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    Thread: Modal realism, quantum immortality, and the simulation argument

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      Modal realism, quantum immortality, and the simulation argument

      Most everything I know about these concepts I learned from Wikipedia, so I'll point you in that direction rather than try and come up with detailed explanations myself. As I understand it, here's the TL;DR version:

      • Modal realism: Why is there something rather than nothing? Answer: There isn't. Nothing "actually" exists. What we call "reality" is simply the fiction that we happen to live in.
      • Quantum immortality: The experience of quantum randomness is caused by the universe splitting into multiple parallel universes, one for each observed outcome. Since we cannot observe our own deaths, we will only experience those universes in which we survive, so each subjective observer "feels" immortal.
      • Simulation argument: Technologically advanced people are likely to create intricate simulations that include fully-conscious beings, who may then create simulations of their own, etc... What's the chance that we exist at the "fundamental" level? Not likely.


      Taken together, these ideas seem to point towards the "life is a dream that I wake up from when I die" view (a.k.a. the "Inception delusion"). Basically, if there is more than one "reality" (whether because of modal realism, or because of quantum many-worlds), then there are many different situations that are subjectively indistinguishable from what I'm experiencing right now. Of those, many (most?) will end up with me feeling like I'm dying. In some of those, I cease to exist entirely. In others, some miraculous quantum fluctuation results in me surviving. In others, everything turns out to have been a dream/simulation. The immortality argument says that I can only experience the possibilities in which I survive, and the simulation argument says that this is much more likely to happen because I'm a simulation, than to happen by miraculous quantum luck. Therefore, I should expect to awaken from a simulation when I die (or, at least, be reloaded into a different simulation).

      Does this sound convincing? What do you think?

      I'm somewhat apprehensive to explore the full ramifications of this idea. It might have catastrophic consequences for common-sense ethics; in particular, it could cause one to have drastically less value for one's own life and the lives of others. The self-preservation instinct in me says: Live in this world, and in this world alone. Anything else is the first step along the long road to madness.

      But still, it's fun to speculate, isn't it?
      Last edited by Toch; 12-08-2011 at 10:48 AM.

    2. #2
      Xei
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      Cool thread, newbie.

      Modal realism: how do you define 'reality'? I don't think any useful definition of reality can lead you to conclude that it doesn't exist; reality seems pretty much equivalent to 'existence' to me, and clearly we and our subjective experiences exist.

      Quantum immortality: it's dubious. The nature of 'observer' in physics is still hotly debated. And it seems to me that there is a problem; even if you grant that at any particular time you will enter a universe in which you survive, there's no reason to enter universes in which your extended survival is preferred. In other words, you will live out a normal human life and gradually deteriorate in health, eventually becoming extremely ill. There's no 'feedback' from the future causing you to enter universes where you are healthy forever.

      Simulation argument: this argument often supposes that you can embed universes in universes forever. In reality, due to finite fidelity, there must be a lack of total information at each level. It can't go on forever; most likely it can't even go very far.

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      Quantum Immortality does not mean we're actually physically existing in multiple dimensions at the same time. Consider Chaos Theory. The physical requirements to exist create a range of possible manifestations. Which one is actualized depends upon Chaos.

      You've explained the other theories well enough though. We project ourselves into the waking world for the purpose of isolating our dimensional perception. We are and always have been a conscious sort of nothingness manifest from infinite potential. We cannot die but everything that is conceptual can, some of these things live in our head and require us to let them go in order for them to transform into a new type of fiction. All in all I find your ideas to be pretty good. You might like the new theory on time-traveling that's buzzing around. It basically states the universe would instantly collapse all wave functions (possibilities) that are impossible time-loops. So the universe could go into rather extreme manifestations in order to prevent you from fucking your own grandmother.
      Last edited by nina; 12-10-2011 at 02:03 AM.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      But really, how can you say anything about reality but with what you, as an individual among eclectic phenomena, experience? If this all somehow really sums up to 'nothing', it's still a part of existence.
      Last edited by Wayfaerer; 12-09-2011 at 11:25 PM.

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      Modal Realism is the concept that everything that exists is within our minds and not in objective reality. We make it up as we go, visualizing the universe. It is a distinct view from solipsism which believe everything is literally just in our heads. I'm talking more about the function of manifestation. But like i said before, I won't bother explaining it to someone who won't listen in the first place.
      Last edited by nina; 12-10-2011 at 02:05 AM.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      Modal realism: I don't think we can ignore the human experience and somehow call it fake or an illusion, not completely anyway.
      Quantum immortality: cool idea I guess? Doesn't really mean anything of much significance to me.
      Simulation argument: maybe, wouldn't go as far as 'probable' though.

      Quote Originally Posted by Omnis Dei View Post
      I'm talking more about the function of manifestation. But like i said before, I won't bother explaining it to someone who won't listen in the first place.
      I'm actually interested now, I'll listen. Are you saying that everyone shares a sort of averaging of what they collectively believe reality to be or something?
      Last edited by nina; 12-10-2011 at 02:06 AM.

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      Not really. This concept is very difficult to articulate. Basically wave functions aren't working with anything real, it's all just waves and these waves are dependent upon an observer to function. This means that there is no matter, there is no atom, there is nothing but wave-functions enabled by perception. These wave functions are not created by an averaging of different perceptions. The actualized is still created mostly out of chaos theory. If you buy into the power of Intention, you still have to realize that intention has to battle chaos and will take on the details chaos gives it. (You also have to realize that desire is not the same as expectation)
      Last edited by Omnis Dei; 12-09-2011 at 11:36 PM.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      I didn't really get any solid points from that.

      "Basically wave functions aren't working with anything real, it's all just waves and these waves are dependent upon an observer to function. This means that there is no matter, there is no atom, there is nothing but wave-functions enabled by perception"

      Can you explain this more, wave functions of what if not anything? And where does perception come from in all this nothing but wave functions of nothing?

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      Perception is default to existence from this point of view because nothing exists in universes without perception to actualize it. But nothing doesn't mean nothing. It really just means infinite potential. There is no something and no nothing. There's a stage and that which can be seen upon the stage, but these two are not distinct. The something that can be seen upon the stage is not actually anything more than a project of the viewer against void. Void is not black. Void takes on absolutely no qualities and is therefore impossible to view without viewing stuff first in order to account for the change.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      Alright, I think I'm just gonna stick to science for now. If what your saying starts to be supported mathematically, I'll give it more consideration then.

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      Xei
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      Quote Originally Posted by Omnis Dei View Post
      Basically wave functions aren't working with anything real, it's all just waves and these waves are dependent upon an observer to function.
      The opposite is true. The entire point of a wavefunction is that it stops existing when it is observed; the probabilities it represents are actualised into a single event instead of a wave. So what do you mean?

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      I think he's saying that the wavefunctions aren't describing the possibilities of any specific thing, they're just wavefunctions somehow, which I don't understand either.
      Last edited by Wayfaerer; 12-10-2011 at 12:17 AM.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Wayfaerer View Post
      Alright, I think I'm just gonna stick to science for now. If what your saying starts to be supported mathematically, I'll give it more consideration then.
      I understand this standpoint completely. Much like my extra dimension thread, I'm trying to articulate something that, in my normal state of mind, is completely beyond my capabilities. But I find your attitude that something requires numerical values to be true to be a little dismissive. One can use thought experiments to determine a rational version of reality and it can also make sense where as abstract math cannot be comprehended conceptually.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      I just need a stronger structure to build my views of what is closest to reality than ideas. Imagining thought experiments are what open up the ways to finer scrutiny, but in themselves are not enough. Mathematics are what actually crystallize the ideas into something beautiful and convincing.
      Dianeva likes this.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Wayfaerer View Post
      I just need a stronger structure to build my views of what is closest to reality than ideas. Imagining thought experiments are what open up the ways to finer scrutiny, but in themselves are not enough. Mathematics are what actually crystallize the ideas into something beautiful and convincing.
      I find beauty through thought experiments when they do crystallize. I can understand why it may not take to everyone though, but I'm more concerned with being aware of how the world works rather than being able to recite how the world works.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      When ideas work out mathematically, it's not just reciting something we already knew, it's discovering which idea most closely describes how the world works with experimentally quantitative proof. Thinking you already know how existence works is very premature in my view, let alone knowing it without such quantitative guidance.
      Last edited by Wayfaerer; 12-10-2011 at 01:20 AM.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Wayfaerer View Post
      When ideas work out mathematically, it's not just reciting something we already knew, it's discovering which idea most closely describes how the world works with experimentally quantitative proof. Thinking you already know how the world works is very premature in my view, let alone knowing it without such experimental proof.
      I honestly don't know how the world works but one thing I do know is that I'm not really concerned with objective truth or true information. I agree that mathematically proven ideas are most solid and can be relied upon more effectively than ideas not relative to mathematical proof. But what I'm saying is figuring out how the measure shit does not mean you're seeing anything as it actually is. It doesn't change your perception unless you coincide it with thought experiments that allow you to relate it to perception. I am looking for the widest possible perception/awareness, the one which encompasses the most possible truth in the moment. So far I have not seen a mathematician articulate more wisdom than an average person. Except maybe Niels Bohr, but he would side with me on this one.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      Why would you say that? He was a living manifestation of my side...

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      I was going with the Urban Legend though I think it was ascribed to him in the first place because of his character. He did originate the quote "You're not thinking, you're just being logical."

      But the example I was thinking of was the Barometer Problem which I just learned was actually falsely associated with Bohr. It's still a pretty good example what I'm trying to say. A history professor asks the question, "How can you measure the height of a building using only a barometer?" Assuming there was only one possible answer: measuring and comparing the differences in pressure on the top and bottom. One student answers that you could tie a string to a barometer and hang it off the top of the building then measure the string and add the barometer length. When the teacher told him this was not the answer he was looking for the student goes on to list other examples such as going down the stairwell and marking barometer units on the wall or dropping the barometer from the top of the building and timing its fall. Finally when the teacher asked for the simplest/easiest answer the student said he would simply find the building manager and offer him a shiny new barometer in return for the building height.
      Last edited by Omnis Dei; 12-10-2011 at 02:11 AM.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      Cleaned up some off-topic junk, keep it respectful guys.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      Modal realism: how do you define 'reality'? I don't think any useful definition of reality can lead you to conclude that it doesn't exist; reality seems pretty much equivalent to 'existence' to me, and clearly we and our subjective experiences exist.
      Quote Originally Posted by Omnis Dei View Post
      Modal Realism is the concept that everything that exists is within our minds and not in objective reality. We make it up as we go, visualizing the universe. It is a distinct view from solipsism which believe everything is literally just in our heads.
      Quote Originally Posted by Wayfaerer View Post
      But really, how can you say anything about reality but with what you, as an individual among eclectic phenomena, experience? If this all somehow really sums up to 'nothing', it's still a part of existence.
      I think there are some misconceptions here that impel me to explain a little more about what modal realism is, and why I find it convincing (with one important exception).

      The fundamental problem of existence is this: Why should the universe exist at all? As Stephen Hawking wrote in A Brief History of Time:

      "Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?"

      Modal realism is an attempt to answer (or, if you prefer, "un-ask") this question. It is not a mathematical or scientific theory. Rather, it is a philosophical view regarding the concept of "existence" itself.

      We can follow the progression from common sense to modal realism in a few short steps:

      1. We, conscious beings, exist in some form. (Okay, pretty uncontroversial so far.)
      2. Our consciousness is based on a physical substrate, namely, our brains. (A few people might dispute this, but everything we know about neuroscience, not to mention Occam's Razor, points in this direction.)
      3. Therefore, if we built a neuron-for-neuron simulation of a human brain, that brain would still be conscious. The physical manifestation of this simulation doesn't matter -- it could be an entirely virtual system running on a supercomputer. For all the brain knows and cares, it exists and is conscious.
      4. Therefore, a sufficiently detailed description of the simulation would be a description from which it is possible to deduce that the thing described is a conscious entity.
      5. In other words: The world described is a world in which conscious beings exist. That such a world may exist only as a description doesn't matter to the people living within it -- to them, they feel perfectly conscious and the world feels perfectly real.
      6. In fact, why is it necessary for someone from our world to write up a description of the fictional-world in order for the fictional-people to feel real, within their own world? It isn't.
      7. Therefore, we have no way of knowing in principle whether our world "really" exists or not. A world identical to ours which exists only hypothetically would to us be indistinguishable from one that exists "actually".


      Finally, we conclude that there is no meaningful distinction between "hypothetical" and "actual" existence, and so all possible worlds are "real" as seen from within. That is modal realism, in a nutshell.

      The opponent may say: Modal realism holds that "All possible worlds exist." Isn't this a flagrant violation of Occam's Razor, by postulating the existence of a huge number of entities which are not empirically observable?

      But when we examine the argument more closely, we see that modal realism is actually the most triumphant fulfillment of Occam's Razor. By eliminating the unobservable distinction between "hypothetical" and "actual" existence, modal realism removes our own universe from the ontologically privileged position that it occupies in other accounts, in much the same way that Copernicus's theory removed the Earth from its privileged position in the cosmology of his day.

      There is one question that I think modal realism leaved unanswered, however: Why do we seem to live in an orderly universe that obeys mathematical laws, rather than in a totally chaotic one? After all, among the space of possible universes, the ones that consistently obey mathematical laws all the time are few and far between. Perhaps it is possible to argue that an orderly universe is simpler, and thus subjectively more likely to be observed. However, I haven't seen anyone explain this successfully.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Toch View Post
      4. Therefore, a sufficiently detailed description of the simulation would be a description from which it is possible to deduce that the thing described is a conscious entity.
      5. In other words: The world described is a world in which conscious beings exist. That such a world may exist only as a description doesn't matter to the people living within it -- to them, they feel perfectly conscious and the world feels perfectly real.
      6. In fact, why is it necessary for someone from our world to write up a description of the fictional-world in order for the fictional-people to feel real, within their own world? It isn't.
      I may have misunderstood the argument, but I don't see how one goes from "we can describe a world in which conscious things exist" to "those conscious things really do exist." There are no people living in that world to feel conscious. It's hypothetical. For them to really be conscious, they would need to have physical brains. Why do modal realists think a description of consciousness implies actual consciousness?
      Last edited by Dianeva; 12-10-2011 at 12:55 PM.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dianeva View Post
      Why do modal realists think a description of consciousness implies actual consciousness?
      We have to be careful when using terms such as "actual" and "real" in a conversation such as this. As Wikipedia says, modal realism says that

      the term actual in actual world is indexical, i.e. any subject can declare their world to be the actual one, much as they label the place they are "here" and the time they are "now".

      Suppose we denote our own world as "O", and some hypothetical world as "M". Modal realists don't believe that "a description of consciousness implies actual(O) consciousness." It's more accurate to say "a description of consciousness implies actual(M) consciousness." In other words, consciousness that is actual within the world being described.

      To make it more clear, let's forget about consciousness for the moment. Suppose that "M" denotes the world described in Lord of the Rings. Clearly it is false that "Frodo Baggins exists(O)", but it is nevertheless true that "Frodo Baggins exists(M)".

      This so far is just kind of trivial wordplay. However, the insight of modal realism is not so much this, as it is the assertion that there is no "absolute" existence. All existence is "in" some world or another. By convention we refer to O-existence as "actual" existence, but that does not mean that our world has a more firm foundation than other worlds, just that it's the one that we happen to live in.

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      I've heard of the idea of separate universes for each outcome before, however:

      Quote Originally Posted by Toch View Post
      Since we cannot observe our own deaths, we will only experience those universes in which we survive, so each subjective observer "feels" immortal


      I simply adore DV for how often it does this to me compared to other things I am involved in.

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      Unless our perception can observe its body die.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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