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A universe that supports intelligent life is likely to

  1. Mar 20, 2010 #1
    If there existed one universe that could support intelligent life on its own, it is likely to lead to a myriad of simulated universes. True or false?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 20, 2010 #2
    be the one we are in.:cool:
  4. Mar 20, 2010 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    It doesnt necessarily follow.
  5. Mar 21, 2010 #4

    Sure but the question is is it likely? For the sake of the argument, it doesn't matter if said civilization builds a capable computer with enough processing power in 50 or 50 000 years. The question is, if civilization survived long enough to reach that stage, would the said civilization not run lots of simulations for research purposes or entertainment. The whole idea of there being the possibility that one genuine universe exists on its own and could support intelligent life seems to me to support this idea rather strongly. IMO, it's not a matter of 'if' we manage to build a super computer, but when.
  6. Mar 21, 2010 #5


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    There are strong arguments that reality is not Turing computable. And this would be the essence of your question.

    I particularly like Robert Rosen's posthumous Essays on Life Itself. Howard Pattee also did some fine papers on the subject.
  7. Mar 21, 2010 #6
    Then again, we may exist in a universe designed on such mathematics to not let us invent a system of computation to allow us to simulate new universes?

    Also, the point about this debate for me is:

    - What is simulation?

    I mean, computers and formalism/computation is all about interpretation. What we have are a couple of wires with voltages on them, I can interpret four of those wires next to each other with the third and second voltages as the binary number '5', but that's my interpretation of it. The foundation of formalism is that there is no objective right or wrong interpretation, we just have some symbols, in the case of a computer voltaged and nonvoltaged. Naturally, CPU's are designed in such a way that these symbols flow in a way that matches arithmetical operations if we keep the interpretation right. But there are multiple ways to encode signed integers, if we interpret them in the wrong way, then suddenly 0 - 1 becomes 32^2 - 1 instead of -1.

    So, a simulated universe is about interpreting those values in a way that a 'universe' comes out of it. If we would interpret it in another way, it would no longer be simulating a universe, but a complex grocery list...

    So that, to me, is one of the major obstacles in the theory that conscious and introspection can be brought forth by neural networks including our own central nervous system or a simulated reality. As I said before, I don't per se believe that I, or you, or any human being is 'sentient', all I know is that we claim to be sentient, different from solipsism and in fact an empirical proposition.
  8. Mar 21, 2010 #7
    This assigning of a P>0.5 assumes to know too many things about the universe in question: does it last for infinite or a finite time scale, if it's finite how long will it last for, if it does allow for intelligent life what is the % chance that it will emerge, then you have to know the % chance that this civilisation will evolve to the stage you're talking of before either the civilisation destroys itself or the universe comes to an end, etc.

    Kaj brings up another good point: we may exist in a universe designed on such mathematics to not let us invent a system of computation to allow us to simulate new universes?

    Interesting question though

    Since there's a % chance that we are currently existing in a simulation (of which we cannot assign a specific probability, for obvious reasons), as from our perspective it cannot be proven otherwise, doesn't this debunk that whole argument?
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2010
  9. Mar 21, 2010 #8
    What is 'chance'?

    As far as I know, there are two and only two ways in physics you can say there is 'chance', the one is simply an estimation of the security of your measurements. The other being Quantum indeterminacy.

    The latter is nonapplicable in this situation, you can only state the former if you indeed do not have all variables, for if you do there no longer is chance, but absolute certainty.
  10. Mar 21, 2010 #9
    I Think it's more likely that civilization leads to COLLAPSE-REBUILDING-COLLAPSE... cycles, until the species is wiped out by natural disaster, or we become the architects of our own demise with what we produce long before a simulated universe.

    As for an non-human life, maybe they wouldn't see a point in simulation? This seems like a stretch to assume.
  11. Mar 23, 2010 #10
    How much energy would be needed to simulate a new universe?
    If energy isn't added or removed from the universe, wouldn't this pose a problem?
  12. Mar 23, 2010 #11
    Energy is removed and added every day, it's called quantum mechanics.
  13. Mar 23, 2010 #12
    Um, what about the first law of thermodynamics?
  14. Mar 23, 2010 #13
    Thermodynamics are statistical laws.

    It's perfectly possible that entropy decreases by sheer chance, just not likely.
  15. Apr 2, 2010 #14

    No, the point was that if even one universe Y could somehow emerge without a cause in an environment ruled entirely by laws of physics(similar to the ones we find ourselves in) that could bear intelligent life, and that civilisation survived long enough to build the necessary technology, simulations would likely be widespread.

    Your questions seem to make the assumption that the universe started out 13.7 billion years ago. In the hypothetical scenario that we might be living in a simulated reality based on math and information, i do not see how i or anyone else can prove that the simulation did not start 100 or 23 000 years ago with our memories set to accomodate the 13.7 billion year old universe. This would be a ridiculous proposition, but once we accept that there is some chance(very small or not) that we may not be the master(real) reality that emerged on its own, by itself, our assumptions need to be carefully examined.

    That's a good question. Would we, for moral considerations, choose to limit the possibility of further simulations, had we had the means to build such a simulation?

    Could you elaborate?
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2010
  16. Apr 2, 2010 #15

    :smile: That's right.

    To continue your line of thought, wouldn't the belief that a god sees a point in the existence of the universe be a stretch to assume also?
  17. Apr 2, 2010 #16
    I consider those kinds of questions to be beyond the realm of physics. I think that anything complex enough to encompass a universe and be aware of it, would defy any human logic or explanation.

    For the sake of full disclosure, I'm agnostic, and nothing I've seen leads me to believe that notions of a god are anything other than human constructions. The idea of universal simulation seems to be the same as positing a god, because what better definition of an almighty being is there?

    I can understand simulating small regions for the sake of research or entertainment in some extreme, but why a whole universe? Then again, maybe that's what constitutes a "small region" for something(s) that could simulate a universe?

    So to get your question... yes I think that if you believe in a god, Deism is probably the sanest approach. Of course, fundamentalism is a loophole for that, if you are convinced that the cosmos is little more than a backdrop for our appreciation. It all goes to show the relativity of the matter, and the impossiblity of thinking as anything but the humans we are.

    To me, the greater mysteries are within, and I don't mean that in a Depak Chopra way. What does it really mean to be self-aware? How DO we make decisions, and what part of that process preceeds action? We don't even understand what consciousness is, or what dreams are. There are some facts to be found, but mostly speculation. I'd like to understand ourselves so that we understand the basic lens through which we view everything.

    Of course, we may not like what we find! :lol:
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