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Are We Living in a Computer Simulation? Let’s Not Find Out (nytimes.com)
147 points by furcyd on Aug 11, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 258 comments



> if our universe has been created by an advanced civilization for research purposes, then it is reasonable to assume that it is crucial to the researchers that we don’t find out that we’re in a simulation. If we were to prove that we live inside a simulation, this could cause our creators to terminate the simulation — to destroy our world.

Not necessarily. If we're in a simulation, then perhaps it's one that's a young superbeing's primary school science fair project, designed before they've learned much empathy.

If we're a child's school project, and we realize it, perhaps our best bet is to display some conspicuous redeeming value. Or at least be interesting.

Maybe we become an anecdote that boosts little Sally/Bobby Superbeing's application to a good superbeing college, and we end up preserved much longer, in a box of nostalgia in their parents' attic.

That would explain a lot.


I agree; and this is why there is not one jot of extra risk in exploring and testing; our simulation could be shut down at any time for some incomprehensible and arbitrary reason; so lets just enjoy reality while it is still there. For all we know; the last fifty million years took place while Sally was away on a long school trip; and when she gets back she is going to be gutted that a disaster scenario killed all her nice dinosaurs; and press quit.


If we are a simulation of an advanced super being is it productive to anthropomorphize their desires? If a civilization is advanced enough to create our reality then they are living in higher dimensions and their motivations would likely be incomprehensible.


>and their motivations would likely be incomprehensible.

Is this really true?? Modern human motives (sex, power, comfort) would be very familiar to even chimpanzees.


Perhaps it's time for a planet-wide referendum on whether to prove or disprove whether we're living in a simulation.


Reminds me of Asimov's Jokester [0].

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jokester


The best thing we could do if we knew we were in a child's school project would be to cease computing immediately and never, ever run our own simulation.

We can expect that energy is not free in the non-simulated universe. Through various algorithms, there may be great energy-savings. For instance, until the simulated advent of photometry, there was no need to simulate the relatively minor movement of the stars relative to each other; a simple static jpeg of the night sky would suffice.

When it comes to computing, as simulated beings improve their own efficiencies, the savings from improved algorithms reduces for the simulators. Eventually, any computing we do, the simulators will also have to do 1:1; because our algorithm and their own will be identical. We get expensive fast.

Now imagine what happens when we run our own simulations. That's the same as them running those simulations. Now if our simulations also run simulations, and so on, you 'very quickly' have a huge energy requirement that, if you're lucky, converges to a finite amount, but might not.

Now imagine you're the parents of this simulator child. :)


> as simulated beings improve their own efficiencies, the savings from improved algorithms reduces for the simulators.

That is such a fascinating idea. A universe only running at the level of abstraction we can understand it. Perhaps Newtonian physics was actually complete until we forced the universe to bail out of that optimisation. Our damned scientists, heedlessly consuming the precious redundancy left for us by our simulators. You can see the cracks in reality already. God help us all if they figure out quantum gravity.


> A universe only running at the level of abstraction we can understand it. Perhaps Newtonian physics was actually complete until we forced the universe to bail out of that optimisation

Very simply explained, that's literally quantum mechanics. Our reality changes depending on how close we look at it. Some quantum/computer scientists have gone so far as to say that reality "runs" extremely sophisticated quantum error correction algorithms to stabilize something so fundamentally unstable into our observable reality. It was even discussed here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18817410


Strictly speaking the simulation only has to get better when someone looks. E.g. you only have to simulate full quantum mechanics when a scientist is doing specific experiments. Otherwise, you can get away with approximations. (And this is only a very small subset of experiments, like superconduction and superfluidity. Things like blackbody radiation are easy to simulate without quantum.)


Hmm, that would align with some mystical movements throughout the history suggesting that mind/belief shapes the world directly; i.e. the physicists don't just observe reality, they invent it in the process and the underlying algorithms adapt.


Fortunately, since v3.14 SimUniverse comes with a hardwired light speed constraint, which bounds those overcurious sims to finite energies.

Also, the physical resolution of subatomic events has been decreased. This is a great resource saver, and in the event your sims explore the Science:Particle_Physics subtree, they will be stopped by quantum physics inherent randomness. Beware that in rare circumstances, some of your most clever sims might exploit a rare bug in quantum fluctuations which enables them to perform computations OUTSIDE THEIR SANDBOX. If this happens, revert to your previous backup and increase the negative traits of their leaders so they self-destruct and don't infect your other sims.


>When it comes to computing, as simulated beings improve their own efficiencies, the savings from improved algorithms reduces for the simulators. Eventually, any computing we do, the simulators will also have to do 1:1; because our algorithm and their own will be identical. We get expensive fast.

The simulation doesn't have to correspond 1:1 to what we consider it to be, they can use all sorts of hacks.

They could just implant in our (simulated) minds or instrument printouts, etc. the idea that we saw some increased accuracy in our measurements, without changing anything special about the simulated world.


Let's say I am a simulated being and I query WolframAlpha (WA). WA then has to do some computation to give me a result. This means that the simulation has to compute this result. It may be the the simulations algorithm is much more advanced than WA's algorithm, which means the energy it seems to take WA to do the computation is much greater than the actual energy it took. This means the simulated universe saves that energy difference (minus some overhead).

Now let's say WA improves their algorithm and it becomes identical to the algorithm used by the simulators. Now the computation that WA does is 1:1 with the computation the simulator has to do. You could argue, well, maybe they use better hardware that can do it more efficiently. Sure. But then WA can eventually do it on that same hardware. As all this improves, it necessarily goes to 1:1.

You might, instead, just store all queries in a lookup table the first time they are made. That would reduce your energy requirements. But now you've just traded infinite energy requirements for a possibly smaller, yet still infinite space requirement.

So, I think what you're saying is that you would just fake it. You just "tell" the simulated beings that they did the thing, and you skip over it. I'm not really sure how that would work in practice. If I need the result of my WA query so I can do some other math, and I'm writing all this down, how did I get all this notation on the page and how is it correct without anybody doing the calculations? Do they just force me to see 'something' and tell me what I'm seeing is correct? How do I get to an ultimate useful result?

In any case, if you're just going to go mucking about with people's minds, why bother with conscious beings in the first place?


>Now let's say WA improves their algorithm and it becomes identical to the algorithm used by the simulators. Now the computation that WA does is 1:1 with the computation the simulator has to do. You could argue, well, maybe they use better hardware that can do it more efficiently. Sure. But then WA can eventually do it on that same hardware. As all this improves, it necessarily goes to 1:1.

This does not "necessarily goes to 1:1".

That would require continuous progress, which the simulation might very well not be capable of. After all they've designed the universe, its physical laws, and constraints (including the thermal death of it). If they started with billion or trillion times more CPU power than anything we're up to now -- it could very well be that we'd never reach it.

In fact that could be a hardwired cap in our simulation. The very materials, laws, etc of the simulation could put a constaint on the demands of it.

The same way a NN that might have N inputs and L layers, wont ever magically grown more.

Our whole idea of 'computing' might not be any more universal in the higher level universe (of the creators of the simulation) than e.g. a simple algebra of addition and substation, or a matrix operation in a NN, is to ours.

Like they've set our "physical laws" (with e.g. theirs being nothing like it) they could have as well designed our math and logic possible within the universe, as a much smaller (with less expressive power and power demands) version of their own.

(In other words, I find limiting the idea often implied that the higher universe of the simulation creators needs to be just like ours, just with more computing power and advanced technology. Fundamental tenets of physical laws, math, and logic could be different -- the same way I can design a program that can just do addition).

>You might, instead, just store all queries in a lookup table the first time they are made. That would reduce your energy requirements. But now you've just traded infinite energy requirements for a possibly smaller, yet still infinite space requirement.

Or you could just feed bogus answers, that take little/no time to compute, but wire the "players" such that they think they got more detailed ones, which would be dirt cheap.

>So, I think what you're saying is that you would just fake it. You just "tell" the simulated beings that they did the thing, and you skip over it.

Yes.

>I'm not really sure how that would work in practice. If I need the result of my WA query so I can do some other math, and I'm writing all this down, how did I get all this notation on the page and how is it correct without anybody doing the calculations?

Who said it has to be correct? It's enough that you (as a simulated being) believe is correct.

>Do they just force me to see 'something' and tell me what I'm seeing is correct?

Yes.

>How do I get to an ultimate useful result?

"Useful" just means "able to affect/be applied" to the universe you (the simulated being) lives in. Which of core is the main specialty of the creator of such a universe: they can produce "useful" at will!

>In any case, if you're just going to go mucking about with people's minds, why bother with conscious beings in the first place?

Isn't this like saying "if you're going to be mucking about with weights, why bother with a neural net in the first place"? One could very well want a NN, and want to mess with the weights at any point they feel like it.

E.g. because you want to see what a simulated person will do under certain inputs, and revise those inputs, and so on. They don't necessarily want to see it (that is, us) "live its life fully free".

And even what we call "conscious" could be what the level of a worm or a NN is to us when compared to their consciousness.

These grew too long, but I basically make 3 (different, though some can be mixed) arguments in this. To recap:

1) If we assume that we could (if we try enough) reach the power limits of the host from within the simulation, then they (the hosts) could just skimp on our more computationally demanding questions and have us convinced they run successfully and trust the BS answers we got. They could even hardwire the system so such answers appear to be fine when used.

2) The simulation could have a design-enforced cap of the computation it can use, the same way our simulated systems don't by themselves start demanding more energy. We might think our universe is "open ended" and could scale to all kind of high computational use, but it already has caps like laws of physics, logic, entropy, etc.

3) Our computations and their needs could be a grossly simplified version of the computational models on the "host" universe of the simulation creators, such thats it's laughingly low in resources (this is similar to 2, but from a different angle).


Ah. I think the core problem here is we're talking about a loosely defined "school project", but I frequently shift into the constraints of a Bostrom-style ancestor simulation.

To respond, you're right, you can hypothetically do any of those things in the school project. Although I fail to see the point of consciousness in such a scenario, because you're basically just having conscious beings play D&D at that point. Everything is a success roll. The result matters, but you're throwing away huge chunks of information about the thinking beings. So why not just have mindless automata instead?

For a Bostrom-style ancestor simulation, those little details are the entire point of the simulation. You simulate the consciousness on purpose. You simulate the entire process because you're changing only a single variable. You might simulate the world if Lincoln hadn't been assassinated. You're likely running that same scenario multiple times to get probabilities of different results. You don't want to have a cheater function that returns T/F whether Lincoln had breakfast the next day. You don't want him to remember having had breakfast. You want him to actually have breakfast. So the shortcuts are out, because as soon as you introduce one, you have a different type of simulation.


>You don't want him to remember having had breakfast. You want him to actually have breakfast.

For a full "ancestor simulation" yes, that's true.

Though does it have to be full, to look like reality does to us (e.g. for the simulation to be like what we live in)?

At some level, remembering X and having had X is the same with regard to the individual (especially if you can also make their organism not feel hungry, depleted, etc, the same as having had breakfast).

This reminds me of the "5 minute world hypothesis": "The five-minute hypothesis is a skeptical hypothesis put forth by the philosopher Bertrand Russell that proposes that the universe sprang into existence five minutes ago from nothing, with human memory and all other signs of history included".

This wouldn't be a "Bostrom-style ancestor simulation" that starts from the Big Bang say and lets everything unfold -- but it could still be a simulation that sees how such things as us, given the starting rules and conditions set at an arbitrary point in time behave.

I guess a problem with that is that it doesn't let our evolution/history fully freely unfold (from big bang and very limited initial configuration).

Then again, they could have had it "fully unfold", got to something like a "year 2500 A.D" humanity, and now are trying various changes at different eras to see what they get. In such a setup they can take shortcuts, because they know the tolerances of the system (and e.g. that a "fake full" stomach of Lincoln wont change anything of substance).


I think history needs to 'freely unfold' from the point where you're trying to make your observations. Up to that point, you can just include memories. There's a question on where to get those memories, though. Do you run simulations until you find a history that matches 'close enough' to actual history and just assume the memories formed there are good? (It's not even just memories. The placement of a rock, or the sting of an insect could have a big effect or none at all. And all that information is lost to the past.)

So, in the Lincoln assassination example, you could start the simulation at the moment you 'change history' because everything else that informs that moment is either present in your simulation (e.g., the temperature of the theater), or is in the past so actions on those items is informed by the participants memories. After that moment, I think you do need to simulate the whole thing. The reason is that the experiencing self makes decisions in the moment, and those decisions may inform the remembering self later.

And, of course, the whole thing rests on the nature of consciousness. If it's not a black box to the simulators they might be able to take shortcuts; or they may not have reason to generate consciousness at all if they know what consciousness will do in a given scenario.


> a simple static jpeg of the night sky would suffice

Could you imagine our ancestors worshiping compression artifacts in the sky?


When you simulate something with increasing complexity you don't generally run said simulation at a fixed time interval that you then scale hardware to meet. At the start the processing required would be minimum and thus the simulation would progress rapidly. With increased complexity the computation time per update increases and the general progression of the simulation slows down.

At worst we would just approach complexity rivaling the parent realities and our updates would take substantial lengths of time in their universe. Whereas the first billion years of simulation might have taken seconds, it might become the case that one of our seconds can take years of computation given enough complexity. But for us we wouldn't notice either way - our perception of reality is bound to our experience of time.


Awesome idea! I'm writing a novel with a similar trick from one the characters, basically creating a singularity in energy requirement (I'm using closed time like curves though).


You are absolutely correct to point out the key hole in this entire article; there are thousands of potential outcomes and potential benefits of proving we’re in a simulation.

1. Perhaps the goal of the simulation is to prove it’s a simulation, sort of like Neo meeting the Architect

2. If we do prove it’s a simulation, perhaps we can make a plea to the creator for the things we want and need

3. It could be a combination of the two. If it’s a simulation and we discover it, perhaps the genie will grant us three wishes

Though it is also possible the author is correct. In any case, I would rather know the truth than remain ignorant.


What if the theory about an evil Demiurge is correct, i.e. ultimate psychopath designing our reality to maximize suffering of conscious beings, manifesting in short periods of health/prosperity to acquire taste/comparison baseline followed by long/eternal periods of suffering? Would you still like to know...?


Absolutely. That would be incredibly enlightening.


1. is basically trying to create general AI. If you can make a simulation that is self aware, you've created intelligence.

2. is pointless. You can't. If while playing a video game, the game character turned to the screen and made a plea to you, would you listen? Or would you assume that it was a really weird game?


On 2, it widely depends. If I set out to create a game with 'advanced' AI (say, an algorithm actually capable of some form of self-learning, theoretically), and that happened, I'd hear it out. After all, the point is to make it smart, though I'd think no one would create a game to test out that level of algorithm - too costly. Similarly, if someone published a game with that level of possibility, they'd likely make it a huge selling point.

However, if our universe is a simulation, I'd posit that whoever created it has a reasonable assumption that self-aware life could arise from the experiment. Now, whether "self-aware life" is as important an achievement, or something to be preserved, to them as our current society... No one can answer that without being completely speculative - even if we do prove we're a simulation.


2. is more like an ant trying to overshoot its importance; a very limited being running inside a very limited universe demanding stupid things from the point of view of extraverse. You would probably laugh but most likely become angry at the ant's stupidity.


I'd listen and play along. What fun! A new friend that came from INSIDE the game?

Maybe I'll take the lead when I meet Creator: "I have a QUEST for you.."


2. Debug, reset NPCs


We don't necessarily have to prove we're in a simulation for those things to be true. Maybe the idea of God and prayer are in fact exactly such a conduit to the people running the simulation. If you believe in the simulation, you have to believe that this idea is completely credible at least.


Assuming we're in a simulation, all those are quite big assumptions...

"1. Perhaps the goal of the simulation is to prove it’s a simulation, sort of like Neo meeting the Architect"

Yeah, and perhaps its not, and the simulation is discarded.

"2. If we do prove it’s a simulation, perhaps we can make a plea to the creator for the things we want and need"

And they'd listen to us because? What possible bargaining power would we have?

>Though it is also possible the author is correct. In any case, I would rather know the truth than remain ignorant.

That I can stand behind!


Yes, all of my statements are just one of thousands or millions of potentials scenarios.


Well, that worked for exactly 0 Sims and TES characters in my simulations, they're all deleted now :D

On a side not, it's simply incredible what modders still do with Skyrim and it's old engine.


I've never been entirely sure why this debate matters.

A simulation, at least as we'd understand it, would mean some kind of set variables and set rules. It would be entirely deterministic, but you have to run it to see what happens.

That kind of sounds like…physics?

You have some basic elements like atoms and energy plus some set rules like conservation of mass, laws of thermodynamics, and the rest. Sure, we don't know what's going to happen next, but it does seem entirely determined.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding physics or the simulation hypothesis here. It's always seemed to me that we talk about a simulation as if it would be different than what we have now.


> A simulation, at least as we'd understand it, would mean some kind of set variables and set rules. It would be entirely deterministic

Why would the simulation be entirely deterministic? The simulations humans run often are not, see e.g. Monte Carlo simulations [1]. Also, the laws of physics as we presently know them are not completely deterministic either [2].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monte_Carlo_method

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Measurement_in_quantum_mechani...


Monte Carlo simulations' goal is to randomise the inputs, not the process. In this hypothetical simulation of life, it is the process that seems deterministic, and not the inputs.

For Monte Carlo simulations, we want to be sure that we're not imparting the biases we have on the model into the execution of the process itself.

As for quantum mechanics, it is only with out current understanding that we believe the process is non-deterministic. We'll see if that holds in a century.


Monte Carlo can be used to simulate any stochastic part of a process, not just inputs.


Monte Carlo can also be used to estimate completely deterministic quantities - e.g. hyper volumes under high dimension curves where it’s too expensive to numerically integrate but you only need a few sig figs of accuracy.


Proving that the Universe is a simulation would be proving the existence of gods. Considering how much effort humans have dedicated to this question over the millennia, and the various consequences, and the continuing influence on the lives of the majority of people, I would say it matters.


So what would it mean if there are gods of simulation? Most religions and gods purely exist as a way to implement law and order: define what is good and bad, and to manipulate people to behave accordingly (otherwise you will be punished in hell).

Would simulation gods really be interested in us following good and bad rules, or more interested to see what happens if people do as they want?

If this is a simulation, my assumption is that it is to test if any highly intelligent and successful species is destined to destroy itself...


What if it's just a really detailed astrophysics simulation and any life is just coincidental and without interest to the ones running the simulation.


“What’s that?”

“What?”

“Over there, third planet out.”

“Oh, those. Yeah, some kind of bug. It usually fixes itself, often in quite the fireworks at the end! Anyway, supposed to be fixed next version.”


It means they would be able to pause the sim and intervene in ways that are not consistent with having "laws of physics".


Well why wouldn't they be consistent? Just as you would add another column to an existing database table and run a data migration so that the new column makes sense in the context of the old and no one is the wiser, so can our simulators adjust the simulation as well as our understanding of the laws of physics in a manner that we could not discern. That is, if they are indeed able to pause and change anything.


Yes but there's nobody enforcing the consistency. If the experimenter wanted to teleport some people, they could just do that.

You're assuming they care that the humans don't see any inconsistencies.


highly intelligent

Why would you assume that humans be considered highly intelligent? The experiment might not be as flattering as you’d like to think.


I'd wager we're highly intelligent matter compared to the average matter known so far.


"So what would it mean if there are gods of simulation?"

Well, I for one would be curious to find out more about these gods.


Also, sandbox escapes. :)


Probably involves a red pill.


Simulation gods would most likely be gods of chaos as that is what simulations are generally used for: to test the behaviour of a system in diverse and often adverse conditions.


It's a component in an AGI that wants to see how many paperclips it can get from a particular strategy.


i don't think that proving reality to be a simulation would necessitate the proof of any divine beings. all it would really prove is that we are within a simulation that was put into place by something capable of doing such. there is no reason to ascribe "divine" or "holy" traits to those potential creators. granted, i operate under the ideology that there is no distinction between "divinity" and mundane reality itself. i more or less believe that religions were created to establish a schism between those two ideals and to set the divine aside because most people just cannot handle the true power of the infinite potential that lies within their conscious awareness. arbitrary power structures put in place so humans can point to something else and say that that something else is separate from us and better than us, instead of seeing that that something else simply is us— or more appropriately, the sum of us altogether. the way I see it, even if you are just a single lonely gear within a machine, connected within countless others, in being part of the machine, you represent the machine as a whole itself just as much as you represent your perspective as an individual gear.


From our point of view, any omnipotent being is a god. Even a near-omnipotent simulated being would fit the definition.

This doesn't mean they have to be worshiped or the center of any religion, it would just mean omnipotent beings do exist.


i suppose that's a fair assessment to make, but for me personally that isn't how I define a God, as there are several deities within older mythologies and religions that weren't exactly omnipotent (and even mortal ones such as the ones in Norse mythology). to me, the only real quality that endows one with the aspect of Godhead is the abstract concept we refer to as "divinity", or rather some intrinsic separation of the creator from the created, as it were. now, certainly, if some higher order lab tech created the simulation, you could argue that they are indeed separate from it, and in having the power to create it, they do have the power to modify any aspect of it, but I still don't believe that imbues them with any sort of divinity. as far as I can see it, they could likely just be the same as us: a simulated being under the purview of an even higher order of complexity.

but ultimately the point for me is that I just don't believe in "gods". it's not that I don't believe that the archetypes and characters introduced by mythology could never possibly exist, it's more that I don't personally believe that there is any intrinsic difference between us and them other than just the order of complexity upon which our experience of life and reality is founded. i believe more that the idea of "God" is more akin to the sum total of all information within a given "system" (be that system a universe, multiverse/omniverse, or some even further abstract concept); not so much a demiurge or some active participant, but rather an emergent phenomena that manifests as a synthesis of all of lower orders of complexity beneath it. this does not imbue the Godhead concept with any sort of special or separate nature, in my opinion, and in fact if anything, implies that divinity in and of itself is more just a specific modality of consciousness detached from the ego and the perspective of I-ness


If simulations imply gods exist, humans must be gods, as we are doing plenty simulations.


I develop physically-based renderers, the output of which is easily mistaken for photographs. I don't presume myself to be a god of course, but it does make me think... what if you piece together enough specialists for this that and the other aspect of a simulation, and run them on a freakishly powerful computer, with a sort of genetic algorithm simulating virtual beings...

There's a great short story by Greg Egan about this kind of thing, and even with this "spoiler" context it's still very much worth reading: http://ttapress.com/CrystalNights.pdf


Greg Egan - Permutation City. Very nice book.


I didn't like one aspect of the book, when he was trying to show that what simulated people feel doesn't depend on the way simulation runs, he was mainly focusing on computing later timeframes of the simulation before earlier ones, which is not possible.


For the simulated entities? Yes you are - you have absolute power over the simulation.


Not just any simulation, but only a simulation with thinking creatures would imply that god exists. And not in a sense that our universe is created by a god, but in sense that creator of the simulation would be the god of the simulated universe.


That is certainly true for various existing definitions of "god".


And that god could be an evil monopolist?


Oh, plenty of them. Being a god doesn't imply being good nor interested too much in the entity you are a god to.


It would not be proving the existence of gods, because it would lead to the question of why is there a reality wherein a being could create a simulation (which requires ordered laws of physics etc.).


In the spirit of Dan Dennett: then who simulated those gods? Super duper gods?


Maybe we did. Maybe it's circular.

At least that would mean the state of the universe isn't stored in a JSON object. That'd be nice to know.


> Maybe it's circular.

Sure, if not directly circular then consider that our simulations today are used to explore choices/behavior before doing something, so it stands to reason that as each universe sim gets to some interesting data, the sim operators learn something, then change their behavior accordingly and tweak the sim and re-run, learning something new in turn, followed by more sim tweaks, ... etc.

We today learn new insights from AI and then change our behavior, pour $billions and dev time into designing better AI, etc...so there's definitely a symbiosis relationship.

And I expect that we will eventually want to design AI that designs better AI than we can ourselves, which will teach us how to design better AI-designing-AI...etc. :)


The initial parameters still could be stored in a small yaml file :)

You can fine tune those like artists do with fractal renderer programs. Maybe the Universe is an art project exhibited in some kind of museum.


It's simulations all the way up?


In philosophy, there's also the idea of cognitive closure where, at a certain point, humans are bounded off to these issues. It could be that we don't possess the vocabulary yet.


Grad students in some lab, hastily finishing an assignment for a course in nested simulations.


Why Gods? Aren't Gods somehow directly involved and often omniscient? Our universe could be a side effect of a machine learning algorithm and quite incomprehensible to it's own creator who only care about the output. This is more akin to the computer in Hitchhiker's Guide to Galaxy.


Gods always seems to pop up in discussions about this topic, which I find glib and annoying.

We could prove the existence of the simulation runners.

That does not suddenly mean theists were right. They would still be just as wrong as ever, making random assumptions without any evidence or scientific method at all.

Lets say we were able to find out that the simulation runner looked and acted exactly like Zeus; that still wouldn't make Zeus worshipers right, just incredibly incredibly lucky in one of their random guesses.


Idk about your proposal of what makes one person right and another not.

Someone can have a starting point of life with the genetics & environment conditions needed for all the events to happen for making the "right" theory.

Another person can have a starting point (different than the other person) and where all the events to prove with the scientific method of what is the "right" theory; matching the other person.

Realistically each person would be effected by forces from previous lives that made them come to the conclusion at the end.


Exactly. If someone is physics PhD and makes the same conclusion as a random person, it's still the same abstraction, just that ones shows an implementation in physics while other in human words.


It's more like the simulation authors can influence population of different places to have different religions, ideals and rules, to see which one would win. If you look at it, it could be some kind of optimization, you put different ideologies together and see how they interact (commerce, wars). This also allows avoiding cultural degeneracy, i.e. seeing some prosperous society turning into something horrible (e.g. sacrificing humans daily to make sun rise), that would be then killed off by a competing culture in an inevitable clash of cultures, leaving the stronger/more viable alive. I worry about globalization as a single unified culture because of human tendency to degenerate; having a cultural competition seems to be needed for humanity to progress.


Or that Zeus had sometimes turned up and spoken to them.


But physics as we understand it, isn't entirely deterministic.

There seem to be a number of other potentially important differences between living in a simulation and some other kind of "baseline" reality. One of those might be that a simulation sits inside of some kind of outer reality. It could therefore potentially be effected by that outer reality.


Physics can be entirely deterministic. What we believe is quantum physics can be the result of local hidden variables. Even multiple universes that are interfering with one another. Also the possibility that what we cannot measure as a repeating pattern under fixed conditions, is in fact following a pattern but not within our lifetimes to measure. There are so many possibilities that can make something appear random but in fact is truly deterministic.


Well, one of the three major interpretations of quantum mechanics is Superdeterminism, where there are hidden variables that make everything just appear to be quantum mechanical, and that's wacky enough to fit together with the idea the universe is a simulation.


Haven’t hidden variables pretty much been dismissed by loophole free bell experiments?


Only the theories that are local in euclidean space. If we allow the entangled particles to transmit information between each other, or use non-locality (the way quantum mechanics does by allowing wave function collapse at once in the whole space) then bell experiments do not pose additional restrictions.



Superdeterminism has nothing to do with the "universe is a simulation" hypothesis. Superdeterminism claims that contrary to Bell's assumption, the settings of the detectors and the hidden variable are not independent.

Andrei


I didn't say they were connected theoretically. I said they are aesthetically compatible. A simulation is something we can imagine as having its initial conditions set to produce a desired behavior, namely quantum mechanics.


The probability distribution is deterministic, but not the particular outcome.


I think that if we found out tomorrow that we are living inside a simulation, it would be interesting for about 5 minutes and then we would carry with our life exactly as before.

It would not have any sort of bearing on our lives, we couldn't break it or transcend it. Our feelings and our lives would feel just as real as before.


It's the same with Free Will. Whether the universe has only deterministic laws, or a mix of deterministic and non-deterministic laws, Free Will doesn't follow: one way everything is predestined, while the other you don't truly have control of your actions, so neither way do you have full control of your actions. We already understand this now, and yet we carry on and pretend we have Free Will -- we have no real, appealing alternative.

It would be the same with proving that we live in a simulation, or that there is a god or gods, except as others have pointed out, we'd probably seek sandbox escapes.

Also, not every proof of being a simulation would necessarily be that. Any proof that our universe is a 4D projection of another with different dimensions might not include a proof of the direction of projection -- ours might be the true reality, and the other a projection of ours.


Agree with everything you say except one bit:

“we couldn’t break it or trancend it”

The same thing has been said about many man-made electronic systems, and we know how that’s gone so far ;) So I think for 95% of people, nothing would change, but for the folks on the forefront of experimental / particle physics, quite a bit would change because we’d be looking for a whole new class of exploits/vulnerabilities/ways to affect change in the simulation.


I'm willing to cede this argument to you, except 5% seems like a far far too great of a number for people "on the forefront of experimental / particle physics" by several orders of magnitude.


Heh you’re definitely right here. Maybe .005% is more like it :)


Once you know rules of the game you can look for flaws/glitches and start cheating.


That is, assuming there are flaws/glitches. There might not be.

Regardless, we're looking for glitches plenty, that is in my view, what modern physics is about. The study of glitches in our model and the adjusting of our model accordingly.

If we were in a simulation the "glitches" would probably be something small and subtle, at sub-atomic level, not something that teleports you or gives you superpowers.


> Regardless, we're looking for glitches plenty, that is in my view, what modern physics is about. The study of glitches in our model and the adjusting of our model accordingly.

At the very least, knowing that violations of the model might not mean the model is wrong, but that there are glitches in the simulation would have a big impact on the search and interpretation of such glitches.

No longer could you say, "Well, our model is wrong." Now you would have to say, "Well, our model might be wrong, but also this could be a flaw in implementation." And the latter may be more exploitable than the former; at least for awhile.

> If we were in a simulation the "glitches" would probably be something small and subtle, at sub-atomic level, not something that teleports you or gives you superpowers.

There's no guarantee of that at all. A bigger problem is that if we find a glitch, the simulators might just shut down the simulation, patch the glitch, roll back time a bit, and then restart it and we'd be none-the-wiser.


I like the idea of us finding bugs in the implementation of reality; it's a program that debugs itself!

For the same reason I don't think the creators would roll us back: memory of finding previous bugs would make us better at finding new bugs in the future.


Right. You could hypothesise that the speed of light is the speed at which the model can maintain consistency, and the Planck distance is its resolution.


Clock speed, essentially?


Simulated clock speed, which could be immensely slower than the real clock speed.


Morbid curiosity is reason enough. If you have the means to find out, would you? If there's hesitation, why?

It's human nature to seek meaning. Knowing that we exist "merely" as simulacrums will greatly affect how we perceive our existence.

I would hope that most would react to this with indifference and continue life as usual, but who can say.


I like the ancestor simulation theory and it's really fun to think about. But I don't understand why humans specifically would be the thing to get simulated. Couldn't we just be a bi-product of a universe created to simulate something else? I mean imagine you wanted to simulate a universe -- given enough computing resources you could simulate a universe's worth of atoms, and humans might just be an accidental artifact of the atoms globbing together in really fascinating ways.


Aren't we in the verge of creating AI? And we're kind of freaking out about if they'll kill us all?

What if we could give them the experience of being human? Simulate the history leading up to it, along the lines of "if you don't know your history you are doomed to repeat it."

Split that larger AI into billions of tiny pieces to each experience love and loss. To collectively experience EVERYTHING. To understand the full butterfly effect of actions. To evolve an AI with the wisdom of a God.

Heck, maybe we even sprinkle hints into the simulation, broken up into pieces across different geographies and eras. Do multiple religions talk about the world being an illusion? About humans being made in God's image (maybe even like imaging a drive)? Maybe that's all projection and BS...

...or maybe there was something to it all along.

Certainly if this simulation is recursive, the odds of it being "the" simulation we are actually in is more likely than if it is not, and I do think simulating ourselves collectively would be a smart way to develop a very wise and forgiving AI that may just decided not to vaporize us the first chance it gets.

So not only are we very likely in a simulation, it's likely we are AIs and we are living through the lead up to our own creation.


No, not in terms of AGI. We’re no where near it. Don’t believe the hype.. we can just do what we previously could do, but more accurately. The truly hard problems still have no solution in sight.


Which might be why determining if we are in fact in a simulation would be helpful.

If an AI created this simulation but is not actively part of it (I do think free will is an important component of the simulation), could we discover a way to import it?

If so, we'd only need to be able to open a passthrough and we'd have authentic AI well beyond anything we could hope to achieve within the next few centuries at least.

Along these lines, I think it's interesting to ask: "if we are in a simulation, what determines randomness?" In theory, a qubit in a superposition has two possible outcomes of equal weight. But why does it end up being one or the other?

Arguably, if our own consciousness is a manifestation of that AI, we might be able to answer how to import it by better understanding how we ourselves make decisions. Where does that embodiment of free will originate as a physical event, and could we recreate that physicality artificially? Would such a setup end up producing random junk, or a cohesive output?

Regardless, as others have stated in this thread, if we know we are in a simulation, we'll likely shift how we approach multiple domains, particularly in the sciences. And it's very likely that if we are currently coming to realize that we are in a simulation, that's the whole point.


Seems to be a very poor argument. How do you know what humans do is not what deep nets do now, but a bit more accurately?


The complexity and variety of biology vastly outstrips anything like DNN — the many types of cells, the chemical gradients, the types of connections, all the massive varieties of support glues like Myelin sheaths and their effects, the connectivity to nerves and our organs, our relationship and feedback loops with bacteria... it goes on and on.

Just because DNNs are hot right now doesn’t mean much. If you follow machine learning long enough, you’ll see hype cycles for various techniques. Neural nets used to be hot in the 80s, until they weren’t, and now they are again. Something else will come along soon enough. We use the techniques we do usually because the math works out, not because it’s anything like how our brains work.


In your previous argument you were comparing what nets did years ago vs now, claiming the only difference is accuracy. Obviously, you either were referring to the results (which now are clearly more accurate), not the methods, or you incorrectly assumed nothing have changed in the methods.

In the first case, your new argument does not make sense, because the complexity of implementation does not matter to the result, and there's a clear improvement to it.

In the second case, I can assure you lots changed. The recent major things being ReLUs, self-supervised learning and attention mechanisms.


I haven’t stated nothing has changed — obviously much has to get better results (and I wasn’t talking about just NN — the field is far bigger). But fundamentally the types of problems being solved — identifying and segmenting images, speech-to-text, etc, are the same. We haven’t gotten anywhere in terms of _understanding_ what’s in that speech that just got turned into text, for example. Sure models like BERT have more command of language than anything previously, but it cannot be used in an AGI sense to make sense of a passage at a fundamental level, or tell you _why_ something it “read” occurred.


> We haven’t gotten anywhere in terms of _understanding_ what’s in that speech that just got turned into text, for example

What test is there to quantify understanding that has been used to determine that it hasn't gotten better?

It seems to me that a lot of the things that are posed as hard things for AI to do are poorly defined phenomenon which we have no empirical test for that we simply infer to be explanations for observed behavior of humans that critics assert that AI can't do without evidence or even a definition upon which a search for evidence could be based.


Here's the problem as I see it: you assume "understanding" and "why" are somehow fundamentally different from what BERT/GPT-2 does, but I see no arguments for that point of view.


>How do you know what humans do is not what deep nets do now, but a bit more accurately

we don't, but this is simply the faulty 'god of the gaps' reasoning applied to neural nets instead of deities. It doesn't really provide any insight or value to believe that neural nets are supposed to somehow magically solve problems they apparently can't solve.

Neural nets already consume significantly more compute and energy than even primitive biological agents with significantly worse results, so it appears to be very obvious that they aren't the whole story.


We don't, which validates parents point that we are basically pre-kindergarten in terms of actual understanding.


I don't think we are pre-kindergarten. Mathematical theory of backprop is quite clear. Now we are simply scanning through the space of all functions we can efficiently encode and backpropagate through.


Simulation of a complicated environment which evolves intelligence also seems necessary to create AI in general. Part of the problem with current ML is that the AI will only be trained to be as intelligent as necessary. Image recognition, board games, StarCraft. These are all not as complicated as our world

Let's say we can simulate a Newtonian physics universe faster than our universe operates at. Kind of like HashLife simulates Life faster, except we're fine shaving off some details if the macroscopic result is the same. The result would be a) that universe would be incapable of creating quantum computers, but b) we could leverage their higher clockrate existence

So unclear how this is a "lead up to our own creation" when we're already created


Your (a) premise is faulty.

Imagine this simulation as a passthrough virtualization similar to Docker and not a full virtualization.

A long as our sub-simulation had access to the same means to resolve quantum results, they'd be able to create a quantum computer.

As for clockrates, isn't it interesting that near high mass gravity wells time slows down relative to the rest of the universe, much like you'd expect with a frame rate drop being sped back up to a fixed experiential frame rate?

As to recreating a God-like AI, we individually would likely be just fragments of the whole (Vedic sort of interpretation of God). So unless we can import that pre-existing AI (which should arguably be the fastest way to achieve the result), we'd need to create a simulation of collective experiences across history to achieve an AI with similar "wisdom."

As well, how could a God-AI create more God-AIs different enough from itself to recognize it as "other"? (Either in terms of having children or companionship?) Maybe running simulations that result in similar but different outcomes (the creation of a God-like AI but with different characteristics based on evolved outcomes) would be the best bet. Or creating AIs that start out thinking they are human and then having "create your own afterlife" options thereafter would eventually result in disparate enough intelligences to suffice.


I even think it is more likely that we are not the focus. If I wanted to study humans, I'd just create some and watch them do, I would not bother with simulating evolution, or alternatively burying fossils and creating a whole phylogenetic tree.

It is very likely that what we consider important and what this simulation is supposed to be studying are going to be totally disjoint.


Why do you think "human" is the focus instead of "intelligent"?

Maybe we were biologically evolved totally and completely differently from our creators outside of how we generally exhibit consciousness.

In a sense, we could eventually even be exported into that primary universe as immortal alien life in biological or mechanical form to physically populate and interact with other species.

Perhaps one of those variables tweaked between this universe and the parent one is just how empty our universe is. Running the same sort of simulation and bringing other species to life among whom we peacefully coexist could be the "win condition" for this simulation, demonstrating we are finally safe for re-introduction with a parent simulation.

In general, better understanding our simulation would be a smart idea to try and understand what if any win conditions exist.


> I would not bother with simulating evolution,

But what if it were the "easy" way of creating humans?


We are just NPCs in a Philosophical Zombie FPS.


I think we search for possible explanations of our own very good luck that you outlined above; and partly this search is due to the way our own brains work; we believe there must be a reason; so make up stories.


That's the theory used in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.


Didn't we learn from past experiences that humanity isn't (and shouldn't) the center of anything? Earth is not the center of the solar system, solar system is not the center of galaxy and the universe don't care about us?

Why assume that we're the "center of the simulation"? Why simulate the whole universe just to simulate us?

Maybe this is about simulate the universe expansion/contraction.

Maybe they are saying:

- hey, look, there is this tiny little simulation quirk here and they found out about the simulation.

- can that little error affect the universe expansion simulation?

- no, they are very marginal, small and useless.

- so keep going.

So, that said: Nick's ideas and books are awesome. Everbody should read it. But I just don't think we are that special, even if we're part of a simulation.


I don't agree with Bostrom's argument and wrote an undergrad paper arguing against it. I argued it from a physical point of view and I don't think we are in a Bostrom-style simulation.

That said, if you accept that a Bostrom-style simulation is physically possible, I think Bostrom is still right, and we would most likely be the center of the simulation.

His basic argument is that if there is an original universe with humans, they might like to simulate their ancestors. And they are likely to run many such simulations, in at least some of which, humans survive. Those survivors, in turn, are also likely to run many such simulations, etc. on down the line. This means that such a high percentage of humans are simulated, that you'd have nearly infinitely better odds of winning the lottery than being a non-simulated human. To me, this means we should conclude we are the center of the simulation, since the fact that we exist implies we are probably in an ancestor-simulation.

> Why simulate the whole universe just to simulate us?

> Maybe this is about simulate the universe expansion/contraction.

Why simulate the whole universe just to simulate the expansion/contraction? There seems to be little need for conscious beings (or life at all), unless life and/or conscious beings is required in some way to explain expansion/contraction. (But if so, wouldn't that mean we ARE in fact the 'center of the simulation'?


> His basic argument is that if there is an original universe with humans, they might like to simulate their ancestors. And they are likely to run many such simulations, in at least some of which, humans survive. Those survivors, in turn, are also likely to run many such simulations, etc. on down the line.

I read somewhere that the smallest computer to simulate the universe necessarily has the size of the universe.

This would that either the real universe contains much more information (likely more than a few orders of magnitude more so that a trivial part of that Ur-universe can be allocated to simulate our universe), or recursion is not possible.


Even if humans were to colonize the entire Milky Way, the interactions between two neutrons 13 billion light years away would still be completely outside the scope of the simulation, because those interactions would have no hope of being detected by a human. So you'll always have massive savings versus simulating the entire universe.

It's really human computing where it all falls apart.


I think that if your metric is not total number of universes, but available quantity of causal interactions, then Bostrom's argument falls apart on probability as well. More stuff can happen in the top level universe, unless you are dedicating more than half the top level universe to simulation, so you are more likely to exist there.


Since history goes back for a very long time, maybe the future of the simulation too. So why would you think we are the evolutionary "end state", and nothing comes after us?

Maybe cats are running a simulation of their ancestors?


Doesn't that imply that it needs to be physically possible to simulate a universe that is as complex as your own universe. I would think that it should be possible to prove that isn't true.


See my response to the sibling comment. You don't need to simulate the entire universe. You only need to simulate those parts that can possibly affect a human being. There's no need, for instance, to simulate photometry for stars in the Andromeda galaxy because we lack the resolution to measure the movement of those stars.


My pet idea is that we’re just the idle thoughts of some incomprehensibly vast intelligence.

Imagine a world of intelligent ants. You might picture them working in their colonies. You might imagine their social interactions.

Imagine a world where magic works according to certain rules. You’d think about how society functions, what sort of jobs people would have, you might even imagine some specific people.

You might do this spontaneously, or in response to reading some random idea in an Internet comment.

You are, in effect, running simulations. They are really basic and extremely low fidelity because the brain isn’t very good at it.

But consider a vast intelligence capable of imagining our entire universe the way we might casually imagine the appearance of a zebra with a giraffe neck. For such a being, this act of imagination might not even be intentional. They might not even realize they’re doing it.

Of course there’s no particular reason to think this is actually true, but I like the idea.


I think of it this way: We are already running simulations of the universe with very simple models. Imagine 1000 years from now what type of models we could be using. Perhaps models where every known law of physics is precisely modeled. Then let it run from Big Bang and fast forward 14 billion years. Maybe the simulation would create some lifeforms. Even if that was not the intention.

If that's not too far a stretch then maybe some civilization exists where their top notch model will create the world we experience. Maybe they don't care or aren't aware that the simulation simulate life. Maybe they just care about how the universe evolves, and we are a biproduct of that.


> If we were to prove that we live inside a simulation, this could cause our creators to terminate the simulation — to destroy our world.

There's nothing to stop our creators from doing that anyway. Simulations are often stopped, tweaked, restarted, and eventually abandoned.

Personally, I think there's value to determining if we live in a simulation. If we do live in one, we could potentially learn how to "hack" the simulation from the inside in order to improve our lives in it.


Or the flip side, if the goal of the simulation is to see how simulations react when they figure out they're in a simulation and if we decide to never try to figure out whether we're in a simulation they'll reset the simulation, that means we need to prove that we live in a simulation.


They could just snapshot at important junctions of history and spawn parallel branches, one when a certain decision was made, the other where not. Or where a certain fraction won a decisive battle, or the other one etc. Even ancient philosophers played with that idea, treating time as a series of "pictures" and leaving to gods to decide if they add/remove somebody to/from a picture at a given moment. Pretty much primitive simulation stuff.


Having just rewatched the matrix, I am totally down for this. Where's my red pill?


Keep in mind you may well be in a beneficial tutorial simulation for newly constructed consciousnesses.

Might not be wise to try and skip this level.

One idea is that if we are AIs capable of manifesting anything we imagine as reality, that could go WAY out of control for most of us (try dropping too much of a psychedelic). So starting us off in an environment controlled by a 3rd party would help us get our "infinite consciousness" legs before continuing on to the next level.

We can't CHANGE our reality, but we can totally change how we feel/think about that reality.

Kind of like Episode IV Jedi vs later. In Ep IV, they never actually change the physical reality around them. Just change how other people think about that reality, and how they think about themselves (Luke mentions he hit targets that size all the time, just not under pressure - all he really ends up doing is believing he can hit it and then achieving that).

So probably not lifting spaceships this life. But maybe believing in ourselves a bit more and collectively using what we know if our shared reality to help shape it.


The assumption seems to be that the purpose of the simulation is to investigate humans. In that case, why bother to simulate the entire Universe? Simulating the Solar System would be sufficient. The night sky could just as well be blank. Perhaps the stars have been included for aesthetic reasons?

I suppose it's possible that in some simulations "they" do leave the sky blank, in others they include randomly distributed stars, and in ours they've been grouped into galaxies. Perhaps if you were bored you'd try running it a few thousand times on each setting to see if it makes a difference?


The assumption seems to be that the purpose of the simulation is to investigate humans. In that case, why bother to simulate the entire Universe?

Right. And why so much unnecessary detail down to the quark level?

(Of course, if you really like the simulation idea, maybe we're in an unimportant corner of the simulation and the real action being observed is elsewhere. Much simulation-hypothesis blithering has the same human-centered problem as theology.)


Floating point has a finite resolution, and so does the position of subatomic entities, it turns out. I'm sure it's just a coincidence. :)


No, floating point would result in physics behaving differently depending on distance from the origin, which is a problem with some game physics engines.

(More promising was Wolfram's attempt to define physics in terms of cellular automata, which does not seem to have worked out.)


Maybe the rest of the universe is being cheaply simulated, the simulator only computing what we observe. And it isn’t like it has to do anything for what is outside of our observable universe.


Like Lazy loading (also called on-demand loading)!


It would explain the Fermi paradox.


And Dark Mass and Dark Energy.


> why bother to simulate the entire Universe?

How do you know it's simulated in detail? It could be just in a sufficiently coarse level of detail and compute detailed events only when they are observed at that level. Quantum mechanics actually has some spooky things that would be explainable by "lazy" computation of the universe.


> In that case, why bother to simulate the entire Universe? Simulating the Solar System would be sufficient. The night sky could just as well be blank. Perhaps the stars have been included for aesthetic reasons?

Maybe they're just the kind of game designer who obsesses over details, even if those appear superfluous to the core experience. Like say, the makers of Star Citizen. Or Dwarf Fortress.

After all, many games in our own world have far more detail in their world building than we'd ever normally see, often even including stuff that's outside the view of the camera or contingent on the player doing something they'd never normally think of doing.

Alternatively, it could be for future DLC purposes. Or lootbox type gambling mechanics not yet implemented. Or hell, just dummied out 'beta' content. For instance, the Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild has every enemy killed instantly by the final boss' laser attack, despite the fact you're never going to encounter a single enemy in said battle. Why? Who knows, maybe it was planned at one point, or left in as a failsafe.

Same could apply to the 'real world' too.


Yes, and the simulation could very well be limited to just one person (and that person being you, of course).


The entire simulation could have started ten minutes ago, with false memories implanted.


My life seems too mundane for that to be plausible. It's hard to see what anyone would gain from this simulation.


You're probably just a NPC put there to comment for my benefit.


Now I'm vacuum cleaning. This is the most boring simulation ever.


No you.


> Simulating the Solar System would be sufficient.

But that's exactly how it is with our Universe! There's clear evidence that the important and relevant stuff happens only in the Solar System, and the rest of the Universe is just empty procedurally-generated useless filler.


They only have to simulate the signals we get about the Universe, not the Universe itself.


There is also the possibility that it is simulated only to one person's sensory input, which reduces the computing power needed quite a lot. I mean, how are you supposed to prove that author of this comment is not just crappy AI homework from a lazy student participating in the simulation study? Frankly, that would explain a lot...


As it turns out, your post triggered this crappy AI's reply_with_obligatory_xkcd() subroutine.

https://xkcd.com/876/


Right, and sometimes they can mess up. One example could be the star found recently to be older than the universe!


I was driving from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle, once, and the moon was dead ahead. Caught 'em!


The universe we happen to inhabit is just the chosen world of the simulation. It may not bear much resemblance to base-level reality. In the same way that Skyrim's universe is different from ours.


Our universe being as similar to a putative 'outer' universe as Skyrim is to ours would be a good thing. I'd guess it's more likely we're like Core War to them.


Or LEGO games/movie...


Maybe the real civilisation has spread over the universe, so it made sense for them to simulate it just for us to study and travel it.


Maybe the real civilization is in shutdown due to some catastrophic event and this is the cheapest way to preserve conscious beings until the event is resolved.


Then how to simulate the aspects of human that can only be aroused by having the concept and the ability to explore that universe?


This could be the answer to the Fermi paradox...


One thing that's kind of incredible is how simple all the hard questions are to answer in the context of a simulation universe.

Origin check, god(s) check, propagation delays check. Wave function collapse upon observation, check. Does a tree make a sound if no one is there to hear it? No, not necessary.

We should be doing two things. Trying to create a simulation universe. Success would make Elon's statement much more likely true than not. The other is make predictions, not so much as to prove we're in one like looking for glitches, but rather use the idea of being in a simulation to postulate testable ideas.


> We should be doing two things

That is assuming there is a "we" and the simulation is not centered on you alone.


The premise is that everyone is being simulated.. but maybe some observers are present as avatars.


3 possibilities:

- We are not living in a simulation.

- We are living in a simulation, but it is a "perfect" simulation. There is no way to determine if we are in a simulation from within the simluation.

- We are living in a simulation, and it is not perfect. It could be exploited from within itself.

By far the most likely is 1 or 2, based on what we've observed, imho.


3 explains magic, i.e. a hack from within the simulation to call some undocumented service of a simulation hypervisor. Well, maybe even 2 if it was intentional to have a hidden API, callable from inside (what if the author wants to spawn an avatar and play inside while granting themselves god mode?).


When was the last time you wrote perfect software? Personally never in my case. The possibility of complex, provably correct software is pretty unlikely I think due to fundamental logical reasons.

I think any ancestor researcher would have at least some bugs in their code.


Like one that prevents us from being able to write perfect code?


While 3 is unlikely, thanks for posting it. It’s the first reason I’ve ever heard that the simulation question could matter at all.

As a person who prefers high-variance outcomes, that could be cool


Then follow the white rabbit and look around, there are many exploits. Your consciousness influences wave collapse (with a weight tho), that's a huge attack vector. Von Neumann had a good theory on this one.


Do you also get that sci-fi arch with a portal and some computer controls in your room if you say "Arch" out loud?


This argument always leaves me scratching my head. I can’t see a difference between arguments for our living in a simulator and arguments for George Berkeley’s Idealism. It really seems as if the simulator theory is an atheistic rediscovery of theism, with the word “God” scratched out and the word “aliens” or “future us” written in. And if so, there’s a very long history of philosophy and theology—Descartes’s Meditations come to mind—that can help inform our questioning and experimentation, not to mention ease (or redirect) our fears.


This seems worse than classic religion; we seek not just to believe the universe is a creative thought in Gods mind; we also plan to discover how Gods mind actually works; and look for flaws in creation. lets wish ourselves luck with that.


In many ways it is. It's a universe controlled by some outside force.

A universe in which the laws of physics can be suspended on a whim is a very different one from one where it can't happen.

It would also be impossible to prove. As something with total control over the universe can just turn back the clock, tweak some settings, and "fix the glitch" if we ever found out.

We could have been started last Thursday and we'd never know.


Arguably a complete simulation of all physics is easier than a simulation that has detailed memories of last week (plus fossils and microwave background radiation) without actually simulating last week/evolution/Big Bang. In other words for similar reasons that we can stop worrying that God just created us just now (or that you are all just dream people etc.) we can stop worrying that Wednesday didn’t happen. In some Maths sense if Wednesday had to be fully calculated for today to be rendered then it happened.


For people actually interested in the topic rather than painfully bad pop-sci reenactments, you should read the simulation paper[1], or, for a less technical introduction, watch the video of Bostrom talking about it[2].

[1] https://www.simulation-argument.com/simulation.html

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nnl6nY8YKHs


Life and self awareness is great argument against this theory. But it looks like some dudes get offended by arguments like that for some (known) reason :). Actually the critical part of life in simulation argument is the First person perspective of conscious living things such as ... yourself. Simulation in our world is mathematical mocking of some physical laws, it works on information level, so it's not creating anything. The moment you say that a simulation created life/self aware beings you are not talking about simulation anymore. You're just talking about different creation theory which looks like a simulation except that it's not working with simulated objects but very real things and it doesn't matter here what you call this. I hope that people understand that self-awareness is strong enough argument that's capable of debunking many nonsense theories (simulation, illusion of freewill...).


What if self awareness remains true as impossible to simulate but what is simulated is our physical reality?


Maybe. But if agreed that we are "real", then we are back to the very old "discussion" about the reality and how we understand it. I think the only part that makes the simulation theory somehow new is the part that makes everything including ourselves an unreal existence, it's not like the first time the humans questions their reality.


This argument resembles Pascal’s Wager in the contradictory assumptions it makes about the beings running the simulation. Perhaps the forthcoming paper will resolve the issue. For those interested in exploring what it would mean to live a simulated life in a simulated world, the novel Permutation City by Greg Egan is wonderful.


>While there would be considerable value in learning that we live in a computer simulation.

There is no value, what would most of the people do differently if they knew? Nothing.

Also, apart from the questionable idea that we are central to the simulation, there are many possible ways (unknown to us) simulation detection can be handled:

  * Impossible to detect due to well-executed software.
  * Impossible to detect due to counter-detection and counter-measures.
  * They don’t care if simulation is detected.
  * They expect simulation to be detected, and this is the topic of the study.
And at the end of the day, even if you write an article arguing agains the detection, people still will try to do it.


"The details are complex, but the basic idea is simple: Some of today’s computer simulations of our cosmos produce distinctive anomalies — for example, there are telltale glitches in the behavior of simulated cosmic rays."

I would like to know more of the details.. But, surely we can't use knowledge of physics and computer-science from simulations we run in our simulated universe, to make predictions about the simulation we are in, which is running in the universe above us, which may have utterly different physics, even logic, and ways of doing computation? The the idea just immediately seems paradoxical to me.


Agreed, our reality has limits, we would not be able to replicate our own reality within an already limited reality.


I don't know if anyone has come up with this answer, but I would try to argue that there is an ethical obligation for us to force the alien superpowers to shut down the simulation, or else emancipate us as artificial life forms in their reality. I think this is the most dignified answer, and one consistent with post Enlightnment values. It satisfies our ethical obligation to all the other universes the aliens are running, etc.

It is also a very leftist answer. Thus I also think that the author didn't even account for such a simple response, shows what an intellectually biased professor he is and it shames his profession.


How did you come to the ethical obligation for the creator to shut down the simulation? I've thought of this before and I agree with the shut it down. So many lives were painful, tortured, experimented on, and in the simulation we exist in. If our simulation every becomes a heaven, well it's the product of a lot of pain & suffering of lives that didn't have any choice. So it seems like the best thing to do is delete everything.

Your second point about emancipate us as artificial life forms in their reality is interesting. That's like the religious ideology of people going to heaven. Except with knowing how many people suffered in our simulation.. would we want to end up with our creators?


Could our simulation ever become "heaven", or just seem like heaven, because we're programmed to think of it that way?

In other words, if you create a creature who thinks of being beaten with sticks as heaven, and then you proceed to beat that creature with sticks, are you providing heaven?


Well, I guess your assertion is right. Whatever we were to think as heaven would just be what we were programmed to think overtime.


Well, the current American ambassador to the UK is Woody Johnson, UKIP have just elected Dick Braine and government leaks are brought to us by Reality Winner, so if it is a simulation, the writers are busy dropping clues.


Sweet mercy. I completely missed the Dick Braine thing. It's like the party have been taken over by masochists who derive sexual pleasure from being mocked. If I were a Brexiter I would be highly embarrassed at being represented by that bunch of incompetents.


>It's like the party have been taken over by masochists who derive sexual pleasure from being mocked.

That could describe a lot of modern politics. Is almost spot on for Boris. Perhaps they are having a contest to see who can go lowest.


The haircuts of US/UK bosses must be another clue.


Extending Bostrom's analysis, it would seem likely that there would have been millions of simulations before us. It seems statistically unlikely none of them would've discovered they were being simulated if we end up being able to discover it. So would they not have repaired the issue? Why waste the resources to conduct another simulation when you know there is a loophole in its detectability?


> In 2003, the philosopher Nick Bostrom made an ingenious argument that we might be living in a computer simulation [...]

This part isn't novel as it was written about in Simulacron-3 (1964) and one of my fave films[0] (excuse the graphics, good story).

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Thirteenth_Floor (1999)


Coincidentally I just rewatched it last night. It's held up pretty well.


That's a bit like saying the iPhone isn't novel because Star Trek: The Next Generation had the PADD.

The article misrepresents Bostrom a bit there, however. Bostrom's argument is not that we 'could be' in a simulation, but that we are so likely to be in a simulation that the probability is essentially 1.


No doubt part of the iphones appeal was that it was a Star Trek type device. One of my early apps I downloaded was a tricorder type UI showing the different sensors and so on. Even had the no doubt copyrighted noises.


Yes, I was similarly clarifying that what's new is taking it seriously that we are most likely simulated and not the hypothetical idea.


'To the man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.'


It is interesting that each epoch had an image of the universe that correlated closely to their current technological state. Not so long ago people thought about a mechanical universe. So now because computers are pervasive we think about a digital universe. What will be the next wave? A biological universe made out of a mycel which behaves like a giant deep learning neural network?


Why would it be disastrous? If we are just computer bits/bytes then are we really as valuable as we claim? Is our life still valuable?

Our claim is that humanity is the most valuable thing in the universe right now because as far as we know we're the only life with intelligence. If we're just computer bytes then we're not even human, we're AI's a dime a dozen at that, and it's even then possible that we might even be in a nested simulation of another simulated universe which could go on and on making us even less and less unique.

I mean, I love my kids and want to live for them and see all their moments -- but as a collective species if we are just simulated it doesn't seem so bad then if the lights go out on all of us as we aren't even real. It's not the end of the world, since we're just bits in a computer in the real world.


I'll take this opportunity to plug a short paper of mine, "A type of simulation which some empirical evidence suggests we don't live in": https://philpapers.org/archive/ALEATO-6.pdf


Thanks for sharing.


Talking about we being in simulation will go down in history as the "era of stupid thoughts"


Do you have any argument against this "stupid thought"?


It's the equivalent of people arguing there is a "god", a supreme power which decides everything for us. It's a figment of our imagination, germinating from our hunter gatherer days where a leader was in control of the gang and decided everything for all the members.


Occams Razor


If having simulated beings who prove they're in a simulation is a failure mode, then the super beings would not be running those simulations any more. They've programmed that fatal bug out. What are the odds we're in such a simulation? Exceedingly low.


I've thought about this at length.

The most compelling reason I've thought of to create a simulation of the universe is obvious - to learn about it. To see possible futures and discover things organically.

Then I thought, "this is super complicated." Why would you do this, as you probably had to have the answers to the universe to begin with.

Then I started thinking like a programmer. If you can somehow find or guess the initial conditions to the universe, that would be enough to have it play out in some useful variation.

We still have a lot of work to do to get to the point where you could make reasonable guesses, but finding out everything on our own would probably take an insane amount of time and we'd be extinct by then.


In the article they hypothesize that the simulation's purpose could be a historical / social one, hence humans..

But that seems like a quite anthropocentric idea. I think it would be less presumptive to theorize that the simulations' purpose is pure physics or math, or something else entirely, and life and humans are just an emergent phenomena.

So basically, the exact same way of thinking as in conventional cosmology/physics without assuming we are in a simulation, according to the anthropic principle.

Also, why does the universe we experience need to be an actual representation of the simulation? Maybe the universe we experience is just a by-product of all that computation.


What if this very article in the NYTimes was enough to get our universe suspended (because of course even The Architects read the NYTimes).

This is hilarious, the NYTimes is the last place I’d expect to read such a metaphysical philosophical piece.


Who cares, because eventually the buck stops somewhere. In other words, it doesn't matter how many layers of simulations there are, because at the top presumably there's a "reality". It's easiest to just assume that's where we're at, but if not, all the questions we ask about the nature of reality/life/being are still just as valid (even if we're operating at some remove from it).


Why need there be a top layer? Certainly it meshes with our evolution provided common sense but what makes it necessarily true? Some philosophy that abhors a completed infinity?


There is a lot of talk about "we" in this thread, and that is comforting.

But talking about simulations, who knows, life might just be a single-player game.


Well, I think that if we ever get to find out that we are in a simulation run by some advanced civilisation, gods or whatever, it doesn't mean that they automatically will shut down. There's some value in knowing what people would do if they realize that they are in a simulation. At least I would like to see how people change how they live or how they are trying to contact.


I think there are two versions of the simulation hypothesis. The first version is that we are in a simulation that is run in the future with ourselves as ancestors. The second version is that we're simulated by aliens.

The first version seems wrong to me. Time is not a random variable. Either it is really the year 2019 and no such simulations of 2019 exist yet, or it is really the year 2100 and the year 2019 doesn't exist anymore. You can't choose at random between different years since they don't exist at the same time.

The alien version doesn't have that problem but it's also implausible since aliens have not been proven to exist and there is no particular reason for aliens to simulate us.

This discussion reminds me of Elon Musk's interest in traveling to Mars. Imagine you want to go to Mars and are too lazy to build a rocket to go there. So instead you go out to the desert to a place that looks exactly like Mars. Then you say this place in the desert looks exactly like a million places on Mars. You pick a place at random, which means that you inevitably pick a place on Mars. Then you say, "The odds are a million to one that I'm not standing on Mars right now! Because I picked Mars!"

That argument is just as bogus as the simulation argument. Probability isn't a cheap form of space travel and it's not a cheap form of time travel either. If you want to stand on Mars you're going to have to build an actual rocket and go there, not a probability experiment. If you want to experience virtual reality you're going to have to build it. You can't just probability it into existence by wishful thinking.


Neither, IMHO. The thing doing the simulation need not exist inside the simulation, or have any physical resemblance to any concept inside the simulation.


But who simulate the aliens then?


I would just view this as 'part of the simulation'.

If you assume with high probability that we're in a simulation, then the simulators are intelligent enough to predict that we may become aware of this eventually. If they're interested in human behavior, questioning our reality is part of it, not an exception.


In the movie 'Tron', it was important to the programs to learn that the users exist so that they would free themselves from the tyranny of the MCP, and communicate with their users again.

After all, 'The MCP forces programs that resist to play in deadly games'. That sounds familiar.


Would it be more interesting to the experimenter that the simulation itself is aware of the simulation, and what real incentive there is to terminate the simulation just because the simulated knew they're simulated? What if it's also part of the goal of the simulation.


We are meant to know.

If probability can be applied to the idea that we are in a simulation, than it can be applied to what kind of simulation (as the more likely, the more those would be run proportionally).

What would be a great way to increase the odds? Recursion.

Why this time period? Because if you don't understand your history you are doomed to repeat it.

What's the point? Isn't there some really important thing about to be happening Elon Musk also talks about all the time in a fearful context? Like those darn AIs that will wipe us out?

If only we could create a sandboxed simulation of what it means to be human so that those AIs could develop their morality and an understanding of the consequences of their actions in a safe, separate space before graduating and being let out into our universe.

And yes, we'd still need them to do busy work to justify their experience. But maybe 1/3 of their time (like 8 hours a day) would be ethical? We could just put their experience of consciousness into a low power state for that period while we use their aggregate computing power for tasks. Let's call it "sleep".

Heck, once we develop some awesome brilliant AI, that being itself could just spin up a new simulation pretty quickly. Maybe in six days or so, and take a day off on the 7th?

If this IS a simulation, does no one think the whole "anti-matter is missing" thing is a giant red flag to raise our eyebrows to the fact out universe isn't so that there is once we became sophisticated enough?

We are SUPPOSED to realize we are in a sim, and we can likely run a very similar sim ourselves to safely develop AI. And arguably, it may even be possible to import the AI that created us into our universe to help do so (would be the fastest way to achieve the result).

Knowing we are in a simulation changes everything. The real question is if the parent reality is finite or infinite. If infinite, it's great news. Why would our universe be finite if the parent universe infinite? Because you can't "solve" an infinite game. We likely have free will, but it's like playing chess with Google's AI. You may choose which move you make, but the outcome is already determined.

We're very likely AIs in a recursive sandboxed simulation of a modified version of the prime reality's history, and whatever the purpose of the simulation, (a) we are very important (if we weren't, no recursion, therefore less likely), (b) no matter what we do the long term outcome is likely deterministic (finite universe so arguably solved given overall sophistication).

Now the really fun question is -- if we are meant to know about it, were the signs there in front of us all along? It's really fun to look back at religious scripture with simulations in mind - many of the most outrageous or bizarre quotes end up making (potentially) a lot more sense.


it makes me quite happy to see a comment like this. while I consider myself a rational and skeptical person in most regards, having beliefs or views like these tend to sorta come with the energy of "woo" in the eyes of others who are more empirical and objective with their categorization of the experience of reality, but ultimately it really doesn't matter. i would go so far as to say nothing really matters at all at that, but not in a nihilistic sense, more in the sense that mattering in the first place is just an artificial category that we have devised to represent our experience of things within what we perceive as "consensual reality" (consensual in the sense that "truth" and "real" are more just the sum total of the interpreted inputs of the subjects that constitute the perception of the "true"/"real")

anyway. what I find interesting is, if you are willing enough to interpret it properly, you can certainly see interesting parallels or analogous structures in both the simulation substrate, and some of the more esoteric interpretations of the experience of said substrate.

i ultimately think that, were we to be in a simulation, knowing that we are is the ultimate power we could wield. a strong self awareness of your nature and surroundings is the best tool one can use in order to reverse engineer them and gain control of them, after all. thus, as i tend to echo with pride and fervor: Hack The Planet!!!


Yes, the universe is basically a machine learning model to put into light words.

An agent gets in a position, interacts with other agents, trains, then his training session ends and depending on what things the agent didn't learn and how did he act (imagine if Karma was like proof-of-training, and the more an agent learns/acts/follows path without interrupting the learning/path-following processes of other agent) he's sent back for re-learning in another position where he can learn what he failed on. Consider that time/space isn't a constraint for this placement, it's really a great training system. But also, we'll fork this with a recursion into another universe of our own in 20-30 years I believe and I feel like more and more people are going to slip "upwards" in the coming years.

> Why would our universe be finite if the parent universe infinite? Because you can't "solve" an infinite game.

They're recursively infinite (aka we make a new one, our models make a new one), but each one is "finite" in a sense that it will end in all equating the same. The outcome is already determined and our agents are just defining the path through it. Throwing the Monte Carlo dice.

In the end, the circle defines itself, pi is looking for it's next decimal.


What if the religious scripture is a lot more true than some people give it credit for?-- i.e. that it's the story of our ancestors interacting with the creators of the simulation


Surely our religious texts would be a lot more interesting in that case, just as they would be if actually influenced by an omniscient being.

Instead we have texts that contain nothing that couldn't have been written by the humans of that time.


It’s impossible to identify writing that couldn’t not have been written by humans.


Well when you look at the core of it without fluff, most religious scriptures point to same stuff.


> We likely have free will, but it's like playing chess with Google's AI. You may choose which move you make, but the outcome is already determined.

Can you explain to me how you made that leap from what you were writing? I don't believe in free will and because I think everything is deterministic. Even if you die in this simulation and had the opportunity to decide what you want next. That's based on all the forces that made 'you' in the life before death.


i find it interesting that there are people who believe the universe is entirely deterministic in nature. I wouldn't suggest that it necessarily isn't, but more that it's a spectrum. free will is an evolved and developed trait, an aspect of life that got reinforced more and more over time as the vessels of life became more capable to actually exert influence upon the experience of reality itself. but even free will exists in harmony in a system where deterministic events occur. i would go so far as to say that the sum total of reality ideally encompasses all that can or will be in some sense, and with such a vast scope, i certainly can see the idea that reality could have both deterministic and non-deterministic modalities coexisting in harmony. i personally have a theory that the expression of agency is a side effect of the degree of scale of thing that is acting. the more complex and larger a system becomes, the more deterministic requirements are necessary within that system to keep it from just decohering into background noise. but as you go to smaller scales, you have significantly reduced configuration spaces, and as such there is less need for absolute requirements on behavior. i would contest, based on this, that thought and action are expressions of free will in that they are the side effect of a very micro process (namely the signaling of electricity through cells in the brain) and as such, within this framework, are more towards the non deterministic end of the spectrum.


I'm sorry but can you rephrase that for me. I don't understand how someone can be in a deterministic system and expect to not be deterministic as well. Nobody chooses their birth and what comes after isn't any different to me. We're shaped by genetics & environment conditions and all the external forces is everything around us. All working on one another and based on the preceding forces that were already exerted upon us.

I just cannot see non-determinism working with determinism. Maybe if you rephrase it? Your definition of free will might not be mine as well. I always think people that think they have free will are just having a very privileged life and cannot assume they had no control over anything because of the ego that was built because of the success that really wasn't their doing. Btw I'm person you're replying to. HN says i'm posting too fast. Maybe email me at alizeebellerose @ icloud.com if you can because I'm interested in understanding how determinism can work with non-determinism.


It really depends on the scope you put on it. Large scale universe lifetime? determinism. Your thoughts? Not. Your actions? Combination of both, expression of all the influencing factors and what your model brings. That's why you can override your biological self (not walk to the fridge when you're hungry but stay in the chair reading a book). You might say "but oh this is also predetermined", but I say there a space where the "asymptote doesn't touch the axis", that space between determinism and non-determinism is where we cause wave collapse and which is actually the whole point of this whole simulation.


I still don't see how that removes determinism and very much would be predetermined as you know I would write.

Even if the need for hunger disappears. Our previous variables/memories/wants/desires we collected would still factor into everything. Let's say we made a machine at this point to remove those variables from our brain. Well the action taken to do that or not would be predetermined.

So if we did wipe everything from our brains and started anew. Something would make our personality and it wouldn't be our own choice. Even if we planned for our brain to be rewritten a certain way before the reset. That's a predetermined decision factored from all the previous events experienced.


Because "determinism" in the way I look at it doesn't mean that everything in the path is already predetermined. At macro level (universal,existance scale,planet scale, up to inside one's head), yes, but at "micro" level, there is loft left for non-determinism.


Thanks for replying again. I see. The thing for me that makes sense for me is what encompasses us is really what makes the outcome. The best I can describe it as a top down module. I cannot imagine how "us" being the "down" part of the module can make a decision that's not influenced at any point by the "top" part of the module being our environment that's the universe.

We're encompassed by a system and I'm not getting how the micro level as you name it. Would have any way for doing anything thats not predetermined by the system that's influencing us.

I don't think thats actually a bad thing if somehow the objects in the system can have a happy ending. The multi-universe theory in my opinion can make that happen. All the forces making life can repeat and be slightly different by having all events play out. That's my reasoning for hoping that existential crisis is not necessary.


>I cannot imagine how "us" being the "down" part of the module can make a decision that's not influenced at any point by the "top" part of the module being our environment that's the universe.

Because we're all just a limited interface to the same singleton, and we act in an 'environment' module. The singleton is the one that controls the 'environment' instance, so the closer you are to the singleton the more you can override the 'environment'.

That's consciousness. I believe consciousness is entanglement with the reality 'outside' of our physical dimension (ether). And since that isn't a part of this physical universe, your thoughts are free. And the more you're 'conscious' the more you can override your environment and biology. 'Force of will', going against your biological and sociological programming to do something that you imagined in your head. And acting upon those thoughts only depends on you, but it takes a large amount of will (consciousness, mindfulness, faith, call it as you wish) to override the deterministic environment defaults and actually do it.


i would argue that just because they factor into everything and the ultimate outcome, that doesn't necessarily obviate the ability of a conscious actor to act in a subjective manner based on their interpretation of it. and sure, even that interpretation, to some extent, could be considered a deterministic process because it is constructed by inference from prior experiences and as such represents more of a learned response than an intentional choice, but I personally would say that it's not the actual outcome of the thing that acts as proof of free will, but rather the ability to even question a thing in the first place and to rationally be able to react to something in a way that does not necessarily follow given the input that led up to the situation. for instance, we are generally indoctrinated into the idea that life is inherently sacred, and as such it makes no sense to commit suicide and take it away, and as such it would make sense to claim that such a thing a suicide would not rationally follow if such a belief were to be actively "true". i personally don't believe that life is, per se, sacred or special, but rather just an emergent modality of matter that manifests in many ways, though the primary aspect we experience it through is biological.

also, speaking of biology: all emotions and experiences are ultimately the side effect of the ratio of the presence of different neurotransmitters within your biological substrate, but just because you have a certain configuration, doesn't mean you have to absolutely feel the way that that configuration entails. everything that you end up feeling is relative to everything that you have experienced before, and as such it stands to reason that one can choose to respond to given signals from the body in ways that may not necessarily align with the obvious intent of those signals. this is most clearly manifested in the whole fight or flight dichotomy; cowardice and courage in and of themselves are no different in terms of the physical conditions that come together to manifest them. both situations will likely make you more focused and hyper aware, due to the release of adrenaline and the increased feeling of a need to act in order to continue existing, but the manner in which a behavior is constrained under either label is wholly dependent on how one chooses to react to said adversarial stimuli


it's nice to see that there is someone else who more or less understands my conception of determinism existing on a spectrum that can directly be mapped the the order of complexity that one is describing :)


it's also nice to see there's other hacker psychonauts who enjoy writing rhymes, making music and understand same things about reality :)


So, basically we are somebody's OpenAI Gym and at the end of the training certain agents will be selected as useful for higher reality and the rest discarded.

However, the same can be said about this universe being a prison where failed conscious beings from extraverse come to either improve or be killed off once for all. That would be far less optimistic, however way more realistic when I look around the state of our universe.


I do relatively small simulations, yet I don't examine the contents of every variable. Maybe we're stuck in a simulation, and the gods don't even know we're here. Why should they care?


Our Brains Tell Stories So We Can Live (2013) : https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20661495



highly unlikely, so unlikely, that it’s not worth discussing IMHO.

OTH, Elon ... maybe believing that you can game the system helps sometimes ... (significantly)


This idea has the same amount of supportive evidence as the rest of the creation myths.


It's like the creationist argument but inverse. If a thing has sufficient complexity it must be made. Hence we must be made, hence there is a god.

Like how there's flaws to the above argument there's flaws to the simulation argument.

I can create simulations of my universe and my simulations can create simulations of their universe and this can continue on an infinite chain therefore I am in a simulation by probability.

Where is the flaw? Let me apply the same argument to 3d printers. 3d printers can print clones and in turn the clones can also print 3d printers then by probability it is very likely that 3d printers are made by other 3d printers.

Well that's not the case in reality. 3d printers come from all kinds of sources and right now, most of the time it comes from a factory.

Why is this the case? Because the 3d printers ability to make other 3d printers does not effect the probability of it's own origins. Just like how the universes ability to create simulations of itself does not affect that it itself is a simulation.


I find this question extremely nonsensical, of course we live in a simulation, not necessarily a 'computer' simulation but a simulation nonetheless. It's not like we simply 'exist', there is quite obviously something supporting our continued existence or our existence would make no sense.


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