Friday, January 26, 2007

Eureka Dejavu (known in meatspace as journalist Rita J. King) interviews Cliff Nakamura (author Cliff Pickover) in Second Life:

Dejavu: What's the best evidence, if any, that this reality we're in currently might actually be a fa├žade? Do you feel there's a chance that this is actually a simulation?

Nakamura: In our own small pocket of the universe, we've already developed computers with the ability to simulate lifelike behaviors using software and mathematical rules. One day we will create thinking beings that live in rich simulated spaces -- in ecosystems as complex and vibrant as an Amazonian rain forest. We'll be able to simulate reality itself, and perhaps more advanced beings are already doing this elsewhere in the universe. Huge supercomputers would have the capacity to simulate not just a tiny fragment of reality, but a substantial fraction of an entire universe.

What if the number of these simulations is larger than the number of universes? Could we be living in such a simulation? Astronomer and philosopher Martin Rees suggests that if the simulations outnumber the universes, "as they would if one universe contained many computers making many simulations," then it is likely that we are artificial life.

5 comments:

Chris said...

I don't mind the simulation hypothesis as a "neat idea", but I do have a couple of major problems with it. First, the idea that we're living in a simulation isn't required to explain any of the observable features of the physical universe, and it isn't required to explain any currently unanswered questions in physics or cosmology.

Second, the simulation hypothesis is intrinsically untestable. There's no way to demostrate empirically that it's true, even in principle. It has nothing going for it beyond a certain level of plausibility based on some very unscientific assumptions about future computing power. Moore's law isn't actually a law of nature, it's a trend.

Chris said...

Another point that kind of nags me: if the simulation hypothesis is true, then it really becomes meaningless to say that we may be "artificial life". Once you're able to model life and consciousness on the level of detail that we observe in the physical universe, then our form of life is no less valid than our "creators". It just becomes a case of one universe budding off others, which is an increasingly accepted idea in physics already.

Mac said...

Once you're able to model life and consciousness on the level of detail that we observe in the physical universe, then our form of life is no less valid than our "creators". It just becomes a case of one universe budding off others, which is an increasingly accepted idea in physics already.

You're right ... but I still want to *know*.

Chris said...

If I was going to simulate a reality-level universe, I'd program in an "alarm bell", so that as soon as any life developed in the simulation that was starting to develop it's OWN simulations, I'd get notified and initiate communication with them. If our universe is a simulation, then hopefully the designers have done something similar. Otherwise, I can't imagine a way that we'd be able to initiate communication with the "outside".

Mac said...

Calling Greg Egan!