Talking to the assorted throngs at Recode’s annual Code Conference Musk said that soon computer games will reach the point where they will become indistinguishable from reality.
His logic is it would be unlikely that we are the base reality and are already involved in one.
“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.”
Musk appears inspired by philosopher Nick Bostrom’s paper “Are You in a Computer Simulation?”
Bostrom claimed that later generations might do with their super-powerful computers is run detailed simulations of their forebears or of people like their forebears. Because their computers would be so powerful, they could run a great many such simulations.
If those simulated people are conscious (as they would be if the simulations were sufficiently fine-grained and if a certain quite widely accepted position in the philosophy of mind is correct). Then vast majority of minds like ours do not belong to the original race but rather to people simulated by the advanced descendants of an original race.
Ordinary people are likely among the simulated minds rather than among the original biological ones. Therefore, if we don’t think that we are currently living in a computer simulation, we are not entitled to believe that we will have descendants who will run lots of such simulations of their forebears.