I love this argument and have written about it in multiple posts in the past. But before I get to that, I wanted to say that if you do not have Flipboard on your phone you should get it. It is really an awesome app. It is basically a way to filter the internet to what you are interested in or like. When you open it there are hundreds upon hundreds of categories that you can choose from and the app goes out on the internet and finds articles related to those categories. Without that app I would struggle to come up with things to talk about on my blog, so that app is certainly a big help. The only downside is that the app does a poor job of pushing current events and or breaking news. Still it is pretty cool.
So now on to the article. The article I am talking about is called Is the Universe a Simulation? There is also a lengthy video attached that is totally awesome. The panel consists of some of the great minds in our current day and age. There is David Chalmers (who I have emailed on occasion asking him about consciousness), Lisa Randall, Max Tegmark, and Silvester James Gates (who had an awesome voice!) there is also another physicist Zohreh Davoudi. The video is awesome and these individuals bring up some very interesting points.
I think what I find the most interesting is that a lot of the actual physicists really do not like this theory or idea at all. Tyson who is the host gives Chalmers, who is a philosopher, some crap about being a philosopher as well as thinking that idea is total crap. This is something that I do not understand when it comes to academia or the research world. Most of these individuals hate being wrong or think that their view of the world is absolute, which I think is quite silly. But still they build their careers on these ideas and theories that that think and believe are correct, so when someone offers a conflicting theory they have no choice but to refute the new idea as their careers depend on it. But often times these new ideas are correct and the old guard must recant, which no one likes to do. So from that perspective I understand, but still I think it is a bit much to sit there and really bash or give no credence to an idea just because it does not fit into your view of the world. Now the evidence is a whole other thing to discuss which I will talk about later.
There are a few things discussed in the article and the video that I want to talk about. The first is what Tyson asks Max, which is something to the affect of “Why would “they,” the programmers, give us (the ones in the simulation) the ability to question our environment, basically give us the ability to even ask such a question, like are we in a simulation?” That is certainly a very good and very deep question that Tyson asks. I would also say that Tyson is certainly a skeptic of the argument and that is fine, but I was defiantly not happy with the overall answer that the panel came up with. In fact it was so ordinary that I have forgotten it and to me they totally missed the bigger picture of the question.
To me I think what Tyson asks is, I would say basically, meaningless. While on the surface you would certainly say, “Yes why would they do that, that seems strange that they would allow us to do that,” but when you start to dissect the question you will see that it is very silly.
If we humans had the ability and computing power to simulate anything on this type of scale, do you not think that we would program a simulation to be able to produce life? I would undoubtedly say yes. Now in doing so, eventually if we run that simulation enough times intelligent life would, could, and should arise in the simulation. So then the that same question is still there but is somewhat changed. Would the intelligent life in the simulation be able to figure out they are in a simulation. That to me is the bigger question that the panel missed. The point I am trying to make is that I do not see a scenario of a highly advanced and highly intelligent species creating a simulation that could mimic a universe that would not have life and or intelligent life in that said simulation.
So following all the “IF’s” in this question, IF a civilization creates a simulation, and IF that simulation has life, and IF that life is intelligent, would they be able to determine if they were in a simulation? I think that is the question the panel truly missed on, not why would the creators give us the ability to question our environment. If you had to guess I would say that this could be the exact thing they might be experimenting on, or the reason for the simulation. What kind of intelligence can we create? Whereas the question as the panel poses is more along the lines of these programmers wanting to keep and maintain all the control. This seems very strange and truly odd, especially for such a technologically advanced civilization.
The way they are asking the question is basically saying that the programmers have nothing better to do than to sit around and watch us but we have not enough intelligence to question our environment, so the intelligence they have created has a limit. This could be one of the parameters they might want to test. If they just want to sit around and watch us that is very strange and quite silly, however if they were running a simulation I would think they would be doing so for scientific purposes and would welcome the variables that arise, such as the life in the simulation questioning its environment. That is a true experiment. But if this is a simulation we ultimately do not know for what purposes it was begun. That is another very deep and important question we need to ask.
If you remove humans from this universe, as far as we know, we are it, so the programmers would just have a single planet, Earth, with a bunch of animals on it. That sure sounds exciting, and on some level I am sure that would be totally awesome from an experimental point of view. But can you imagine how much more exciting it would be if a scientist said that he or she had created a simulated universe with intelligent life and that life was building stuff and creating civilization, and developing technology. Imagine how much we could learn, how much more exciting and awesome would that be? That is my point.
The other thing is what Lisa Randal says about simulating the universe. She said that it would take the computing power of the universe to simulate the entire universe. Now I will say that I am not an expert in any sense of the word, but I do not think that makes sense and I would love to ask someone if that is correct or has any credence. If we look at the very simple devices we have created that can somewhat simulate worlds and cities, such as video games, this is certainly hard to believe. I know that a video game and simulating a universe on not even remotely the same. But, BUT, I still do not think that to perfectly simulate a city, for example, we would need to use a computer the size of said city. That makes no sense to me, it may in fact be correct, but I do not believe it.
Perhaps what she was trying to say is that it would take an enormous amount of power and a very large computer to accomplish this in which case I would agree. But to say that you would need something the size of a universe to simulate a universe is silly.
I have only made it about half way through the video but stay tuned because I will certainly have much much more to say.