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Could you know you were living in a simulation if it had errors or exceptions?

  1. Jan 7, 2008 #1
    Let's assume we live in a simulation, but for whatever reason the physics of it are not modelled perfectly. Perhaps the computing power is insufficient to reproduce everything with 100% accuracy. Let's say that as you look at smaller and smaller things, the simulation begins to give approximations instead of doing the mathematically rigorous calculations needed. Could you tell that something was wrong? Is there any way you could realize what was really going on? Would you just assume your theory needed more work? When could you ever give the simulation answer as the most likely explanation?

    What if the programmers used realistic physics but made exceptions here and there for their amusement, or to see how you would react? What if their physics says that everything operates according to the consistent set of rules EXCEPT for this one star which will be 1,000 light-years wide, bright green and emits gumballs along it's equator. It goes totally against the known laws of physics for no apparent reason. Assuming you didn't just assume you were insane, what would be the thought process? What if it was more subtle than that, like a star that had higher gravity than it should?
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2008
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 11, 2008 #2
    If the simulation itself is just manipulating your senses (brain in a vat) then in fact you might reason that something was off. The amount of time depends on when you 'entered' the simulation, though (at what age) as it perhaps might be able to sufficiently fool your reasoning abilities from the first day you were alive. We're talking a physical brain hooked up to the simulation for this purpose. It also depends on the personal interests and peculiarities you hold because a great number of people walk through life without ever questioning anything at all in the philosophical sense and would be blind to this sort of skepticism/doubt.

    If you are part of the simulation itself--which I believe to be impossible for a variety of reasons--but if it were possible then the simulation itself would model/shape your reasoning faculties and there would be no possibility for you ever 'detecting' it were a simulation *if* the simulation/programmers never wanted you to find out.
  4. Jan 11, 2008 #3
    Why do you say that? It wouldn't be the traditional conception of consciousness based on chemistry and electrical signals but could we rule it out?

    Agreed. They could also make you see a problem where there was none.
  5. Jan 11, 2008 #4
    Can we rule out Thor?


    1.) I for one do not accept the 'traditional conception of consciousness based on chemistry and electrical signals'.

    2.) I absolutely do not accept consciousness as a computation -- while a programmer (or team of programmers) could instantiate something that is *like* me in the behavioral aspect, I do not believe it possible to *be* me.

    3.) If I was to submit to any contemporary thought on consciousness it would have to be on the basis that matter is an important part of the process for it to occur. You virtualize it as a computation and I do not believe it possible.

    4.) Being part of the simulation itself would make you subject to the original argument Putnam put foward against 'Brain in the Vat' thought experiment (NOTE: I realize Putnam was talking about a consciousness external to the simulation, but the argument against it remains valid IMO). That argument being semantic externalism. I suppose you could say that the programmers have sufficiently programmed you to reference entities in the 'outside' world but then we're grasping for anything.

    5.) If I was really 'simulated' then there would not be necessarily any reason to trust rationality anyways, would there? We could not trust belief or justification for the possibility of the simulation argument. You could say that you were programmed rationally but then why not believe that Descartes Demon controls us? I find the irrational supernatural concept of Descartes Demon more tenable than the simulation argument. At least the Demon has supernatural powers :rofl:

    6.) Last: If it was possible then why would the the simulators themselves not be simulated? Could this go into an infinite regress?
  6. Jan 23, 2008 #5
    Hey, why not assume that we do live in a simulation, according to quantum physics we do live in a universe with limited resolution. Plank Length anyone? ... Plank Time? ..., no? Maybe quantum physics is just weird because it's only approximation of "real" physics. Maybe the random number generator just "decides" for the simulator beyond a certain point. I think that interpretation is a lot more fun than Many Worlds, or Copenhagen Interpretation.

    It would appear that we would prefer to explain the results of a low res simulation by creating more elaborate and confusing theories, that maintain our "reality."

    (hmmm it might be fun to start believing this, but unfortunately I don't think I'll let myself)
  7. Jan 23, 2008 #6
    Let's assume we live PART-TIME in a simulation, another part-time in a more or less real world...
    Let's assume the "real world" is just a PERFECT simulation, created by God for our poor and needy souls.
    Let's assume there is NOTHING for us in the world except one or another simulations.
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2008
  8. Jan 23, 2008 #7


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