From Joshua Rothman at the New Yorker:
The simulation argument is appealing, in part, because it gives atheists a way to talk about spirituality. The idea that we’re living in only a part of reality, with the whole permanently beyond our reach, can be a source of awe. About our simulators, one can ask the same questions one asks about God: Why did the creators of our world decide to include evil and suffering? (Can they change that setting in the preferences?) Where did the original, non-simulated world come from? In that sense, the simulation argument is a thoughtful and expansive materialist fable that is almost, but not quite, religious. There is, of course, no sanctity or holiness in the simulation argument. The people outside the simulation aren’t gods—they’re us.
Considered as a parable, the simulation argument is essentially ironic. In the end, it’s a story about limits. On the one hand, we maximize human potential by creating worlds of our own; on the other, by doing so, we confirm the impossibility of ultimate knowledge about the universe in which we live. Transcendence enforces humility. In the end, the fulfillment of godlike ambition makes the universe harder to know. More.
Rothman doesn’t address the question: If so, what is our world is a simulation of? That’s the most obvious question and, come to think of it, the one that isn’t allowed.
See also: Tyson bombshell: Universe likely just computer sim
The bill arrives for cosmology’s free lunch
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