A prevailing theory amongst some in the scientific community about our universe is that it is not real. Elon Musk has said on multiple occasions that he believes we are unequivocally living in a simulated universe, of someone else design. The theory stems from a hypothesis made by British philosopher Nicholas Bostrom in 2003, although it has roots in the work of 17th century philosopher Rene Descartes. Bostrom proposed three key theories regarding the nature of the universe. According to him, one of the three hypothesis must be true:

  1. We’re literally living in a computer simulation
  2. There is a strong aversion in advanced civilizations to making “ancestor simulations”—that is, highly evolved civilizations have no interest in making what are essentially video games of their past
  3. Something destroys all civilizations before they’re able to advance to the point where they are technologically capable of simulating consciousness

Last year Elon Musk, a widely respected visionary in multiple fields, validated the first of Bostrom’s theories, stating that “the strongest argument for us being in a simulation, probably being in a simulation is the following: 40 years ago, we had pong, two rectangles and a dot. That is what games were. Now 40 years later we have photorealistic 3D simulations with millions of people playing simultaneously and it’s getting better every year. And soon we’ll have virtual reality, augmented reality, if you assume any rate of improvement at all, the games will become indistinguishable from reality.” He went on to explain that “Even if the rate [of technological advancement] drops by a thousand from right now—imagine it’s 10,000 years in the future, which is nothing in the evolutionary scale. So given we’re clearly on a trajectory to have games that are indistinguishable from reality and those games could be played on a set top box or on a PC or whatever and there would be billions of such computers or set top boxes, it would seem to follow the odds we’re in base reality is one in billions.”  Other scientists like Professor Brian Cox have noted that the universe must have bee created by a “super intelligent computer programmer.” 

However, the theory now appears to have been put to bed by a team of researches at Oxford University who have concluded that we are not living in a simulation after all.


Researchers Zohar Ringel and Dmitry Kovrizhi initially set out to study a physics phenomenon shrouded in mystery involving magnetic fields; however during the process they stumbled on to the answer to the simulation question. The pair discovered that simply storing the information of a couple of hundred electron particles would require computer memory that would take more atoms to create than what exists in our universe currently. Their discoveries proved that most natural phenomena could not be simulated, as they are simply to complex, and a computer which could process them all could not physically exist.

Andrew Masterton, editor of the science website Cosmos declared in response to the findings that “given the physically impossible amount of computer grunt needed to store information for just one member of this subset, fears that we might be unknowingly living in some vast version of The Matrix can now be put to rest”.

 While it may make life feel like a whole lot more responsibility when we know that we actually do exist, you can take solace in the fact that Descartes’ original theory that we may be just a brain in a vat is yet to be disproven. So, there’s still hope that nothing really matters.