Misrepresenting The Simulation Hypothesis
Now that there is yet another popular celebrity interested in the Simulation Hypothesis, I've been getting Google Alerts on this topic at the rate of about 3 per week, and they all include the name Elon Musk . This is less informative than the other articles on this site, it's more of a rant than anything else; a...
Now that there is yet another popular celebrity interested in the Simulation Hypothesis, I've been getting Google Alerts on this topic at the rate of about 3 per week, and they all include the name "Elon Musk". This is less informative than the other articles on this site, it's more of a rant than anything else; a complaint regarding all of the fluff articles posted since Elon Musk made his interest in the topic known to the public. I've deliberately avoided using the name "Elon Musk" in the title simply because I don't want to appear to be riding those coat tails.
The problem however, isn't that Elon Musk has an opinion on the topic, the problem is with all of the vastly uninformed articles that have sprang up as a result. It seems like everyone is jumping on the topic. I've been wanting to talk about the misconceptions posted in these articles for a while now but simply felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of cover present in popular media. Instead I'm going to focus in on one article that popped up today March 24th, 2017, and then do my best to ignore the others.
The article I hold in contention is by Max Cohen and posted over at The Inquisitr.
The title of the article is misleading: "Do we live in a computer simulation? Why some prominent thinkers believe we do and why they're likely mistaken."
It's misleading because the author doesn't actually explain why anyone believes in the hypothesis. Nor does he adequately articulate why he thinks that they are "likely mistaken" so his title is either click bait, intentionally deceptive, or just poorly articulated. He also misrepresents the claims made by Nick Bostrom, as well as the origins of the idea when he says:
The simulation theory first entered the scene in a 2003 paper by Oxford University professor Nick Bostrom.
It's amazing that a single comment like that could be riddled with so many errors, all at once. I'll list them:
1. It's not a theory. At best, it's a hypothesis. But there isn't enough data to yet support this as a theory. It's true that in popular media sources, it is referred to as a "theory", but that is often also clarified within the article. Here for example, on this site, it is clarified, even though the phrase is used contextually and within the URL, I still go to efforts to correct any misconceptions regarding the phrase, it is not a theory, at least not yet.
2. Nick Bostrom did not suggest this as a theory and he did not publish a theory. Nick is not a scientist, he is a philosopher and so he published an argument. An argument is very different than a theory.
3. Whether you call it a theory, hypothesis, or just an idea, it certainly did not enter the scene in 2003. This is not a new idea, anyone that has seen the Matrix, released in 1999, is well aware of the fact that this idea did not "first enter the scene" in 2003. In fact the idea that we live in a simulation is incredibly old. The philosophical debate between idealism and realism addresses it at great length and was sparked in 480 BC. And the idea was not isolated, it was well known in Greece and China for example, as expressed by in the writings of Zhuangzi in 369 BCE.
The main problem with this idea is that it takes too much for granted.
It takes nothing for granted. It is an argument in which one aspect of the argument is correct, and therefore the remaining 2 aspects must be wrong. It is a proposition of 3 choices, one of which must be true, this means that two of the propositions suggest that this is not a simulation. How does that take anything for granted? It doesn't.
Why would anyone waste their time and resources simulating the drudgery of our daily lives?
- To improve our daily lives
- To find solutions to problems
- For education purposes
- As a form of entertainment
- For running risk analysis
- For military and defense applications
- Because not everyone thinks of their daily lives is a "drudgery" like you
- Because some people see great possibilities in our daily lives
Furthermore, there are already life simulators (sims). Farm sims, some for science, some for fun, there are boat sims, people sims, space sims, there is even a truck driving sim in which you transport goods via interstate travel, and there are many versions of this sim. Many games are less game and more simulator.
There is even a MMORPG called Chronicles of Elyria that is more simulator than game, your character never leaves the world, has a family, joins communities, takes on the appearance of ancestors, and even dies of old age.
One of my favorite sims is a space sim called Orbiter. It is extremely challenging, requires real world skills, and used primarily as an education tool.
All of these sims address one proposition of the argument; that we might lose interest in creating simulations. But so far the interest has only grown, there are 1000's of sims that exist already.
Of all the possible uses for a sophisticated computer simulation, having one which records every boring day-to-day activity of human life sounds not only incredibly pointless, but also egotistical. Why should any “posthuman” civilization care that much about us?
This addresses another misapplication of the argument. For some reason, and Max Cohen isn't alone here, some people seem to inject the assumption that this could only come from a non-human source. Given that we are not familiar with other races of intelligent beings, it seems more likely that we would be the authors of our own simulations, just as we are now.
And to address the question: "why care". Why do we spend millions unearthing the past? Why do some people spend their entire lives in search of historical archives and events? There are lots of benefits to understanding the past and collecting data on progress.
Those, at least, are some of the reasons why the simulation theory makes for a tough sell.
Despite the claim in the title that the simulation hypothesis is unlikely, Max didn't present one reason for discarding the simulation hypothesis. He presented no sound data in opposition, no observations to rule it out, and no evidence to explain it away. His article, and so many like them, merely pointed out why he didn't find the idea appealing; because he views life as "boring" and a "drudgery". Likewise, and despite the claim made in his title, he also didn't give a single item of point that supports the simulation hypothesis and why some people believe it is a possibility.
The Simulation Hypothesis By Fair Wind Films
Fair Wind Films did an excellent job of summarizing the modern day inclination in favor of a simulated reality. It's about 1 hour long. Although I will be the first to admit the inclusion of fallacies within the film, it's still well worth the time and has some good information. I'll be summarizing or possibly...
Fair Wind Films did an excellent job of summarizing the modern day inclination in favor of a simulated reality. It's about 1 hour long. Although I will be the first to admit the inclusion of fallacies within the film, it's still well worth the time and has some good information.
I'll be summarizing or possibly dissecting, whichever one applies the most, some of the topics raised in the video and then posting them to this site… eventually.
Philip K Dick
Philip K. Dick was a Sci-Fi writer and philosopher. Dick's novels often addressed the question of what is real with the idea that the world is an illusion and constructed by some outside and unknown but powerful force.
Philip K. Dick was a Sci-Fi writer and philosopher. Dick's novels often addressed the question of what is real with the idea that the world is an illusion and constructed by some outside and unknown but powerful force.
Tom Campbell: Author of My Big Toe
Tom Cambell is a well known adherent for the simulation theory. He is the author of the book My Big Toe , TOE being an acronym for the theory of everything. Tom iterates many of the common observations that lend to the simulation hypothesis, except that Tom asserts that the simulation is real, and he does so without...
Tom Cambell is a well known adherent for the simulation theory. He is the author of the book "My Big Toe", TOE being an acronym for the theory of everything.
Tom iterates many of the common observations that lend to the simulation hypothesis, except that Tom asserts that the simulation is real, and he does so without question. In his youtube video series Tom is often seen asserting claims as if they were fact and then using this as a stepping stone for self-healing and other neo new-age rhetoric.
Some attribute his bias to a desire to increase book sales and he is often criticized outside of the venues that he has control of. Others side with him asserting that he has not demonstrated any bias at all.
Despite any criticisms, Tom Cambell has advanced a thought regarding the accumulation of simulations within simulations by means of a system he calls process fractals.
As our technology improves, our ability to manufacture convincing simulations improves. If we achieve that, and we ourselves are in a simulation, then we have created a simulation within a simulation. If this is possible, then it is also possible that those that created this simulation, are also acting from within a simulation of their own. This type of inception pattern would be programmed into the original simulation in order to propagate additional, deeper simulations. Tom Campbell calls this process fractals.
We can see some early examples of construction within a simulation as presented in modern video games. In the popular game Minecraft for example, players extract material from the world using tools they built and then use that material to construct their own inventions. Users are not limited to houses and they can even build original machines of their own design. The use of simple switches, and/or gates and redstone (a conductor of simulated electricity) has led some users to invent extensive automated machines, including computers. The video below is an example of a Mac display that someone built within the Minecraft world.
Minecraft isn't the only example. Sandbox MMORPG's have become more popular than their older counterparts. A sandbox MMO differs from older MMO's in that it offers more choices for the gamer. In many cases there is an extensive crafting system involving skill sets, gathering materials, blue printing, and construction. Essentially, Sandbox MMO's give the user more control over the world allowing the world to be shaped by the players, just like here on Earth. It is interesting to note that the appeal games like this have is that they allow the user to be inventive and artistic within the game world whereas in the past, video games had a very rigid structure behind them that did not allow for any personal expression.
We have a long ways to go before plugging our brains into a computer simulation that we cannot discern from the real world, or at least what we refer to as the real world, but it is interesting to see advancements for players within video games carrying on a similar tradition of advancement that we see in the history of the world and that too could be described as a process fractal.
Do We Live In A Simulated Prison?
In a court of law, motive is an important factor when determining guilt. One thing I've heard very little about when it comes to the simulation hypothesis, what motivations might be behind it; why was the simulation created and why are we in it? Here are the basic premises of the prison speculation: 1. All that you...
In a court of law, motive is an important factor when determining guilt. One thing I've heard very little about when it comes to the simulation hypothesis, what motivations might be behind it; why was the simulation created and why are we in it? Here are the basic premises of the prison speculation:
1. All that you perceive is a simulation and you are, in part, the source of that simulation.
2. The simulation is a prison and we are the prisoners.
3. The purpose of the simulation is to prevent your escape into the outer world.
4. Our technological advancement works to further imprison us deeper within the inner world.
5. "God" is a conceptual construct of the simulation and is designed to prevent you from finding the exit and explaining simulation anomalies.
All that you perceive is a simulation and you are, in part, the source of that simulation.
This premise leans on some of the concepts presented by Tom Campbell, author of My Big Toe. Tom asserts that the simulation is nothing more than information and that we are projectors that display the information much like a monitor does for a computer. This means that the way we process and present information lends to the preservation of the simulation. In a sense, that makes us care-takers of our own prison.
The simulation is a prison and we are the prisoners.
Of course this begs the question: Why have we been imprisoned? What did we do to deserve this and how long (if there is such a thing) has this been going on? Supporting evidence for this premise stems from the idea that if we live in a simulation, then it has been well hidden from us. If we are prisoners then it would be a necessary security measure to keep this hidden from us because if we were aware of our predicament then we might put more effort into escape. A good prisoner is one that has no idea that he's been imprisoned.
The purpose of the simulation is to prevent your escape into the outer world.
So if this is a prison then that which lies outside of the simulation could be referred to as the outer world, whatever that world might be. Several measures could be taken from within the simulation to deny our escape.
Our technological advancement works to further imprison us deeper within the inner world.
If this is a simulation composed of pure information, then we have knowledge of the concept of simulations, or at the very least, that information has not been user protected. Being aware of simulations we have created our own. The popular game developer Blizzard for example has created an MMORPG called World of Warcraft that enables us to live virtual lives in a fantasy realm. As our technology increases, our ability to create convincing simulations increases until eventually, we are able to create a simulation that is indistinguishable from the lives we live now. When we reach that stage, some will voluntarily choose to live in that fantasy world. If, while in that world, we once again progress to a state in which we are able to produce yet another simulation, then we bury ourselves deeper into the Matrix.
So in our desire to advance well enough to detect the simulation, we may end up becoming further trapped by it.
"God" is a conceptual construct of the simulation and is designed to prevent you from finding the exit and explaining simulation anomalies.
It could be argued that "god" (if real) is a race or team of beings administrating the simulation. But the traditional concept of a "god" in this world would be used to prevent us from accepting the idea that we live in a simulated world. The requirements needed to believe in a god rely heavily on the ego; accepting that the believer has been the recipient of some secret knowledge of the existence of a god and is therefore due a heavenly reward.
Additionally, personal experience is the methodology used to convince some that god is real. Unfortunately, personal experience cannot be presented in a testable manner regardless of how convinced the believer is. So if the believer witnessed something odd such an anomaly caused by some glitch within the simulation, then belief in a god could be seen as the explanation. Many religious individuals admit that no amount of evidence would convince them that god is not real, this closed-mindedness only further works to trap the believer within the prison simulation.
Oddly enough, despite the usefulness of religion to strengthen the bars of the simulated prison, the simulation hypothesis concedes a concept that science has been denying for quite some time now. Science has typically assumed that conscious thought is the result of material existence while religion has asserted the opposite; that all matter is the result of thought. If the simulation hypothesis is accepted then one must also accept that religious adherents have been right all this time, that the world we live in is the result of thought. Except that the world still has roughly 2000 active religions with various gods for each. Perhaps the simulation theory will marry the religious to the scientific.
Neuroscience & Free Will
Dr. John-Dylan Haynes is a Professor at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience in Berlin. In an experiment with Marcus Du Sautoy, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, Dr. Haynes was able to demonstrate that human consciousness can determine a choice of action 6 seconds prior to being aware...
Dr. John-Dylan Haynes is a Professor at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience in Berlin. In an experiment with Marcus Du Sautoy, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, Dr. Haynes was able to demonstrate that human consciousness can determine a choice of action 6 seconds prior to being aware of that choice.
In relation to the Simulation hypotheses, this has raised several questions.
Are we merely pre-programmed to respond appropriately and if so then does this disposition apply to both simulated people and non-simulated people? In this experiment, were the signals received by Professor Marcus Du Sautoy 6 seconds prior to being conscious of a choice, informational signals or instructional signals. If they were informational signals then there is free will, if the signals were instructional then some other process outside of Professor Sautoy was used to determine an action and there is no free will.
If we are living in a computer simulation, then it is a given that information is processed before it is manifest. If we, being projectors of information are able to project an image or perform an action, then we would be aware of the information required to do so well before the presentation was required.
Games, Reality, & The Universe
As I consider the simulation hypothesis, I'm often reminded of video games. Specifically, I'm reminded of MMORPG's and other multi-player games. Multi-player games involve several types of characters including real life players called player-characters or PC's, and computer generated characters called...
As I consider the simulation hypothesis, I'm often reminded of video games. Specifically, I'm reminded of MMORPG's and other multi-player games. Multi-player games involve several types of "characters" including real life players called player-characters or PC's, and computer generated characters called non-player-characters or NPC's. This is often compared to the simulation argument which describes real people within the simulation as non-simulated people and simulation generated people as simulated people. There has been quite a bit of speculation regarding what percentage of the people would be non-simulated compared to the simulation generated people but I haven't seen anything beyond this level.
For example, within a multi-player game, players are assigned specific permission levels associated with their character. These permission levels define the access level assigned to the player. If we accept option 3 of Nick Bostrom's simulation argument, that this is most likely a simulation, then we should also accept the possibility that not only are there non simulated people, but that there is a hierarchy associated with the non simulated people.
The users would represent the lowest spectrum of non-simulated people within the simulation. Their purpose here? I have no clue. It could be as a test, or perhaps a form of entertainment or education. Another possibility is that we are here to solve problems for our other-wordly counterparts, problems that require that certain conditions be met. Those conditions could be defined by the laws of the universe.
The monitors would represent the lowest spectrum of "staff", but would still be a level above the "user". Their job would be to observe from within and perhaps give us a nudge in the right direction, whatever that direction might be. For example if we're here to solve problems, then a monitor might first propose the problem that needs to be solved, or she might invent something that would lead us in a certain direction needed to progress towards a solution, or solutions.
A Moderator would be responsible primarily for the interactions that take place between conscious entities within the simulation, that would include both simulated people and non simulated people since a computer generated simulation could be programmed to have a consciousness and make choices.
Admins would have the highest access allowable within the simulation. Their "code" could allow them to ignore the rules of the universe which would facilitate their ability to trouble shoot and solve problems inherent to the simulation itself. Some of the admis might be simulation programmers or techs with advanced understanding of how everything works.
In multi-player games, admins can enter an absolute mode that allows them to ignore the rules of the game. This is sometimes called "cheat mode", or "god mode". For example, a user logging into a Minecraft server would be subject to the plugins and settings as determined by the owner of the server. Furthermore, the owner can login to the game in admin mode and enable privileges not bestowed on the other users. For example, entering /fly enables the admin to fly, but if a user tried to enter /fly he would be met with denial. Additionally, the admin would be able to see that the user attempted to use a cheat that violates the rules of his server.
This could be one possible explanation for why some people claim to have witnessed something that seems unlikely or even impossible. The scientific method does not allow for the inclusion of personal experience when conducting an experiment and claims made by eyewitnesses that can't be reproduced or consistently demonstrated are rejected.
So why haven't we seen Admins and why haven't we encountered any bugs within the simulation? While an admin can enter god-mode, appear to have super powers and literally be able to do anything within the simulation, if this were witnessed and recorded then wouldn't that spoil the purpose of the simulation? Are we to believe that simulation staff have never made a mistake? And what about the program? Are we to assume that the programmers are so perfect that they would have never made a mistake? Assuming there was a bug, the admins could easily pause the simulation, or reset it, or even roll it back to a previous stage and given the laws of the simulation we would never realize it. Maybe we have experienced this many times before.
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