When you are a multi-billionaire with a track record of bankrolling some of the most bleeding edge tech projects out there, there must be some perks that goes with territory. Which is probably why Elon Musk gets the kind of press coverage he gets for making comments that would make the average Joe look like a stoner who has had one puff too many! But jokes aside, the founder of paypal and the visionary CEO behind initiatives like Space X and Tesla is a maverick through and through. He relishes taking on public Q&A sessions, often using such forums to deliver his candid and often bizarre thoughts on a variety of future tech issues.
Musk was at it again at the Code Conference in California on the 1st of June, expressing his thoughts on the theme of Simulated Reality while answering an audience member. So now we have fresh insights into the mind of the man who dreams of dying a King on Mars, while worrying simultaneously about the threat posed to his dreams by inevitable robot insurrection of the future! Even in the midst of all that, Elon Musk finds time to ponder about the reality of our existence in this universe. And when he says that it is a topic he has dwelt on at length throughout his life, we can’t help but believe the candor in his words.
So what conclusions have Mr. Musk arrived at? In simple words, the world we live in is probably not real and there is a one in a billion chance that we are all just part of a simulation being run by a civilization of intelligent beings far advanced than us. And that is not all. Musk considers complex virtual reality worlds as an inevitable part of civilizational progress. According to him, if we humans are indeed somehow in a real world, and not part of some simulation, it is probably due to the fact that other civilizations besides our own have failed to reach the requisite level of technology!
To bolster his arguments Musk points out the advancements we ourselves have made in virtual reality technology in the span of mere decades. From the primitive days of Pong to the blockbuster AAA games and simulation at present, the growth of virtual reality tech has been phenomenal. At the current pace, Musk feels that it is inevitable that humans will create vast virtual universes, sooner rather than later.
These arguments are not original to Musk, however. They were made at the turn of the century by controversial Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom, who also warned us about the potential dangers posed by true Artificial Intelligence to the human race. It is quite clear that Musk is familiar with and probably influenced by Bostrom’s ideas. But if he seriously buys into the whole virtual reality argument, Musk shouldn’t really worry about the future of humanity and the threats posed by robots and global warming. Why bother, if we are all just simulations whose continued existence depends on our creators not “pulling the plug” on the whole thing?!