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Are You Living In a Computer Simulation?

  1. Feb 2, 2004 #1
    The Simulation Argument
    Are You Living In a Computer Simulation?

    Nick Bostrom, PhD
    Philosophy Faculty, Oxford University

    This website features scholarly investigations into the idea that you might currently be literally living in a computer simulation, running on a computer built by some advanced civilization. Films like The Matrix and novels like Greg Egan's Permutation City have explored the idea that we might be living in virtual reality. But what evidence is there for or against this hypothesis? And what are its implications? The original paper featured here, "Are You Living in Computer Simulation?", presents a striking argument showing that we should take the simulation-hypothesis seriously indeed, and that if we deny it then we are committed to surprising predictions about the future possibilities for our species.

    See http://www.simulation-argument.com/ for the details.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 17, 2004 #2
    I have not had time to read the link yet but a quick search shows that there is no reference in the article to Ross Rhodes who has written on the subject from a QM perspective. You might like to have a read.

    "A Cybernetic Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics"

  4. Feb 17, 2004 #3
    Interesting (almost disturbing) implications! I didn't read the entire thing but I glanced over a good portion of it. The thing that strikes me is the fact that the possibility isn't considered that we would become capable of running such simulations, but wouldn't do so in such detail. In other words, we wouldn't make each being sentient. In fact, such a world already exists, has anyone played The Sims?

    When considered as a whole across the entire span of human history, what would be gained from simulating billions of humans in detail that couldn't be gained by running the same simulation using cellular automata to aggregate overall behavior? Consider the resources that would be wasted to calculate our everyday obsessions. I won't assume there aren't reasons to do this, but since it seems so unlikely, I think that significantly reduces the odds of us being members of such a simulation versus us being the "original" or "real" race.
  5. Feb 18, 2004 #4
    what if it were a paradox we live in, that each human society eventually reverse engineered the mysteries of intelect and fell victim to its own creation, and thus a matrix is processed.

    within each matrix another matrix inevidably occurs due to one of the ultimate goals in the world-> to truly understand the workings of how we posses intelect, the creation of AI.

    creating several layers/levels of existense... lost in some computer processed psyche world of simulation...

    each matrix simulated life may or may not eventually reach the point of reverse engineering intelect to produce AI. but saying it did, it would eventually build an interesting infinite paradox loophole.

    scary, and possible in my eyes...

    maybe not the fact that it is an infinite paradox, but atleast the fact that the possibility of one matrix world existing could possibly mean that that matrix may eventually become another matrix world for the civilisation in it. like i dunno, 3-4 nested matrixes...

    there is also the possibility of the original matrix to recognize this paradox and correct it somehow, but who knows, maybe it wouldnt really matter to the AI...

    using the movie the matrix as an example, all the robots really cared about was finding a method of coexisting with the living, finding a center balance in which both humans and robots could continue on there existence... their solution is cold and emotionless... but, alas, a solution... they have taken over the role of 'god' in this way(assuming we were created)...

    i know, there is alot of assuming... but it is an 'either' or 'or' when it comes to these things (one way, or another), so thru all the assumption eventually comes a plausible possibility for the conclusion i have drawn... if god didnt create us than it would be the way it would be if god didnt create us... thats all.

    its far fetched, i admit, but its cool when you compare it to our own existence, and think of it as being a multilayered existences like that... dying in this world may just be the game over of some simulation in a different world....

    which reminds me another thing i've pondered from time to time:
    maybe life is a very 'advanced game' that our higher conciousness likes to 'play', because of the charasteristics of not knowing the meaning of it (until maybe the end), not knowing anything former to it, the linear nature of time, and a cr@p load more reasons related to the nature of life make it interesting and rewarding to whatever these beings i speak of would consider rewarding...

    when the possibilty that our existence could be a computer simulation, it also brings to the table that our conciousness could be a simulation of any sort. a port to stimulation of the senses we posses... we record, and respond to these stimulations...

    all scientific theory and obervational evidence of the universe breaks down at this point, nothing matters the way it did before when you come to realize this...

    when i say stimulation i mean seeing, hearing, smelling/tasting, touch... and some believe there are more. whos to say there isnt? as far as im concerened noone has proven it impossible. and there is evidence of it everywhere ( propose to me with what you think will persuade you to believe that the evidence isnt false, and i will try to produce your request, for those that are interested ) ... oh, im talking about psychic abilities... i donno which ones in particular but i believe there are people that posses these abilities... (sorry about the sidetracking).
  6. Feb 19, 2004 #5
    I doubt this would ever happen. Consider the amount of power that a system would require to maintain such a virtual world in the first place. Then consider the power required for that system to maintain a nested system within itself? As each nested system is created (not necessarily an entire sub-reality, but any additional computation at all), the top-level "mainframe" would need to be upgraded, or would slow down considerably. Sure, we within the system might not notice the slow-down, because 'we' can only process information as fast as the mainframe processes it for us. Regardless, my point is that the quantity of resources required for a project like this would seem to invalidate its careless use. It would likely be run, information would be gathered, and it would be shut down forever. So much for the after-life! =)
  7. Feb 19, 2004 #6
    i guess that rules out the possibility of it ever being infinite, but the mainframe should already posseses the processing power to simulate any reality the civilisation should create right?

    im not quite sure but i think it would be similar to different layers of volume control.

    scaled in a fashion that wouldnt really matter what was being processed, so long as it didnt exceed anything beyond the physics and reality that was created...

    so the depth maybe impossible to achieve, but i still think the theory of a couple of nested matrixes still would stand, taken you agree with what i said...

    but a part of me still says it still doesnt seem likely...

    im unsure =]
  8. Feb 19, 2004 #7
    A part of me says it's impossible entirely. I think it's the human part. =) Hope it's right! Anyway, I agree that there could be more than one. In fact, it's entirely possible that the 'mainframe' is so powerful that it simply calculates the movement of every single particle and wave in the virtual universe. In other words, a complete new reality. If that's the case, a nested reality could be created without any additional processing on the mainframe's part, because they are still just electrons, whether they're making a nested Matrix, a TV, or a particle of iron.

    The implications of this are actually very interesting, because you (outside the 'system') could make slight alterations in the physics of the world, starting at the big bang, and see how things play out. See how long, on average, before the first signs of life show up. Or how long before the entire universe collapses and bangs again, repeating the cycle, or obliterates itself into nothingness. Oh man the things we could do if we had such a mainframe at our hands! The funny thing is that with such a powerful replication of 'reality' there wouldn't need to be AI. In fact, since the life forms would develop entirely on their own just as real life forms did, it could be argued they are just as much alive as real life forms are.
  9. Feb 19, 2004 #8
    You should all watch the 13th floor.... ok movie.. but is basically this ideals. briefly glancing at Pergatory comments, the movie highlights most of it.

    to the actual article, i'll read it later.
  10. Feb 19, 2004 #9
    I have seen that movie! Although I had forgotten about it. Good movie, by the way. I think the synopsis of that movie is entirely possible, except the part about virtual people unplugging into a real person's body while the real person is stuck in the virtual world... brains aren't like hard drives, you can't just overwrite one person with the next. In other words, there is no software in the human brain. Even though two brains may look alike, the neuron connections they have formed over their life would be completely different.
  11. Feb 19, 2004 #10
    haha, i stopped reading when u began to explain the movie, gotta see it for myself =]

    yea i guess it could be reality in itself... deep...
  12. Feb 20, 2004 #11
    Yeah pretty good movie but was over shadowed by the matrix of course ;) hehe, anyway yes the unplugging of ppl is quiet farfetched, like you said the brain is much more static and different in each person. However would it be so if the brain was just a computer simulation? ;)
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