"A Matrix Universe": Are We Living in a Vast Computer Simulation?
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July 12, 2011

"A Matrix Universe": Are We Living in a Vast Computer Simulation?

6a00d8341bf7f753ef01157155e4b0970c-320wi Philosophy is a vital study for the human race - from the ancient Greeks to the modern day, some of the finest thinkers have examined the human condition and produced valuable insights and conclusions on what it means "to be."  Unfortunately much of the other work in the field is dubious, including a recent paper which argues that we're all living in a vast computer simulation.  Yes, it WAS written after the first Matrix film but before the sequels.  Funny that.

Unfortunately this isn't a fanfic: it's a refereed paper published in the Philosophical Quarterly, which must have been hurting for content.  It was written by, Nick Bostrom, the Director of the "Future of Humanity Institute" at Oxford University, the sort of person we'd generally assume to be above such things.  But we suppose that even those pondering the fate of the species need publicity and funding too - probably more than most people, in fact.

Reading the paper (link at the bottom of this article) is a fun game of "Spot the logical flaws" for all the family, with bonus points for every "Warning sign of BS paper" picked out.

The most egregious flaw is the use of a form of the fantastically annoying Bayesian argument: the idea that if we suppose there far more B-type of people  than A, then we're more likely to be born as a B than A.  It's been which has been used to argue everything from the imminent end of the species to this simulation silliness despite:

a) assuming that we're all somehow stacked up waiting to exist like capsule toys in a spiritual vending machine.
b) Statistics Error No 1: confusing probability with actual fact, and arguing that nothing but the most common option should exist.  For example, by the Bayesian argument you and everyone you know is Asian.
c) It's been an equally (in)valid at every stage in human history since we first dropped out of the trees, and was wrong then too.

Other warning signs:

- The "I'm right whatever happens" opener of this paper argues that at least one of the following propositions is true:....(1) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof); (2) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation."

For those of you unwilling to dig through philosophical page-filler, this states "Either a) future people won't run simulations or b) they will".

- The "even if you disagree with this, the methods used are interesting" statement in the introduction.  If you can't even open the paper without admitting it's probably garbage that's a bad sign, and if your methods were that good you wouldn't need to point it out.

- The use of hideously underdeveloped math to make your wordswordswords look more scientific, combined with the "make this number very large" style of extrapolation.  Which works in some situations, which this isn't any of.

The main weakness of the paper is the usual "You can't prove if it isn't" argument, the same one that's been used for religion since forever.  But in cases like this it's not the skeptic's job to logically disprove an argument that has never been logically proved. If we state "The Earth, below a depth of ten miles, is composed entirely of pink candyfloss", you don't have to hire a drilling rig and a rogue team of lovable geologists to venture into the planets core to disprove us.

Likewise, if we say "We are living on Earth" and somebody else says "We (are part of a vast future simulation that goes to enormous trouble to make it seem like we are) living on Earth", you don't exactly need Occam's Razor to cut away the unsupported dross from that statement. Occam's blunt butter knife is more than sufficient.

The Daily Daily from a remote arm of the Milky Way.

Via simulation-argument.com

Comments

Well If you can't even open the paper without admitting it's probably garbage that's a bad sign, and if your methods were that good you wouldn't need to point it out...I am waiting for it from such a long time...Thanks for posting..I like this type of blog..

after a few moments contemplating whether our cognizance of the universe is indeed a computer simulation, i rapidly discerned that the visible universe is a tiny area inside the temporal hippocampus of a mouse.

The idea that if we suppose there far more B-type of people than A, then we're more likely to be born as a B than A.

This is absolutely right, the theory is absolutely wrong. It has as many holes and logical flaws as the philosophy of evolution. Let's put ALL of these silly theories to rest already and get down to some real science.

What the hell? Way to completely discount a decent theory. How do you know that the universe isn't some kind of digital computerized environment or something? I know one thing and that is that the nature of the universe is going to be very bizarre and absolutely unexpected when (if) we do figure it out. So I think something like that isn't totally out of the question. Sure the paper uses sh***y logic but if you think about the theory it's kind of interesting. Pixels could = atoms or subatomic particles, life could be an unexpected development in the code, living in the environment blissfully unaware of its true nature.

I'm just saying that it's dumb to completely discount crazy sounding theories, especially when the two leading theories make even less sense (either an old man in the sky shat everything out or one day an impossibly dense grapefruit size chunk of everything exploded).

This article is a multi-repost.

Goes back to those who thought the world was flat and was the center of the universe.

We have no idea why life and the universe exists so to say that it is impossible that we are living in a simulated world is very shortsighted. We need more scientists to push the envelope and think outside the box because the universe in stranger than our best fiction.

I'll be honest, I don't really follow the critique of the article here. I don't see any follow through in the above blog entry. It basically says the philosopher's argument is stupid, with little intellectual follow through. I'm not saying I prescribe to the philosopher's theory. But some of you might be missing the point. Philosopher's aren't scientists and I doubt it was this guys purpose to "prove" the universe is a simulation. My guess is the purpose was to suggest we wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

Anyway, I think the critique above largely misses the point.

I'm trying to figure out why this article was even posted to begin with. I mean, why bring public attention to an article only to point out how ridiculous it is?

Personally I find the idea interesting purely as a thought experiment. As for it being true, I'd call it a "nonzero probability," just like there's a nonzero probability of a meteorite the size of a soda can falling out of the sky and hitting the hood of my car as I'm headed home from play rehearsal this evening.

But I have no need to bring the theory to people's attention just to ridicule it.

Of course, consciousness is a personal construct, and therefore a simulation of some shared ground of being. There is no welcome to the "real" world because our construct is all we will ever know.

This is an old concept and dates back to sci-fi writers from the 1950's. I guess the more things change the more they stay the same. Like the recycling of this article

yeah, but it was funny.

I didn't know I was Asian

What is real? How do you define real? If you are talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.

What is real? How do you define real? If you are talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.

What is real? How do you define real? If you are talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.

I don't care as long as I feel good.
Maybe its a simulation within a simulation within a simulation whitin a s..................

A computer can simulate almost anything even other computers regardless of speed and given enough real time. We are pretty good with computers and we keep getting better... Its not unreasonable considering what we simulate now that we at sometime in the future would try to simulate complex sentient human beings. It also not unreasonable that we all could be in such a simulation at the moment. There would be no way to tell really unless we were allowed to know. Or if by chance the computer universe OS crashed or didn't behave logically in some way (bug). I think the questions should be, "Could you accept the fact that you are a simulation?". And how is that any different than believing you exist and are real now? As long as you remain concious and relatively comfortable, the only issue becomes control. Who is controlling you? If anyone, and isn't that the same question we have now? So I see no issues with believing this is a simulation or not...

well, why when i stay inside the house on the net or tv im feeling "fishy" and when i go outside, interact with the world im feeling "true"?
so, my judgement is playing me based on interactions.

well, why when i stay inside the house on the net or tv im feeling "fishy" and when i go outside, interact with the world im feeling "true"?
so, my judgement is playing me based on interactions.

well, why when i stay inside the house on the net or tv im feeling "fishy" and when i go outside, interact with the world im feeling "true"?
so, my judgement is playing me based on interactions.

Are We Living in a Vast Computer Simulation?
Maybe the true question is "Are We Living in a Vast Mind Simulation?" So the answer of the first question is - No!
But the answer of the true question will be debatable for the coming millennia. My personal answer is - yes, we live in a very complex aggregate of mind and matter (what exactly is matter?), controlled by X. What is X? That the question of the questions. I do not mean God. "God" says: You don't even know Who/What I am! And you will never know.

Ich mag sehr viel Ihre Art der Präsentation. Wir freuen uns auf mehr lesen von dir.

Take the red pill!

I think i took the blue pill, or is that what the matrix is telling me..........


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