I think the likelihood [that we are living in a simulation] may be very high. And my evidence for it is a very simple thought experiment. When I look at what we measure to be our own intelligence, we tend to think highly of it…. If we look at other life forms on Earth with whom we have DNA in common, there’s none we would rank with us and our level of intelligence – ever, in the history of the fossil record. So given our definitions, we are the only intelligent species there ever was, because we have poetry, and philosophy, and music and art.
And then I thought to myself, “Well, the chimpanzee has 98-whatever percent identical DNA to us, but they cannot do trigonometry. So if they can’t do trigonometry, and they have such close genetic identity to us, let’s take that same intelligence gap and put it beyond us, and find some life form that is that much beyond us as we are beyond the chimpanzee. What would we look like to them? We would be drooling, blithering idiots in their presence.
“So, if you brought Stephen Hawking, the smartest human, in front of this other species, they’re chuckling and saying, ‘This happens to be the smartest human…. He’s slightly smarter than the other humans because he can do astrophysics calculations in his head, like our little Timmy over here in preschool.’ That is not a stretch to think about, and if that’s the case, it is easy for me to imagine that everything in our lives is just the creation of some other entity for their entertainment.
~ Neil DeGrasse Tyson, 2016 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate
I find it hard to argue against the possibility that we are living in a simulation. You look at our computing power today, and you say, “I have the power to program a world inside a computer.” Well, imagine in the future when you have even more power than that, and you can create characters that have, for example, free will, or their own perception of free will. So, this is a world, and I program in the laws that govern that world. That world will have its own laws of physics and chemistry and biology.
Now, you’re a character in that world and you think you have free will, and you say, “I want to invent a computer.” So, you do. “Hey, I want to create a world in my computer,” and then that world creates a world in its computer. And then you have simulations all the way down. So now you lay out all these universes and throw a dart. Which of these universes are you most likely to hit? The original one that started it, or one of the other countless simulations that unfolded thereafter? Obviously, you’re going to hit one of the simulations.
So, statistically, based on that argument, it’s hard to argue against the possibility that all of us are not just a creation of some kid in a parent’s basement, programming up a world for their own entertainment.
~ Neil DeGrasse Tyson, interviewed by Larry King, July 2017