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Science & Technology

If we live in a simulation, how much computer memory does it need ?

November 4, 2021 | Comment icon 65 comments

Are we all plugged into the Matrix ? Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Glogger / Chris Aimone
Storing a simulation of the universe is likely to require more memory than the average video game.
What if we told you that the world you live in isn't real ? It might sound like a concept straight out of the Keanu Reeves science fiction favorite 'The Matrix', but according to some of the world's top minds, the idea that we are living inside a sophisticated computer simulation is not only possible, it may actually be more likely than the idea that we are living in the real world.

But like all computer programs, such a complex simulation - which would presumably include the entire observable universe - would have to be stored somewhere.

Intrigued by the possibility, physicist Melvin Vopson from the University of Portsmouth has sought to calculate just how much computer memory the entire universe would actually require.
To do this, he started by first determining how much information there is in a single subatomic particle, then multiplied this by an estimate for the total number of particles in the universe.

This calculation comes to a rather ridiculous 10^93 bits - or 600 million trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion - needed to store the entire universe in computer memory.

Of course if we are living in a computer simulation, it's likely to be one created by a much more advanced civilization (or even our 'future' selves), meaning that such levels of computer storage might not be particularly excessive or unachievable.

As things stand, it's a bit like trying to imagine how the latest big budget video games (which can exceed 100gb in size) could be stored in the memory of an old 1980s 8-bit home computer.

Source: Live Science | Comments (65)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #56 Posted by OverSword 6 months ago
I don’t think any of that makes me doubt the simulation hypothesis at all. I can see how any of that could be algorithm.
Comment icon #57 Posted by OverSword 6 months ago
We have rudimentary simulations now. Ever played video games such as GTA or Halo? We also use computer modeling for weather and earthquakes which simulate certain conditions in order to predict the future and determine how we can respond or change. Can you imagine how far that could be taken in one hundred years? Two hundred? 
Comment icon #58 Posted by joc 6 months ago
Ha!  No...but I have! Below is an excerpt from a conversation where someone asks GPT-3 a question...the green is the answer.
Comment icon #59 Posted by zep73 6 months ago
Everything we perceive is nothing but electrical impulses interpreted by the brain. The brain itself is considered to be the equal of a supercomputer. Lucid dreams are fairly rare, and besides those, we are all totally convinced things are really happening, when we dream. That's how easy we are fooled. By our own brain nonetheless. How anyone can trust that lump of fat, goes beyond me. It is notoriously unreliable. Reality is whatever your brain tells you. Yes I know. GPT-3 is known to talk gibberish sometimes. It likes to "go along" when people try to trick it with nonsense and silly question... [More]
Comment icon #60 Posted by joc 6 months ago
Reality is what we interpret to be real.  But it is ...reality...not because of our brains telling us anything...what our brain is actually doing is interpreting signals it has received from our five senses.  It is not 'creating' a response for those signals...yes it is interpreting them...but it interprets them in such a way as for us as groups of individuals to agree that yes...all of our brains are interpreting these signals the same way...the end result being an agreement on what reality actually is.   Fantasy is when we, i.e. our brains, create a reality that isn't being given to it by ou... [More]
Comment icon #61 Posted by zep73 6 months ago
Yes, of course, but would an inhabitant of a perfect simulation not experience it the same way? They have never known anything else. There is a thought experiment that goes like this: If we made switches the size of neurons, and replaced a person's neurons with them one by one, when would that person stop being a person? He feels and behaves in exactly the same way throughout the transition. When there are no neurons left, only switches, is he still a person? Is he still himself? Would we consider him human? When a computer can imitate the brain, down to the most subtle details, is it then a d... [More]
Comment icon #62 Posted by joc 6 months ago
A computer cannot do fantasy. It is fantasy because it is a speculation...a thought...reality is what is...not what might be.  Now = reality.  Someday = Fantasy.
Comment icon #63 Posted by zep73 6 months ago
If we are simulated, it is real and now.
Comment icon #64 Posted by joc 6 months ago
I get all that.  There is one piece to that whole simulation puzzle that actually does make sense...and that is the infinite loop.  No end.  Logic suggests to me that if there is no beginning, there is no end.  And as smart as we are.  As intelligent as we are.  We have yet to find...the beginning.   The Infinite Loop does play into the simulation theory.
Comment icon #65 Posted by Eldorado 6 months ago
Elon Musk has cited the 1970s video game Pong in order to reassert his belief that our perception of reality is in fact a hyper-realistic computer simulation. Responding to a tweet about Pong posted by a popular engineering trivia account, the SpaceX and Tesla boss said that the advancement in graphics and gameplay in the years since it was released implies that humanity is on a path to create digital worlds indistinguishable from the real world. “49 years later, games are photo-realistic 3D worlds,” the billionaire wrote. “What does that trend continuing imply about our reality.” MSN

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