0:47 “… in my view it is necessary and sufficient that the universe is some kind of a computer in a pretty literal sense…” (Joscha Bach)
Yesterday (2017-07-19), I found this BigThink video with Joscha Bach (@Plinz), who talks about Elon Musk and how we are supposed to evaluate whether or not we are living in a real universe® or a simulated/ virtual world.
In his talk he proposes certain arguments to explain why he doesn’t believe that we are living in a virtual or simulated universe.
Joscha’s first argument against the notion that this universe could be simulated seems to reflect our fears of decay and dying. He says that (a successive increase in) “entropy” would not be a feature that he would implement in a Simulated World.
He argues that it would be better to have a world that can forget it’s previous state.
I would argue that perhaps what he considers a flaw could be understood as the essential challenge in this “Game of Life“.
At least we could think of reasons to argue that a universe without birth, decay and death would make life itself pretty much pointless.
And maybe a world Simulation (like ours?) could be rewound.
Perhaps we do have “save points” of some kind, perhaps the Simulators can rewind the Simulation without anyone in the Simulated World taking notice.
But as far as I understand Joscha’s perspective, his main objection against the consideration that we’re maybe living in a simulated world is the level of detail that this universe seems to include.
To my mind, the question arises:
What do we know..?!
How do we know anything about how “base reality” looks or what it feels like?
(Perhaps “base reality” even has extra dimensions/ extra degrees of freedom that make no sense at all on our 3 dimensional world or “brane”.)
It’s hard to tell or assess – objectively – how detailed our reality is.
It’s hard to compare our world of experience with another.
Joscha seems to worry that a simulation as detailed as ours would probably run very slow, even on an incredibly fast computer.
But that is not a problem that would concern the inhabitants of a simulated reality.
Beings in a simulated universe don’t have any idea of how fast or how slow the simulation is running. They are experiencing “frame” by “frame” (or impression by impression). No matter how fast or how slow the reality is “rendered”.
Each (holographic/ sense perception feedback) “frame” in the simulation could take years or centuries of rendering time in the simulators’ reality and in the simulation there would be no perceivable lag at all.
Perhaps the simulator entities in “base reality” are very patient. 😉 … or it’s not so hard or expensive for the entities in “base reality” to simulate a believable world for a virtual mind, after all..?
A simulation doesn’t even need to plot out each and every detail of a counterfeit cosmos.
Think of a dream! Our minds are naturally equipped with “machinery” that produces a virtual reality that seems real or believable (at least to some degree) for the dreamer. Just think of what that implies! Simulated worlds are indeed natural! And from our experience of dream states we can undeniably conclude that there are other levels of mind [within or beyond our brains?] that are capable of fooling our conscious selves, even into believing really crappy dream worlds!
Detail is not a problem. The simulation can even make us dumb enough to overlook or forget badly rendered details or aspects in the simulation.
Again: Let’s think about our dream and waking states! I often wake up from dreams that are so weird and absurd that I can’t even believe how I could not realize that I was in a dream. But in the dream state I was apparently stupid enough to believe anything.
And perhaps the most important point is:
Not an entire world, but only the observer’s point of view needs to be simulated in detail.
And we can only say how detailed our world is if we take a step to the side and compare our universe or reality with another universe or reality… no matter if virtual/ simulated or “real” (whatever that means…)!
A believable simulation would only have to form some kind of consistent “stream of consciousness”…
A single flow of sense input and feedback with a (virtual) environment would suffice to create a believable simulated world for one conscious observer entity… (The simulation does not need more. This is indeed a solipsist point of view, but all other entities in the simulated universe could be part of the simulation and may not be in any way subject to an “illusion” or even “aware” or actually conscious of anything.)
I haven’t made my mind up on this interesting/ thrilling philosophical issue so far. But I tend to think that unanswerable questions don’t really matter that much.
We basically have to deal with existence or reality the way it presents itself to us.
Or what would be the alternative? (paranoia?/ hysteria?/ depression?/ lethargy?..)
And who knows… maybe we will wake from our slumber one day and really laugh about the absurd dream that we took for absolutely “real®”.
In essence, dreams are usually a chance to get to know ourselves better: Dreams are about our relationships. In dreams we are confronting our emotions, testing our reactions and plumbing the depths of our subconscious. And that might just be the point in the entire Cosmic Dream.
Perhaps It (Reality®/ the Cosmos©?) is dreaming Itself up from our particular point of view to get to know and understand Itself better from all possible points of view..?
And perhaps we will never be able to tell beyond any shadow of a doubt what is (absolutely/ objectively) “real” and how much is filtered/ distorted/ dreamed up or “illusory”…
David Cronenberg’s 1999 film eXistenZ is a very twisted and disturbingly violent film, but it’s precisely about the difficulty to discern a “realistic” Simulation from Reality (or Hyperreality?):::
[SPOILER WARNING! skip if you don’t know the film yet… or watch it from the beginning!]
Eternity? Alpha meets Omega?
(A simulation within a simulation within a simulation?.. Is that perhaps even the natural life cycle of universes?.. worlds simulating or seeding new worlds? … perhaps even in some sort of retrocausal dynamic circle?..)
SNAP the first the last Eternity – YouTube :::
“Talking ’bout the way things started out, gonna end the same…”
Alan Watts explains the idea referenced above:
Here’s Bostrom’s point of view in more detail:
Nick Bostrom – The Simulation Argument (Full) – YouTube
Don’t get me wrong!
I’m not writing this article to advocate some fancy new theological concept.
I don’t mean to sell the idea that we might actually be living in a counterfeit world, a “Matrix”-like simulated reality or some kind of virtual environment.
What I experience feels very real to me and I could hardly imagine a world that would feel more real or realistic than this one.
And that is perhaps the essential point in my ramblings.
If we’re really living in some sort of a virtual/ simulated world, we couldn’t even tell what a world outside of the simulation may look like or how it would feel to exist on the next higher plane of reality.
As simulated people we couldn’t even be sure that we’re in any way similar to our simulators.
As simulated entities, we wouldn’t be able tell if we’re simulated or not and we wouldn’t be able to draw any meaningful conclusions from our observations in the simulation that would tell us anything about a reality beyond our boundaries.
Everything in the world of the simulators could be completely different and hardly even comparable to our own world of experience.
This point of view would undermine the “Simulation Argument”, which assumes that a simulated world would basically be conceived as a reproduction of the real world.
What if simulators in a “technological mature” civilization would be inclined to create simulations of various experimental environments that are nothing like an “ancestor simulation”?
We could already think of very simple simulated worlds, where entities have limited degrees of freedom compared to our own.
We could already create some sort of 2 dimensional digital worlds, where flat creatures happily live their flat lives without any concept whatsoever of vertical movement. The simulated “Flatlanders” wouldn’t have any idea of how it feels to move “up” or “down”.
In the same way our world of experience could be embedded in a reality with fundamentally different degrees of freedom or much more complex levels of detail.
But on a purely mathematical basis, we could also run simulations of worlds on our computers that add a dimension or a degree of freedom to the simulated world.
We could simulate (to some extent) even worlds that seem more complex (or more detailed?) than our own.
Perhaps these more detailed multidimensional worlds would be harder to compute and would probably run much slower than “real time”, but it doesn’t matter for the entities in the simulation how long it takes for us to render a minute of their experiences. As long as the simulation stays consistent, the entities in the simulation would happily go on living their simulated lives.
This means that we cannot simply judge or conclude from our perceptions/ observations and experiences, whether a world beyond our own would be more or less detailed than our own.
There is, however, “Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety“, which is actually known as the “1st law of cybernetics”, but to my mind it is also very relevant to the problem of complexity in simulated worlds.
As far as I understand its implications, we would have to provide suitably complex means of computation if we wanted to simulate wider worlds with more degrees of freedom or even deeper levels of detail than our own.
We probably wouldn’t be able to “render” or calculate a minute of a more complex reality in a minute of our own reality. We would need more computing time to simulate more complex worlds.
So, the metaphor of a “Russian Doll” still seems applicable in this sense.
There are limits to what we could simulate in a given frame of time and as far as I can tell, these limits would necessarily increase for the entities in the simulated reality. (A simulation within a simulation/ a “nested simulation” will either be reduced in complexity and detail or would run much more slowly.)
We could speculate a lot about “other worlds”, beyond our world of experience, but we can hardly draw any meaningful conclusions from our own observations that would tell us anything about a world beyond our own.
We’re always confronted with the basic epistemological question:
What can we really know?
Only by the grace of “higher beings” would we be able to find out anything about a “higher reality”. Only if our simulators wanted us to know, we would learn that we are simulated people.
And we should even be skeptical about miracles or revelations.
Anything that is “revealed” to us could be part of the illusion and only help to distract us more from a possible insight into a more fundamental truth or reality.
It isn’t easy, being a simulation… keep it real! 😉