Virtual Theology

As a science fiction fan, I’m less interested in the question “Does God Exist?”, than in the more speculative question “If God existed, what would he/she be like?”

The best attempt that anyone has ever done at answering this question was in Olaf Stapleton’s Star Maker (1937), which tells the story of a galactic civilization and its search to achieve contact with the creator. It describes a being whose primary characteristic is creativity, a being that has undergone an artistic evolution through the creation of many universes, of which ours is neither the first or the last.

However, I was thinking along somewhat different lines. The idea that we’re actually inside a computer simulation is a pretty old one. There’s an anthropic argument that says if simulating a universe is possible, then chances are we are in a simulation, since the simulation would likely be run many times.

Its also interesting to think that the person running the simulation might not be omniescent or infinitely smart – in fact, they might not even be as smart as we are. At least, one could make the argument that the whole reason for them running the simulation is to find the answer to some problem that they themselves aren’t capable of figuring out by themselves.

If scientists were to uncover evidence that this universe is inside a virtual machine, what consequences would that have? Would we owe any duty to the people responsible for creating the simulation? Would they owe any duty to us? How could we convince them to continue to spend resources running it?

One bit of evidence that points against the idea that we’re in a simulation is the fact that the universe is far larger than it needs to be to host a civilization such as ours. The only possible counter-arguments that I can think of are (a) the rest of the universe is being simulated at a lower resolution, (b) we will eventually use that extra space for something, or (c) that there are other civilizations out there that are already using it.

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