We live in a simulation

(originally posted on r1xlabs.com)

It’s like a metronome – every month or so someone else comes out with an opinion piece about how we live in a computer simulation.

Also every few years a paper or article comes out proving that it is impossible. For example I like this one where the conclusion is more or less that if there was a neutronium blob the size of our current universe and it somehow avoided becoming a black hole and could compute (given the magical super duper future tech powers of the people from the future) then it would be able to simulate a universe almost the size of our solar system (including all the requisite sub atomic particles). There are many others, but the people who are “for” us living in a simulation wave their hands and say “who knows what an all powerful simulation engine builder could do?” a familiar unassailable argument.

The first question one asks is – Why? Why bother? The answers boil down to the creator of the simulation wanting to play at being a god/supreme being, and through its creative effort enslaves a multitude of thinking beings for its own entertainment. So we have to assume that with the advanced technology of the creator, morally the creator is just as despicable as we can be, which of course is possible. The intent to play God however is a very (current) human one, and much of our thought on this topic is of so biased by human conceptions, assumptions and fantasies that I’m wondering why we even bother trying to make an analysis on this topic.

Throughout history people have imagine the universe being created by some superior being. Each era imagines this differently depending on their context.

  • Thousands of years ago: The gods made us from clay and then breathed us full of life.
  • Hundreds of years ago, the world was seen as clockwork, and we creatures were like clockwork creatures.
  • In the last few decades, now that we make our own primitive simulations floating in abstractions above silicon, we assume therefore that some superior being made us using a similar digital simulation as its playground.

My main point on this is that if the potential creator was really significantly more advanced (technologically) than us – why would it bother simulating in (digital or even quantum) code on substrates of doped matter? Why not just make their universal creations out of matter (and its built in quantum weirdness) itself? It seems like a more appropriate material. You wouldn’t need to create everything from scratch and simulate all the stuff thats already sitting out there (atomic and subatomic particles, quantum effects etc). Simulating stuff in software also leads to all those leaky abstraction issues too, leading to ugly hacks to correct them (“oops someone saw the matrix – better rewrite the consciousness of every being in this universe”). Software (in its current sense) is completely the wrong medium with which to create a universe.

Software development is just so 20th century, matter creation (whether smart or not) is the future – and maybe (if we are in a constructed universe) our past and present.

So maybe we can save a step and just from now on rather than say “We live in a simulated universe”, we can say “We live in a Universe (which might be created)” *

*With reference to Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, when faced with the question that if God created the universe , then who created God? The answer is that God always existed. With which Carl Sagan (from memory) said “Can’t we just save a step? Can’t the universe have always existed?”. We cant use that anymore because Bostrom has asserted that since our future (evil from all accounts) selves will create multiple play thing Universes we are most likely in one of them and not in the single original universe (and all its infinite branes). Well If we are going to measure probabilities based on assumptions of future human behaviour, since we are not living in a universe with perfect point breaks, and any future self would of course make many more universes with perfect point breaks than not, then probability suggests we must be living in a dull normal not-created-by-our-evil-future-selves universe.

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