It is not that new, Plato already had a similar idea with his cave metaphor(and it has been extensively used by philip k. dick and in Movies like the Matrix), but this seems to be more accepted in this Form, and the three main points of which no 3 is chosen to be true are a little strange, like the idea that the simulation will be turned off after 2050 to prevent stacking of simulations, sounds like a doomsday prophecy.
Is this something with scientific background or is it again the search for god with new means?
Again one of these Theories which can not be proved or disproved?
What do you think about it?
I think for an Atheist like me it is frightening to think we are at the mercy of some sick entity who can do to us all it wants, like people used to think about the gods.
There are two problems I have with “evil daemon”/“brain-in-vat”/“computer simulation” hypotheses:
1: They are unfalsifiable.
2: Their truth-values do not matter to us.
Let me explain what I mean by #2. Suppose there really is an external reality beyond experience. That is, when you see a tree, there is actually a physical object that exists, corresponding to the tree, independent of my perception of it. Now, suppose that while you are asleep, your brain is placed in a vat and a computer starts up a simulation of the universe, exact down to every detail and natural law, starting from the instant you went to sleep. When you awake, you would never be able to tell the difference; but is there really any difference at all from your point of view? If one can never discern between perception of an external reality and a complete illusion, why would it really matter to them which is actually the case?
It matters cause you cant pull the plug on reality, nor would you be the plaything of some omnipotent Jerk, who could do to you what he wants.
If reality instantly vanished, how would you even know? There would be no “you” to experience it. Besides, in any of those scenarios, you have absolutely no control over what the demon/scientist/computer does with your experiences, so why even worry about it?
AFAIK, no one has every come up with a rock-solid disproof that we are not living in a giant version of Sim City. That respectable thinker Chalmers has put the possibilty that we are in fact living in a simulation as high as 20%! I certainly can’t disprove the Simulation hypothesis (SH), but I can exercise my (illusion of) free will to completely ignore it. Not because it’s impossible to prove either way but because I think it’s a load of complete tosh. As a hard-headed rationalist I am supposed to base my views on evidence and logical inference, but I make an exception in the case of SH (and I admit it, gods).
There are some ideas that just aren’t worth wasting more than a second or two of consideration. There is no one about to pull the plug on the universe. If I did have to rationalise why I think that way, I suppose its because I think anybody who was clever enough to set up a simulation of the universe would have better things to do. Sad to say - given the state of things today - the world really is much as it appears to be. Given that means, for example, Ross Limbaugh and Sarah Palin are real that is a far more worrying prospect than the so-close-to-zero-it-I-think-it-is-zero possibility that reality is going to suddenly disappear.
I really don’t see how one can make the logical step from “a future civilization would want to run simulations” to “we are in a simulation” or “there is an X% chance we are in a simulation”. For all we know, we could be a simulation running within a completely different universe with completely different physical laws, like how artificial life simulations can have completely different rules from our universe. There are so many possibilities, it makes it hard for me to accept a specific probability that we are in a simulation.
Are we taking the quantized nature of our physical universe as evidence we are in a simulation? Doesn’t that include the implicit assumption that our parent universe doesn’t have quantized physics? How do we know that?
Personally, I think the SH is a load of bollocks, or in more philosophical terms, complete bollocks. The possibility that we are in a simulation makes for good sci-fi movies (but not, I think good sequels, but that’s another topic), but I only have x billion brain cells, and I’ve given the SH all the attention I am ever going to.
I would even say: it doesn’t matter. I don’t care if I am a real person in a real world, or a simulated person in a simulated world. I would not notice the difference. By induction I know that the (simulated) world is rather stable. The idea that one can be himself in both worlds as in the Matrix or in Tron is absurd.
I think the point of radical skepticism like this and other similar things like the Matrix and Descartes’ Evil Demon is precisely that it is pointless and goes nowhere. Even if you die today and feel yourself leaving your body and going to be with Jesus it could still all be part of the simulation. And equally even if the simulators suddenly stopped everything and said ‘OK everyone that was all a simulation and now you’re in the real world’, how would we know that THAT was the real world. It could be a simulation within a simulation. And you can just go on doubting and doubting like this forever.
So the upshot is that it’s pointless talking about things like the ultimate nature of reality, or what the universe really is. However, that needn’t lead to a kind of new-age relativism where we might as well just believe in astrology or whatever. It’s perfectly reasonable for someone to say that they have absolutely no idea what the universe is, but that within the universe (whatever it is), there are (probably) no ghosts, no miracles, no spiritual healings, no ESP, and so on.
Still, one good thing about going through these arguments is that at the end of it all we can see that it’s all pointless and that we should just concentrate on living.
I’ll make an attempt to get something out value of the notion of simulation. Consider your own consciousness. I won’t put this in any detail because I think detail would only obscure.. even if this is a simulation, is not your consciousness real? Or put another way, is it any less real than it would be if this was not a simulation?
To simplify consider ‘single level’ simulation, so above our ‘reality’ is ‘real reality’. In that case my big toe is not ‘as real’ as the big toe of the guy running the simulation. wrt ‘real realilty’, the simulators big toe is real but mine is only ‘virtual’. I am not sure that the same applies to my consciousness. Does that tell us something about consciousness?
Yeah, consciousness is another big issue here. Bostrom and Chalmers often claim that in the future we’ll be able to make simulations within which there are people who are conscious in exactly the same way that we’re conscious. It’s difficult to know what to make of this claim. Personally, I follow philosophers like Colin Mcginn in thinking that consciousness may be something that the human brain is just incapable of understanding, so the whole foundation of the simulation argument is a bit dodgy right from the outset.
Bostrom and Chalmers also love to distinguish between simulated worlds (of which there could be many) and the ‘real’ world, but it seems that we could raise the same questions and doubts about this ‘real’ world as well, so it just never ends. The moral of all this is simply that we can never be sure about the ultimate nature of reality, and we just have to live with that.
For me, one of the key issues here is that many atheists and theists are involved in a ridiculous debate where they’re telling people they have to choose between an all-loving all-powerful creator and no creator. But of course there are loads of other possibilities. As skeptics we should just be honest and admit we don’t have a clue what the universe is or where it comes from or whether or not there’s a creator. And even if there is some crazy jealous creator out there who wants to condemn to hell all of those people who have the wrong theology or wear the wrong clothes or whatever, we stand against it and refuse to worship it.
Without going into detail, I think the simulation hypothesis is bunk. Transhumanism always seems more like a form of techno-worship, or people forgetting that science fiction is fiction, the way some people think soap opera characters are real people. Advanced civilisations? Super powerful computers? Nested simulations - down to the detail of the speck of dust I can see on my monitor screen as I type? EE Doc Smith would be embarrassed! Suitable for thought experiments, but not for taking seriously without a continent-sized pinch of salt.
A thought experiment is all I intended in my post. If ‘simulated consciousness’ is the same as ‘consciousness’ what does that imply about the nature of consciousness?
It was said that we can say nothing about the ultimate nature of reality.
Is this true if we can say that there is no one playing “games” with us, building a wall against our inquisitive mind and the world?
Would it be true if we were not able to see the whole picture, only small parts of it, like when there were dimensions we cant understand?
Would we even have a continuous consciousness if we were somewhere on a chip?
If we wouldn’t have a physical body and the data would be moved, would we experience death?
For me, one of the key issues here is that many atheists and theists are involved in a ridiculous debate where they’re telling people they have to choose between an all-loving all-powerful creator and no creator. But of course there are loads of other possibilities.
What are those other possibilities?
Dom1978 - 02 October 2011 06:32 AM
As skeptics we should just be honest and admit we don’t have a clue what the universe is or where it comes from or whether or not there’s a creator.
What nonsense. We now have a pretty good knowledge of the universe and even some proposed explanations on its origin (according to Hawking, for example) and the evidence clearly points to the nonexistence of any deity. What you’re referring to sounds more like cynicism to me than skepticism.