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On the subject of simulations and existence.


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First of all, sorry for the text wall. I've been thinking about this recently, and wanted you guys' opinion:

With the advances in technology, we've been able to run simulations (especially games), and they've been getting more and more detailed recently.

These simulations have varying degrees of detail, with KSP, for instance even simulating physics on planetary scales. Other games, like FPS, can simulate ballistics and advanced movement (ArmA, for instance). Powder Toy can simulate chemistry/physics (I managed to build an ion engine there, was quite difficult), and neural networks can simulate small-scale evolution.

This got me thinking, what if our "reality" is actually a simulation run by much more advanced beings? Can they interfere with it?

If that was the case, then what about our simulations? Could a player in a FPS game, for instance, be controlling an actual being from within the simulation without it knowing? 

 

Still considering the shooter game, that being would know nothing that's not in the simulation. It would not know nothing but that it had to shoot specific things, that it could move and do specific things, and should avoid being shot. It wouldn't be able to know anything not explicit in the game.

Think of it like this. Imagine a sentient being that lived in a 2D universe for its entire life. It would only be able to think about going forwards, backwards, left and right. It wouldn't be able to know about up nor down.

The mind of the simulated being would be similiar: in the shooter game, it wouldn't be able to think about anything outside what the game can offer. It wouldn't be able to think about what's outside the game map. It wouldn't be able to think about doing something that's not possible in the game. All it would know is what is present in the game.

That brings me to my next point, its senses: It would only have two senses, vision and hearing, since we're only able to simulate that (screens and speakers). In the shooter game, what it would see is only what's being rendered on the screen (HUD included), and what it would hear is only what goes through our speakers.

 

So, if our universe was a simulation: every sentient being would be controlled by a "real" being's inputs.

However, there's a problem with the simulated universe theory, the resources needed to simulate every single subatomic particle, and forces, etc.

But what if only what sentient beings are seeing is being simulated (rendered?)? As in, everything that we don't see is "on rails", like a ship that you're not controlling in KSP (one interesting thing about this thought is the "if a tree falls and there is nobody around to hear it, does it make a sound" question). Bacteria would only be "actually" simulated when you use means to see them, for instance. That would reduce the need for resources immensely.

About our senses and sentience: Our sentience is due to being controlled by a "real" being, just like in a singleplayer game, the only character that can actually think is the one you're playing as (This tackles the concept of "souls", but I really don't want to bring religion into this). Our senses is what the "real" beings have managed to simulate, just like we have screens and speakers to simulate video and sound, they must have other devices to simulate smelling, tasting and touching, creating the possibility that we actually have less senses than them, and that our reality is simpler than theirs.

 

So, basically, in my mind: simulations, like games, create realities. Our reality might be one of those simulations.

The bad thing is that there's no evidence to support this, and I don't think it's possible to prove the existence or non-existence of our reality. So this might be more of a philosophical theory.

 

I'd like to read what you guys think.

Edited by Aperture Science
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I don't have too much more to add to this, but there's a three-page thread on the topic from a while back.

It amazes me just how much popularity the idea has been given lately though, including actual experiments being done to try and prove it.

Edited by vger
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11 hours ago, Aperture Science said:

The mind of the simulated being would be similiar: in the shooter game, it wouldn't be able to think about anything outside what the game can offer. It wouldn't be able to think about what's outside the game map. It wouldn't be able to think about doing something that's not possible in the game. All it would know is what is present in the game.

You just described the AI of just about every video game NPC. 

Edited by Robotengineer
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1 hour ago, Robotengineer said:

You just described the AI of just about every video game NPC. 

Yes, but it would also apply to the playable characters, the only difference is that they don't know they're being controlled. As if they had a life of their own, except that it would be extremely limited and that he would actually not have free will, since he was being controlled.

3 hours ago, Findthepin1 said:

We'd care about Kerbals a lot more if it turned out to be true. 

I actually started caring more about playable characters after thinking about this. What if they were "real" in the simulation? 

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I've played a few MMO's, and in a couple of them I became as attached to my characters as a child does to a plush animal. The eventual shutdowns of those games took an incredible emotional toll on the communities. I can't look at the 'Tron' films the same way anymore.

Another good film for this kind of thing is "The 13th Floor." It seemed to be very "Sims" inspired.

Edited by vger
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There's also an important distinction to be made between a game (I.e events can be directly influenced by the actions of a "player") and what I'd call a pure simulation, where there is no outside input after initial conditions are set

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In two of Iain M. Banks' novels, The Algebraeist and Surface Detail, he goes into this question in some detail (a little in Algebraeist, a lot more in Surface Detail and other books in the Culture series).

In The Algebraeist, this idea of "it's all a sim" is actually the official religion of the (non-hyperspace-capable) galactic empire. The believers consider that it is not only the obvious successor to all other previous, heathen religions but also a self-evident truth and the only form of religion that can resist scientific enquiry. They have to convert people to the religion because when everybody believes it's a sim, then rapture comes. At least that's how I remember it being described.

In Surface Detail, he goes into some of the ethical concerns of the "simming problem": to know the best way to react in certain situations, the various tactical and strategic theories tend to break down and the best way of testing is just to run a full-blown sim. However, if you make a sim all that detailed, then you have to include simmed people and at some stage, they're going to be sentient. So do you (can you?) just pull the plug at the end of the sim?

 

Personally, I see no pragmatic use for even contemplating whether we're in a sim. or matrix. or whatever. If it's that good that nobody can ever tell the difference, the only lesson anybody is going to get out of such contemplation is the leisure of considering there's going to be an afterlife so they can stop making an effort in the here and now. In other words, if you're a rat in a maze, you might as well try to find the cheese because if you don't you'll just get bored and not get the cheese. I'll take cheese over no cheese any day.

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All I know is that when I bang my simulated thumb with a simulated hammer, I get a lot of simulated pain and (not so) simulated swearing. Whoever is running our sim has a mean sense of humour.

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On 6/13/2016 at 2:03 PM, Plusck said:

Personally, I see no pragmatic use for even contemplating whether we're in a sim. or matrix. or whatever. If it's that good that nobody can ever tell the difference, the only lesson anybody is going to get out of such contemplation is the leisure of considering there's going to be an afterlife so they can stop making an effort in the here and now. In other words, if you're a rat in a maze, you might as well try to find the cheese because if you don't you'll just get bored and not get the cheese. I'll take cheese over no cheese any day.

Well I wouldn't say this means that investigating the possibility is bad. Like the Matrix, if we found out the universe was a simulation, we could start looking for ways to hack it. Just one example, if this is a simulation, then matter can most certainly be created and destroyed. You could become the Neo of cheese and feed 5000 people with just two blocks of it. :P  I feel like I vaguely remember a story or RPG from long before the Matrix, where our universe was simulated and people who learned how to break the rules were "sorcerers," and were responsible for a lot of legendary/mythological figures in history.

I've joked a few times that cold fusion was a hack, and patch notes the next day read, "Fixed an exploit that allowed humans to get free energy." Hopefully they don't do the same thing with the EMDrive. :cool:

Edited by vger
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4 hours ago, vger said:

Well I wouldn't say this means that investigating the possibility is bad. Like the Matrix, if we found out the universe was a simulation, we could start looking for ways to hack it. Just one example, if this is a simulation, then matter can most certainly be created and destroyed. You could become the Neo of cheese and feed 5000 people with just two blocks of it. :P  I feel like I vaguely remember a story or RPG from long before the Matrix, where our universe was simulated and people who learned how to break the rules were "sorcerers," and were responsible for a lot of legendary/mythological figures in history.

I've joked a few times that cold fusion was a hack, and patch notes the next day read, "Fixed an exploit that allowed humans to get free energy." Hopefully they don't do the same thing with the EMDrive. :cool:

Of course! And by inventing smartphones and spy satellites we've done our invisible masters a favour: we've provided an automatic error-checking algorithm. All we need to do is point a camera or satellite at something and they get a simple-to-use, low-overhead control feed. That makes it easy to guarantee that our experience will not suffer any apparent glitches (aka miracles).

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Remember how I said that one of the ways to reduce the resources needed to simulate would be only simulating what sentient beings can see/hear?

I just found out about this experiment, which suggests that reality doesn't exist until it's measured. I think it's worth taking a look at.

You know, the weirdness of quantum physics itself suggests to me that this is a simulation. The way consciousness affects experiments is fascinating.

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On June 13, 2016 at 10:39 AM, Aperture Science said:

Yes, but it would also apply to the playable characters, the only difference is that they don't know they're being controlled. As if they had a life of their own, except that it would be extremely limited and that he would actually not have free will, since he was being controlled.

The whole notion of playable is dependent on an actor outside the simulation controlling an actor inside the simulation. Also, NPC's don't 'know' they are being controlled either. In fact, the very idea of 'control' is dependent on the actor's own level of self awareness. It really depends on whether we are a simulation which has set starting conditions and is then run without further input, or whether we are continuously fed input from the 'outside.' The former seems to be the more likely given the evidence. 

1 hour ago, Aperture Science said:

I just found out about this experiment, which suggests that reality doesn't exist until it's measured. I think it's worth taking a look at.

Isn't that similar to Schrodinger's cat? It's also referring to the path of the atom, which is not in and of itself reality.

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7 hours ago, Aperture Science said:

You know, the weirdness of quantum physics itself suggests to me that this is a simulation. The way consciousness affects experiments is fascinating.

Quick misconception check:

It's not consciousness that affects the experiment, it's measurement, which has no requirement to be done by any thing conscious or even living

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3 hours ago, Steel said:

Quick misconception check:

It's not consciousness that affects the experiment, it's measurement, which has no requirement to be done by any thing conscious or even living

reality is a perception of consciousness, everything is interpretive. You don't see colors , you brain colors things for you, hv that hit the rods and cones in your eyes react to hv, and there signals create the color reality. The same is true with sound. 

So the quantum reality makes sense at that level. But the quantum explanation. Fields have wave and particle properties, when quanta propogate they tend to have more wavelike properties, but under conversion the tend to behave like particles. Because of this they have to register discretely, we sort of demnd this, our eyes register photons, not waves. Observation forces an outcome. 

Non-determinism at the quantum level is the best support against simulation. So far only one theory, poorly supported, suggest there is determinism at quantum level. 

There is alot interest in this universe simulation, but like string theory, our current understanding does not support it. 

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14 hours ago, Steel said:

Quick misconception check:

It's not consciousness that affects the experiment, it's measurement, which has no requirement to be done by any thing conscious or even living

Well, I'm still in high school, so I don't know much about quantum physics yet. Thanks for the correction.

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