The idea that this world is not in some sense “real” but that we are living in a simulation has gone from a notion in the minds of a couple of fairly obscure thinkers a few years ago to mainstream news.
It is a remarkably hard idea to shake, and it is not surprising that the notion has been catching on among technocrats who think of themselves as radical thinkers and iconoclasts. (After all, what idol is more worth smashing than the mundane concept of “reality”.)
Nick Bostrom was one of the originators of the idea. The ever-imaginative Robin Hanson has even provided us with hints on how to live in a simulation.
In my opinion, this idea founders on the same problem that materialism cannot explain: the existence of qualia. I have written about why I consider that the existence of qualia requires a non-material solution in this paper. It seems to me that if phenomena we all experience in this world (pain, pleasure, emotions) cannot be reduced to a physical explanation, the possibility that we are living in a purely physical “computer simulation” can be dismissed.