Tuesday, July 09, 2019

The Simulation Hypothesis -- Not Nearly Crazy Enough to Be True

The "Simulation Hypothesis", the idea that our universe is some sort of computer simulation, has been getting more and more airtime lately.  

The rising popularity of the meme is not surprising since virtual reality and associated tech have been steadily advancing, and at the same time physicists have further advanced the formal parallels between physics equations and computation theory.    

The notion of the universe as a computer simulation does bring to the fore some important philosophical and scientific concepts that are generally overlooked.  

However, in various online and real-world conversations I have been hearing various versions of the simulation hypothesis that don't make a lot of sense from a scientific or rational point of view.   So I wanted to write down briefly what does and doesn't make sense to me in the simulation-hypothesis vein...

One thing that has gotten on my nerves is hearing the simulation hypothesis used to advocate for religious themes and concepts -- often in ways that profoundly stretch logic.   There are some deep correspondences between the insights of mystical wisdom traditions, and the lessons of modern physics and computation theory -- but I have heard people talk about the simulation hypothesis in ways that reach way beyond these correspondences, in a ways that fallaciously makes it seem like the science and math give evidence for religious themes like the existence of a vaguely anthropomorphic "creator" of our universe.  This is, I suppose, what has led some commentators like AGI researcher Eray Ozkural to label the simulation hypothesis a new form of creationism (the link to his article "Simulation Argument and Existential AI Risk: New Age Creationism?" seems to be down at the moment).

The idea that our universe might be a computer simulation is not a new one, and appeared in the science fiction literature many times throughout the second half of the previous century.   Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom's essay titled "The Simulation Argument" is generally credited with introducing the idea to the modern science and technology community.    Now Rizwan Virk's book titled "The Simulation Hypothesis" is spreading the concept to an even wider audience.   Which is part of what motivated me to write a few words here on the topic.

I don't intend to review Virk's book here, because frankly I only skimmed it.   It seems to cover a large variety of interesting topics related to the simulation hypothesis, and the bits and pieces I read were smoothly written and accurate enough. 

Fundamentally, I think the Simulation Hypothesis as it's generally being discussed is not nearly crazy enough to be true.  But it does dance around some interesting issues.

Bostrom's Rhetorical Trickery

I have considerable respect for Nick Bostrom's rhetorical and analytical abilities, and I've worked with him briefly in the past when we were both involved in the World Transhumanist Association, and when we organized a conference on AI ethics together at his Future of Humanity Institute.   However, one issue I have with some of Nick's work is his tendency to pull the high school debating-team trick of arguing that something is POSSIBLE and then afterward speaking as if he has proved this thing was LIKELY.   He did this in his book Superintelligence, arguing for the possibility of superintelligent AI systems that annihilate humanity or turn the universe into a vast mass of paperclips -- but then afterward speaking as if he had argued such outcomes were reasonably likely or even plausible.   Similarly, in his treatment of the simulation hypothesis, he makes a very clear argument as to why we might well be living in a computer simulation -- but then projects a tone of emphatic authority, making it seem to the naive reader like he has somehow shown this is  a reasonably probable hypothesis.

Formally what Bostrom's essay argues is that

... at least one of the following propositions is true: (1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage; (2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof); (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.

The basic argument goes like this: Our universe has been around 14 billion years or so, and in that time-period a number of alien civilizations have likely arisen in various star systems and galaxies... and many of these civilizations have probably created advanced technologies, including computer systems capable of hosting massive simulated virtual-reality universes.   (Formally, he argues something like this follows if we assume (1) and (2) are false.)   So if we look at the history of our universe, we have one base universe and maybe 100 or 1000 or 1000000 simulated universes created by prior alien civilizations.   So what are the odds that we live in the base universe rather than one of the simulations?  Very low.  Odds seem high that, unless (1) or (2) is true, we live in one of the simulations.

The obvious logical problem with this argument is: If we live in a simulation programmed by some alien species, then the 14 billion year history of our universe is FAKE, it's just part of that simulation ... so that all reasoning based on this 14 billion year history is just reasoning about what kind of preferences regarding fake evidence were possessed by the aliens who programmed the simulation we're living in.   So how do we reason about that?   We need to place a probability distribution over the various possible motivational systems and technological infrastructures of various alien species?
(For a more detailed, slightly different run-through of this refutation of Bostrom's line of argument, see this essay from a Stanford University course).

Another way to look at it is: Formally, the problem with Bostrom's argument is that the confidence with which we can know the probability of (1) or (2) is very low if indeed we live in a simulation.   Thus all his argument really shows is that we can't confidently know the probabilities of (1) and (2) are high -- because if we do know this, we can derive as a conclusion that the confidences with which we know these probabilities are low.

Bostrom's argument is essentially self-refuting: What it demonstrates is mostly just that we have no frickin' idea about the foundational nature of the universe we live in.   Which is certainly true, but is not what he claims to be demonstrating.  

An Array of Speculative Hypotheses

To think seriously about the simulation hypothesis, we have to clearly distinguish between a few different interesting, speculative ideas about the nature of our world.  

One is the idea that our universe exists as a subset of some larger space, which has different properties than our universe.   So that the elementary particles that seem to constitute the fundamental building-blocks of our physical universe, and the 3 dimensions of space and one dimension of time that seem to parametrize our physical experience, are not the totality of existence -- but only one little corner of some broader meta-cosmos.  

Another is the idea that our universe exists as a subset of some larger space, which has different properties than our universe, and in which there is some sort of coherent, purposeful individual mind or society of individual minds, who created our universe for some reason.

Another is that our universe has some close resemblance to part or all of the larger space that contains it, thus being in some sense a "simulation" of this greater containing space...

It is a valid philosophical point that any of these ideas could turn out to be the reality.    As philosophy, one implication here is that maybe we shouldn't take our physical universe quite as seriously as we generally do -- if it's just a tiny little corner in a broader meta-cosmos. 

One is reminded of the tiny little Who empire in Dr. Seuss's kids' book "Horton Hears a Who."   From the point of view of the Whos down there in Whoville, their lives and buildings and such are very important.   But from Horton the Elephant's view, they're just living in a tiny little speck within a much bigger world.

From a science or engineering view, these ideas are only really interesting if there's some way to gather data about the broader meta-cosmos, or hack out of our limited universe into this broader meta-cosmos, or something like that.   This possibility has been explored in endless science fiction stories, and also in the movie The Matrix -- in which there are not only anthropomorphic creators behind the simulated universe we live in, but also fairly simple and emotionally satisfying ways of hacking out of the simulation into the meta-world ... which ends up looking, surprise surprise, a lot like our own simulated world.  

The Matrix films also echo Christian themes in very transparent ways -- the process of saving the lives and minds of everyone in the simulation bottoms down to finding one savior, one Messiah type human, with unique powers to bridge the gap between simulation and reality.   This is good entertainment, partly because it resonates so well with various of our historical and cultural tropes, but it's a bit unfortunate when these themes leak out of the entertainment world and into the arena of supposedly serious and thoughtful scientific and philosophical discourse.

In a 2017 article, I put forth some of my own speculations about what sort of broader space our physical universe might be embedded in.   I called this broader space a Eurycosm ("eury" = wider), and attempted to explore what properties such a Eurycosm might have in order to explain some of the more confusing aspects of our physical and psychological universe, such as ESP, precognition, remote viewing reincarnation, mediumistic seances, and so forth.   I don't want to bog down this article with a discussion of these phenomena, so I'll just point the reader who may be interested to explore scientific evidence in this regard to a list ofreferences I posted some time ago.   For now, my point is just: If you believe that some of these "paranormal" phenomena are sometimes real, then it's worth considering that they may be ways to partially hack out of our conventional 4D physical universe into some sort of broader containing space.

As it happens, my own speculations about what might happen in a Eurycosm, a broader space in which our own physical universe is embedded, have nothing to do with any creator or programmer "out there" who programmed or designed our universe.    I'm more interested to understand what kinds of information-theoretic "laws" might govern dynamics in this sort of containing space.

What seems to be happening in many discussions I hear regarding the simulation hypothesis is: The realization that our 4D physical universe might not be all there is to existence, that there might be some sort of broader world beyond it, is getting all fuzzed up with the hypothesis that our 4D physical universe is somehow a "simulation" of something, and/or that our universe is somehow created by some alien programmer in some other reality.

What is a "simulation" after all?  Normally that word refers to an imitation of something else, created to resemble that thing which it simulates.   What is the evidence, or rational reason for thinking, our universe is an imitation or approximation of something else?

Simulations like the ones we run in our computers today, are built by human beings for specific purposes -- like exploring scientific hypotheses, or making entertaining games.    Again, what is the evidence, or rational reason for thinking, that there is some programmer or creator or game designer underlying our universe?   If the only evidence or reason is Bostrom's argument about prior alien civilizations, then the answer is: Basically nothing.

It's an emotionally appealing idea if you come from a Christian background, clearly.   And it's been funky idea for storytelling since basically the dawn of humanity, in one form or another.   I told my kids a bunch of simulation-hypothesis bedtime stories when they were young; hopefully it didn't twist their minds too badly.   My son Zebulon, when he was 14, wrote a novel about a character on a mission to find the creators of the simulation we live in, so as specifically to track down the graphic designer who had created the simulation, so as to hold a gun to his head and force him to modify the graphics behind our universe to make people less ugly.   Later on he became a Sufi, a mystical tradition which views the physical universe as insubstantial in much subtler ways.

There is good mathematics and physics behind the notion that our physical universe can be modeled as a sort of computer -- where the laws of physics are a sort of "computer program" iterating our universe through one step after the next.    This is not the only way to model our universe, but it seems a valid one that may be useful for some purposes.  

There is good philosophy behind the notion that our apparently-so-solid physical reality is not necessarily foundationally real, and may be just a tiny aspect of a broader reality.   This is not a new point but it's a good one.   Plato's parable of the cave drove this home to the Greeks long ago, and as Rizwan Virk notes these themes have a long history in Indian and Chinese philosophy, and before that in various shamanic traditions.   Virk reviews some of these predecessors in his book.

But there is nothing but funky entertainment and rampant wishful thinking behind the idea that our universe is a simulation of some other thing, or that there is some alien programmer or other vaguely anthropomorphic "creator" behind the origin or maintenance of our universe.

We Probably Have Very Little Idea What Is Going On

I have two dogs at home, and I often reflect on what they think I am doing when I'm sitting at my computer typing.  They think I'm sitting there, guarding some of my valued objects and wiggling my fingers peculiarly.   They have no idea that I'm controlling computational processes on faraway compute clouds, or talking to colleagues about mathematical and software structures.  

Similarly, once we create AGI software 1000 times smarter than we are, this software will understand aspects of the universe that are opaque to our little human minds.   Perhaps we will merge with this AGI software, and then the new superintelligent versions of ourselves will understand these additional aspects of the universe as well.    Perhaps we will then figure out how to hack out of our current 4D spacetime continuum into some broader space.   Perhaps at that point, all of these concepts I'm discussing here will seem to my future-self like absolute ridiculous nonsense.

I have a lot of respect for the limitations of human intelligence, and a fairly strong confidence that we currently understand a very minimal percentage of the overall universe.   To the extent that discussion of the simulation hypothesis points in this direction, it's possibly valuable and productive.   We shouldn't be taking the 4D spacetime continuum current physics models as somehow fundamentally real, we shouldn't be assuming that it delimits reality in some ultimate and cosmic sense.

However, we also shouldn't be taking seriously the idea that there is some guy, or girl, or alien, or society or whatever "out there" who programmed a "simulation" in which our universe is running.   Yes, this is possible.   A lot of things are possible.  There is no reason to think this is decently probable.

I can see that, for some people, the notion of a powerful anthropomorphic creator is deeply reassuring.   Freud understood this tendency fairly well -- there's an inner child in all of us who would like there to be some big, reliable Daddy or Mommy responsible for everything and able to take care of everything.   Some bad things may happen, some good things will happen, and in the end Mom and Dad understand more than we do and will make sure it all comes out OK in the end.   Nick Bostrom, for all his brilliance, seems repeatedly drawn to themes of centralized control and wisdom.   Wouldn't it be reassuring if, as he suggests in Superintelligence, the UN would take over the creation of AGI and hire some elite vetted AI gurus to make sure it's developed in an appropriate way?   If we can't have a Christian God watching over us and assuring us a glorious afterlife, can't we at least have an alien programmer monitoring the simulation we're running in?  Can't the alien programmer at least be really good looking, let's say, maybe like a Hollywood movie star?

As far as I can tell, given my current sorely limited human mind, the universe seems to be a lot more about open-ended intelligence, a concept my friend Weaver at the Global Brain Institute has expertly articulated.   The universe -- both our 4D physical spacetime and whatever broader spaces exist beyond -- seems to be a complex, self-organizing system without any central purpose or any centralized creator or controller.   Think the creative self-organizing ocean in Lem's Solaris, rather than bug-eyed monsters coming down in spaceships to enslave us or stick needles into our bellybuttons.

So the simulation hypothesis takes many forms.   In its Bostromian form, or in the form I often hear it in casual conversations, it is mostly bullshit -- but still, it does highlight some interesting issues.   It's a worthwhile thought experiment but in the end it's most valuable as a pointer toward other, deeper ideas.   The reality of our universe is almost surely way crazier than any story about simulations or creators, and almost surely way beyond our current imaginations.


Anonymous said...

A more plausible sounding idea put forward by Bostrom's paper is that we live in an 'ancestor simulation'. Yet your article talks about aliens and doesn't seem to mention ancestor simulations.

Anonymous said...

For a post-human civilization with excessive amounts of computational power and a huge artificial workforce, a reason to run an ancestor simulations would be for instance as a highly advanced science project to simulate and understand all of their past evolution and history.

Wil Bown said...

This is an extremely good blog Ben, thank you! Here are some great videos talking about the limits of our perception from our point of view of the entirety of reality. I believe something likely exists beyond our corner and I hope to get to explore it. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLsPUh22kYmNCLrXgf8e6nC_xEzxdx4nmY

Sam said...

The universe will always be vastly greater than what any single or collective intelligence can comprehend. However, only a tiny portion is relevant to its existence. An intelligence should only simulate what is most relevant. Energy and information that exists outside the relevant area can then be harnessed to make the simulation sufficiently 'real'. Also, since reality is quantum and quantum computers can simulate time backward, the simulation could originate near the present. An intelligence could make billions of years of 'fake' time computationally inexpensive by decreasing the determinism of the simulation as it progresses backward in time

Tim Tyler said...

Time reversal invariance surely counts as evidence for simulism. It is not required for life, and makes the most sense if someone wants to rewind events - or if someone is footing power and cooling bills for running our visible corner of the universe.

Tim Tyler said...

Unfortunately, the seeming lack of a creator is compatible with the actual existence of a creator under several scenarios. One is entertainment sims. If Jane Eyre starts musing about how she might be a fictional character, a lot of the audience might turn off. Another is historical sims. If people didn't believe they were simulated, then their simulations should not believe that either, even though they are, in fact simulations - else the simulated history will go off the rails. Dawkins' question to his creator: "why did you take such pains to hide yourself?" thus has some reasonably plausible answers.

Tim Tyler said...

More evidence favoring the idea that we are in a simulation comes from the point in time we seem to exist at. We are just before a major evolutionary transition. That would be good fodder for entertainment sims. It would also be a focus for historical sims. Maybe future agents want to learn about how this era might have gone - to learn more about what kinds of alien civilization they might run into in the future. After all, that could be kinda important for them - worth spending a few cycles investigating.

Tim Tyler said...

Lastly, a problem with "the simulation hypothesis is mostly bullshit" is that it is vague. I would much rather see a probability estimate. For example, consider the chance of scientific consensus in the year 3000 favoring the visible universe being engineered by intelligent designers. I'm guessing that you would assign that scenario a low probability now - but how low are we talking?

Zenka said...

I agree, we are in the early stages and it’s laughable to think we know the outer encasement, but I have also been curious about “what of information-theoretic "laws" might go Vern dynamics in this sort of containing space”. My current theory is that our base reality experience is driven by our subconscious and that the mirror world that each of us live in is trained to elucidate mastery of love. Not sure how we are all connected but each person is deeply connected to everything and everyone they experience in their universe because those emanate from you ultimately. I don’t know if the backdrop is created from thoughts across containers but it must be because working together despite our differences seems to be part of the unlocking mechanism. The laws which govern this place are certainly based on our subconscious beliefs but also on how our bodies resonate. We know we can leave our physical bodies as in remote viewing etc. We know we can bend spoons if we say we can. What do this science tell us about the nature of this reality? The good news is that from what I hear, it will always keep us in a state of awe no matter how deep into the rabbit hole we sail.

Sarah Chowhugger said...

Hi Ben, I've been trying to get some of my own Eurycosmic speculations across to you for a while. Sorry if my chasing/haranguing you is getting excessive. If I'm being a bother, do tell me so that I can put a lay off of it. It's just that I have a lot of musings regarding the Eurycosm and the development of empathy and kindness towards a state of post-Darwinian social egalitarianism, as opposed to the bent towards ruthless Darwinian survivalism that seems to have characterized all organic life on Earth since the Cambrian explosion.


Also, this is trending now: https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/mirror-universe

Robert M Geraci said...

Good read, and the obfuscation of possible/plausible strikes me as an important contribution. It's interesting that the simulation hypothesis is one that is logically based in probability, and yet manages a hand-waving maneuver to obscure the fact that the mathematical probabilities are unfounded in ontological probabilities...as you rightly point to here.

A caveat on the history, however: Bostrom's simulation argument comes from that of Hans Moravec and/or Frank Tipler, both of whom (clearly influenced by science fiction) offered "scientific" arguments in the early 1990s. At least one of them is foundational to Bostrom's work, though surprisingly Bostrom credits neither on the subject. This is despite his having read at least Moravec prior to publishing his own 2003 essay on the subject (he cites Moravec on other concerns). Bostrom fleshes the argument out and gives it a better philosophical context, but the ontological and scientific hypothesis is not his.

samantha said...

Bostrom's argument seems to hinge on taking a random sample from a very large completely hypothetical sample space. That seems like an obvious abuse of statistical reasoning. It also begs the question of whether advanced civilizations, if any, are actually all that fond of creating such simulations. The argument for this in his paper seems weak and simply asserted.

Tim Tyler said...

Brains contain world simulations. They are tuned to be consistent with sense input and known history, and then used to predict the future, to distinguish between the consequences of possible actions.

If humans are any guide, we typically spend quite a while dwelling on the past, and wondering what might have been.

IMO, the main motive for simulating variations on our evolutionary history would be to understand what forms aliens could take before we run into them. A failure to do this could result in some nasty surprises and things going very badly.

Tim Gross said...

while there's some good ideas in this article- it ultimately attacks a straw man: this hypothetical Christian simulist- and it fails to appreciate the implications of computational universality- which show that computation isn't just a nifty and useful way to model nature- it is the very essence of nature itself- what fails to capture the weirdness- as Ben calls it- is our current formulations of computation but computation as a broader concept more than captures any of the weirdness he is thinking of: Universality means Universality-

Stuart LaForge said...

Ok then, Ben. What do think of the "it from bit" notion that our reality is fundamentally information theoretic? Do we live in a universe that is "virtualized" by quantum violations of Bell's Inequality? Might we not live in a virtual reality that is not a simulation of something else? Might not different divergent Everett branches be "simulations" of one another?

I do agree with your sentiment that the universe is likely far stranger than we imagine it to be.

John L. Feier said...

How long is "now?"

A second? A tenth of a second? A hundredth of a second? The more we look at it, the thinner "now" gets.

But I think I read somewhere that if we could take a picture of our neural activity, the point at which there would be no blur in the picture caused by "movement" would be found at around 10^-13 of a second. That would be considered, "now," or what I like to call, "the Mindsecond."

So, consciousness DOES have temporal dimensions.

But does it have spatial dimensions?

It is my suspicion that we would need to redefine "space" before we could locate consciousness anywhere on the spacetime continuum. As a result, if it were one day possible to record the dreams and thoughts of people exactly as they're experienced, then we could, maybe, use AI to find some average composite of the "real estate" or parameters that consciousness resides in.

Now, a simulation implies that consciousness is, in fact, somewhere on the spacetime continuum.

But I see both a simulated universe AND a non-simulated universe as possible. To me, that's not even the sexy part. To me, the sexy part lies in trying to imagine what consciousness "looks like."

A thin sliver of something that we're calling time through which we're perceiving an Other World.

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Ben Goertzel said...

FYI I tweaked this article a bit based on valid critical comments made here and on Facebook.... It now includes a specific refutation of the precise logical statement Bostrom argues for in his paper...

James Redford said...

Hi, Dr. Ben Goertzel. Regarding the simulation hypothesis, it could well be the case that we are in a computer simulation being run by a highly-advanced society. However, there would be no possible tests that we could perform that would reveal that to us unless said society wished to disclose their existence. This hypothesis is actually a variation on the Gnostic heresy.

However, I would think that a superhuman society would create a far more pleasant simulation. If they were malicious--and for various reasons that I've gone over elsewhere, I don't believe they could be--they would certainly be capable of creating a reality far more horrific than this one, bad as this world can be at various times and places.

Rather, the world appears to be more or less what I would expect it to be like if humans are naturally-evolved apes. In a certain very real sense, humans *are* trapped in a computer simulation: that of their mental programs operating on the wet-computer of the human brain. Humans are trapped in the matrix of bad ideas. Almost all of the main societal problems are due to false and destructive ideas.

Pertaining to the issue of God: God's existence is a mathematical theorem within standard physics. Standard physics is the known laws of physics, viz., the Second Law of Thermodynamics, General Relativity, and Quantum Mechanics. This theorem has been given in the form of physicist and mathematician Prof. Frank J. Tipler's Omega Point cosmology. These aforestated known physical laws have been confirmed by every experiment conducted to date. Hence, the only way to avoid Tipler's Omega Point Theorem is to reject empirical science. As Prof. Stephen Hawking wrote, "one cannot really argue with a mathematical theorem." (From p. 67 of Stephen Hawking, The Illustrated A Brief History of Time [New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1996; 1st ed., 1988].)

Prof. Tipler's Omega Point cosmology has been extensively peer-reviewed and published in a number of the world's leading physics and science journals, such as Reports on Progress in Physics (the leading journal of the Institute of Physics, Britain's main professional organization for physicists), Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (one of the world's leading astrophysics journals), the International Journal of Theoretical Physics (a journal that Nobel Prize in Physics winner Richard Feynman also published in), and Physics Letters, among other journals.

Prof. Tipler's Ph.D. is in the field of Global General Relativity, which is the field created by Profs. Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose during the formulation of their Singularity Theorems in the 1960s. Global General Relativity is General Relativity applied on the scale of the entire universe as a whole, and is the most elite and rarefied field of physics. Tipler is also an expert in quantum field theory (i.e., Quantum Mechanics combined with special-relativistic particle physics) and computer theory.

For much more on Prof. Tipler's Omega Point cosmology and the details on how it uniquely conforms to, and precisely matches, the cosmology described in the New Testament, see my following article, which also addresses the societal implications of the Omega Point cosmology:

* James Redford, "The Physics of God and the Quantum Gravity Theory of Everything", Social Science Research Network (SSRN), Sept. 10, 2012 (orig. pub. Dec. 19, 2011), 186 pp., doi:10.2139/ssrn.1974708, https://archive.org/download/ThePhysicsOfGodAndTheQuantumGravityTheoryOfEverything/Redford-Physics-of-God.pdf

Additionally, in the below resource are different sections which contain some helpful notes and commentary by me pertaining to multimedia wherein Prof. Tipler explains the Omega Point cosmology and the Feynman-DeWitt-Weinberg quantum gravity/Standard Model TOE.

* James Redford, "Video of Profs. Frank Tipler and Lawrence Krauss's Debate at Caltech: Can Physics Prove God and Christianity?", Apr. 18, 2019, https://pastebin.com/6bZDc7rB

inMatrix.ru said...

 "The fundamental process of nature lies outside spacetime but generates events that can be located in spacetime."

Anatomy of quantum superposition
(3- bit Universe)

We are studying the simplest model of a finite deterministic world. Here, we have attempted to answer the following question: what our artificial world would look like from the point of view of an observer (subject), placed in our modeled finite world? To do this, it's necessary to formulate abstract model of the observer. Only in that way is it possible to answer this complicated question. Herein, we have endeavored to show the quantum-similar character of the laws, discovering by the subjective observer.  As a consequence of this exercise, we can now assume that  physical laws of our real world have a similar origin.


Anonymous said...

Nothing on Chris Langans analogical approach of reifying reality as united towers of self referential metalanguages akin to self-simulating nest Strata? And in a way that actually deals with the deeper metaphysical issues (unlike Bostrom) and before it was popular? Ah well..

YYZ said...

The CTMU describes the definitive description of the universe as a simulation, providing a scientific description of Reincarnation and thus generic causality in the process.

"Cosmic expansion and ordinary physical motion have something in common: they are both what might be called ectomorphisms. In an ectomorphism, something is mapped to, generated or replicated in something external to it. However, the Reality Principle asserts that the universe is analytically self-contained, and ectomorphism is inconsistent with self-containment. Through the principle of conspansive duality, ectomorphism is conjoined with endomorphism, whereby things are mapped, generated or replicated within themselves. Through conspansive endomorphism, syntactic objects are injectively mapped into their own hological interiors from their own syntactic boundaries." CTMU by Chris Langan

The injective mapping described by Conspansion can be diagrammed as a manifold of nested rings, as with a Venn diagram. In such a manifold, computation or mechanical processes amount to orthogonal relations across sequentially nested layers, while the larger process of physical reality amounts to coherent processing across the totality of the extended manifold. Since the Conspansive nesting applies to the quantum scale of state transitions, no further reduction could be implied by the known laws of physics, and no more detailed account of state-transitions could exist. Likewise, since the Conspansive manifold applies to the cosmic scale, no greater structure is implied with respect to the observable universe of scientific inquiry.

"Metacausation and other metaphysical criteria require that the standard “physical” conception of spacetime be superseded by a more advanced metaphysical conceptualization that is logico-geometrically dual to the linguistic structure of the trialic identity. Called the conspansive manifold, it is self-generative and requires three levels of topology and three corresponding levels of quantization. The conspansive manifold is dynamically self-contained; in coupling with the linguistic identity, it evolves by generative self-modeling, embedding conventional spacetime as a linear-ectomorphic semimodel corresponding to the semilanguage Lo of the ToE identity." Introduction to Mathematical Metaphysics by Chris Langan

Anonymous said...

Agreed, Chris's concept of metacausation where the future creates the past and the past creates the future in a non-well-founded self-contained loop that literally generates reality proves that Chris Langan understands the metaphysics of complex systems significantly better than most. I hope to see Ben interact with him again.

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Unknown said...

Wow. Awesome points on simulation theory made here!


Anonymous said...

Perhaps a more realistic idea is that Universe is a computer, or better yet, a massively parallel computer. That is, more or less, what modern physics thinks too. Although not in so many words, and not directly, more like "seems like it could be".

There's a book out there speaking about that, but in a very different way. The idea is called a "Computer Hypothesis". I found it while googling simulation hypothesis. It isn't about it at all, but in some ways it is.


-it's called "Reality is a computer and faster than light travel is reality". Well written, short paragraphs, easy to digest, sharp with dry humor here and there. The title summarizes what it's about, but not what I thought.

Unlike Bostrom's SH, this idea delivers some fairly simple math that anyone with any computer science background should be able to understand. I did (Bachelor of Science from ASU), so probably you can too.

Effectively, every particle is a computer. Not your garden variety of course, but it processes information. The entire space is filled with information coming from all particles.

That's about it for the idea. Super simple and clean. The interesting part is, actually two things:

1. from this setup, you can get Relativity and QM. The book mostly talks about Relativity, but there's some fairly good argument about QM.


2. all of that works the same if reality is a simulation, just as it does if it isn't. I find that fascinating. Could reality's origin be indistinguishable? Meaning, if reality is based on information-processing, would it be made just so that it doesn't matter, or we can't possibly tell, if it's simulation or not? That sends chills down my spine.

The consequence of this approach is that, while Relativity is true in our cosmic neighborhood, out in deep space, faster-than-light motion is possible. That part would be awesome if true. Obviously nobody went out and tried that yet. But if true, it would be the first "information based" hypothesis to actually produce something tanglible. And with very clever math. Almost Einstein-ian, if it were not for being completely different.

Ever since "It from bit" all the way to SH, it's all very interesting, yet utterly useless stuff. I actually read Virk's book and was sorely disappointed. It's entertaining, grant you that, but shallow, way too shallow. Feels like "Ancient Aliens", if you like that. I feel MIT media labs are becoming just money machines by funding this.

This may be the first one to bring an actual testable result.

It's just a hypothesis, and pretty far out as far as mainstream physics goes. But it does have a testable result about traveling FTL.

- Narendra

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YYZ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
YYZ said...

Edit: I deleted my prior comment for some editing, and reposted this...

If the universe is a simulation, then why isn't anyone asking "what's being simulated?"? Perhaps the answer is too obvious, but I don't see anyone with a clue about it, so I'll spill the beans...

The universe is a simulation of the only thing it could possibly be a simulation of, namely: itself.

The universe is a self simulation whereby the primary means of simulating itself is by simulating "a" self (any self, whatsoever, ans in you or I). Wherever a "self" appears, so to along with it must the universe appear.

The only possible coherent description of anything, including of a universe, is a STATIC description.

Coherence = stasis. Coherent systems have ZERO informational value. By definition of its all-encompassing nature, the only possible coherent description of "the universe" is that of an eternal stasis. However, an eternal stasis has no "informational signature", and hence "the absolute" can't appear or be demonstrated in any context relevant to a purely scientific discourse.

The universe of scientific discourse is discourse of a "relative" nature, while the universe being simulated is ultimately of an "absolute" nature. Hence, we can't have a purely scientific discourse about the absolute, not even in the context of science fiction. For discussing the topic of "the absolute", a metaphysical discourse is therefore required.

Mind=Reality. Where an eternal stasis is the absolute, unchanging, eternal nature of reality, the stilled mind must default to its own absolute unchanging, eternal absolute nature.

So getting back to the "simulation hypothesis": the only way for anything to be realized is for it to be revealed from out of its prior absence. The only way for the absolute to be "absent" is via a simulation, where in the process of simulating "itself" (and thereby revealing its "relative" nature), it also conceals the absolute nature of "itself" (no informational value). The concealment is ultimately FOR THE EXPRESS PURPOSE of thereby allowing the absolute nature to be revealed from the only possible means (ie, via "self simulation") whereby it could seem "absent" in the first place.

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