US scientists are attempting to find out whether all of humanity is currently living a Matrix-style computer simulation being run on supercomputers of the future.
According to researchers at the University of Washington, there are tests that could be done to begin to work out whether we are in fact real, or merely a simulation created by a futuristic android on its lunch break.
Currently, computer simulations are decades away from creating even a primitive working model of the universe. In fact, scientists are able to accurately model only a 100 trillionth of a metre, with work to create a model of a full human being still out of reach.
By looking for underlying patterns, physicists believe that it may be possible to work out if we are existing in a computer created universe, created many years in the future. Looking at constraints imposed on simulations by limited resources could show signs that we are mere bit-part players in a Matrix-style film plot.
It will take many years to reach the computational power to give a real glimpse of whether we are living in a simulation, the scientists contend, but even by looking at the tiny portion of the universe that we can currently accurately model, it may be possible to detect 'signatures' of constraints on physical processes that could point to a simulation.
The researchers suggest that a signature could show up as a limitation in the energy of cosmic rays, for example. By testing the behaviour of cosmic rays on underlying 'lattice' frameworks governing rules of physics that could exist in future models of the universe, the researchers could find patterns that could point to a simulation.
“This is the first testable signature of such an idea,” one of the researchers, Martin Savage, said.
Aside from the rather mind-boggling proposition that we may be part of a computer simulation, another researcher pointed out that this would bring up the possibility of inter-universe computer platforms, and the potential to communicate across these.
“Then the question is, ‘Can you communicate with those other universes if they are running on the same platform?’” UW graduate student, Zohreh Davoudi, asked.