Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

Elon Musk thinks we’re basically living in the Matrix, and we should be glad about it

Is life a video game? | Elon Musk | Code Conference 2016
The simulated world depicted in The Matrix may be more reality than fantasy, according to Elon Musk, who made the argument yesterday at Recode’s annual Code Conference. The futurist and business magnate responded to a question by journalist Josh Topolsky with a well-considered argument and the conclusion that we most likely exist in a computer-generated reality of an advanced civilization.

Beginning forty years ago with the creation of basic video games like pong, Musk points out that video games have made exponential improvements in the subsequent decades to the point of today’s photorealistic, 3D simulations.

“If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then the games will become indistinguishable from reality, even if that rate of advancement drops by a thousand from what it is now,” Musk said. “Then you just say, okay, let’s imagine it’s 10,000 years in the future, which is nothing on the evolutionary scale.”

“So given that we’re clearly on a trajectory to have games that are indistinguishable from reality,” he continued, “and those games could be played on any set-top box or on a 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.”

That’s right – to Musk’s estimation, there’s a very high likelihood that our perceived reality is actually some form of simulation.

This shouldn’t be disheartening, Musk said. Rather, we should hope to be living in a simulation because that means there’s hope for humanity. If we can eventually create realistic simulations – and the rate of technological advancement suggests that we can – then we will create billions of simulated worlds with billions of simulated beings. And if we can create these simulated beings, then we may well be the product of another civilization’s simulation. If this other civilization managed to create simulated realties, then it didn’t meet a devastating downfall.

If, however, we can’t create realistic simulations, it will be because we’ve suffered some calamitous event and, thus, humanity is doomed. “[Either] we create simulations indistinguishable from reality or civilization ceases to exist,” Musk said.

Editors' Recommendations

Dyllan Furness
Dyllan Furness is a freelance writer from Florida. He covers strange science and emerging tech for Digital Trends, focusing…
Elon Musk says he’s ‘not sure about Twitter’ and is ‘going offline’
Elon Musk

Tesla founder Elon Musk is “going offline,” or at least that’s what he posted online.
On Friday morning. Musk tweeted “Not sure about good of Twitter” followed by “Reddit still seems good,” and then finally “Going offline.”
Musk routinely uses Twitter as a way to communicate with Tesla customers but has a mixed relationship with the platform. Early this year he came under fire from the Securities and Exchange Commission when he tweeted in February that he thought Tesla would make around 500,000 cars in 2019.
At the time of the tweet he had an agreement with the SEC to not tweet material that should be sent first to investors, an agreement he made after tweeting in late 2018 “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.” He followed that tweet up by saying “Investor support is confirmed. Only reason why this is not certain is that it’s contingent on a shareholder vote.”
It was a series of tweets that obviously had an impact on Tesla's share price shares at the time.
The timing of this latest tweet is particularly interesting because it comes the same week that Twitter announced it plans to no longer post political ads on the platform.
In the announcement, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said “we believe political message reach should be earned, not bought,” a direct contrast to statements made by Facebook the week prior.
In the case of Twitter, Dorsey saw reach as being earned when a political candidate is able to obtain followers on their own, or when their message is retweeted by supporters. By allowing politicians to pay for those ads, and optimize them, Twitter was in effect devaluing that earned support.
“While internet advertising is incredibly powerful and very effective for commercial advertisers, that power brings significant risks to politics, where it can be used to influence votes to affect the lives of millions,” Dorsey tweeted. “We have witnessed abuse, harassment, troll armies, manipulation through bots and human-coordination, misinformation campaigns, and increasingly divisive echo chambers … We aren’t proud of how people have taken advantage of our service, or our inability to address it fast enough.”
Twitter’s ban on political ads goes into effect on November 22. It's unclear how long Musk's "offline" status will last.

Read more
6 questions we have about Elon Musk’s Neuralink brain interface technology
Elon Musk stands in front of the Neuralink logo.

Not satisfied with SpaceX and Tesla, Elon Musk shed light on Neuralink, his brain interface company that wants to develop “ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers.”

During a livestream Tuesday night, Musk explained that he hoped Neuralink could help treat brain disorders, preserve and enhance human brains, and eventually merge humans with artificial intelligence. The company is already working on a system that would allow paralyzed people to control artificial limbs using just their thoughts.

Read more
Elon Musk thinks Starlink satellite internet could be online before 2021
elon musk starlink space simulation img2

SpaceX stumbled at the first hurdle with its recent attempt to launch 60 satellites into space -- which wound up being pushed back a day due to bad weather, and then called off yet again. It was an unfortunately inauspicious start for Elon Musk's Starlink project, which aims to rain down internet from the heavens, courtesy of 12,000 satellites.

But while Starlink is predicted to take until November 2027 to get its entire army of satellites into orbit, it won’t take nearly so long for us to start reaping the benefits of the new service. According to Musk, initial service for Starlink’s cheap, fast internet access in remote areas (along with airplanes, ships, and other moving vehicles) could be ready to go in just one year from now.

Read more