No Private vs Public cloud debate or microservices Hybrid cloud Utopia talk here. Just a little Cloud geeking and philosophy on the nature of the universe that was reignited by Elon Musk.

The Elon thought experiment?

Is cloud computing powering the universe and reality around us as one big simulation?

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“There’s a billion to one chance we’re living in base reality,” Elon Musk said.

Elon’s head in the Clouds

This Sci-Fi metaphysics question was posed to Elon Musk the other week at Recode’s Code Conference. Crazy tech talk you say? To relate to Elon’s vector of thinking, imagine Moore’s Law and the trajectory of cloud computing in say 10,000 years. Keep in mind we have lived through only 60 years! For added rocket fuel to the simulation argument, throw in Quantum computing.  The holy grail of computing based on quantum electrodynamics that promises exponential compute vs our primitive binary approach to date that is encountering the bounds of Moore’s Law. Bill Gate’s claims that this break through technology is only 6-10 years out.

Envisioning that level of cloud computing in 10,000 years is almost incomprehensible. Whether it takes hundreds, thousands, or even millions of years (still nothing on the evolutionary time scale of the universe), that computing capability for a civilization makes the simulation argument both intriguing and scary. Based on technology trends and logic, one can not dismiss the possibility.

For all his inventions, this argument did not start with Elon Musk however. One PHD geek (Nick Bostrom) made a now famous argument, The Simulation Argument. Given enough time and advanced cloud computing, a civilization has the capacity to simulate prior evolutionary timescales of space and time. Too see how Elon calculated the “A billion to one chance we’re living in base reality”, let looks at the Simulation Argument.

The Simulation Argument Simplified:

Nick Bistro’s simulation argument has 3 main premises. Mainly centered around if us humans destroy ourselves before reaching an advanced human state.

  1. The human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage. Basically we blow ourselves up.
  2. Advanced human civilizations gain the capabilities, but basically get bored and stop conducting simulations
  3. Advanced civilizations conduct simulations, as such most realties in the universe are simulated ones vs. being base reality.
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One thing that later generations might do with their super-powerful computers is run detailed simulations of their forebears or of people like their forebears. Because their computers would be so powerful, they could run a great many such simulations. Suppose that these simulated people are conscious (as they would be if the simulations were sufficiently fine-grained and if a certain quite widely accepted position in the philosophy of mind is correct). Then it could be the case that the vast majority of minds like ours do not belong to the original race but rather to people simulated by the advanced descendants of an original race ~ Nick Bostrom

Sobering Statistical Probability

The beauty of the argument is, even if you think we are in base reality and that this is hog wash, we are still likely to develop those capabilities at some point in time. So whether it’s the Truman show on steroids or a benign version of the Matrix, who knows?  I can envision one hell of a VR game though. Only 100,000 years ago planet earth was inhabited by Homo Sapiens and 5 other Homo genus species (e.g. Homo Erectus and  Homo Flores).  Imagine rolling the evolutionary dice 10 times and seeing how a Neathrandal government might turn out (some argue we are in that now). Or even doing this experiment on the grand scale of the Universe and Big Bangs. Sounds crazy, but 60 years ago we only had pong the video game. What if you gave us a million years?  If we do go down that road, that means of all the “realities” that occur within the universe through time, a large majority will be simulated vs real ones. Statistically speaking and egos aside, with random probability we are more likely to be within a simulation vs. “base reality”. With that statistical condition, the nature of our reality comes down to a race amongst interstellar space civilizations.

At least we didn’t all kill ourselves.  

So if we are in a simulation, the good news is civilizations advanced far enough that it didn’t implode on itself somehow!  And if not,  I guess that makes life even more precious!

Your turn?

So where do you stand on the cloud powered simulation argument?

Elon puts it at 1/1,000,000,000 that we are in base reality. I guess he is short on humans being the first to achieve such feat considering the size of our known universe (or multi-universes).   Intellectual circle? Or just interesting intellectual masturbation? Ohh, the power of cloud computing. Let us know what you think @CiscoCloud via #CloudSimulation.

Happy Simulating,
Jamie Alfieri


Jamie Alfieri

Product Marketing: Cisco Intercloud Services