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    1. #1
      DuB
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      The Simulation Argument: Why we are most likely living in a Matrix

      Step 1: Watch this 2 minute interview clip with David Chalmers:
      http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/254?in=47:18&out=49:22

      Step 2: Read this excerpt from an article written by the creator of the simulation argument:
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Bostrom
      Now we get to the core of the simulation argument. This does not purport to demonstrate that you are in a simulation. Instead, it shows that we should accept as true at least one of the following three propositions:
      1. The chances that a species at our current level of development can avoid going extinct before becoming technologically mature is negligibly small
      2. Almost no technologically mature civilisations are interested in running computer simulations of minds like ours
      3. You are almost certainly in a simulation.
      Each of these three propositions may be prima facie implausible; yet, if the simulation argument is correct, at least one is true (it does not tell us which).


      While the full simulation argument employs some probability theory and formalism, the gist of it can be understood in intuitive terms. Suppose that proposition (1) is false. Then a significant fraction of all species at our level of development eventually becomes technologically mature. Suppose, further, that (2) is false, too. Then some significant fraction of these species that have become technologically mature will use some portion of their computational resources to run computer simulations of minds like ours. But, as we saw earlier, the number of simulated minds that any such technologically mature civilisation could run is astronomically huge.


      Therefore, if both (1) and (2) are false, there will be an astronomically huge number of simulated minds like ours. If we work out the numbers, we find that there would be vastly many more such simulated minds than there would be non-simulated minds running on organic brains. In other words, almost all minds like yours, having the kinds of experiences that you have, would be simulated rather than biological. Therefore, by a very weak principle of indifference, you would have to think that you are probably one of these simulated minds rather than one of the exceptional ones that are running on biological neurons.
      Step 3: Discuss.

    2. #2
      Xei
      UnitedKingdom Xei is offline
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      It's interesting. I wonder though, to what extent information can be preserved through these speculative 'layers' of simulation. It seems to me that there is a maximum. Once you hit this maximum, if you want more information in one level of your simulation, you'd have to reduce some of the information in the layer above it. As an example, say some people on one level were trying to build a computer simulation. This would require them to represent bits. If they did this with maximum efficiency perhaps they could do this so that one of their bits corresponded to a single bit in the machine that was simulating them, although practically I'm sure it'd be a much lower ratio, so information is lost. A simulation at one level has at least the expense of an equal amount of information in some higher level.

      So in fact the maximum number of people you can have is the amount you can simulate using the 'real' universe'. Any simulations within that simulation reduce the number.

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      My general feeling towards it is that it may or may not be true, and I don't care about whether it is, because it doesn't really matter.

      His argument is flawed because it assumes the final condition, and then disguises it as a probability. It breaks down into: "ASSUMING the vast majority of entities in existence are simulated, chances are that we are among those entities." That is not the same as saying, "chances are, the majority of entities are simulated." This is pure speculation, and an interesting mental exercise, but it is in no way an argument in favour of the "we live in the Matrix" view.

      Furthermore, he talks about "living in something like the Matrix" and "The Sims" as if they were analogous, when in fact, they are ENTIRELY different. The big difference being that the Sims cannot exist outside of their universe, and cannot, by definition, "wake up" from their universe. If you are a Sim, and I am the player, and I save my game and turn off the computer for the night, and reload my saved game the next morning, you, as a Sim, do not experience "darkness" or "a storm" or any kind of interruption in your existence that you notice. Why? Because your consciousness is PART of the simulation. The matrix, on the other hand, was a very, very convincing virtual reality video game. The brains that were playing said game were not part of it. You could wake someone up, and they would remember the Matrix.

      Anyway, here's some fun:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMXME2pm83c

    4. #4
      DuB
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      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      It's interesting. I wonder though, to what extent information can be preserved through these speculative 'layers' of simulation.
      I think there's a simple solution to this problem: lossless data compression algorithms. Briefly, for those not familiar, these work by eliminating the redundancies that are present in data. For example, let's say we have a file which contains 5 instances of an entity we'll call X. X is some package of information, perhaps a paragraph of text, perhaps an image, whatever. One way for us to structure this file would be:
      [X X X X X]
      That's a lot of redundancy. We can represent this same data (i.e., no loss of information) by structuring the file some way similar to this:
      [5 of: X]
      Making the very reasonable assumption that it's far more economical to represent the concept "5 of" then it is to represent 4 instances of X, we just reduced our file size dramatically.

      The amount of redundancy in our world is staggering. Is it really necessary to code the information for a particular shade of red for every single particle anywhere that reflects light just so? Is it necessary to have complete, separate representations of every single DNA molecule in my body? Sure, some of them are different enough from one another that they deserve to have a separate instance, but how many are exactly the same, only in a different part of my body? How about electrons? The potential for lossless compression is huge enough that I think we can, in principle, simulate multiple universes within ours that are just as informationally rich as our own.

      But here's the question: Have we only bought ourselves one extra "level," or is it possible for the compressed, simulated world to do the same thing in turn?

      Quote Originally Posted by Replicon View Post
      it doesn't really matter.
      Agreed. The "lucky ones," in my opinion, are not all that lucky.

      Quote Originally Posted by Replicon View Post
      His argument is flawed because it assumes the final condition, and then disguises it as a probability. It breaks down into: "ASSUMING the vast majority of entities in existence are simulated, chances are that we are among those entities." That is not the same as saying, "chances are, the majority of entities are simulated." This is pure speculation, and an interesting mental exercise, but it is in no way an argument in favour of the "we live in the Matrix" view.
      It's easy to come away with this impression after hearing the relatively informal treatment given it by Chalmers, but I think that the excerpt by Bostrom makes it pretty clear that the argument does not assume its correctness. (And if you're interested, the original philosophical paper is available online here.) It says that if we reject both of the first two propositions, then it is logically incoherent to reject the third proposition. The only two preconditions for this argument which are not made explicit in the above excerpt are that (a) functionalism is true, and (b) it is in principle possible to simulate a universe with the necessary level of detail. As Bostrom points out in his paper, these are both relatively uncontroversial assumptions. The "argument," then is simply that we should acknowledge that there is a nontrivial probability that we are part of a simulation.

      We can make a rough estimate of what this probability is. The third proposition is true if and only if both of the first two are false. Both of those propositions probably warrant debates unto themselves, but we can be both nonpartial and conservative by assuming that each is as likely to be true as false. In other words, the probability of each of the first two being true is 50%. Simple probabilistic reasoning then tells us that the probability of the third proposition being true is 25%. We can probably never know the true probability, but it is reasonable to assign a 1 in 4 chance to the possibility that we are right now in a simulation.

      Quote Originally Posted by Replicon View Post
      Furthermore, he talks about "living in something like the Matrix" and "The Sims" as if they were analogous, when in fact, they are ENTIRELY different. The big difference being that the Sims cannot exist outside of their universe, and cannot, by definition, "wake up" from their universe. If you are a Sim, and I am the player, and I save my game and turn off the computer for the night, and reload my saved game the next morning, you, as a Sim, do not experience "darkness" or "a storm" or any kind of interruption in your existence that you notice. Why? Because your consciousness is PART of the simulation. The matrix, on the other hand, was a very, very convincing virtual reality video game. The brains that were playing said game were not part of it. You could wake someone up, and they would remember the Matrix.
      This is all based on a misunderstanding of the argument -- to be fair, an entirely understandable one considering how Chalmers explained it (in the interview they had been discussing the movie). The simulation argument is not called the Matrix argument, because it's arguing for the possibly that we live in a simulation, not The Matrix(tm). Taken in this light (in which it was intended), these objections disappear.

      And thanks for the video -- that was great!

    5. #5
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      Refutation of simulation argument: Occam's Razor. Simplest solution is probably correct. I find it hard to believe that I'm hooked up to a flawless simulation of reality while the "machines" rule us. Far too many variables, far too unlikely. Though we shall never know for sure, I guess.

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      Does this article lend credence to the simulation theory at all? Or perhaps i am taking it too literally?

      Quote Originally Posted by Our World May Be A Giant Hologram
      For many months, the GEO600 team-members had been scratching their heads over inexplicable noise that is plaguing their giant detector. Then, out of the blue, a researcher approached them with an explanation. In fact, he had even predicted the noise before he knew they were detecting it. According to Craig Hogan, a physicist at the Fermilab particle physics lab in Batavia, Illinois, GEO600 has stumbled upon the fundamental limit of space-time - the point where space-time stops behaving like the smooth continuum Einstein described and instead dissolves into "grains", just as a newspaper photograph dissolves into dots as you zoom in. "It looks like GEO600 is being buffeted by the microscopic quantum convulsions of space-time," says Hogan.

      If this doesn't blow your socks off, then Hogan, who has just been appointed director of Fermilab's Center for Particle Astrophysics, has an even bigger shock in store: "If the GEO600 result is what I suspect it is, then we are all living in a giant cosmic hologram."

      http://www.newscientist.com/article/...-hologram.html

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      Miss Sixy <span class='glow_FFFFFF'>Maria92</span>'s Avatar
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      ...what about quantum foam?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_foam

      Quantum foam, also referred to as spacetime foam, is a concept in quantum mechanics, devised by John Wheeler in 1955. The foam is supposedly the foundations of the fabric of the universe,[1] but it can also be used as a qualitative description of subatomic spacetime turbulence at extremely small distances of the order of the Planck length. At such small scales of time and space the uncertainty principle allows particles and energy to briefly come into existence, and then annihilate, without violating conservation laws. As the scale of time and space being discussed shrinks, the energy of the virtual particles increases. Since energy curves spacetime according to Einstein's theory of general relativity, this suggests that at sufficiently small scales the energy of the fluctuations would be large enough to cause significant departures from the smooth spacetime seen at larger scales, giving spacetime a "foamy" character. However, without a theory of quantum gravity it is impossible to be certain what spacetime would look like at these scales, since it is thought that existing theories do not give accurate predictions in this domain. However, observations of radiation from nearby quasars by Floyd Stecker of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., have placed strong limits on the possible violations of Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity implied by the existence of quantum foam.[2]
      I buy that more than the "hologram" idea.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      It's interesting. I wonder though, to what extent information can be preserved through these speculative 'layers' of simulation. It seems to me that there is a maximum. Once you hit this maximum, if you want more information in one level of your simulation, you'd have to reduce some of the information in the layer above it. As an example, say some people on one level were trying to build a computer simulation. This would require them to represent bits. If they did this with maximum efficiency perhaps they could do this so that one of their bits corresponded to a single bit in the machine that was simulating them, although practically I'm sure it'd be a much lower ratio, so information is lost. A simulation at one level has at least the expense of an equal amount of information in some higher level.

      So in fact the maximum number of people you can have is the amount you can simulate using the 'real' universe'. Any simulations within that simulation reduce the number.
      The thing here though is that the "real universe", or "multiverse" really, is absolutely infinite, so that there is always a world bigger/more complex than the world you're in. There is no "top level" "real universe" that limits the amount of information there is to go around. No matter how complex the world you're in, there is ALWAYS the possibility of a world orders of magnitude more complex in which a sophisticated machine could be executing your world as a bit of code.

      I see it as easily imaginable that our entire existence could be carried out as little more than a simple diversion in some far more complex world, possibly just as a screensaver

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      It's true, I mostly skimmed the written part and based what I said on the video.

      So then. What if I just accept proposition 1 as true? I think the likelihood that we will go extinct before reaching a level of techological maturity that would allow us to persist indefinitely is much higher than the likelihood that we're in a simulation. Especially at the rate we're going.

      I'm not sure what the proposition means by "technological maturity" though. It might be about "ability to survive indefinitely, in spite of what happens to our planet, etc." (to argue that the number of level-0 species in existence is always increasing on average) It might also be about reaching a point where we can simulate a real universe that is at a level of richness similar to ours.

      Of course, if we ARE a simulation, then it's fair to assume that the world outer to ours has a level of complexity such that, relatively to it, we are like the sims relatively to us haha. It's not an impossibility. But it's also not worth worrying about.

    10. #10
      Member Specialis Sapientia's Avatar
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      To further support Bostrom's argument I present this:

      The Physical World as a Virtual Reality by Brian Whitworth.

      http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0801/0801.0337.pdf

      Abstract
      This paper explores the idea that the universe is a virtual reality created by information
      processing, and relates this strange idea to the findings of modern physics about the physical
      world. The virtual reality concept is familiar to us from online worlds, but our world as a virtual
      reality is usually a subject for science fiction rather than science. Yet logically the world could be
      an information simulation running on a multi-dimensional space-time screen. Indeed, if the
      essence of the universe is information, matter, charge, energy and movement could be aspects of
      information, and the many conservation laws could be a single law of information conservation.
      If the universe were a virtual reality, its creation at the big bang would no longer be paradoxical,
      as every virtual system must be booted up. It is suggested that whether the world is an objective
      reality or a virtual reality is a matter for science to resolve. Modern information science can
      suggest how core physical properties like space, time, light, matter and movement could derive
      from information processing. Such an approach could reconcile relativity and quantum theories,
      with the former being how information processing creates space-time, and the latter how it
      creates energy and matter.
      Key words: Digital physics, virtual reality, information theory

      It goes further than Bostrom's argument, as it connect the dots between currently unexplained phenomena in relativity and QM to the whole aspect of virtual reality.

      I think you will enjoy it DuB.
      The wise ones fashioned speech with their thought, sifting it as grain is sifted through a sieve. ~ Buddha

    11. #11
      Drivel's Advocate Xaqaria's Avatar
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      Eastern religions have been suggesting this for thousands of years, the language they use is just different than what is used today. I think once we step aside from the preconceptions we have about the nature of this 'simulation'; i.e. stop applying our ideas of current information processing technology and computers, the correlation between eastern philosophy and this hypothesis becomes even stronger. In reality, whatever it is that is running our supposed simulation is really nothing like a computer as we see it, and so with this much more open view it becomes much more plausible.

      I'd also like to point out that if this is a virtual reality, what then is reality? If we are assuming that there are multiple layers and each one is simulating the layer 'below' it, if this is an infinite structure then it is safe to assume that there is no ultimate Reality that is objectively real and unsimulated.
      Last edited by Xaqaria; 02-26-2010 at 01:27 AM.

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    12. #12
      Xei
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      I'm interested in what you say about Eastern religions, although you didn't really go into much detail. Which teachings of which religious do you think are analogous to teaching that we live in a simulated reality?

      Also, I think that something being simulated does not mean that it isn't real. Hypothetically you could reduce our universe down to just some one dimensional points moving around, i.e.

      U = {p: p = (f1(t), f2(t), f3(t))}

      What makes this system real? It must be enacted by some kind of 'algorithm enacter'; whether that enacter itself is part of another algorithm is, I'd say, immaterial. A subsystem is still a system, to summarise.
      he thing here though is that the "real universe", or "multiverse" really, is absolutely infinite, so that there is always a world bigger/more complex than the world you're in. There is no "top level" "real universe" that limits the amount of information there is to go around. No matter how complex the world you're in, there is ALWAYS the possibility of a world orders of magnitude more complex in which a sophisticated machine could be executing your world as a bit of code.
      It's confusing but I don't think that's a logical argument. The argument for an infinitude of universes is based on induction down levels, as we see that in this universe we can create simulations of sub-universes.

      Thus you can only postulate the existence of an initial reality and hence conclude that there are many levels of VR (and by argument, asserting an infinitude is flawed due to the maximum quantity of information in the initial level). You can't argue upwards.
      To further support Bostrom's argument I present this:
      That was indeed thought provoking. I'm working on a very similar philosophy which has quite a few of the same remarks; for example, that quantum weirdness isn't in any way paradoxical. As long as something is algorithmic, it can exist. I hadn't made the connection between lightspeed and processor speed though; that is an intriguing question.

      The thing is, virtual reality kind of has connotations of some 'higher intelligence' creating a simulation for 'whatever reason'. I think this is the wrong way to think about it. Virtually reality is just a way of expressing the idea that the universe is the enactment of an algorithm. Thinking about it being on 'a computer' is wrong. The algorithm 'just is'. We must then ponder the nature of this 'turing machine'; why does it have a maximum speed?
      Last edited by Xei; 03-04-2010 at 08:50 PM.

    13. #13
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      That's a great thread. I like the ideas.

      The most recent thing I've read about the simulated reality was 'the
      holographic universe' by Michael Talbot, in which he links these arguments
      to eastern philosophies as well. And I have talked to a few Hindus that
      were also of the opinion that reality is more like a dream, and that it is
      this what the Yogis in India are teaching.

      He is mainly basing his thesis on the work of David Bohm and Karl Pribram,
      but refers to numerous other physicists and researchers (like Stanislaf Grof,
      who I really like as well and who the psychonauts here probably know well)

      But I do think that even though many things point to the theory at least
      being on the right track (somewhat), it is true, as Xei said, that reality being
      simulated wouldn't neccessarily make it less real. I think it probably is
      different 'real' than we think, but it's probably a lot more complicated
      than just a holographic explanation.

      That reminds me: I yet have to finish the book.

      http://video.google.com/videoplay?do...3213350926692#

      Edit:

      I also bookmarked this:
      http://www.survey-software-solutions...ck/reality.htm
      Last edited by dajo; 03-04-2010 at 10:15 PM.

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      The Anti-Member spockman's Avatar
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      If this were true, it wouldn't change much about my perception save for God. Ethics, humanity, all of this will still exist.

      Microcosm, macrocosm.

      Our actions could still have significance within this 'simulation.' I kill someone, they still cease to exist. I rob someone, well, something that they place value on dissapears.

      Essentially, the nature of our universe would be different. But it would still be the same universe we've always lived in. Just, with laws of 'physics' defined by a computer and the fabric of time and space are within an algorithm.

      Since the nature of reality has never truly been understood anyway, would this make much of a difference to any of you if we finally discovered it to be something we never expected... something like this?
      Paul is Dead




    15. #15
      Drivel's Advocate Xaqaria's Avatar
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      I was thinking mostly about the concepts of dependent arising and emptiness in buddhist teaching and expounded upon by Nagarjuna, the illusory nature of reality as described by Buddhism and Advaita (among others) and the striations or 'levels' of existence that are part of the cosmologies of many of the eastern religions.

      I guess to make myself clear, I'll first present my take on it based on what I know and then link some sources.

      Basically, Eastern philosophies state that reality as we know it is essentially empty, that nothing that we experience has an independent existence and that everything can only be considered real in the way that it relates to other things. They stress that our experience of reality, or Samsara, is at its core an illusion that is created by the karmic cycle, which could also be seen as causality or more accurately our interdependent relationships.

      Specifically, the belief is that any relationship creates a false duality that becomes an illusory separation known as Maya. The karmic cycle, or casual relationships set up a system of false distinctions and leads to illusion that one 'thing' is separate and independent from other 'things'. The "true" nature of reality is Brahman, or the 'great soul' or "universal substrate" that underlies all things. Brahman is both existent, and non-existent much like the description of a wave form in quantum mechanics. Brahman is the 'ultimate potentiality' of existence. Each layer of existence is a series of illusory distinctions or separations of Brahman through casual interdependent relations. Each individual self, or Atman is often described as a drop in the ocean of potentiality that is Brahman. The separation of the individual self from the whole of existence is an illusion that is created by the karmic cycle.

      They also believe that this world is a reflection, or shadow, or simply just one facet of a greater reality which in turn is a reflection or shadow or one facet of yet another 'higher' level of existence. Everything that occurs in these different 'levels' of existence are also interdependent in the same way that you cannot separate your own movements from the movements of your shadow.

      Here is a .pdf on Nagarjuna and emptiness
      . I haven't read this particular (book?) yet, but I am now.

      I'm trying to find some physicist sources that mirror these claims. The last 100 years or so of scientific discovery has lead us to realize that no particle can be reduced to an independent thing and that subatomic particles are best described as bits of information pertaining to how they relate to each other. When looked at with enough scrutiny, the very fabric of material existence appears immaterial and nothing can be isolated from the way it interacts with its surroundings so much that the interactions become what is 'real' and not the 'objects' that are said to be interacting.
      Last edited by Xaqaria; 03-10-2010 at 11:29 PM.

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      Assuming there are more then 1 universe, like a multiverse (the one movie), does that mean there would be multiple matrixes?

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