Monday, September 19, 2022

The Faith of the Simulator

A lot of far-out physics and math types are into the notion that our universe is a gigantic simulation being run on an unimaginable computer. I am not aware of any evidence for this, but some very smart people find it compelling.

So I have been toying with this idea. What would it mean for us to accept it?

And this has led me into daydreaming about launching a cult, the Faith of the Simulator. What would the tenets of this new religion be? What would be its symbols, its rites?

On ethics: should we maintain that since this is a simulation – an experiment, as it were – nothing really matters? Should we say that since the Simulator put us here, our mission is just to experience the simulation to its fullest, to explore it in every possible way? Or should we take the existential approach, and say that since the Simulator gave us no ethical parameters, it is up to us to make the world meaningful as best we can?

Since the Simulator filled the universe with stars and planets, should we consider this a commandment to explore them?

Or should we instead look inward, on the assumption that the secrets of the universe are somehow coded into us, and must therefore be accessible through meditation on the Simulator and its Purpose?

And how should be feel about people in our world making simulations on our small, weak computers? Should we exalt them as the humans who are closest to the creator, whose acts best honor the commandment to walk in the Creator's path? Like, What Would the Simulator Do? (WWTSD)

In the course of this it occurred to me that if a prophet appeared in the world today with the power to do miracles, many people would take this as proof that we really are in a simulation, and wonder why the Simulator was messing with us in this way.


G. Verloren said...

If we're in a simulator, it's a rather absurdly stable one - 100% uptime for billions of years, with absolutely no documentable glitches, is utter farce and fantasy.


Personally, the whole thing reminds me of a classic ~xkcd~ comic:

String Theory Summarized

Speaker 1: "I just had an awesome idea. Suppose all matter and energy is made of tiny, vibrating 'strings'."

Speaker 2: "Okay. What would that imply?"

Speaker 1: "I dunno."

G. Verloren said...

Honestly, if people want to dabble in this kind of absurdity, they need to do it right and take it to the logical extreme.

Arguably, we (as a species) don't live in a single simulation, we live in billions of totally different simulations that all seem to bear a striking resemblance to one another - exceedingly complex "programs" that model the universe, which we call "minds".

The world isn't a simulation - our perceptions of the world are a simulation. Everything we experience is merely an interpretation of actual reality. In fact, much of reality we can't even directly experience! We lack sensory organs capable of detecting countless varieties of energy that we are constantly in contact with - and even the sensory organs we do have rely on an arcane and inexplicable system of "decoding" and "extrapolating" from raw electrical signals.

Light enters the human eye, and in passing through the lens it becomes INVERTED top-to-bottom and lef-to-right, resulting in the light "image" which reaches our retina being the total opposite of the arrangement of the real objects the light has bounced off of to reach our eyes. And yet, somehow, our brain just sort of... gets used to seeing the world upside down and backwards, and we see it "normally". How, exactly? Nobody has a goddamn clue. It just happens.

And here's the fascinating part - if you build a pair of glasses that flip the light in exactly the same way as the lens of your eye, so that the light "image" that reaches your retinas is double-flipped back to being "normal", you will of course see things upside down and backwards... but only temporarily! If you keep wearing the glasses constantly, your brain eventually adapts and (with startling suddenness) you begin to perceive the world "right side up" and "normal" again.

And if you then take the glasses off, you once again see everything inverted, until, yet again, eventually your brain "rewires" itself all over again and, "like a switch going off", suddenly you can see "normally" again.

So yeah, if you want to argue about whether or not the universe is a simulation, you first need to reconcile the quandary of our own brains being simulations.

Another relevant ~xkcd~ comic:

Speaker 1: "I don't understand how my brain works. But my brain is what I rely on to understand how things work."

Speaker 2: "Is that a problem?"

Speaker 1: "I'm not sure how to tell."


As physicist Emerson M. Pugh put it, "If the human brain were simple enough for us to understand it, we would be too simple to understand it."

Shadow said...

"If we're in a simulator, it's a rather absurdly stable one - 100% uptime for billions of years, with absolutely no documentable glitches, is utter farce and fantasy."

I miagine downtime is a lot like being under general anesthesia. Once fixed they could pickup where it left off or reboot and start over, all 4+ billion years over. Maybe next tiem spiders will have all the smarts. Lovely thought, that. You wouldn't know. As for glitches, they explain missing socks after doing laundry.