Can the Simulation Hypothesis be verified or falsified?

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Just as the title describes. I've been under the impression that the Simulation Hypothesis is pure metaphysics if it cannot be falsified.

I'm wondering what other members think about it, whether anything empirical can be fathomed as to (dis)-credit it or affirm it.
 

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  • #2
andrewkirk
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Nothing empirical could ever disprove it, since the Simulators could have just simulated whatever empirical result appeared to disprove it, just to make us believe we weren't in a simulation.

The unfalsifiability of the Sim Hypothesis is nothing new. It has been seen before in the Omphalos Hypothesis and Bertrand Russell's responding observation that we cannot disprove the contention that the world sprang into being five minutes ago. Descartes observed this unfalsifiability in the seventeenth century with his notion of an Evil Demon, an idea that has occasionally been used in fiction, including feature films 'The Truman Show', 'Dark City', 'The Matrix' and the Robert Heinlein short story 'They'.

Karl Popper had the definitive advice on handling this sort of speculation: if it's not falsifiable, then it's not science.

Of course that's no reason not to speculate on it in one's spare time, if one enjoys that sort of thing (metaphysics, as you correctly suggest), and it will remain a fertile source for sci-fi novels and films, because it's fun.
 
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Of course that's no reason not to speculate on it in one's spare time
I had a friend once who were always speculating about the rounding errors of the universe-simulator.
Then he married, had kids and went tennis instead:smile:
 
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  • #4
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Although the simulation hypothesis cannot be proven or disproven, it seems like Occam's Razor (the simplest explanation tends to be correct) can offer valuable guidance. It's hard enough to imagine how the world that we know exists, let alone hypothesizing that a much higher intelligence has made a simulation that is us. That hypothesis still has to explain how the higher intelligence came about and why that superintelligence would want to simulate us.
 
  • #5
James0441
My question isn’t are we living in a simulation but rather can we hack it!
 
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My question isn’t are we living in a simulation but rather can we hack it!
You don't need a system restore & cleanup, trust me:smile:

Not as if you could notice or remember the discarded part o0)
 
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  • #7
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It should be verifiable, if we find evidence of a higher order reality. Few things are truly 100% falsified as it's often impossible to cover 100% of all possibilities... this is not unique to the simulation hypothesis.
 
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Well, let's say for grins the Universe IS a "program"...
...The entire Universe might have been stopped and restarted innumerable times in the time it took me to type the above sentence - or this one as a matter of fact. Maybe the equivalent of a human-year might have passed too. Maybe a "year" of "our" time is just, say, less than a second on the "real" machine and the entire World's history has been running for oh, say... three hours...

These are all very existential and profound thoughts that are just... beyond what we at least currently know or can scratch out of what is currently known as "scientific record".

And just thinking from a software developer viewpoint... computer "Interfaces" are typically designed to look "in" to what's happening - not "out"; Ie; MS Excel doesn't need to know what's in your microwave. I don't think if there is some sim "creator" out there that that entity is going to really want us to be poking around in THEIR "universe".

The point being, there prolly is no way to see what's happening "out there" beyond our programmed reality (if that is what's going on).

HOWEVER...
IF the Universe is indeed a "program", maybe there are bugs, or even hacks that may be found at some time; Maybe instant travel from one end of the Universe to the next is possible by just swapping "matter" (or more accurately, 'bits') in one place to those in another. Maybe the same for time travel. Maybe if the answer to your question was yes, we could just MAKE whatever we wanted...

BUT...
That is a WHOLE lot of maybes that are prolly going to remain so.
 
  • #9
BillTre
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Maybe the equivalent of a human-year might have passed too. Maybe a "year" of "our" time is just, say, less than a second on the "real" machine and the entire World's history has been running for oh, say... three hours...
Or, it seems more likely to me that the relationship would be the other way around, the world running the emulation would be producing the emulation at a slow rate than their reality unfolds.
I would attribute this to the computational demands of the problem. It takes a lot more than an atom to emulate an atom.

If the enveloping universe is similar to ours, something to emulate a whole universe would be vary large and consume a lot of energy. This alone could cause problems.
Unless it was made to be self reconstructing and correcting (like a living thing), continued maintenance would be a problem. (Meaning problems would arise.)
Glitches in program's output (not following the standard rules of physics all the time) might be an example.

This might be similar to what happens if developmental programs in developing animals are temporarily perturbed.
Parts (or at different times) of the developing embryo look fairly normal while other parts are messed up to different degrees.
 
  • #10
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The line between simulation and reality is arbitrarily blurred also. What if real physics has like 90 subatomic particles, and the grand masters of the universe cordoned off a bunch of sections of the universe which they carefully populated with only a small fraction of the subatomic particles to see what happened. Would you consider the universe to be a simulation then?

It's pretty easy to falsify the simulation hypothesis, just try writing a sql injection on a piece of paper to drop a bunch of random tables, and if you survive the attempt then this must be reality 😁
 
  • #11
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There is no free will in the universe, only my will. I know you don't believe that. But that's only because I don't want you to believe it.
 
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BillTre
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There is no free will in the universe, only my will. I know you don't believe that. But that's only because I don't want you to believe it.

Well, there is no consciousness other than mine!
 
  • #13
collinsmark
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The Simulation Hypothesis suffers from a "Turtles all the way down" type of failure/fallacy (one of infinite regress). That's probably its biggest detraction.

I used to think that the Simulation Hypothesis is something that makes good dinner conversation. It's ridiculous, although the premise of the argument is quite compelling. So I figured it was something fun to discuss as some sort of intellectual curiosity, when there's nothing better to talk about.

I don't think that anymore though because some people, even some established scientists, seem to have come to believe it. To some people it has formed a belief system and I find that quite unfortunate. That's not at all my intention whenever I would discuss it.
 
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DaveC426913
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There is no free will in the universe, only my will. I know you don't believe that. But that's only because I don't want you to believe it.
I believe there is only your will. Therefore, your will has been defied.
Now disappear in a puff of logic.
 
  • #15
Filip Larsen
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The Simulation Hypothesis suffers from a "Turtles all the way down" type of failure/fallacy (one of infinite regress). That's probably its biggest detraction.
Indeed. Its like saying there is the physical reality we can model and measure, and then there is a different hidden reality behind it running it all. One could argue that any such system could equally well be understood as the reality we know with (for example) quantum wave functions acting as part of the simulation system. Or, in other words, no matter how deep our physical models go, one could always claim what lies below is part of a universe simulation system, but that does not seem to add anything of value.
 
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  • #16
BillTre
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This kind of argument reminds me of a possible creationist argument that could explain of any evidence for evolution:
God made everything yesterday, along with our memories and the fossils (and other kinds of evidence) of an evolutionary past just to "test" us or something.

Hey, I'm convinced.
 
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I always liked the argument that God created the fossils to test our faith. It's so in your face.

"No damn rationalists gonna get in MY Heaven, by cracky!"
 
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God made everything yesterday, along with our memories

Oh it's so much worse than that. It's not even happening now. You're just going to remember it later.
 
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Whether or not we are living in a simulation, reincarnation is real! This thread has been reborn twice! QED
 
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  • #20
256bits
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Whether or not we are living in a simulation, reincarnation is real! This thread has been reborn twice! QED
Stuck in a time loop we are.
 
  • #21
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Like someone already said, technically nothing is falsifiable with absolute certainty. A simulation hypothesis is the same.

The things we call falsifiable are generally only falsifiable under a set of implicit axioms, some hidden, and one of those is that we don't live in a simulation. The normal assumptions used implicitly to be able to conclude things based on observation and physics are founded origionally on intuition and the idea that what we percieve is as it is. But what we've concluded is that the universe behaves counter intuitively and that even basic truth is not objective. So how valid are the assumptions anyways?

And as everything we conclude is based on assumptions anyways, making some particular ones that allow us to lay the grounds for reasoning about the likeliness of a simulation isn't much different. But the problem is that there is not much that people are willing to accept that we can point to as a basis for making those assumptions. And once we start making arbitrary assumptions then anything goes.

Personally, I think we probably could make some assumptions that could lay the grounds for tackling the subject in some kind of scientific way. Granted that it would be all based on highly speculative assumptions. I still think it's worthwhile since we don't live in a universe that makes sense anyways.
 
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  • #22
andrewkirk
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Speculation about whether we live in a simulation plays a significant role in Herve le Tellier's 2020 Prix Goncourt winning novel l'anomalie, in which some very strange things happen. A mathematics professor gets whisked away to a high security airforce base by men-in-black-style security agents, to advise on how to investigate those strange things.

As a special bonus, a very recent US past president, whose name escapes me*, makes a comic cameo, misunderstanding or contradicting everything his advisers tell him.

I really enjoyed the novel.

An English translation is due for publication in November.

* The name appears to escape the author too. At least he never mentions it.
 
  • #23
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God created the fossils to test our faith
He simply used visual programming, seeing that everything be good on Earth. Who cared what was deep in the ground or beyond the visible stars? - all that was generated automatically to fulfil the good basic requirement of naturalness of the whole thing. Indeed, God's computer works performing universe quantum state reductions.
 
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