Virtual Reality Poses the Same Riddles as the Cosmic Multiverse

On most days, we do not wake up anticipating that we may be suddenly thrust into the sky while popcorn shrimp rains down like confetti, as some guy roars from above: “Hey, there, I’m Jack. And you are in a computer simulation.” Instead, we wake up thinking that an atom is an atom, that our physics is inherent to this universe and not prone to arbitrary change by coders, and that our reality is, well, real.

Yet there may be another possibility. Game developers have opened up massive, explorable universes and populated them with computer-generated characters based on advanced A.I. The experiences still lack some key components of reality, but

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Nautilus

Nautilus3 min read
This Crystal Mimics Learning and Forgetting
You don’t need a brain to learn. Slime molds, for example, solve mazes and navigate obstacles—all without a single neuron. Information about their environment is somehow stored across their bodies. (Scientists are still a bit hazy on how this works.)
Nautilus3 min read
A Simple Visual Proof of a Powerful Idea in Graph Theory
Reprinted with permission from Quanta Abstractions A recent advance in geometry makes heavy use of Ramsey’s theorem, an important idea in another field—graph theory. Ramsey’s theorem states that in any graph where all points are connected by either r
Nautilus7 min read
Is Tribalism a Natural Malfunction?: What computers teach us about getting along.
From an office at Carnegie Mellon, my colleague John Miller and I had evolved a computer program with a taste for genocide. This was certainly not our intent. We were not scholars of race, or war. We were interested in the emergence of primitive coop