As many of you probably saw, John Tierney of the New York Times thinks there’s a ~50% chance we’re living in a computer simulation, having been persuaded by Nick Bostrom’s infamous simulation argument.
(This argument, incidentally, is something that occurred to me as a teenager, and I’m guessing to many others of nerdly leanings as well. I didn’t consider it a profound metaphysical discovery, just a sign I needed to get out more.)
Peter Woit feels strongly that debates about whether the universe is a computer are not science and therefore have no place in the Times science section. Robin Hanson retorts that “rather than complain that something is not ‘science,’ or not ‘philosophy,’ it is much better to just say more specifically what it is that you don’t like about it.” Peter Shor points out that if we’re living in a simulation, then the incompatibility of quantum mechanics with general relativity might simply be a bug, in which case the universe will crash when the first black hole evaporates.
As for me, I tend to side with Woody Allen: yes, the universe might be a simulation, but where else can you get a decent steak?
The last word, however, goes to Bender Bending Rodriguez of Futurama.
Bender: “If that stuff wasn’t real, how can I be sure anything is real? Is it not possible, nay, probable that my whole life is just a product of my or someone else’s imagination?”
Clerk: “No, get out. Next!”
(Click here for the audio clip.)