Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Is The Universe A Simulation?

Human beings have longed to understand their origins. There are several theories as to why this is the case; maybe it is an attempt to nail down the disruptive thought that our identities are anything but static or that understanding our origins will clearly point out the purpose of our lives. At any rate, countless hypotheses have been advanced as to human origins. One of the newest (or at least the one that is getting a lot of press lately) is the hypothesis that the universe is a simulation run by an intelligence superior to our own. The details of this hypothesis are laid out here in this Discover magazine online article, though if you just want to go straight to the analysis of this poppycock idea, I provide snippets of the text below with a corresponding rebuttal.

The article starts with this gem, “To us, these programmers would be gods, able to twist reality on a whim…are the implications too disturbing?” Well, yes, the implications would be disturbing but not because we would discover these particular gods. In discovering these gods, we would still be inclined to ask who or what created these gods. So, discovering there are gods in this case doesn’t bring us closer to any ultimate truths. These so-called gods would still exist in some universe of their own and whose universe may be a simulation itself. (The article even acknowledges this possibility further on in the reading.) In uncovering these ‘gods of the simulation’ we would solve nothing other than to reveal our own slavery. Any ultimate truth would still be waiting to be discovered.

“Given the rapid technological advances we’ve witnessed over past decades — your cell phone has more processing power than NASA’s computers had during the moon landings — it’s not a huge leap to imagine that such simulations will eventually encompass intelligent life.” That’s a very humorous sentence since the definition of intelligent life is so contentious to say nothing of the fact that people often treat others unlike themselves as though they weren’t human. Do simulations qualify as intelligent life? I suppose we could ask Siri…

“Legislation and social mores could soon be all that keeps us from creating a universe of artificial, but still feeling, humans — but our tech-savvy descendants may find the power to play God too tempting to resist.” In other words, regardless of whether we are or are not simulations, we’d still be assholes. Great.

“John D. Barrow, professor of mathematical sciences at Cambridge University, suggested that an imperfect simulation of reality would contain detectable glitches. Just like your computer, the universe’s operating system would need updates to keep working.” This article began by mentioning the amount of computing power and intelligence that would be needed to create our simulation and it came off as sounding as if our simulators would be a whole lot smarter than the team that programmed Windows Vista. Barrow’s suggestion is pure speculation, aiming to suppose that our simulators would be as incompetent as we are. Well, I should hope not. After all, they kept blowjobs as part of the simulation. That implies vast intelligence.

“Most physicists assume that space is smooth and extends out infinitely. But physicists modeling the early universe cannot easily re-create a perfectly smooth background to house their atoms, stars and galaxies. Instead, they build up their simulated space from a lattice, or grid, just as television images are made up from multiple pixels.” Wow, this is exactly the same kind of reasoning that leads people to believe in miracles, events that supersede the laws of physics: If we cannot do it or explain it, then it must have been the Hand of God. Utter B.S.

“Unfortunately, our almighty simulators may instead have programmed us into a universe-size reality show — and are capable of manipulating the rules of the game, purely for their entertainment. In that case, maybe our best strategy is to lead lives that amuse our audience, in the hope that our simulator-gods will resurrect us in the afterlife of next-generation simulations.” First, a ‘universe-size reality show’ is still a smaller universe than the one our simulators are in, meaning, the size of our universe isn’t actually that impressive. Second, we have no idea what, exactly, amuses our supposed audience the most, since our simulators are eerily mum on that account. Much like (insert the name of your god here).

Other thoughts? As one commenter, Chris Pope wrote, “If we can conceive of any test that would prove that we are in a simulation then would not that possibility have already be conceived by the designers of our simulation? If the designers are able to respond to our actions and construct the simulation in such a way that we observe the results that they want us to, then how can we ever devise a test that can prove that we are in a simulation? Unless the designers want us to have that power they will be able to gimmick the results of any "test" such that the result returns to preserve the illusion of the simulation.” We don’t know how the simulators would react to us discovering we are a simulation. Do they want us to know? If we found out could they simply erase that knowledge from our memory? What if we rebelled against the program and would that even be possible? Moreover, theguy126 wrote, “Exactly what would define a real world as opposed to a simulation anyway? If we were to break free of our simulation and enter the real world what would be so distinctively different about that real world that makes it more "real" than a perfect simulation? The answer is nothing. There is nothing substantial about real matter because all that is just information that could have been simulated. There is no meaningful difference between a real world and a perfect simulation of the real world.”

It’s all speculation, folks. And if it turns out I’m not real, well, I’ll just move to California where it’s okay to be as fake as you want.

The utter nonsense of this hypothesis is relatable to solipsism, which I have defeated. Read about it here.   

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