The Simulation Hypothesis: An MIT Computer Scientist Shows Why AI, Quantum Physics, and Eastern Mystics All Agree We Are in a Video Game

Narrated by: Kory Getman
Length: 9 hrs and 22 mins
4.3 out of 5 stars (154 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The Simulation Hypothesis, by best-selling author, renowned MIT computer scientist, and Silicon Valley video game designer Rizwan Virk, explains one of the most daring and consequential theories of our time.

Drawing from research and concepts from computer science, artificial intelligence, video games, quantum physics, and referencing both speculative fiction and ancient eastern spiritual texts, Virk shows how all of these traditions come together to point to the idea that we may be inside a simulated reality like the Matrix.

The Simulation Hypothesis is the idea that our physical reality, far from being a solid physical universe, is part of an increasingly sophisticated video game-like simulation, where we all have multiple lives, consisting of pixels with its own internal clock run by some giant Artificial Intelligence. Simulation theory explains some of the biggest mysteries of quantum and relativistic physics, such as quantum indeterminacy, parallel universes, and the integral nature of the speed of light.

“There’s a one in a billion chance we are not living in a simulation.” (Elon Musk)

“I find it hard to argue we are not in a simulation.” (Neil deGrasse Tyson)

“We are living in computer generated reality.” (Philip K. Dick)

Video game designer Riz Virk shows how the history and evolution of our video games, including virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing could lead us to the point of being able to develop all encompassing virtual worlds like the Oasis in Ready Player One, or the simulated reality in The Matrix.

While the idea sounds like science fiction, many scientists, engineers, and professors have given the simulation hypothesis serious consideration. But the simulation hypothesis is not just a modern idea. Philosophers and mystics of all traditions have long contended that we are living in some kind of “illusion“ and that there are other realities which we can access with our minds.

Whether you are a computer scientist, a fan of science fiction like The Matrix movies, a video game enthusiast, or a spiritual seeker, The Simulation Hypothesis touches on all these areas, and you will never look at the world the same way again!

©2019 Rizwan Virk (P)2019 Rizwan Virk

What listeners say about The Simulation Hypothesis: An MIT Computer Scientist Shows Why AI, Quantum Physics, and Eastern Mystics All Agree We Are in a Video Game

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A 90's thesis for a mail order university

Rizwan Virk went to MIT. If you take one thing away from this book, it'll be that fact, sprinkled constantly in between constant definitions of acronyms that anyone reading this overblown undergrad-like work, will come away with. The first part of the book wastes our time with a history of video and arcade games. Really. No more needs to be said in what should have been a single chapter at most. Of course, if that's not enough, Virk treats you like an imbecile with definitions of terms like NPCs and pixels, The second part is the only part that has merit, though it's a retread of what you can find online in much better YouTube videos and short articles. Putting everything together in one place is a good thing, which saved this book from a 1 star review. Part three "educates" us about world religions and how they can map to the Simulation Theory. Again, no new ground there. Most interesting are unexplained phenomena, which leaves you wondering why there aren't more. This is undoubtedly the worst narration I've listened to so far in an Audible book. Random pauses are everywhere, likely while the reader is turning a page, distracted by a squirrel, or possibly some other unexplained phenomena. There's even a bunch of doubled up words (might be in the original text, to be fair), and if you don't listen to this on at least 1.5x speed, you'll be frustrated. This is currently the best book on Simulation Hypothesis, as it's the only one to treat the subject fully, but that's not exactly a ringing endorsement.

22 people found this helpful

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Speculative, Not Rigorous

I'll start with the performance, which was lackluster. The editing in particular was bad. The first time I heard a phrase repeated I thought it might be a gag, since it came shortly after the author's first mention of Philip K Dick's idea of rewind/replay. By the fifth or sixth time I was just tired of the poor editing. The performance itself was also lacking. I noticed several times that the wrong inflection was given to part of a sentence, or emphasis was placed on the wrong syllable, as in the word "habitable". Now for the real meat. I think the idea of the book is fascinating. There are real philosophical issues here to consider, and they can be really academically valid. However, this treatment is not in any way academically rigorous, but rather highly speculative without providing sufficient evidence for the author's viewpoint. If you want an intelligent person discussing their armchair philosophical ideas in an interesting, if speculative, way, this book may be for you. If you want an academically rigorous discussion by a trained philosopher or physicist, this book ain't it. I actually think it's somewhat disingenuous for the author to refer to himself as an "MIT computer scientist". Yes, he studied as an undergraduate at MIT. Yes, he runs an incubator based at MIT. But usually one expects an "<institution name> <field> scientist" to be a professional academic, trained at the doctoral level, employed by said institution and active in said academic field. I actually found the discussion on the technical requirements of simulating our universe to be highly simplified, overly optimistic and particularly specific to the author's own Matrix-like video game interpretation of the simulation hypothesis, as opposed to other academically philosophical interpretations. For a more rigorous explanation of the requirements for such a simulation, I would reference David Deutsch's "The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes - and Its Implications". From a philosophical standpoint, the author spends a miniscule half a chapter glossing over arguments against the simulation hypothesis. The rest of the book is spent providing tautological arguments for the author's viewpoint. For instance, the author latches onto speculative interpretations of quantum physics that require non-physical consciousness to bring the universe into existence (somehow without even mentioning Eugene Wigner, though he does mention other quantum pioneers). He does this despite a lack of in-depth discussion of quantum foundations other than invoking the competing interpretation of Many Worlds, somehow as further evidence of his conclusions. For a good and rigorous, if challenging, philosophical discussion on how consciousness might be explained entirely with physical means, see Daniel C Dennett's "Consciousness Explained". The author seems to think that his speculation serves as a valid explanation for a wide variety of physical phenomena, though even the author admits in the final chapter that there are many unknowables and assumptions. An explanation that begs more questions than it answers is not an explanation. There are no explanations in this book, only attempts to explain away physical phenomena using the framework of a higher reality about which we can only speculate. Finally, the author's grasp on some of the physics he invokes is tenuous at best. He confuses basic terminology, such as quantum fields vs quantum wave functions. He even indicates that there may be some way to share information instantaneously over vast distances using quantum entanglement, when it is well known by every quantum physicist everywhere that there is no way to send information this way. It's certainly possible that many of the ideas the author puts forward are true. If you're in the mood for speculating wildly about far-flung but real possibilities, give this book a shot. If you're interested in raising your awareness of the real frontier of human knowledge, give this book a pass.

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Great intro to Simulation Theory

Fascinating introduction to Simulation Theory; Highly recommend for those interested in looking for a good overview, with links for more in-depth pursuit.

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Too much

This is too heavy on the “let’s prove we’re in a simulation”. And not enough about the “soo what do we do about it”. Or what does it mean?Or How can we interact with the simulation to maximize pleasure? Etc. At least that’s what I was hoping for.

6 people found this helpful

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Some technical anomalies, but stick with

In chapter three, the editor may have been asleep - there is a section around the 19 minute mark where phrases are repeated, and repeated several times. That said, the reader does a solid job and isn't offensive to listen to. Though the books first chapters feel like a videogame fanboy trying to make a case for something that is bigger than the scope of his interest in games released in the past 5 years, it eventually takes a few turns towards competent comparison between quantum indeterminacy and MMORPGs. Beyond that, it is on the author and the book, which I am not reviewing here - just wanted to make a note about the production. Nonetheless nice to have book like this on Audible as it bridges some overlaps in interest and may serve as an introduction to these concepts for some audiences.

2 people found this helpful

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I love growth of perspective!

Growing up in a religious background, I started my life off being told how to think and what was real and what wasn't. As I got older I grew my own perspective on things and it intrigued the hell out of me how little the common person asks questions why we think and why we except things as a standard way of thinking. I concluded at a young age I was atheist. Less than 14 and I had already decided it can't be that simple. The world has too many unanswered questions for this to be plausible. Simulation theory wraps up all of my own conclusions on the subject.

1 person found this helpful

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As explained by a video game designer.

Struggled to finish. The hypothesis is what drew me in, but too many lectures on the nuances of video games turned me off.

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Reality bytes

this is a must for anyone who wants to have a good read with philosophy, religion, and science, all overlapped in a cohesive story. The idea that we are in a great simulation is one that I have had before, but never really studied. this book gave me the opportunity to think about it on a deeper level

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Surprising, from a sceptic

super impressed. expected bamboozling string of rationalisations from a computer scientist. whilst this was sometimes or mostly true, perhaps, the guy's clearly a very broadly read bloke. I choked on only a couple of his categorically incorrect cross-discipline assumptions (outside computer science), then was amusingly frustrated when he tied it together in such a way so as his incorrect premise not to really matter in the grand scheme of his conclusions. often he would even directly address the counter arguments I went to prepare in my mind, almost stealing my words. narrative has to take a few shortcuts I suppose and this story is incredibly compelling. wake up ;)

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matrix 3.0

I enjoyed this book. & well before others started thinking down this path I too thought about how our life is like a video game or (information) as a kid. I would like to talk with more people like this about other likely theories darquinn@hotmail.com

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  • darren
  • 07-11-19

I'm a victim of an Instagram advert!

save your money, just have a look on YouTube or just Google to get the same info. clearly this book was done as a money spinner, and I fell for it Overall this guy has interesting ideas, but my god he labours it. there's lots of errors in his reading, where a fact is read differently twice or 3 times. the narration is terrible, far too stumbling and fast as he's clearly no experience in the art.

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  • M. Schaeffer
  • 10-24-20

decent, but stretching

although he brings up many good ideas, I feel like he's stretching in many ways

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-29-20

Thought provoking stuff, well sold

This is an incredible book that really pushes the mind to ask those really big questions and does a great job of using game development techniques to illustrate why the holographic universe theory could be correct. The narrator does an excellent job of keeping you interested over technical topics too.

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  • Lee
  • 02-13-20

Interesting depiction of simulation hypothesis...

interesting depiction of simulation hypothesis... certainly moves forward some (mostly Eastern) concepts. Clear / not too bad / narration... generally v. good?!

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  • Larry Reacher
  • 01-11-20

super good book.

Well written and read. I liked the history about PC games etc, and bringing it all together physics, mystics, video gaming into one big theory was excellent. I guess we should all fear, "the coming of the system reboot" ;-)

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  • Miss Ailsa M Freeman
  • 10-07-20

Game changer or should I say, expander!

This is undoubtedly one of the most important book I have ever read. It perfectly marries my scientific self with my spiritual self and has given me so much more motivation to learn more about the science behind this theory. I will never see the world in the same way again.

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  • Peter
  • 05-31-20

A clear and concise explanation of how we could be living in a computer simulation

Of the books I have read so far on the Simulation Argument, this book provides the clearest explanation of how we could be in a computer simulation based on what we know of our world, where we have been with spiritually and where we are going with technology. As can be expected with Rizwan’s background in computer games, he spends much of the book covering how a simulation we could be living in compares with a computer game. His reasoning is strong enough to convince many that we live in a computer simulation. Although he touched on the role of advanced artificial intelligence and the possibility of other dimensions with different laws of physics, most of his discussion was within our current knowledge of physics. As he covered, advanced AI and the Simulation are intertwined. The consequence of this and the technical singularity is that advanced AI would likely throw our scientific models out the window and many of the limitations and design aspects of the simulation Rizwan described become irrelevant. Rizwan covered the two scenarios of a NPC only and a PC simulation but not much about a simulation with both and how they would get on. I would have liked Rizwan to have expanded more on the possible commercial justification of a simulation for humans based on his activities in venture capital investments and come up with potential strategies for commercial interests. He touched on nested simulations but did not expand on how the resolution of a simulation inside a simulation changes and the implication of higher level simulations having higher level technologies, beliefs and agendas. These topics were covered in another book on the Simulation Argument : The Word of Bob - an AI Minecraft Villager. I would have also liked him to expand on the question of a simulation censuring information about itself to preserve its appearance of being real. I wonder if he has experienced that in his efforts to spread more information about the simulation argument.