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Are we living in the Matrix? UW prof thinks up potential test

A UW researcher says he's come up with a way to test whether we're really living in a computer simulation much like the Keanu Reeves movie the Matrix. (AP image)

In the hit movie trilogy the Matrix, Keanu Reeves discovers his entire life is actually a computer simulation and he's really just living in a tank hooked up to a computer.

A British physicist has theorized for the past decade our descendants are running a computer simulation on how humanity evolved, with us living in it just like the movie.

"He concluded roughly speaking that if humans did develop enough time to perform numerical simulations of ourselves and we didn't nuke ourselves before getting there then it's more than likely we are a numerical simulation ourselves," says University of Washington physicist Martin Savage.

Sounds far fetched, but now, the UW researcher believes he's found a small way to try and test that theory.

"If we get enough computer time, then in the future we want to know how we got here, and so then if you have enough computer time you'll be able to run a simulation of our universe from the beginning to see how we evolved to where we are," says Savage.

And if our universe is really just a simulation, Savage and his colleagues speculate there could be other simulated universes out there as well.

Savage says it'll take decades of advancements in computer power and technology before anyone will be able to even begin running such a simulation. If we are a simulation, he speculates it's far from the movie.

"I think there's no suggestion it looks anything like Keanu Reeves finding the Matrix, but one of the deep questions we have to continue to ask ourselves is what does our universe look like at very high energies and how do quantum mechanics and general relativity come together," he says.

So what's the point?

"If you get there, you could actually make predictions for the future, possibly," says Savage.

About the Author


Chris Sullivan is a traffic reporter for KIRO Radio 97.3 FM. He cares deeply about the amount of time you spend sitting in Seattle traffic.

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