Sunday, November 30, 2014

Is the Universe a Simulation?

The universe is huge.

Being a lover of sci-fi I have always assumed that we, as in we humans, will eventually get to stars but the more that I learn about the distances and the math involved, I feel my confidence waning.

Because the universe is really, really big.

But just because we may never jump in our starships and zip to the next solar system in time for next week's episode, doesn't mean there aren't frontiers to explore. The ocean is full of the unseen and there are planets and moons such as Europa than may even harbor life. So there is plenty to do.

And I am beginning to contend that we may end up creating our own frontiers. And with a bit of encouragement, I may further contend that we may be living within one of our frontiers.

The Simulation Hypothesis has caught my imagination over the last few years and it appears that scientist are taking the idea more and more seriously to the point that experiments are running to try to determine if we are living within a simulation. And the more I think about it and the more I see advancements in computing and other technologies, I would have to wonder if it's more likely that we are part of simulation than not.

The reasoning is that certain conundrums in physics and philosophy suddenly make sense if we assume the existence of a simulation. That's a bit of an oversimplification but definitely the gist of it. And it makes a lot of sense. The computer game industry builds more and more complex simulations of entire worlds that become more and more immersive with each passing year. How long before they actually build a simulation so perfect that participants can't discern the difference between the simulation and "reality"? And what happens then?

Now throw in quantum computing. Suppose that a quantum computer with all it's potential is the home to this simulation. Move this scenario fifty years into the future.

What can happen then?

This is where my imagination really takes off. What if a simulation is created within a quantum computer based on simple self sustaining algorithms and the scientists just sit back and watch it grow? What if they watch the simulation take shape and evolve. Then what if they work out an interface so that they can go into the simulation as participants and observes the evolution first hand.

What happens then?

 But what if one of this simulations really takes off and it becomes truly self sustaining? But, due to quantum fluctuations, the mere act of observation of the scientist from within the system actually crash the system. So the scientist propose to send in avatars with their memories blocked so that their preconceived notions can't effect the experiment but when the avatars are withdrawn from the simulation, they can recall their experiences and report.

What then?

Watching the headlines of science new, it's not hard to see the possibilities. A computer manages numbers and a simulation is nothing but numbers. Taking a survey of games like Skyrim with modern mods installed, it's not hard to see the future

So it's very possible that in the near future we will create our own frontiers to explore. We will build worlds and send in explorers to observe the developing universes.

But that begs the question: Is that what we are doing now?

Are we in the simulation? Did we conveniently forget where we came from and why we are here?

Is there some scientist sitting outside the box poking us with a metaphorical stick?

Lots of questions with few answers but answers may be forthcoming. Although I have to wander what happens the day the scientist looks at the numbers and realizes that this is the simulation.

What happens then?

Probably nothing.

Considering a lot of the Eastern philosophies are concerned coming to terms with maya or the illusion (or delusion) of reality and considering there are documented "masters" who have become "enlightened" and suddenly the rules don't necessarily apply to them any longer, I think we are safe from the threat of catastrophic realization. Another way to look at it is that some have become aware of the simulation and have learned to hack the simulation source code like Neo in The Matrix.

So these are not new ideas.  Look at Plato's Cave or Decartes' Demon or any religion where a "controller" is controlling a "system of control" and technically that's a simulation. But for the first time, actual scientists, not philosophers are looking for actual proof and that is exciting.

It's also interesting to think about what happens if the scientists prove that we are part of a complex simulation. What exactly would change?

Sadly, once again, probably nothing.

The realization that reality is a string of 1's and 0's doesn't change much at all. The sun still shines, the grass still grows, it still hurts when I stub my toe. It's not like it matters that it's "real" or not because, technically, it's real enough.

Now, assuming proof that reality is a simulation, some may learn to hack the source code of reality a lot easier since the whole "faith" problem is removed from play. Some may be able to take that proof and run with it. I have a feeling most would care until they were hungry again and then living would take precedence.

It doesn't matter really, the source of reality. If it is a game-like simulation running on an super-computer on the desktop of some teenager in a super reality, then we are still in play. Isn't that a thought. It's not scientist in this super reality running a serious simulation. It's some kid on summer break just messing around with something like the Sims or Minecraft.

But it just doesn't matter. To a certain degree. Until it starts to explain certain things. If the "masters" of the world have learned to hack the source code of the simulation, could the existence of the simulation also explain other supernatural phenomenon?

One of the first that comes to mind are the oft-reported Greys. Are the Greys actually the Programmers? Or maybe the avatars of the programmers?

Are ghosts just artifacts like burnt in images on a lcd screen?

Could there be alternative reason for running the simulation altogether?

Could the entire purpose of the Simulation be to produce one of Kurzweil's singularity's? Basically, a Simulation is how computer scientists in the super reality create superior A.I.. Which basically makes us retroactive brain food for a developing A.I..

Could the simulation be done. From the perspective of physics, all time happens at once. We just experience it in a linear fashion. If someone was observing from the super reality, they would see a sequence of events that they could press the play or pause button on.

Crazy stuff but a lot of fun to think about.

But once again, in the end, it doesn't really matter. To me at least. Apparently a simulated reality is as real as reality so what does it matter? I'm not sure everyone would feel that way but a shrug is about all I can give it.

At least until someone pulls the plug and the battery backup fails.