The Reality of Our Universe

I am not sure when this subject became so fascinating to me, but I am pretty sure that it was after I read Taking the Red pill. Which is a great book and really will make you respect the writers of the Matrix, and not only that but how much thought they put into every detail of the film.

The cool thing about the book is that there is also a ton of philosophy that deals with reality and how we understand and view it. I think this is when, and where, I really started to get into the idea of reality and the different theories that surround it. I have written a few post on this subject but recently I came across this article that has a few videos along with it that really got me thinking again. I am sure you smelled something burning…

I think this is one of the better articles that I have read when it comes to this subject. It covers quite a few different theories and some really great videos talking to Ray Kurzweil and Nick Bostrom who is famous for his Simulation Argument that I have mentioned a few times in my posts. So to me this is a nice round up and cover all, if you will, of all the ideas and thoughts that are out there. The only negative is that if you are unfamiliar with these ideas you can quickly and easily get lost as some of the discussion is very deep and hard to follow. However, I did find some of the points very interesting and worth discussing:

“If you take seriously the theory of all possible universes, including all possible variations,” Davies said, “at least some of them must have intelligent civilizations with enough computing power to simulate entire fake worlds. Simulated universes are much cheaper to make than the real thing, and so the number of fake universes would proliferate and vastly outnumber the real ones. And assuming we’re just typical observers, then we’re overwhelmingly likely to find ourselves in a fake universe, not a real one.” 

So far it’s the normal argument. 

Then Davies makes his move. He claims that because the theoretical existence of multiple universes is based on the laws of physics in our universe, if this universe is simulated, then its laws of physics are also simulated, which would mean that this universe’s physics is a fake. Therefore, Davies reasoned, “We cannot use the argument that the physics in our universe leads to multiple universes, because it also leads to a fake universe with fake physics.” That undermines the whole argument that fundamental physics generates multiple universes, because the reasoning collapses in circularity.

I love the above quote and it took me a while to totally wrap my head around it. My understanding is that if we use our universe, and it is indeed a simulation, and that based on the physics that we understand that there theoretically could be other universes we have to take that with a grain of salt because the physics we know is simulated and not “real,” or fake as he suggests. It is basically this giant circular argument that at its base is the fact that we do not know if we are living in a simulation. I do not think he is taking into account the fact that the programmers/creators probably or most likely would have used actual (real) physics from their own universe while making or programming the simulated universe. Meaning I would think that they would program what they found or how their physical world worked into the computer. I doubt they would have come up with wild variations, because based on what we know, probably would not have a universe with sentient life in it. There are very slim margins for error, based on what we know for building a universe, and if certain things happened just 1% differently we would not be here or anything for that matter. An example is that if gravity were, I think 1% stronger, I am not sure of the actual percentage, then right after the big bang the universe would have collapsed back in on itself because gravity would have been too strong. On the flip side if it had been weaker the universe would have been flung apart because gravity would have been so weak atoms could not have formed. I would imagine there would be small variations here and there in the simulations, experimenting as they say, but I would think that for the most part there is only so much variation that could create a “normal” simulated universe where life could evolve. A the end of the day we don’t know, and the creators could be changing things as they go to make sure life arises.

The problem with what I just said is that I used the base of the argument to try and make a point. Our physics that we know, again, may be simulated and so the “real” creators universe could be nothing like ours. We could be living in a universe that for some strange reason was one of the most extreme variants that somehow held together and works. We don’t know. I use the analogy of if we were to have the ability to create a simulated universe the first thing we would do would be to program it just like ours, because we want to know the deepest, darkest, and most intimate secrets our universe has to offer. Perhaps many tens, even hundreds of years after we have the ability to simulate whole universes, that’s when we will start experimenting on different aspects. So my long winded point is that I understand what Davis is saying, but I would have to suggest that our universe if it is a simulation is modeled almost exactly after the creator’s “real” universe, or at least I would say there is a better than average chance of this. The problem is that if this is a simulation we don’t know how closely, is it an exact replica, or just differing by 1% or is it radically different, so different that the laws of physics we see hold no water in the real world so to speak. Do they have the power to hold together a universe that makes almost no sense to them, but it’s all we know so we are none the wiser.

For a second I would like to mention our video games. When programming them we use our real world physics, for the most part, there are a few outliers. But for the most part the physics in the game closely mimics our real universe. This is not the best example because the point is to get as close as possible to our real would without it actually being the real world. It is also just a game in the sense that nothing in there is sentient or can do anything on its own, at least as far as we know. The point I was trying to make is that given our limited technology and our first shot as world making I would argue is video games, and as I have already said we try to make them just like our reality. So I would imagine that an advanced civilization would most likely do the same.

He also touched on the idea that because it would be so much easier to simulate a universe that simulated universes would certainly outnumber real ones, and for that reason we could most likely be in a simulated one. For the most part this makes sense, but if the multiverse theory is real, they say that there are infinite universes, while infinite is quite a large number, I am not sure it is safe to say that there are infniate+1 simulated universes. That does not make sense to me. I do not think that a super advanced hyper intelligent species on any level would create an infinite number of simulated universes. Frankly I would not understand why that would do that. I would imagine that even if the technology were easy, for them at least, to create and cost, in the sense of energy, next to nothing, I still do not see why they would keep creating simulated universes infinitely. But again this is where the idea of the “fake physics” comes back into play. If what we think to be real is wrong or fake then none of our theories make any sense. That is where the circular argument kicks in. In reality, and that term is used loosely here, we may be in a simulated universe, but it may only it may be one of a handful of simulated ones. Reason being either the creators got bored or of all the simulations ours was one of the few that worked and created sentient life.

Let’s move on a little before my head starts to hurt too much. The author of the article puts forth these 5 points that sort of build on Nick Bostrom’s Simulation Argument, I spoke about his argument in another post and put forth my 4 scenarios for the future of humanity.

Five premises to the simulation argument

I find five premises to the simulation argument: (i) Other intelligent civilizations exist; (ii) their technologies grow exponentially; (iii) they do not all go extinct; (iv) there is no universal ban or barrier for running simulations; and (v) consciousness can be simulated. 

If these five premises are true, I agree, humanity is likely living in a simulation. The logic seems sound, which means that if you don’t accept (or don’t want to accept) the conclusion, then you must reject at least one of the premises. 

Which to reject? Other intelligent civilizations? Exponential growth of technology? 

Not all civilizations going extinct? No simulations ban or barrier? Consciousness simulated?

Whichever you choose, it must apply always, everywhere. For all time. In all universes. No exceptions. 

These 5 arguments are very well thought out and I have read and reread them a number of times and the only one that I think could not hold constant would be that consciousness can be simulated. But again I think there is another circular argument here at play. If a simulated universe was an exact copy of a real universe that had sentient life in it, then I would imagine that that simulated universe would eventually give rise to sentient life as well. Therefore, consciousness could be simulated. Given that same scenario I do not see how consciousness could not arise in that universe if it were able too, especially if it were a carbon copy of our own. It may take tens even hundreds of simulations to get to that point, but given this scenario it should be possible. As Kurzweil says, if the simulation is indistinguishable from the real thing, then it is not a simulation, so the carbon copy simulated universe with sentient life would in fact be a real universe with real consciousness. For the sake of his argument I think he means creating consciousness in a machine of sorts, and that, I am still not sure about. That type of simulated consciousness could very well be impossible or so far beyond our technology that we will never figure it out. We may have better luck running simulations trying to create consciousness that route. But I would also argue that if a simulated consciousness perfectly, in every way mimics the real thing, then I would say that it would in fact be an actual consciousness.

Regardless I do think his other points are spot on and as he says will apply always, everywhere, for all time, in all universes, no exception. I also wonder if we are harping on the simulation argument too much. What I mean is that even though a super advanced simulation has the power to simulate entire universes, would they? I would say probably, but I would also say that not to the extent that we are thinking. I am trying to think of something that we humans could do that is neither good or bad, but we just do not really do it. Recycling is the only thing I could think of. I know that it is a good thing, but still many people do not do it for a variety of reasons. Maybe it is expensive, or not offered in your area, or perhaps you just don’t want to be bothered with having to remember another day to set out the bin. Whatever the reason I wonder if creating simulations falls into this category, of we can do it sure, but we don’t for whatever reason. Still this is a terrible example. Maybe exercising is a better example. There is really no reason why you should not exercise, as it would seem, to us, that there is no reason why a super advanced civilization would not run simulations. But as you know not every person gets exercise, for a wide variety of reasons. That is a better example, but in both even the slimmest number that do exercise and recycle would yield hundreds of thousands, if not millions of universe simulations. My point is that just because they have the power to do something they may not, for whatever reason.

I think I have said this before but I think another reason for the simulation argument is the probabilistic nature of reality. What I mean is that thinking back to Schrodinger’s Cat, reality fails to pick which way it wants to go unless it is measured. So basically nothing is happening but once you measure it, either through sight, sound, touch, only then does it choose its path, and whatever it chooses is what we call reality. The weird thing is that all possible scenarios are technically happening at once, but only when we look at the scenario, does reality choose one to come to pass. This is why the cat is both alive and dead at the same time, but only when we open the box, i.e. someone making an observation, does reality choose if the cat is truly alive or dead. In terms of computing power this saves a ton of space. Basically, if this is a simulation, the places or stuff that we are not observing or measuring is technically not there. So if there is no one in some part of the Sarah Desert, then the simulation for that part may just shut down until a person wonders out there, then it will come back up. Where this gets interesting is when you start to talk about the amount of space and the universe we can actually see or observe. Our visible universe is only so many millions of light years across then after that we cannot see anything. We are sure that there is something else beyond that, but we just cannot see it. So again if this is a simulation this is another way to save on space and possibly reduce glitches during the simulation. Why use all your computing power to simulate an entire universe when you only have to do a small portion right now.

The only reason this theory would not be viable is that the civilization running the simulation could have near infinite computing power so this would not be a problem. Or maybe our universe was one of the first ever run, and at the time they did not have enough computing power for the simulation. So the best way to combat that issue was to make what was out of sight, basically nonexistent until it was needed or observed.

So as I have reiterated so many times, we just don’t know. I am not really sure what I believe. I don’t think it would matter to me one way or the other if we found definite proof of living in a simulation. It would certainly create a ton of questions. One theory that was not discussed would be a hybrid. What if our universe was created, but with real matter and such. Not so much created by what we would call God, but in a sense I would think it would be God to us. This being could be so far beyond us that it has the power to create real universes, manipulate reality and matter. It would basically have power over matter, and I would imagine time as well. So in a sense it would be a God, but it would also be a scientist of sorts, perhaps those terms are one in the same we just don’t know it yet. This theory would satisfy both the religious and the scientific, albeit they would both have to give a little. But I am getting a little off topic, and if we are truly in a simulation, then there most certainly has to be a way out of it. And that is certainly something to think about. If this mess is a simulation, what is the real world like…


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