Ming the Mechanic:
Our world as a simulation

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Our world as a simulation2007-08-15 17:17
11 comments
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NY Times article about researcher/philosopher Nick Bostrom, who has concluded that there's a high mathematical probablity that we're all living inside a computer simulation, created by technologically advanced descendents of ours in the future. Although his gut feeling tells him that it is only 20% likely that we actually are living inside a simulation.

I always find that kind of conversation stimulating. We very well might live within The Matrix. It might be a computer simulation. Or this might be a universe created by some advanced race from a previous universe. Or the quantum soup universe might just basically work as if it is a simulation, where the reality we experience is the result of our laser beam of consciousness hitting the neutral stemcell type of quantum particiles, which happily will be whatever you want them to be.

But there are things that bother me. Huge fallacies that tend to appear in such a discussion.

There's the very widespread AI superstition that if you make a computer program that is sufficiently complex, it will be conscious and have its own thoughts and feelings. And that this simply is what consciousness is. So that if we make a simulation of your brain, it will think that it is you. That's a load of hogwash, in my opinion, and nobody has succeeded in demonstrating anything remotely like that. The corrolary of the idea is that if you're a sufficiently good simulation, you wouldn't know. Which is a very upside down way of looking at things, and if you believe it, you ought to be worried as well about your soul being stolen when somebody takes a picture of you.

And then there's the God thing. People who have this kind of discussion, of intelligent simulations in artificial realities, are usually atheists, and will usually take time out of their schedule to explain to you why you're a complete moron if you think the universe somehow is intelligently designed, or there possibly could be any intelligence guiding its evolution. And in the next breath we're having a discussion about exactly the same thing, the possibility of you just existing as a simulation in the computer of some advanced alien, who might or might not be benevolent, who might turn you off when he feels like it, if he doesn't like what you do. Uhm, sounds a lot like that God in the sky with the grey beard. So do you believe in it or not?

I don't. But I do believe in the primordial existence of consciousness, and I do believe I exist. The world responds as if me being in it makes a difference, and I can obviously guide my own path to a considerable extent. But I haven't seen any sign of outside influence, of anybody arbitrarily breaking in and changing things. Doesn't mean it couldn't happen, and the whole thing shuts down tomorrow with a "Memory Full" message. But I think it is very unlikely.

I'm sure we in the future will become able to simulate whole universes. But we won't be succeeding in developing artificial intelligence before we have addressed it from a totally different angle. And once we actually figure it out, it doesn't really matter if we're in somebody's simulation or not, and there'll be no need to worry about whether robots will become smarter than us.


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11 comments

15 Aug 2007 @ 22:33 by no-one @203.56.233.124 : Believing and knowing
You talk as if believing in something makes it real. My daughter believes whole heartedly in Santa Claus. Is he real? You say "I do believe I exist" but who or what is the "I" that believes, more to the point, who or what is the "I" that exists? You might answer "my soul" or "my mind" but then I ask who or what is the "me" that has a soul or mind? If you simply answer "I" then you are getting warm. We, meaning people, do seem determined to prove that we exist but what is real, is the object real or is only the thought of the object real? And who or what thinks the thought?
Believing means nothing, it's just another word for faith. Knowing is far more useful and it's best to say nothing until one knows. And when one knows, one realises that there was no one there in the first place. The ultimate paradox of aliveness.  



16 Aug 2007 @ 11:39 by ming : Believing
Well, you're getting warm too. But it is all in the realm of paradoxes. That I exist is about the only thing I can positively prove to myself. The things I believe that I see, that's much harder. I have no proof that they exist, only that I experience their existence. But we can't get around that there's something here who can perceive. Whether that's a separate existence, whether I'm separate from everybody else, that gets into what one can't prove. Attempts or arguing for that tend to fall apart quickly, so probably that's an illusion. But that's only a matter of determining whether "I" am a separate human mind, or the consciousness of the multiverse, or something in between. But trying to argue that it isn't there at all will simply invalidate any other argument that involves what anybody observes or thinks or concludes, so that's dangerous ground. People who don't exist have no business arguing for or against anything.  


16 Aug 2007 @ 21:40 by no-one @203.56.233.124 : Nothing and Everything... Same thing
"People who don't exist have no business arguing for or against anything."

Exactly. After all, isn't duality just a concept?  



17 Aug 2007 @ 02:34 by bushman : Hmm
In my view, none of it exists at all, what we are seeing, is the video of what we already did in our distant past, that this is the new heaven and Earth bibles talk about, a sort of self-judgment of self. Kind of like how individual brain cells work, it can be seen in all ways from all points of veiw. Like if you look at the planet and say its coated with individual brain cells, you notice just like in a human brain there are different areas that are active. We could say the middle east is the part of the brain that likes to be in conflict, and so on. It just makes way more sence to see the whole humanity as a brain. To me conciousness is the billions thoughts the run thru my mind daily, and figure that other individuals might be haveing the same thought at the same moment, is accualy Gods brain at work. As well, time stops and restarts, we dont notice it as a whole, but little things, like you hear of some actors death, and then a couple years later you find out they are still alive, then you ask yourself, I know I seen a news story about that guy dieing, but no one else remembers. Best way to notice time flucuations is to live by natural time, dont use a watch, but look at the clock and turn you back for how long you feel a natural minet might be, then turn back and look, and see how many mins have past on the clock, if there is a time shift, the clock will show up to 3 mins before you first looked at it. I think we are all watching ourselves, judging ourselves, for all the bad things we did to destroy ourselves.  


18 Aug 2007 @ 21:26 by bushman : Just
wanted to add this link, about time jumps.
[link]  



20 Aug 2007 @ 18:06 by Andrius Kulikauskas @193.219.5.34 : Jeff Hawkins book On Intelligence
Flemming, I read parts of Jeff Hawkins book on intelligence and it was really interesting how he explains how the brain is a giant simulation. And the main point is that more (10 x more) nerve signal go from the higher centers to the lower centers than the other way around (as was expected). Which means that our brains are pushing out everything we see as a "prediction" of what's out there and then looking for tiny signals coming back that show us where we're wrong. That's why we can notice, for example, silence even though there's no signal. Because we're expecting noise.  


20 Aug 2007 @ 22:10 by ming : Intelligence
Ah, very interesting indeed. Makes good sense on several levels. We maintain a very complex picture of the world, but yet we don't seem to pay all that much attention. And it is both satisfying that the world is more created from the inside than the outside, and of course also a cause of problems, when the self-generated version is seriously out of whack with what really is going on.  


22 Oct 2007 @ 08:50 by ferryman : The Bohmian IMAX
In my opinion many people are misunderstanding the process whereby reality is a simulation. According to the latest research in a new field of science called 'consciousness studies', the 'Copenhagen Interpretation' of quantum physics and the theories of physicists such as David Bohm and Max Tegmark it is the brain itself that brings about that which we perceive as external reality. In other words the act of observation by a conscious mind brings reality into existence. This may sound crazy to the layman but many particle physicists have long heald this belief. In my book 'Is There Life After Death - The Extraordinary Science of What Happens When We Die' I apply these theories to death and dying. The three-dimensional matrix-like illusion that we live in I term 'The Bohmian Imax' in recognition of the late David Bohm. If you are interested in this theory and live in the USA a free dowload of the book is available at www.wowio.com (just search on 'Anthony Peake'). You can also read some background material on my website - wwww.anthonypeake.com  


2 Jan 2008 @ 03:20 by Steven Andrew Draper @82.13.22.193 : How soon is now?
Simulation or not. all is reality. I believe all we see are shadows of what once was, and in our reaction to the shadows, we will try to create the future as we wish it to be. If things only ever existed because we are observing them now. then the moment of creation must be the present?  


8 Mar 2008 @ 08:02 by Mike K @70.190.87.242 : fallacies
First on ego. Just because we are sure we exist doesn't mean it's not a simulation, maybe our mind exists out of the sim more than in, but sense and perception trap us here. Maybe the simulation is set up to generate intelligence (unlikely, but maybe). I feel the mind is greater than the 3 dimensional sim (4th if time counts, but only an idiot believes time is real), but that the 3 dimensional sim is a trap, a trick to distract.
Second, current physics ONLY leads to an assumption of a simulation. Think of quantum "foam" a base unit that has infinite potential, can assume any form is, at it's core, purely random, but still behaves a certain way when needed. Think of your monitor, blank if no info is provided, but full of "potential to display" then info comes from your graphics card and bam. That's not a natural evolution of matter. That's a simulation environment, a way to assume any "material" state the information dictates. Also bell's theorem indicates that there is a signal that conveys this information that dictates the foam's state anywhere in the universe instantly (the difference between the refresh rate on your monitor and the info coming in. The refresh rate is the limit (like the speed of light) if you live in the monitor, but there is a faster way to convey the info. Also our famous friend's cat. An event doesn't occur until it is observed. That's because a simulation has no reason to operate without a user, further evidence that it's created specifically to fool us.
Continuing, the base units that make atoms have no mass. The "solid matter" in the material world is made of units that act according to rules dictated by the info, but at the base they are not there. They are points of space that define a "zone" that no other points can enter, but they don't exist.
Ego forces us to grasp at straws, to hope we're special, but ego is a cage, created by our "world". It hurts to think we're in someone's sim, but it's true. Maybe it's our sim though, maybe it's a school, or maybe we come from an intelligence that is collective, and seeks to put parts of itself in a place where individual thought it promoted to expand knowledge. Maybe some hateful race has trapped us here or maybe we deserve it. Your world is false,sorry, but accept it.  



26 Apr 2009 @ 19:55 by Anthony @68.190.118.13 : At Last
Its good that there are people like yourselves that understand that the only thing we know for a fact is that we know nothing, there are simply to many outside influences that shape the way we think and even as smart as we all are (by societies standards) I can't help but wonder if we would see things differently if we were a different species but of the same intelligence as our own. Say for instance that instead of being human beings we were a three toed sloth, no changes to our mind, how we think, or how effectivley, or in effectivley we interpret the world around us, just a physical difference, and though of the top of your mind it doesnt seem logical to put any emphasis on how we are constructed physicallly, I think it would make a world of difference in the way we percieve our reality, I couldnt even fathom how may train of thought would be on a completley different track if I just looked different, not different by comparison to other people but as a species as a whole. I think that if we all looked like cats instead of people that it would greatly effect the way we think or percieve anything and while this may seem like a digression it brings us back to the inevitable truth that we know nothing.  


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2007-08-19 19:29: Tools for learning



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