I will try to answer this question by referring to a brilliant article by Nietzsche, written in 1873, ‘On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense’, translated by Daniel Breazeale. Nietzsche starts off his essay in some style.
Once upon a time, in some out of the way corner of that universe which is dispersed into numberless twinkling solar systems, there was a star upon which clever beasts invented knowing. That was the most arrogant and mendacious minute of “world history,” but nevertheless, it was only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths, the star cooled and congealed, and the clever beasts had to die. – One might invent such a fable, and yet he still would not have adequately illustrated how miserable, how shadowy and transient, how aimless and arbitrary the human intellect looks within nature. There were eternities during which it did not exist. And when it is all over with the human intellect, nothing will have happened. For this intellect has no additional mission which would lead it beyond human life. Rather, it is human, and only its possessor and begetter takes it so solemnly – as though the world’s axis turned within it. But if we could communicate with the gnat, we would learn that he likewise flies through the air with the same solemnity, that he feels the flying center of the universe within himself. There is nothing so reprehensible and unimportant in nature that it would not immediately swell up like a balloon at the slightest puff of this power of knowing. And just as every porter wants to have an admirer, so even the proudest of men, the philosopher, supposes that he sees on all sides the eyes of the universe telescopically focused upon his action and thought.
The notion of truth and the labour to find it is a very human trait, the universe - being a more sophisticated and higher entity is rarely bothered about it. Attempting to find and abide by the workings of the truth lends us our humanly values and puts us at least on a higher platform than animals - who have no appreciation for truth.
Now, of course this inherent will to find the truth, contained to a very limited portion of the universe, in a limited scope of time, and limited by our corporeal beings, it becomes a very difficult job in extrapolation if not a laughable impossibility. Therefore our quest will need to stop at some point, at least we will knowingly need to accept the limitations or we will start to land up with half-truths which lack in logical translation.
Coming to the question, ‘Is the Universe a Simulation’. I will try to look at the question from three different points of view.
1) Simulation centric view everything is a simulation, the concept of reality is indeed realization of a beautiful simulation. This point of view is sure to appeal to the gamers. In games and VR, the attempt is to make the experience immersive, over a limitless world. I have recently played The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Witcher-3 and I had started to feel the emotions and experience, the true essence of the fantastic world. If our world is a simulation - it has been done by far more sophiticated entities and we will never be able to decipher the truth. There is nothing to fear my friend - and a dragon will not burn you down, and you are in august company as Elon Musk also feels the same. The physicists feel so, (1) since our universe is dictated by physical constants - as the gravitational constant (G), speed of light (c), Planck’s constant (h) etc. typifying them as game parameters which has been ‘coded-in’ prior to the start of game play, and of course (2) the double slit experiment has provided a number of interesting results.
2) Probabilistic view the universe and our existence has happened after a great number of trial and errors, and this unique reality just has ‘happened to be’ - order out of chaos. Since the universe is so big, this hypothesis renders some serious thought, but even then this could have happened out of a simulation. And our reality is when simulation got all of it right.
3) Anthropocentric view we humans try to ensnare the life and time of the universe by our known technology. Simulation is a new age technology, known to us only over the last one hundred years, and we are trying to understand a billion year old universe with this new technology. In time, we may have more sophistication and therefore a better hypothesis.
From a literature and sci-fi point of view, (1) Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, (2) John Crowley’s Little, Big (3) Daniel F. Galouye’s Simulacron-3 and various works of Philip K. Dick has subtle inquiries into the nature of reality. I will recommend reading Philip K. Dick’s essay, ‘How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later’. Or if you really are a crazy gamer, then try reading Yahtzee Croshaw’s ‘Mogworld’
(@madrush thank you for the privilege)