Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford University in England, suggests that our universe may be a computer program generated by advanced humans or “posthumans.” According to Bostrom, these god-like beings may have created computers with enough processing power to generate virtual worlds inhabited by virtual people with virtual nervous systems. Using Bostrom’s theory, we could conceive of Earth as a multi-player game in which the posthumans enjoy vicarious experiences through the artificial humans (avatars) they create. The advanced humans may even take the simulation to the next level and transfer their consciousness to the simulated humans, as in The Matrix.
Bostrom sees these games as “ancestor simulations” in which the advanced humans relive their ancient past. But that raises some disturbing issues. Today’s gamers are admonished to turn off their boxes and “get a life.” One would think an extremely advanced race of humans would be living in the present instead of devoting immense resources and energy to living in the past. Unless, of course, the past is preferable to the present. If the game players who inhabit the simulation have suppressed their real memories, that could be a sign that their real world is unbearable and hopeless. These advanced humans may have exhausted all possibilities of survival, including colonization of other planets in other star systems, and are only left with the outcome suggested by the three astronomers who won the 2011 Nobel physics prize.
Through their study of exploding stars, Americans Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt and Adam Riess showed that the universe is cooling as it expands and will “end in ice,” like the Ninth Circle of Hell envisioned in Dante’s Inferno. In this deepest and final level of the nether world, traitors, including Judas Iscariot and the devil himself, are frozen in a lake of ice. Pretending to live on ancient Earth may be the best outlet for posthumans trapped on a cold planet orbiting the last dying sun in a dying universe.
Placing a human conscious in a long-term simulation, even with time compression, would require that the original body be artificially maintained. All this will require a source of power. Humanity’s last source of energy may not be a weak star but the heat generated from the hellish molten core of their planet. But even that will run out eventually. The lights will go out and the gamers will pass away in the last moments of freezing oblivion. How would you end the game? I would want my last memory to be life on a warming planet.