numbers, and somehow, each person comes up with the same numbers.

This obviously doesn’t happen in our world. Ask people to generate random numbers at the same time, and they will come up with wildly different numbers. However, the identical ‘random’ generated numbers in Doctor Who proves to the characters that they’re all living in a simulation. Those ‘random’ numbers would be generated by the computer that runs the simulation, which are notoriously bad at generating random numbers (1).

The process of generating ‘random’ numbers isn’t difficult. The computer starts with a ‘seed’, an original number that, sometimes, a human inputs, then the computer performs calculations on that number and returns a ‘random’ number. It then takes the number generated and performs the same calculations, and then repeats that process for however many random numbers you want. The problem is, the computer needs a human to provide that initial ‘seed’ number.

The thing is, there are ways to get truly random numbers (3). It requires basing your random number “seed” on something created by nature, and therefore truly random. Truly random numbers can exist. But wait, if we can generate numbers completely randomly (2), then can’t a vaguely intelligent life form create a simulation with a decent random number generator?

So we could be in a simulation, just one with a better random number generator.

There’s a theory that the universe is too perfect to be randomly created (4). Also consider the fact that if humans weren’t created by a deity, how come there aren’t more intelligent life forms floating around the galaxy? Are we the first intelligent civilization? How statistically probable is that?

Consider the solution to this problem. A divine creator(s). If there was an all powerful being or beings who created us then this whole why aren’t there other civilizations question is unnecessary. There aren’t other civilizations because a deity didn’t create them. Problem solved.

Now, consider for a moment, an all powerful being. A being with the ability to model a world, to create life forms with some semblance of independent thought, with access to a random number generator that isn’t completely predictable. Let’s think about the video game The Sims. Model a world. Create “life forms” with some independent thought. Random number generator. Now, imagine if technology got really advanced. Like, really advanced. VR isn’t necessary because you can be plugged into a machine that generates a world around you. The AI for non player characters is so good you can’t tell who’s human and who isn’t. So, are you human?

We might all be in a simulation. We might not be. There’s no way to know. There’s no inception trick, spinning a top that never stops. Physics can be modeled too easily for that. So what do you do with your life? Do you live it to the fullest, without considering that we might be nothing but a bit of ones and zeroes, do you devote your life to working until you die, or do you choose an alternative path? You have no way of knowing if you have free will, or if your entire life is a result of what you were programmed to do.

Photo courtesy of instructables.com 

Citations:

  1. https://engineering.mit.edu/engage/ask-an-engineer/can-a-computer-generate-a-truly-random-number/
  2. https://phys.org/news/2016-06-algorithm-random.html
  3. https://www.random.org/randomness/
  4. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/deepak-chopra/why-the-universe-is-our-h_1_b_2950189.html
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Truly Random Numbers and Why We Might Be Living in a Computer Simulation