Imagine a video game. In this video game, the graphics are so advanced that they are indistinguishable from reality. In fact, the game is so realistic that the characters in the game believe that they are actually living human beings. Impossible, right?
Elon Musk is one of the brightest minds in the world. In fact, several rocket scientists believe that Elon Musk might be the smartest human to ever live. He was one of the founders of Paypal. After selling that company, he founded Tesla, a company that produces cars that run on electricity. He also started Solar City, a company that produces solar panels. Last but not least, he runs SpaceX, an American aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company hoping to colonize Mars one day. (He is pretty confident that he will be able to do so before the end of his life.)
Elon Musk was recently the keynote speaker at a big conference. During the Q & A section, he was asked a question that everyone thought was pretty comical.
He was asked if he’d ever heard of the simulation question. That if he’d ever considered whether we were in a simulation.
To everyone’s shock, he said that he’s had so many simulation type conversations that it’s not even funny. He mentioned that it got to the point where every conversation became the simulation/artificial intelligence conversation, and that he and his brother had to ban it from the hot tub because “It killed the mood”. Of course, this statement made the entire room laugh hysterically, and just about everyone thought it was over.
But Elon wasn’t ready to move on, he added,
The strongest argument for us being in a simulation probably is the following. Forty years ago, we had pong. Pong is basically two rectangles and a dot. That was what video games were. 40 years later, we have photorealistic, 3D simulations with millions of people playing simultaneously, and it’s improving every year. Soon we’ll have virtual reality, augmented reality, etc. If you assume any rate of improvement at all, the games will become indistinguishable from reality, even if that rate of advancement drops by a thousandth from what it is now. Then you might say, “Okay, let’s imagine it’s 10,000 years in the future!” which is still nothing on the evolutionary scale.
So given that we’re clearly on a trajectory to have games that are indistinguishable from reality, and those games could be played on any set-top box or PC or whatever, and there would probably be billions of such computers or set-top boxes, it would seem to follow that the odds that we’re in base reality is one in billions.
Tell me what’s wrong with that argument.
No, seriously. What’s wrong with that argument?
In other words, there is a one-in-a-billion chance that we are not in a video game.
The smartest man in the universe, a man who learned rocket science in his spare-time for fun, believes that we are in a video game.
He would rather have a guy in his underwear living in his mother’s basement playing a video game and dictating his life than recognizing the sovereign God of the universe who created him and, despite his incredible arrogance, loves him.
You would think that the whole room pointed and laughed at Elon Musk for suggesting such a preposterous thing. But not only was he not mocked, it seemed that by the end of his answer, the whole room was convinced by his argument! “The argument makes sense,” Said Josh Topolsky, the journalist who asked him the original question. “But what do you think?”
“There’s a one in billions chance we’re in base reality,”
“Arguably we should hope that that’s true, because if civilization stops advancing, that may be due to some calamitous event that erases civilization. So maybe we should be hopeful this is a simulation, because otherwise we are going to create simulations indistinguishable from reality or civilization ceases to exist. We’re unlikely to go into some multimillion-year stasis.”
According to Musk, the only possibility we have to guarantee civilization’s endurance is that we would develop video games to the point where they become indistinguishable from reality. In fact, in his estimation, this must have already happened and we are all currently just products of someone playing games.
How do we think about this as believers?
First of all, we need to realize the Bible says that “The fool says in his own heart that there is no God.” (Psalm 14:1) This is not an intellectual judgment. Few Christians can compare intellectually with Elon Musk; rather, it is a moral judgment. God has gifted these men beyond belief. They can read books in their spare time and discover incredible truths about God’s creation. They can invent cars that run completely on electricity. They can develop space programs to the point where they become pretty confident that they can bring people to other planets, and yet they won’t humble themselves to recognize the creator who gave them these gifts. Like Satan, they glorify themselves to the point where they not only think they can live without God, but they elevate man to god-like status.
Second, we must believe Romans 1:18-19 when it says that God has made evident the truth about Himself, and yet they suppress the truth in unrighteousness. The reason they make up scenarios where we are just products of a video game is not because those scenarios are more plausible than the Bible, but because those scenarios don’t involve punishment for sin. In a simulation, there is no such thing as a perfect and Holy God who hates sin, and who will punish those who do so.
Third, we must remember that if it weren’t for God’s absolutely kind and rich mercy (Eph 2:4-6), we would still believe in a lie as well. Maybe we wouldn’t believe in solipsism, or that we are in the matrix, as Mr. Musk does, but we would still be lost and on our way to Hell. We must remember that the only reason we know the Gospel is because God graciously sent someone to explain the scripture to us, and opened our eyes to see our foolishness and our need for Christ.
Fourth, we must remember that the Gospel has the power to save even people with the hardest of hearts. God’s patience is astounding. He is so gracious that even Elon Musk, if he repents of his sin and trusts in Christ, can be saved from his sin and worship and serve Christ forever in heaven.
Fifth, we must remember that it is not intellectual arguments that will convince the world to be saved. As we saw, unbelief isn’t an intellectual problem, but a moral one. We must call people to repentance and faith in Christ through explaining scripture to them. God gives faith through His word, (Romans 10:17) and knowledge of the truth only comes after repentance (2 Tim 2:25).
Elon Musk is very much like every other human who doesn’t know Christ. Despite the astounding evidence of God around him, he would rather live in a fake made-up world than to live with true accountability for his sin. On his heart sits a throne, but rather than allowing God to reign, he knocks Him out of His rightful seat and placed himself on it. We must pray for him, and most importantly for those that God has placed around us. We also must live in thankfulness because God, in His great mercy, showed us much grace and opened our blind eyes to the truth.