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Are we living in a simulation? This MIT scientist says itís more likely than not Rate Topic: -----

#1 User is offline   MTP Reggie 

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Posted 12 April 2019 - 07:34 AM

Are we living in a simulation? This MIT scientist says it's more likely than not

Dyllan Furness
POSTED ON 04.9.19 - 1:00AM PST
Digital Trends

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What if I told you that physical reality is an illusion and we all live in a computer simulation?

That hypothesis, famously probed in the 1999 film The Matrix, is the subject of a new book by Rizwan Virk, a computer scientist and video game developer who leads Play Labs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In his book, The Simulation Hypothesis, Virk endeavors to unpack the heady arguments that call our physical world into question.

Are we all just artificial intelligence (A.I.) programs running on the basement servers of some advanced future civilization? Or perhaps the Wachowskis were on to something when they depicted modern society as an illusion used to enslave our minds, as our bodies powered a dystopian planet ruled by robots. Maybe there really is no spoon.

It may sound like a far-fetched idea, but the simulation hypothesis is today discussed seriously in academia and more popularly by people like Elon Musk.

We spoke to Virk about the hypothesis, why it matters, and why it has gained traction 20 years after The Matrix hit theaters. The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Digital Trends: The simulation hypothesis is a complex and controversial topic. What first got you interested in writing a book about it?

Rizwan Virk: I had an experience playing virtual reality ping pong and the responsiveness was very real to the point where I forgot that I was in a room with VR glasses on. When the game ended, I put the paddle on the table but, of course, there was no paddle and there was no table, so the controller fell to the floor. I even leaned over onto the table and almost fell over. That experience really got me thinking about how video game technology is evolving and how it could end up being so fully immersive that we would be unable to distinguish it from reality.

Describe the simulation hypothesis for people who aren't familiar with it.

The basic idea is that everything we see around us, including the Earth and the universe, is part of a very sophisticated MMORPG (a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game) and that we are players in this game. The hypothesis itself comes in different forms.

"The basic idea is that everything we see around us is part of a very sophisticated MMORPG."

In one version, we're all A.I. within a simulation that's running on somebody else's computer. In another version, we are "player characters," conscious things that exist outside the simulation and we inhabit characters, just like you might take on the character of an elf or dwarf in a fantasy RPG.

So, for example, in The Matrix there's that famous scene where Morpheus gives Neo the choice between the red pill or the blue pill. When he takes the red pill, he wakes up (in a vat) in the real world, where he controlled his (simulation) character. He was jacked in through a physical cable in his neocortex. In that particular version of the simulation hypothesis, we are conscious or biological beings outside of the simulation and each of us controls a character.

When The Matrix first came out, the simulation hypothesis seemed purely science fictional. Why do you think it's taken more seriously today?

The first reason is that video game technology has advanced and we can now have millions of players on a shared server. Also, 3D-rendering technology has gotten really good. We can actually represent 3D objects in 3D worlds. In the '80s and early '90s, there wasn't enough computing power to render a world like World of Warcraft or Fortnite. It relied on us being able to build optimization techniques that allowed us to render just what the character sees. A third of [my] book is dedicated to video game technology, how it evolved in the past, and what the stages are to get from where we are today to a "simulation point," (where simulation is indistinguishable from reality).

"Probability says you are more likely a simulated being than a biological one."

The other big reason why scientists and academics are starting to take it seriously is Oxford professor Nick Bostrom, who wrote an article in 2003 called "Are You Living in a Simulation?" He came up with a clever statistical argument for the simulation hypothesis. He says, suppose some civilization somewhere gets to the simulation point and can create highly realistic "ancestor simulations." With more computing power, they can spin off new servers and new civilizations really quickly. Each of those servers can have billions or trillions of simulated beings within them. Therefore, the number of simulated beings is way more than the number of biological beings. If just one civilization reaches the simulation point, probability says you are likely a simulated being because there are way more simulated beings in existence than biological ones.

(snip)


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#2 User is offline   spt 

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Posted 12 April 2019 - 08:58 AM

This reminds me of the first day of philosophy class. My professor challenged us to prove to him that he exists and wasn't a product of our imagination.
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#3 User is offline   bigpapa 

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Posted 12 April 2019 - 09:17 AM

View Postspt, on 12 April 2019 - 08:58 AM, said:

This reminds me of the first day of philosophy class. My professor challenged us to prove to him that he exists and wasn't a product of our imagination.

I got that question from a stoner one time in college. I told him I couldn't prove that he existed, because he didn't exist. He was merely a product of my mind. His awareness was proof of my existence.

He didn't try that crap with me again.

This post has been edited by bigpapa: 12 April 2019 - 09:17 AM

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#4 User is offline   Severian 

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Posted 12 April 2019 - 09:56 AM

View Postspt, on 12 April 2019 - 08:58 AM, said:

This reminds me of the first day of philosophy class. My professor challenged us to prove to him that he exists and wasn't a product of our imagination.

Tell him then there's no reason for you to come to class then!

Coincidentally, I just saw the movie "The Thirteenth Floor" again recently. In it people are running a simulation of the 1930s or such, and can dive into the sim to live the lives of certain people. One person in the sim find out by driving out where no one goes, and the landscape turns into wireframe. Then the scientist/programmer in our world drives out past a do not enter road closed sign a long ways and sees our world turn to wireframe. Eventually he winds up with his consciousness in the world above ours, but of course who knows if that's the end.

These kinds of films, The Matrix, etc. are tailor made to drive paranoid schizophrenics even more nuts.
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#5 User is offline   MontyPython 

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Posted 12 April 2019 - 09:56 AM

(The Moody Blues were onto this decades ago):

I think...I think I am...therefore I am...I think.

Of course you are my bright little star!
I've miles and miles of files
Pretty files of your forefather's fruit
And now to suit our great computer
You're magnetic ink.

I'm more than that, I know I am, at least, I think I must be.

There you go man, keep as cool as you can.
Face piles and piles of trials with smiles.
It riles them to believe that you perceive the web they weave
And keep on thinking free.
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#6 User is offline   MTP Reggie 

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Posted 12 April 2019 - 10:00 AM

View PostSeverian, on 12 April 2019 - 09:56 AM, said:

... tailor made to drive paranoid schizophrenics even more nuts.


One of the items on my Bucket List is to stick my head in side the door of a psych ward that houses paranoid schizos and shout, "HEY! YOU!".
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#7 User is offline   Severian 

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Posted 12 April 2019 - 10:53 AM

One of my favorite authors, Philip K. Dick, was a paranoid schizophrenic, and it sure shows in his later works. He could write reality bending stories from the inside out.

The latest "Black Mirror" episode, "Bandersnatch," is custom made to drive paranoid schizophrenics nuts. You get to choose how the story progresses, at various points you have to make a decision between two paths, and if you pick a dead end it will route you back and force a different decision. In the story the character goes nuts because he feels someone else is controlling his life and choices, and in watching it you get the feeling you aren't completely in control either. Thing should come with a warning for the mentally ill to not watch.
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#8 User is offline   Junto 

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Posted 12 April 2019 - 11:51 AM

View PostSeverian, on 12 April 2019 - 10:53 AM, said:

One of my favorite authors, Philip K. Dick, was a paranoid schizophrenic, and it sure shows in his later works. He could write reality bending stories from the inside out.

The latest "Black Mirror" episode, "Bandersnatch," is custom made to drive paranoid schizophrenics nuts. You get to choose how the story progresses, at various points you have to make a decision between two paths, and if you pick a dead end it will route you back and force a different decision. In the story the character goes nuts because he feels someone else is controlling his life and choices, and in watching it you get the feeling you aren't completely in control either. Thing should come with a warning for the mentally ill to not watch.

"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." - Philip K. Dick
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#9 User is offline   spt 

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Posted 12 April 2019 - 11:58 AM

View Postbigpapa, on 12 April 2019 - 09:17 AM, said:

I got that question from a stoner one time in college. I told him I couldn't prove that he existed, because he didn't exist. He was merely a product of my mind. His awareness was proof of my existence.

He didn't try that crap with me again.

One of the guys in our class said his imagination couldn't create something so bad. We all got a good laugh including the professor.
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#10 User is offline   Junto 

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Posted 12 April 2019 - 05:05 PM



Skip around through this video. Here someone made a functional graphing calculator inside of Minecraft. A 'real' one, out of 'physical' blocks.

Imagine in the future we get better and better with our ability to program and design AI (code) to the point where we can create truly self-learning AI that can self learn from input to be as smart or smarter than a human. An AI that can be made to be self-aware, and aware of it's surroundings and can manipulate it's surroundings like humans can. At the same time our processing capabilities get many many times more powerful, and we create a 'Minecraft' world much more complex. We can even mimic our perceived reality by using our knowledge of physics/quantum physics to construct said world. How would this AI's reality be different than ours? The more they studied their universe, and used mathematics to study it and construct machines to research and observe it more closely it would just begin to understand their universe is really just a construct based on mathematics, algorithms, code, etc.

The AI inside of this Minecraft world of our creating would never see that it is actually running on Windows 15, or what processor our computer had, or the hard drive space or the low-level code that is going on beneath it all. All the 0's and 1's, all the drivers and protocols that run all the components. They could use math to break down the math that controls/binds/creates their world. This is where we are at in our reality.

There is an offshoot of the Simulation hypothesis, or a version of it from physicists, etc that says that what we know of the quantum world, of quantum particles or the elementary particles/forces points to the fact that we are in a simulation or some sort of constructed reality/universe, and that fundamentally the forces and fields that cause everything in this universe to function, gives order or the systems therein are really some manifestation of the underlying code. The attributes or variables assigned to elementary particles and forces cause everything we can see or feel.

If you change the precise values given to these particles (energy values of quarks, etc), nothing in the universe works. It as if it was all coded to work very precisely, and the outcome is we can perceive the world or universe around us. We are just very very very complexly coded players in a very very very complexly coded Minecraft world - so to speak. Everything you are, or feel, see, smell, etc. is based on the interactions of very very very small standing waves of energy. There is nothing 'real' about you or me when you look very closely.

There are levels to the programming or coding. How quantum particles work and behave, with probabilities, etc is much different than how things on a more macro level work. Chemistry, Newton's physics, etc work or appear to behave much easier and better for us to understand, but this is because that is how it is all programmed to be. To actually have to process what every particle is doing in our Minecraft universe of say, 14 billion light years in any direction would take stupendous processing capabilities.

In our universe, we don't observe it at that level either, and really only very rarely and carefully do we observe it like that. Otherwise it all works how it was meant to - I touch a wall and I feel solid sheet rock. I don't see atoms or molecules arranged in a crystalline or chemical structure, or even close see standing waves of energy arranged in staggeringly complex ways. I feel it and it's real to me.

For me then is the jumping off point where Christianity or the Bible comes into play about what it says our reality is or how it was created and by whom. We are told that this is not the prime universe, that in fact God exists outside of this universe in what we'll call the Prime universe. Time, space - the whole universe exists separate from the Prime universe. God is not bound by any of the things we are just as we would not be bound by the systems or universe in our Minecraft world. It begins to explain or make sense of how a 'man' can come here, and walk on water, cause an entire region's weather pattern to change instantly, etc. It also helps to understand what the promise this 'man' gave us about being saved from within this universe - to instantly upon death being pulled from it to exist in the Prime universe.
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#11 User is offline   zurg 

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Posted 12 April 2019 - 07:44 PM

Of course the AI dude who never raves his computer and video games thinks everything is a video game. What an idiot.
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#12 User is offline   Junto 

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Posted 12 April 2019 - 08:07 PM

View Postzurg, on 12 April 2019 - 07:44 PM, said:

Of course the AI dude who never raves his computer and video games thinks everything is a video game. What an idiot.

I don't like the video game analogy. I think a Westworld analogy is closer. But to use either analogy, we have really begun in the past 200 hundred years to reverse engineer how our universe is constructed. The evidence seems to reveal a universe coded like a game or Westworld. Systems upon systems, coding upon coding.

Simulation hypothesis = we are close to being able to recreate our reality (or another)in a synthetic way indistinguishable from our actual reality. When we eventually do this we will either be the first intelligent beings to do so, or we most likely exist inside one of someone else's designed reality (Christianity is aligned with the second possibility).

This post has been edited by Junto: 12 April 2019 - 08:07 PM

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