Everything You Need to Know About the Holographic Universe Theory

Is the entire universe really just a hologram? Before you call the psychiatrist, we have a few modern scientific theories (and one really old Platonic allegory) that we think you should see. As much as we want to believe that we’re in complete control of our lives, that may not be true if we’re living in a holographic universe created by someone or something else. Keep reading to find out exactly what it means to live in a holographic universe, and what scientists are saying about the possibility that everything around us is just a simulation.

If we are living in a computer simulation created by aliens, god, our future selves (seriously take your pick, every option is crazy), then does anything we do matter? We’ll try to figure that out, and give you proof the universe is a hologram while we explain the science behind the universe hologram theory

After you finish reading all of these reasons the universe is a hologram, we suggest going outside and playing Frisbee with your bros, or maybe taking a nap. Whatever you do, don’t think about holograms for at least an hour. 

Photo: WikiImages / Pixabay / CC0 1.0

  • The "Real World" Might Be Nothing More Than a Projection

    The "Real World" Might Be Nothing More Than a Projection
    Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd.

    First, let's start with the basics: what is a hologram? When most people think of a hologram, they think of a projected image, like Princess Leia from Star Wars. Holograms like these are made by recording the way that light scatters around an object and then using that to display a three-dimensional picture of that object.

    For now, most real-life holograms are just static images, but researchers are working on developing dynamic, real-time holographic communications that come close to what we've seen in movies.

    So what does it mean for our universe to be a hologram? In short, it means that maybe everything we see as three-dimensional, from people and animals on earth to stars in the sky, is in reality just a two-dimensional structure projected onto the cosmological horizon. In other words, the "real world" we see around us is just a projection.

    We'll give you a minute to let that sink in.

  • Our Universe Might Exist as a Computer Simulation

    Our Universe Might Exist as a Computer Simulation
    Photo: NASA on The Commons / flickr / No known copyright restrictions

    According to Nick Bostrom, professor of psychology at Oxford University, and Rich Terrile, the director of the Center for Evolutionary Computation and Automated Design at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, if we are living in a hologram it may have been created by a super computer, or group of super computers, who are testing... something?

    Even though this theory sounds kind of depressing, Terrile's into it. "What I find inspiring is that, even if we are in a simulation or many orders of magnitude down in levels of simulation, somewhere along the line something escaped the primordial ooze to become us and to result in simulations that made us – and that’s cool.”

  • In a Hologram, Our Brains Would Not Produce Consciousness

    In a Hologram, Our Brains Would Not Produce Consciousness
    Photo: Dr John2005 / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    For a moment, let's say that the world is a 2D holographic projection, or a program being run by a super computer. What does that have to do with us? If everything is a hologram, does anything matter?

    According to Keith Floyd, a psychologist at Virginia Intermont College, "If reality is nothing but a holographic illusion, then the physical brain does not produce consciousness. Rather, it is consciousness that creates the 'appearance' of the brain as well as the body and everything else around us that we interpret as physical."

    And not only that, but things that we perceive to be random are either predetermined incidents, or glitches. It's up to you how to handle this information, or has it already been decided that you'll lay in bed all day under the crushing weight of an existential crisis?

  • Neil Degrasse Tyson Thinks a Holographic Universe Is Possible

    Neil Degrasse Tyson Thinks a Holographic Universe Is Possible
    Photo: NASA Goddard Photo and Video / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    At the 2016 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate, scientists, philosophers, and anyone willing to chat about what makes the universe tick gathered to discuss the possibility of living in a two-dimensional universe. Some presented the argument that it would be impossible to ever obtain any conclusive evidence about a hologram world being possible if we're actually in a simulation, because the creators of the simulation would continue to thwart our calculations. 

    Tyson, however, said that he can't ignore the possibility. "It is easy for me to imagine that everything in our lives is just the creation of some other entity for their entertainment," Tyson says. "I'm saying, the day we learn that it is true, I will be the only one in the room saying, I'm not surprised."

  • We Might Be Holograms of Our Future Selves

    We Might Be Holograms of Our Future Selves
    Photo: m_hweldon / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    In a strange turn of events that sounds more science fiction than science fact, a theory has been floated that the reason so many present-day scientific trends involve mapping the brain and creating virtual reality is because "we are, in fact, digital beings living in a vast computer simulation created by our far-future descendants."


    Even most grounded scientists agree on two points. One, consciousness can be simulated by a very advanced computer; and two, future civilizations will have vast computing resources at their command. Given those two pretty reasonable hypotheses, some (perhaps less grounded) scientists have suggested that our advanced descendants might decide to run "ancestor simulations" to study their own past. 

    One researcher posits that thousands or even millions of ancestor simulations could be run by a single computer, and if that's true, then simulated human consciousnesses would vastly outnumber non-simulated ones. Which means that odds are, we're living in a computer simulation right now. 

  • We're Probably Not the First Simulation

    We're Probably Not the First Simulation
    Photo: fill / Pixabay / CC0 1.0

    According to Nick Bostrom, a philosophy professor at Oxford University, because of Moore's Law (the observation that the number of transistors on a computer circuit doubles every two years) it's reasonable to believe that we'll soon be able to create a computer with god-like processing power that can run a simulated reality. And if we're close to doing that, it's already been done by someone living outside of the reality that we're living in. And it's even more likely that we're not the beta version.