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No, We Probably Don't Live in a Computer Simulation, Says Physicist (gizmodo.com) 418

Science doesn't have all the answers. There are plenty of things it may never prove, like whether there's a God. Or whether we're living in a computer simulation, something proposed by Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom. From an article on Gizmodo: This kind of thinking made at least one person angry, theoretical physicist and science writer Sabine Hossenfelder from the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies in Germany. Last week, she took to her blog Backreactions to vent. It's not the statement "we're living in a simulation" that upsets Hossenfelder. It's the fact that philosophers are making assertions that, if true, should most certainly manifest themselves in our laws of physics. "I'm not saying it's impossible," Hossenfelder told Gizmodo. "But I want to see some backup for this claim." Backup to prove such a claim would require a lot of work and a lot of math, enough to solve some of the most complex problems in theoretical physics.
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No, We Probably Don't Live in a Computer Simulation, Says Physicist

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  • In Other Words (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2017 @11:25AM (#54088167) Journal

    In other words, "the universe is a simulation" is an unevidenced assertion, much like the multiverse. Yes, there may be some extrapolations of the underlying math that might point in such a direction, but at the moment, it's simply a cool-sounding idea with absolutely no experimental evidence at all. Of course, I feel the same way about string theory, though one thing string theory has produced is some pretty useful mathematical tools, so even when a theory is wrong or indemonstrable, it can still be of some use.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      To describe it as simply such is a bit dismissive. It is a provocative speculation that can spur interest, thought, and motivation to devise new experiments. I agree, it can be of some use.

      • Re:In Other Words (Score:4, Interesting)

        by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2017 @11:38AM (#54088279) Journal

        The problem comes when a theory such as this is "abused" as it were to justify a whole bunch of metaphysical claptrap. It's like every New Age fruitcake using the word "quantum" in sentences to make the word salads and bullshit they spew somehow sound "sciency". The fact is that demonstrating the Universe is a simulation is very far out of reach at this stage, and really, as the article makes pretty clear, there's little point to direct inquiry since the problems that need to be solved to make it a viable claim are problems that need to be solved anyways. Unlike String Theory, which has produced some good tools and new conceptual innovations, I don't see any great new tools being produced by simulation theory. It will become evident at whatever point we solve a lot of the big open questions in physics whether the simulation claim makes any sense or not.

        • by arth1 ( 260657 )

          Unlike String Theory, which has produced some good tools and new conceptual innovations, I don't see any great new tools being produced by simulation theory.

          I do. It can give us insights into how we can better run simulations, which can teach us a whole lot about the universe.

        • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2017 @11:56AM (#54088455)

          But Elon Musk say it's a billion to one likelihood that we live in a simulation! He can't be wrong, can he????

        • The problem comes when a theory such as this is "abused" as it were to justify a whole bunch of metaphysical claptrap.

          It isn't even a theory though, as there isn't anything to support it. Even if in some incredibly unlikely circumstance that we are able to prove we are in a simulation, maybe the entity that made up the simulation we are in is likewise in a simulation.

          It's the old who created the creator problem, and just like the creator business, the simulation business is in the realm of religion. Everone can have thier own religion, and thy are all right because that's what they believe.

          No thanks.

          • Re:In Other Words (Score:4, Interesting)

            by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2017 @01:28PM (#54089435)

            It isn't even a theory though, as there isn't anything to support it.

            There is no conclusive proof, but there is plenty of evidence that the universe is a simulation. In many ways, the universe appears to be designed to be easy to simulate. If you were designing a universe simulation, what would you do?

            1. Due to limited computational resources, the simulated universe would be granular or "quantum".
            2. To limit computation, reality would be held in a fuzzy probabilistic "superposition" state until it is actually observed, similar to how a GPU running OpenGL will skip the generation of hidden polygons.
            3. The maximum speed of information transfer would be finite, to limit the propagation of changes through the universe.

            All of these are actually true in our universe, ergo, we are very likely a simulation.

            • by FatdogHaiku ( 978357 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2017 @01:51PM (#54089685)

              It isn't even a theory though, as there isn't anything to support it.

              There is no conclusive proof, but there is plenty of evidence that the universe is a simulation. In many ways, the universe appears to be designed to be easy to simulate. If you were designing a universe simulation, what would you do?

              1. Due to limited computational resources, the simulated universe would be granular or "quantum". 2. To limit computation, reality would be held in a fuzzy probabilistic "superposition" state until it is actually observed, similar to how a GPU running OpenGL will skip the generation of hidden polygons. 3. The maximum speed of information transfer would be finite, to limit the propagation of changes through the universe.

              All of these are actually true in our universe, ergo, we are very likely a simulation.

              The whole shebang may be sitting on a table at a science fair with the label:
              Kinetic Sculpture with Self Aware Components
              By G. Hova

            • Re:In Other Words (Score:5, Insightful)

              by rgbatduke ( 1231380 ) <rgbNO@SPAMphy.duke.edu> on Wednesday March 22, 2017 @02:49PM (#54090175) Homepage

              1. Due to limited computational resources, the simulated universe would be granular or "quantum".
              2. To limit computation, reality would be held in a fuzzy probabilistic "superposition" state until it is actually observed, similar to how a GPU running OpenGL will skip the generation of hidden polygons.
              3. The maximum speed of information transfer would be finite, to limit the propagation of changes through the universe.

              All of these are actually true in our universe, ergo, we are very likely a simulation.

              And this, sir, is why you really need to consider taking a course in formal logic and maybe learn about logical fallacies.

              None of these assertions, even if they were true in some useful way, constitute a statistical or logical argument for the conclusion. This is true at an openly embarrassing level. Suppose one were designing a rock because you wanted to build a rock wall and for some reason didn't want to use actual rocks. Due to the cost of raw materials, rocks would be finite in size. Because you don't want the wall to be boring, rocks would come in many different colors, sizes, and shapes. Because you don't want the fake rock wall to fall down, rocks would be solid, as opposed to liquid, glass, plasma, gaseous.

              All real rocks are actually finite in size, come in many different sizes, shapes, and colors, and tend to be solid to the point where "rock solid" is a standard metaphor in human speech. Ergo, all rocks are obviously designed.

              Not!

              Teleological arguments are pure bullshit, which is what the physicist in question (as well as myself, also a physicist) are happy to point out.

              When one actually looks at rocks or Universes, there is an utter lack of either evidence or a plausible, consistent, evidence linked chain of reasoning that increases the probability that the notion/hypothesis "Rocks are designed" or "We are living in a computer simulation" is/are true from their rightful place (so far) of 0.0000.....(0 until you get bored with writing 0's)...001 to something with a tiny smidgen of actual measure.

              These are not independent assertions, by the way. If you take the assertion that the Universe is a simulation seriously, then rocks ARE designed objects, even though there is absolutely nothing about rocks to suggest that they actually are designed.

              One could then deconstruct the truth of each of your statements individually. For example, there is nothing in quantum theory that limits computational requirements -- quite the opposite. Indeed, quantum theory is built on top of complex, non-discrete numbers in every quantum textbook ever written -- C-numbers. That is, quantum objects are described in general by (at least) TWO real numbers, not just one. If you attempt to represent the quantum state of a very simple -- the simplest -- two level quantum system such as |\psi> = A|-> + B|+>, one discovers that it requires two continuous degrees of freedom and that the states of the system map nicely into points on a 3D spherical hypersurface. If you try to describe the most general quantum state of N such 2 level objects, it requires 2^N or so continuous degrees of freedom. Consequently, we are limited in our solutions or simulational studies of fully correlated quantum systems to a tiny, tiny handful of e.g. "two level atoms" -- perhaps 20 to 30 of them -- because one very quickly runs out of computational resources to perform even very small general computations.

              Second, you are building a whole mountain of assumptions into what appears to be a misinterpretation of the Planck length. To quote Wikipedia's page on this topic:

              There is currently no proven physical significance of the Planck length...

              so you are quoting something for which there is no direct evidence as evidence in a bad teleological argument for something for which there is no evidence at all.

              You also don't address the actual numbers associated with the Planck leng

              • All real rocks are actually finite in size, come in many different sizes, shapes, and colors, and tend to be solid

                But if you were building a wall, you would also want the "rocks" to be rectangular so they are easy to place and minimize the amount of mortar needed. So that would lead instead to the hypothesis that bricks were man made.

            • Re:In Other Words (Score:4, Interesting)

              by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2017 @04:21PM (#54090933) Homepage Journal

              The counter point, for me, is that's a very complicated way to produce the universe we actually live in. What is the purpose of the simulation? Is it to be similar to Conway's "Life", in which case why build something so convoluted, and why cheat as apparently the programmer did with 2 and 3?

              If not, if the aim was to create sentient beings (well, me at least, I can't speak for you idiots), then, again, why create a system that requires fourteen billion years to actually produce them, with them being around for a mere 50,000, and each having a life span of (almost always) less than 100 years?

              And if you're about to argue the universe was created ten seconds ago, well, no, because there's apparently information in it covering about fourteen billion years. To ensure the system is stable, the logic and current state has to fit that fourteen billion years AND has to be stable right now. One off-by-one error and the Earth will go spiralling into space, or get sucked into the Sun, or just disintegrate, or turn into a black hole for a split second, or...

              I can explain why John Carmack created a number of "virtual reality" (Doom and onwards) games, but he didn't create some overly complex physics model, just the bare minimum to work for the observer. Our universal engineer, however, appears to have created this enormously convoluted system for no apparent reason. I'm not seeing the reason to assume intelligence when a more likely reason for the things you note is that our universe is more complex than you want to believe it is.

        • justify a whole bunch of metaphysical claptrap

          This has been going on in Physics since at least the 70's. Tao of Physics anyone?

      • To describe it as simply such is a bit dismissive. It is a provocative speculation that can spur interest, thought, and motivation to devise new experiments. I agree, it can be of some use.

        The problem of course, is the speculation might be that whoever stated this simulation has structured it in such a way that the poop people in the simulation might never be able to find out if they are in a simulation.

        And thus ends the discussion. We can't determine it. Or maybe we can, but maybe not - probably not, maybe the great simulator kills everyone who gets close to understanding. Maybe not. Opinions trump facts. Maybe, maybe not.

        For some strange reason, the string theorists are also behind th

    • Explain Trump (Score:4, Interesting)

      by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2017 @11:52AM (#54088405)

      If the universe is a simulation then one can speculate on the purpose of the simulation. A good bet, based on our own world, would be it's a role playing game. If so the "players" are presumably the Elites in the game. A logical conclusion for any non-player character, such as yourself would then be that your highest calling in life is to become a groupie. That role is the only role that has any meaning beyond window dressing.

      • by arth1 ( 260657 )

        If the universe is a simulation then one can speculate on the purpose of the simulation. A good bet, based on our own world, would be it's a role playing game. If so the "players" are presumably the Elites in the game. A logical conclusion for any non-player character, such as yourself would then be that your highest calling in life is to become a groupie. That role is the only role that has any meaning beyond window dressing.

        I wouldn't bet on that. Because it's easier to simulate a single brain and its input than it is to simulate Life, the Universe and Everything, my thinking is that the overwhelming number of simulations will be of individual brains. I.e. a solipsistic simulation. I don't exist other than as input for your brain, while you are the only one in your simulation that exist.

      • by Gorobei ( 127755 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2017 @12:44PM (#54089015)

        If the universe is a simulation then one can speculate on the purpose of the simulation. A good bet, based on our own world, would be it's a role playing game. If so the "players" are presumably the Elites in the game.

        Ah, so we just need to look for player characters who picked a generic white-male avatar, blundered around because they picked "easy mode," but still wound up doing and completing some of the fun missions and sidequests in the game. For example:

        1. Started life as a player character with extra gold
        2. Flew fighter planes
        3. Managed a baseball team
        4. Caught fish in the "pond on own private ranch" cliche
        5. Became president of USA. Bonus for second term election.

        Hmm, someone like that would be unbelievable and stick out like a sore thumb.

    • by Ihlosi ( 895663 )
      it's simply a cool-sounding idea with absolutely no experimental evidence at all.

      Unless the simulation has major bugs, the simulated entities will never be able to prove that they are, in fact, simulated, unless the entity running the simulation allows it.

      • Even if the simulation has bugs, we wouldn't know it - because there's nothing to compare to.
        If properly sandboxed, there is no way we could ever have evidence.

        If PI being irrational is a bug, we have no way to know that. We just day "that's the way it is, and we don't know why" and move on.

        It's fun to think about, but no, we're not in a simulation. And even if we were, there's no way you'll ever prove it.

    • by bigpat ( 158134 )

      Yes, there may be some extrapolations of the underlying math that might point in such a direction, but at the moment, it's simply a cool-sounding idea with absolutely no experimental evidence at all.

      There is a big difference between a scientific theory with a mathematical model that has been demonstrated to have predictive utility via experimental evidence being used to make predictions of a multiverse via extrapolation and... God.

      Granted Newton's Laws were also found to be wrong outside of a limited domain and break when applied to the very very large, small or fast. So it is certainly still possible that the multiverse is an equally wrong extension of a theory outside of the range of our experimenta

    • Re:In Other Words (Score:5, Interesting)

      by doug141 ( 863552 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2017 @12:19PM (#54088693)

      In other words, "the universe is a simulation" is an unevidenced assertion, much like the multiverse. Yes, there may be some extrapolations of the underlying math that might point in such a direction, but at the moment, it's simply a cool-sounding idea with absolutely no experimental evidence at all.

      You are wrong about there being no evidence for "the multiverse." There's actually more evidence for the existence of level 1 multiverses than there is for just our one being the only: https://arxiv.org/pdf/astro-ph... [arxiv.org]

      • This seems largely to rest on the "many worlds" interpretation of QM, which is not something a lot of physicists are going to be stand behind. It's not "evidence" per se, but rather an interpretation of QM theory.

      • A Level 1 parallel universe is just a region of the universe that is outside of our Hubble bubble and thus unobservable. It has nothing to do with the type of multiverses being discussed.
    • In other words, "the universe is a simulation" is an unevidenced assertion, much like the multiverse.

      It is far worse than that because unless we find the programmer(s) (or possibly a bug/exploit!) there will never be any evidence of the simulation. In this way believing in a simulation is just like a religion - there is literally no difference because the only way to scientifically prove a religion is to find evidence of god. Everything which religious fundamentalists explain as "god creating it that way" a simulation can explain by "the programmer(s) creating it that way" and QM is not a problem in that

    • I feel the same way about string theory, though one thing string theory has produced is some pretty useful mathematical tools

      Well, string theory at least starts out along the same lines as Einstein's work with Kaluza and Klein, which I think gives it some credibility, although it is still largely speculative. The thing I object to with theories like the holographic and other, similar speculations, is that they take the quantum mechanical view as dogma and assume without argument, that general relativity must somehow be derived from that - that gravity must be "quantised". The reality is that we already, somewhere, know that both

  • There is no God (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by aglider ( 2435074 )
    None like the various religions depict, at least.
  • If life was a simulation, it was probably located in God's big toe. Yeah... Monty Python was a bad philosophical influence.
    • Descartes proved self existence. "I think, therefor I am". It is simple, brilliant, and is not challenged by these wacky theories. If you take the theory of living in a simulation to it's logical conclusion, there is no self determination or self reliance. Life is predetermined, and there is nothing you can do to improve your position in life.

      People who believe in no self determination and no self reliance are quite disturbing. This is an extreme view supporting communist ideology.

  • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2017 @11:26AM (#54088181) Homepage

    The objection in question ignores Bostrom's basic argument. Bostrom's primary argument for being in a simulation boils down to the observation that it is very likely that an advanced civilization would have the ability to run very accurate simulations. Moreover, one of the things they'd be obviously interested in would be their own past ancestors; if that's the case, then over the very long period that such civilizations will exist one will expect many more "copies" of people on ancient Earth than any of the originals, unless one expects civilization to die out well before we get to that technology level. If the laws of physics are simulated badly enough that we can notice, then they aren't doing an effective ancestor simulation, so the objection here doesn't make sense.

    There are a lot of issues with Bostrom's argument; for example, one might question whether simulations of that level of detail will ever be able to be made on a large scale. But the argument being made here doesn't grapple with the fundamental issues.

    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      There are a lot of issues with Bostrom's argument; for example, one might question whether simulations of that level of detail will ever be able to be made on a large scale.

      But do you need to simulate on a large scale? I'd think the minimal undetectable simulation would be of *one* person's brain.

      • Perhaps this simulation is actually a tiny scale in the view of the simulators. Perhaps the real universe is a quadrillion times larger.

        • Perhaps the real universe is a quadrillion times larger.

          The "real universe" is also a simulation.

          It's simulations all the way down.

    • And the objection is basically that simulating our universe is hard, or at least enough paragraphs in a row that I stopped reading.

      Discontinuity between quantum and classical effects makes more sense on a simulated plane than a real one. The ability of an AI to notice such things seems like a quirk of the AI framework, and believable. So the argument here actually supports the simulation more than hurts it. Making a simulation and this is how it turned out, in other words, is easier than getting everything

    • by WrongMonkey ( 1027334 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2017 @11:58AM (#54088473)

      it is very likely that an advanced civilization would have the ability to run very accurate simulations

      That is an unfounded assumption. You're taking a mere 50 years of computational progress and extrapolating to infinity. But there are physical limitations to computational density and mathematically intractable problems (like the many-body problem) that don't go away no matter how many iterations of Moore's law that you throw at them. Even simple, well-defined sets of differential equations, like the Navier–Stokes equations, are a struggle to simulate.

  • by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2017 @11:28AM (#54088187) Homepage Journal

    That she demands proof is equivalent to others demanding proof that we do not live in a simulation. It is likely impossible to prove unless you're the one running the simulation.

    What's needed are ways to falsify either theory, not to prove either.
    And it may be that neither can be falsified either.

    • In which case, we reject the idea that we live in a simulation. I see no proof that the world was created last Thursday. I can't disprove that either, so in lack of an ability to do anything either way, I take the simpler approach and reject the notion until further data becomes available. The burden of proof is on those making the extraordinary claim, not those asking for evidence, and anything said without sufficient proving evidence can be rejected without disproving evidence.

    • That she demands proof is equivalent to others demanding proof that we do not live in a simulation.

      No, it's not. It's the responsibility of the person who proposes a hypothesis to provide evidence for it, or a path to find such evidence (i.e. specific predictions of what we'd see if the hypothesis were true). It is, in fact, impossible to prove a negative, so asking people who say we're probably not in a simulation for evidence is literally asking for the impossible: it is always possible to say "well, the simulation must just be slightly better than any of our observations!" In science, we therefore acc

    • Unlike simulations of, say, climate, the universe being a simulation requires that every aspect of everything be quantified and that those quantities be stored in some manner. That storage would require a great number of physical storage devices to record the status of each subatomic particle. The storage for each particle is thus much larger than the particle, and the storage for the whole universe would be larger than the universe. But by definition, the universe is everything. Thus the size of storage (w

      • Unlike simulations of, say, climate, the universe being a simulation requires that every aspect of everything be quantified and that those quantities be stored in some manner.

        Not necessarily. We only need to simulate the parts that are being observed. That would also explain why sometimes my car keys disappear, and then show up later in a place where I knew I've looked.

    • Sigh

      Freshman level science course material is we can never proof a negative. Only conservative Christians pseudo science uses that premise since we can't prove for example God doesn't exist. We also can't prove there are no dinosaurs either.

  • Since you are reading this topic, you might enjoy the movies "The 13th Floor" and "Dark City". Less on this topic, but still good, I would recommend "Source Code" and "Moon".

  • Nice try (Score:5, Funny)

    by Wraithlyn ( 133796 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2017 @11:36AM (#54088255)

    This is exactly what an Agent would say.

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2017 @11:36AM (#54088259) Homepage

    If we can calculate how reality "should" act, we've per definition calculated how to simulate it. So the only thing we could catch is a bad simulation. But that would assume they don't have error margins, if we start looking at something with an electron microscope then it starts simulating that particular part of reality to that detail. Just like a pair of VR glasses doesn't have to simulate more than I can see.

    • by lazarus ( 2879 )

      I agree. My problem is the term "computer simulation". We are making assumptions right away about what the words computer and simulation mean in this context. If a simulation is defined as something that has a set of "pre-programmed" reactions to stimulus then by virtue of the laws of physics governing our universe I would say that we are quite obviously living in a "simulation". The use of "computer" in this context is simply laughable, but it may imply (by the authors) that there is a processing outco

  • Sounds like, "I'm a physicist and I disagree to disagree because I believe I'm better than a philosopher".

    I don't hold physics in contempt, in fact I love and respect it, but such statements make average people question physics and its methods. Please, don't do it unless you have a proof in your hands.

  • Or her husband does.

    Either way, I'm sure she'll feel better about all this when she wakes up in her bed after a good night's sleep...

  • Sabine Hossenfelder is conflating "living in a simulation" and "spacetime is discrete". For fucks sake, she is saying that we should see evidence of discretization via violations of Lorentz symmetry. Yes, this is true, a discrete universe is not compatible with the continuity of Lorentz transforms, but this has nothing to do with their simulatability. Lorentz transforms are trivial to simulate. Heck, all of physics we know can be simulated even in a classical computer, they are just differential equations.

    J

    • by Nemyst ( 1383049 )
      It seems like you didn't grasp what she's saying at all, actually. She says that since we know for a fact that our two current theories (that is, quantum mechanics and relativity) do not match up, we have no idea how complicated an actual simulation of our universe would be since we don't know the actual rules that control it. Anyone attempting to extrapolate a simulation from our current understanding of physics is most likely severely underestimating the complexity of the problem.

      Just look back at Newto
      • by iris-n ( 1276146 )

        This is not her argument. Read her post again.

        Your argument is even worse than hers. Just because we don't know what is the correct theory for quantum gravity it doesn't mean that we have no idea how complex it is going to be. For the universe to be non-simulatable we would need quantum gravity to be not merely very difficult to compute, but actually uncomputable [wikipedia.org]. And there is zero evidence for that (no physical theory we have is uncomputable). In fact, the evidence we have points in the opposite direction,

    • Heck, all of physics we know can be simulated even in a classical computer, they are just differential equations

      Spoken like someone who has never actually tried to simulate those differential equations for an non-trivial problem. Those simple equations, like the Schrodinger equation, become mathematically intractable as soon as you simulate something more complex than a hydrogen atom.

      • by iris-n ( 1276146 )

        Spoken like someone who has never actually tried to simulate those differential equations for something more complex than a hydrogen atom. I have actually solved Schrödinger's equation for a Helium atom numerically, it works fine. But you are right that one needs exponential time in general to simulate quantum mechanics in a classical computer.

        This is not relevant, however, for either Hossenfelder's or Bostrom's arguments, as they don't hinge on the complexity of the simulation, but only on the possibi

        • How did you deal with the correlation and exchange between the two electrons? You probably used some approximation that only works because helium can be assumed to be non-reactive. As soon as one of those electrons gets moved from a ground state S orbital, your numerical simulation would start to fall apart. These issues cannot be waved away as a "complexity" problem; these equations have existed since before digital computers and the solutions for non-trivial problems still allude us. The TFA addresses thi
  • by WDot ( 1286728 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2017 @11:45AM (#54088339)
    A previous slashdot commenter (I don't remember which, sorry) said it best. It's apparently ignorant and backwards to believe that God created the universe, but quite forward-thinking and intellectual to think a computer programmer did.
  • EM drive (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cyberglich ( 525256 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2017 @11:47AM (#54088357)
    Personally the fact that recently we have found the EM drive may actually work says were are in a simulation. We just found a bug in the physics engine. That or we need to rethink many of our basic assumptions of physics.
  • She and other simulation-sceptics probably have had a mind-manipulating intervention done by our Simulator, as an attempt to hide the fact that we do live in one.
    I find it more probable that we do live in one. There might even be a person somewhere, that is an avatar for the Simulator, just to get a 1'st person view in simulation game.

  • When I first heard about this idea of our existence being nothing more than a computer simulation and was then given some credibility by other technological luminaries, I assumed that the original idea started with physics. To my surprise, I learned here today that the notion started with a philosopher. There's nothing wrong with philosophy per se, but this particular thought experiment strikes me as particularly nihilistic in nature. When Christians and humanists debate the meaning of our existences, it
    • The philosophy of simulation would seem to inherently mandate that neither argument from Christians or humanists is in the least bit relevant, as our existence is nothing more than a lie. I have to believe that Nick Bostrom is likely a very depressed human being who proferred a notion that fits with his world view but is unable to support it with any verifiable evidence.

      Maybe our simulation serves a higher purpose we can't know/understand, like finding the cure for god-AIDS for example ...

  • by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2017 @11:55AM (#54088431)
    Heisenbergs uncertainty principle is the observable effect of the simulation running with high, but limited, numerical precision.

    Oh, and it's simulations all the way down.

  • That is what it is simulated to do. Basically can you simulate so that the simulated think they are not simulated? It is a very high order captcha for the higher dimensional beings.
  • "I'm not saying it's impossible," Hossenfelder told Gizmodo. "But I want to see some backup for this claim."

    Prove we're *not* in a computer simulation. I imagine that, for any sufficiently well designed/implemented simulation, proving the case either way may be impossible. Might as well ask to prove we're all alive or that we all exist or, to quote HHGTTG, we're not all products of a deranged imagination.

  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp ( 442658 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2017 @11:58AM (#54088479) Journal

    She falls into the same trap that most do who think about this problem -- that the super-universe in which our simulation is embedded has physics anything like what is being simulated for us (or with us as a side effect.)

    If it can do uncounted googleplex operations per second, with similar abailability of storage space (or equivalent for an analog computer!) then none of her speed concerns are valid. Indeed, the cosmic speed limit here is a curious oddity, perhaps deliberately ala Vinge's Zones of Thought.

    As for Bell's inequality and hidden variables, again, if it is all simulated, none of that matters. Hidden variables is only an issue if you need to maintain Einstein's concept of reality, that there are real objects "out there" with real, measurable properties. If one gives up on that reality, one can base quantum mechanics on a deeper classical realism with no problems whatsoever.

    But even that need not be the ultimate reality. But her concerns are only issues if one, needlessly, and I submit oddly, wants to maintain that that parent computer's physics is anything like the physics being sinulated.

  • by burtosis ( 1124179 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2017 @12:01PM (#54088503)
    Science does not, nor has ever, "proven" anything. The article linked demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding as well. The scientific method entails formulating a hypothesis and failing to disprove it, only becoming useful as a theory when it leads to new discovery and understanding.

    There isn't even a need for each particle to have a specific value, a simulation isn't limited to a binary operation in this universe much less any conceivable one. Nor is computational complexity a way to explain it away as there would be no way to tell how much time flows on this side of the simulation with respect to the other from our perspective. All that could ever be accomplished is to show that the simulation would need to be at least of complexity/size X and run for Y operations which at this point would likely correlate with the surface area of the visible universe. Further this would have to come with a caveat that it's only basic rule based and not sentient based as it would be trivial to then overwrite peoples minds/data or start it from any point at which point it generates no useful information, even if correct.

    Tldr pseudoscience
  • by Archtech ( 159117 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2017 @12:05PM (#54088543)

    A lot of religious ideas and speculation can be explained by the "God of the Gaps" theory. That is, before human beings had acquired a worthwhile body of reliable scientific knowledge, interesting or scary things that were otherwise inexplicable were attributed to God. Like thunder and lightning, for instance. The more science has advanced, the more that kind of theological phenomenon has been squeezed out.

    Much the same is true of philosophy. Since the Enlightenment or even before - say the time of Francis Bacon - science has been building up an increasingly large and fairly coherent body of reliable knowledge. That has irritated many philosophers, because the things they used to muse and pontificate about are now off limits - or, at least, explained by science to most people's satisfaction.

    That's why, about a century ago, philosophy suffered an uncomfortable "fork". A lot of people who called themselves philosophers focused more and more tightly on an analysis of language and epistemology - for example, Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and a majority of 20th century British philosophers. Others saw this as an admission of defeat and confinement to mere analysis of words, and tried to aim higher. Karl Popper, for instance, tried to lay down rules for what scientists could, and could not, legitimately do.

    So today, when they are so hemmed in by well-established scientific knowledge, some philosophers are delighted to find such promising topics as whether the universe is a simulation. It's not so very different from the preoccupation of the pre-Socratics who argued interminably about whether the world was ultimately made of water, air, earth, or the unknowable "apeiron". Not much progress, you might say; but then it's always been one of the delightful (or irritating, according to your temperament) aspects of philosophy that it never really comes to any final conclusions.

  • .... then the evidence for it is in the laws of physics themselves, since the simulation would follow a fixed set of rules, what we happen to call the "laws of physics" would just be our perceived way of modelling the behaviour in the universe that we observe. The reason we wouldn't find anomalies in a properly done simulation is because the simulation runs on a set of rules that do not contain any way to perceive such an anomaly, even if it were to happen, and we, as part of that simulation are still co
  • I'm glad we got that sorted out.

  • This whole debate is kind of fun, but shouldn't be taken as seriously as it is. The most important principle in modern philosophy is that this kind of thing is potentially unknowable. The claim that there should be evidence in the laws of physics is mistaken, because if we do live in a simulation then we literally know nothing about the world outside of that simulation. Normal laws of logic, mathematics and general raionality which work here may not apply there. Time and space may not be sensible concepts t

  • Not to say that there's any sort of scientific or evidence-based reason to believe the simulation theory, but really, who among us can't envision the following scenario:

    GM: welcome all, I hope you enjoy playing in this universe I've created. I've been working on it for the last 14 billion years, and I think it's pretty awesome. Now, I've provided you all with the complete set of rules for this universe, but it can get complicated at times, and I'm sure you haven't read through all of them and that's fine.

I am more bored than you could ever possibly be. Go back to work.

Working...