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Are We Living in a Computer Simulation? Elon Musk Thinks So.

johnnyG

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Some people have suggested that our universe is inside a black hole ( < google that), and assuming that does explain some things.
 

Julie.chan

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There is no evidence to suggest that we are living in a computer simulation. Occam's Razor: the idea that our universe is a simulation is an extraordinary claim and unnecessary to explain anything about the universe.

The argument put forward for this idea, that all intelligent beings would at some point make such a simulation and therefore most are in a simulation, is absurd. Why suppose that intelligent beings would spend their time and energy running a simulation of basically random occurrences in the hope that maybe it would eventually produce something interesting that you never interact with, and probably can't even find? We certainly haven't designed any simulations that work even remotely similar to the way it would have to for our universe to be one. Our real simulations are abstractions that couldn't possibly create what we know of as consciousness, and are designed for a particular purpose.

The argument based on games is especially absurd. I'm a game developer, so I know how they're made. Games, no matter how realistic you think they look are loaded with abstractions. Hollow player models, imaginary collision rectangles, pre-rendered backgrounds and textures, you name it. Heck, a lot of early 3-D games (like Doom) were functionally no different than top-down 2-D games, they just used fancy tricks and graphics to make the world look 3-D. This is only scratching the surface. At their core, virtual reality games are no different. They're still using exactly the same tricks and illusions as before. The only difference is that they're using fancy motion controllers and a screen that's right in front of your eyes.
 
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WonkoTheSane

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There is no evidence to suggest that we are living in a computer simulation. Occam's Razor: the idea that our universe is a simulation is an extraordinary claim and unnecessary to explain anything about the universe.

The argument put forward for this idea, that all intelligent beings would at some point make such a simulation and therefore most are in a simulation, is absurd. Why suppose that intelligent beings would spend their time and energy running a simulation of basically random occurrences in the hope that maybe it would eventually produce something interesting that you never interact with, and probably can't even find? We certainly haven't designed any simulations that work even remotely similar to the way it would have to for our universe to be one. Our real simulations are abstractions that couldn't possibly create what we know of as consciousness, and are designed for a particular purpose.

The argument based on games is especially absurd. I'm a game developer, so I know how they're made. Games, no matter how realistic you think they look are loaded with abstractions. Hollow player models, imaginary collision rectangles, pre-rendered backgrounds and textures, you name it. Heck, a lot of early 3-D games (like Doom) were functionally no different than top-down 2-D games, they just used fancy tricks and graphics to make the world look 3-D. This is only scratching the surface. At their core, virtual reality games are no different. They're still using exactly the same tricks and illusions as before. The only difference is that they're using fancy motion controllers and a screen that's right in front of your eyes.
I don't necessarily disagree with you that it's unlikely, but your reasoning begs some questions.

How do you know that they are running a simulation of basically random occurrences?

Why would you think the simulations we've designed would be able to measure against a simulation they designed?

How do you know the simulation we are (supposedly) in is not designed for a particular purpose?
 

Julie.chan

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How do you know that they are running a simulation of basically random occurrences?
It's what we observe in the universe.

Why would you think the simulations we've designed would be able to measure against a simulation they designed?
I never said that. But I did say that it's absurd to look at simulations and "simulations" we have made, and use that as evidence to support the conclusion that advanced civilizations inevitably create a completely different kind of simulation from any that we have created.

How do you know the simulation we are (supposedly) in is not designed for a particular purpose?
I never said that, and I'm not sure what you're referring to. It's impossible to "know" something about a thing that doesn't exist. But there is no evidence to suggest that there is any purpose behind the universe, if that's what you mean, and it would be foolish to simply assume that there must be one.
 

WonkoTheSane

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How do you know that they are running a simulation of basically random occurrences?
It's what we observe in the universe.
Do you think that the protons, neutrons and electrons involved in the computers we run simulations on understand the simulation that is being run? Or even have the capacity? If we were just a part of a simulation why would you think our observances would bear any fruit of understanding any more than Pavlov's dogs understood the concept of Pavlovian conditioning?

Why would you think the simulations we've designed would be able to measure against a simulation they designed?
I never said that. But I did say that it's absurd to look at simulations and "simulations" we have made, and use that as evidence to support the conclusion that advanced civilizations inevitably create a completely different kind of simulation from any that we have created.
Well, you said "We certainly haven't designed any simulations that work even remotely similar to the way it would have to for our universe to be one." which would lead one to believe that you think that abstracting out what we are able or wish to do would lead us to understand what a being advanced enough to have created us as a simulation would be able or wish to do.

You also seem to be putting us into the category of advanced civilizations, which we certainly wouldn't be if a mark of an advanced civilizations inevitably make these simulations. So our lack of creating one of these simulations wouldn't really be evidence either way about whether advanced civilizations make them, it would only be evidence that we are not advanced enough to do so.

How do you know the simulation we are (supposedly) in is not designed for a particular purpose?
I never said that, and I'm not sure what you're referring to. It's impossible to "know" something about a thing that doesn't exist. But there is no evidence to suggest that there is any purpose behind the universe, if that's what you mean, and it would be foolish to simply assume that there must be one.
You wrote "Why suppose that intelligent beings would spend their time and energy running a simulation of basically random occurrences in the hope that maybe it would eventually produce something interesting that you never interact with, and probably can't even find? ... Our real simulations are abstractions that couldn't possibly create what we know of as consciousness, and are designed for a particular purpose."

I presume when you said that our simulations "...are designed for a particular purpose..." you were intimating that their simulations "...of basically random occurrences..." were not.
 

Julie.chan

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Do you think that the protons, neutrons and electrons involved in the computers we run simulations on understand the simulation that is being run? Or even have the capacity? If we were just a part of a simulation why would you think our observances would bear any fruit of understanding any more than Pavlov's dogs understood the concept of Pavlovian conditioning?
Neither of those are valid analogies. Electrons are not simulated by computers; they're, physically, a part of computers. Pavlov's dogs are not being simulated by Pavlov; they're less intelligent beings in the same reality.

But even if the analogy was valid, it would not support the "simulated universe" hypothesis. Just because you can imagine that there could be a being above us (which is, for all intents and purposes, a god), that does not mean that such a being is possible or even likely.

Well, you said "We certainly haven't designed any simulations that work even remotely similar to the way it would have to for our universe to be one." which would lead one to believe that you think that abstracting out what we are able or wish to do would lead us to understand what a being advanced enough to have created us as a simulation would be able or wish to do.
If one is going to use what we have done to make assertions about what other intelligent organisms would do, one has to do so properly. The argument being put forward is that humans have created more and more "detailed" "simulations", and that therefore we will inevitably create a "simulation" which would be detailed enough to literally be our universe. This does not follow, and I have demonstrated that it does not follow by pointing out that none of the "simulations" we have work in a manner even abstractly similar to the universe that we know.

You also seem to be putting us into the category of advanced civilizations
Of course. We are the most advanced civilization we know of.

which we certainly wouldn't be if a mark of an advanced civilizations inevitably make these simulations. So our lack of creating one of these simulations wouldn't really be evidence either way about whether advanced civilizations make them, it would only be evidence that we are not advanced enough to do so.
You're begging the question. There is no evidence for the claim that "advanced civilizations inevitably make these simulations". In fact, the only example we do have of an advanced civilization (our own) has not done so, nor has it even come close.

I presume when you said that our simulations "...are designed for a particular purpose..." you were intimating that their simulations "...of basically random occurrences..." were not.
You need to get out of your head this idea that the simulation hypothesis is true. You're misreading what I'm saying because of this base assumption which, as I've made abundantly clear, I do not accept as true.

In any case, what I was doing is describing how real-life simulations work. Real-life simulations are highly targeted. A simulation of weather events doesn't simulate cars driving, because traffic has nothing to do with what the simulation is supposed to accomplish. Video games, I already mentioned, omit tons of details that players never even notice; just as an example, there are no atoms in video games, and there couldn't be, because the amount of processing power that it would take to render all of that would be astronomical.

The type of simulation required to create something like our universe would be a massive, massive "world" governed by a set of rules, like Conway's Game of Life, for example. How many people do you know who are running Conway's Game of Life for octillions of steps with a grid vigintillions of cells tall and wide? I'm willing to be that the answer is "0" and no one is interested in that. Conway's Game of Life is really cool and interesting, but not that interesting that we would waste so much computing power and energy on it. Any "simulations" we create are designed to be interesting, and hence will always exclude details that we do not witness important effects from, will always be run for very short periods of time, and will never be designed to "trick" "inhabitants" of them.
 

WonkoTheSane

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Neither of those are valid analogies. Electrons are not simulated by computers; they're, physically, a part of computers. Pavlov's dogs are not being simulated by Pavlov; they're less intelligent beings in the same reality.
I never said they were analogies, you said that the reason you believe that the simulation they are running is "a simulation of basically random occurrences" is because "It's what we observe in the universe." and I gave examples of why using one's perception of others' actions, especially others more intelligent, doesn't provide a reliable observation of purpose, or lack thereof.


If one is going to use what we have done to make assertions about what other intelligent organisms would do, one has to do so properly. The argument being put forward is that humans have created more and more "detailed" "simulations", and that therefore we will inevitably create a "simulation" which would be detailed enough to literally be our universe. This does not follow, and I have demonstrated that it does not follow by pointing out that none of the "simulations" we have work in a manner even abstractly similar to the universe that we know.
So your argument is that we will stop now and not make any more detailed simulations? Because otherwise I don't see how "we haven't done it yet" is an argument against it being done in the future.

You need to get out of your head this idea that the simulation hypothesis is true. You're misreading what I'm saying because of this base assumption which, as I've made abundantly clear, I do not accept as true.
You're actually misreading my point, I don't believe in the theory in the slightest. I just don't think the arguments you're making are valid. My argument is not that the theory is true, it's that your arguments are poor ones against it.

In any case, what I was doing is describing how real-life simulations work. Real-life simulations are highly targeted.
Yes, I'm well aware of how simulations work.

You don't seem to be aware, though, that many scientists do things just because they think the result will be interesting without knowing what the result will be.

Any "simulations" we create are designed to be interesting, and hence will always exclude details that we do not witness important effects from, will always be run for very short periods of time, and will never be designed to "trick" "inhabitants" of them.
Time is relative to one's life. We run experiments on insects spanning hundreds of generations. To us it's a year or so. They certainly aren't designed to 'trick' the insects, we don't even consider that idea... Who thinks about tricking mosquitoes? It's absurd.
 
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Julie.chan

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you said that the reason you believe that the simulation they are running is "a simulation of basically random occurrences" is because "It's what we observe in the universe." and I gave examples of why using one's perception of others' actions, especially others more intelligent, doesn't provide a reliable observation of purpose, or lack thereof.
You're comparing simulations to real machines. It's an invalid comparison. Simulations do not work like real machines.

So your argument is that we will stop now and not make any more detailed simulations? Because otherwise I don't see how "we haven't done it yet" is an argument against it being done in the future.
No, my argument is that the simulations we create are fundamentally completely different from the type of simulation required for our universe to be simulated, and therefore the existence of simulations is invalid evidence for the simulated universe hypothesis. So in effect, my argument is that the simulated universe hypothesis is no different than Christianity, or Buddhism, or Islam. It's just a new-age religion, with no evidence to support it, just like all the other religions.

You don't seem to be aware, though, that many scientists do things just because they think the result will be interesting without knowing what the result will be.
I am, and I don't understand what relevance this has.

Time is relative to one's life. We run experiments on insects spanning hundreds of generations. To us it's a year or so. They certainly aren't designed to 'trick' the insects, we don't even consider that idea... Who thinks about tricking mosquitoes? It's absurd.
You're again comparing real-life things to simulations. It's not a valid comparison. We are not invisible gods to mosquitoes; we are just very large animals, and we live in the same reality.

As for time, you have to understand that the universe is vast and has been around for a long time. I'm not exaggerating with those numbers I gave for a big enough Conway's Game of Life simulation. Remember that we can distinguish nanoseconds with the right equipment. In fact, we can go lower. Let's also remember that the universe is over 13 billion (Earth) years. Let's do a calculation, and we'll round down to be conservative:

13,000,000,000 (years) * 365 (days) * 24 (hours) * 60 (minutes) * 60 (seconds) * 10^9 (nanoseconds) = 4 * 10^26

That's 400,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, or 400 septillion nanoseconds that have occurred already. And remember, nanoseconds are not even as small as time units go. This is 400 octillion picoseconds, 400 nonillion femtoseconds, 400 decillion attoseconds, etc. The smallest unit of time we know of is a planck time, which is about 10^-44 seconds; that means that the number of time units in our universe, so far, has been over 4 * 10^61. That's 40 novemdecillion; I don't even know for sure how to pronounce that word properly.

This is the point: our universe is so massive, so precise, and has been around for so long, it would take enormous computing power to be possible. You could say that it just means the parent simulation is so supermassive that these numbers are miniscule, but it also means you can only go so far down the rabbit hole before one of these simulations is just too small to deal with the numbers involved. We are never going to run a simulation vast enough to create something like life by accident. It's only going to happen if we do so deliberately, which we may very well do, but there is no evidence for deliberate design in our universe.
 

WonkoTheSane

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You said that the reason you believe that the simulation they are running is "a simulation of basically random occurrences" is because "It's what we observe in the universe." and I gave examples of why using one's perception of others' actions, especially others more intelligent, doesn't provide a reliable observation of purpose, or lack thereof.
You're comparing simulations to real machines. It's an invalid comparison. Simulations do not work like real machines.
No, I'm comparing the ability of one creature to be cognizant of the reasoning of another creature of far greater intellect. You're entirely missing my point.

No, my argument is that the simulations we create are fundamentally completely different from the type of simulation required for our universe to be simulated, and therefore the existence of simulations is invalid evidence for the simulated universe hypothesis.
How exactly is a genetic simulation fundamentally different than a simulation of a world of humans? The only difference is scale and complexity.

You don't seem to be aware, though, that many scientists do things just because they think the result will be interesting without knowing what the result will be.
I am, and I don't understand what relevance this has.
Really? You've iterated over and over how our simulations always have a purpose. I think you're overly focused on your game programming and ignoring work being done in serious labs. That's the point.

Time is relative to one's life. We run experiments on insects spanning hundreds of generations. To us it's a year or so. They certainly aren't designed to 'trick' the insects, we don't even consider that idea... Who thinks about tricking mosquitoes? It's absurd.
You're again comparing real-life things to simulations. It's not a valid comparison. We are not invisible gods to mosquitoes; we are just very large animals, and we live in the same reality.
Again, utterly missing the point. You stated that we run short term simulations and don't try to trick the participants. My point is that short-term is relative to one's life span, and that assuming we're being tricked assumes we're capable of understanding the machinations of whatever being would create us as a simulation.

As for time, you have to understand that the universe is vast ...{lots of stuff I already know}
You might be interested to know that this is not some secret knowledge you have, others are well aware of the vastness of the universe as well. You didn't just discover that time can be considered as nearly infinitesimally small units. It's not a hard concept.

This is the point: our universe is so massive, so precise, and has been around for so long, it would take enormous computing power to be possible. You could say that it just means the parent simulation is so supermassive that these numbers are miniscule, but it also means you can only go so far down the rabbit hole before one of these simulations is just too small to deal with the numbers involved. We are never going to run a simulation vast enough to create something like life by accident. It's only going to happen if we do so deliberately, which we may very well do, but there is no evidence for deliberate design in our universe.
Again, you make the mistake of assuming that your perceptions are up to the task of understanding the design followed by a being that could actually create such a simulation.

I'll leave it here because, when it comes down to it, the question is fundamentally pointless even if it were a possibility. But your arguments are not the right ones to point that out. They're flawed by an inward focus instead of an outward one.
 

Julie.chan

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I appreciate that you're playing devil's advocate, but you're completely misinterpreting what I'm saying.

This is the claim:

There’s a one in billions chance we’re in base reality.
And this is the argument:

The strongest argument for us being in a simulation, probably being in a simulation, is the following: 40 years ago, we had Pong, two rectangles and a dot…That is what games were. Now, 40 years later, we have photorealistic 3D simulations with millions of people playing simultaneously, and it’s getting better every year. And soon we’ll have virtual reality, augmented reality. If you assume any rate of improvement at all, the games will become indistinguishable from reality.
All I'm saying is that this argument is invalid. It does not follow that because video games have been looking more and more realistic, we are "probably" in a simulation. It does not follow because those video games Tyson points out don't behave like our universe at all, and there is no evidence for the claim that they ever will. It's rather like if I say that it is incredibly likely that you will be touched by His Noodley Appendage because there's an invisible Flying Spaghetti Monster in your room.

You have been repeatedly pointing out that the universe could possibly be simulated. I understand that. But "possible" and "probable" are not the same thing. You being touched by the Flying Spaghetti Monster is possible. However, as there is no evidence for the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, it is invalid to say that it is likely for that to happen.

That's the crux of it: the "simulation hypothesis" is not science as it is often portrayed. It's a religion, and a form of Creationism to boot. If a religion that tells you that reality can just disappear in the blink of an eye puts you to sleep at night, fine. But passing it off as science, as its proponents tend to do, is disingenuous.
 

OoTmaster

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That's the crux of it: the "simulation hypothesis" is not science as it is often portrayed. It's a religion, and a form of Creationism to boot. If a religion that tells you that reality can just disappear in the blink of an eye puts you to sleep at night, fine. But passing it off as science, as its proponents tend to do, is disingenuous.
My thoughts were somewhere along these same lines while reading through this thread. While it's possible that in 40 years or more we might have the technology to make a simulation that's indistinguishable from reality is a moot point.

When it comes to science there is an order to these things and a process. The scientific method to be precise. 1. Observation 2. Hypothesis 3. Experimentation 4. Data Analysis 5. Conclusion. To think someone in the scientific community is touting this idea without following these steps is just acceptance of a religion and nothing else. Not that there's anything wrong with religion it just has no place in science.
 

Dardan

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The effects of the acts (the creation) are the proof of the existence of the acts, which themselves prove the existence of the attributes.
The effect of an act proves the existence of the author of that act, which implies its existence, its capacity, its will and its science, because it is impossible for a voluntary act to be born of nothingness or a being existing devoid of all capacity, life, science and will.

His science and way of doing things is above and beyond what people describe.

This verse of the Qur'an clarifies it :

There is nothing like unto Him, and He is the Hearing, the Seeing.

Because modern science never was able to explain the simple presence of a Creator above the creation (Who's life is without beginning and without end) with their own point view ; religion ended up being an irrational thing or too "surnatural" that can't be accepted as an explanation of all things, leading scientists in an non-ending road named "what caused the big bang" while putting on the side the simple explanation that a creation needs a Creator.

Ultimately, they are two roads and one only is true because there can't be two truths, a glass is either broken or not broken and a person cannot tell the truth and lie at the same time :

1 - either there is a Creator possessing perfect attributes who always was, and never will disappear : which easily explain the stability of our universe, everything under His control and Power, nothing looks like Him of His creation and He is capable of creating all of that again

2 - either you're looking for a created God other than the one God from the monotheistic religion which will lead you to more than one confusion : if he is created how can he be all powerful and who created him ? if he has a Creator than that Creator is the one real God which has no one above Him or equal : back to point 1

{Had there been within the heavens and earth gods besides Allah, they both would have been ruined. So exalted is Allah, Lord of the Throne, above what they describe.}

point 3 : you're looking for nothing
 
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