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Is the Universe a Simulation?


Guest NGOG

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http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/16/opinion/sunday/is-the-universe-a-simulation.html?_r=0

IN Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel “The Master and Margarita,” the protagonist, a writer, burns a manuscript in a moment of despair, only to find out later from the Devil that “manuscripts don’t burn.” While you might appreciate this romantic sentiment, there is of course no reason to think that it is true. Nikolai Gogol apparently burned the second volume of “Dead Souls,” and it has been lost forever. Likewise, if Bulgakov had burned his manuscript, we would have never known “Master and Margarita.” No other author would have written the same novel.

But there is one area of human endeavor that comes close to exemplifying the maxim “manuscripts don’t burn.” That area is mathematics. If Pythagoras had not lived, or if his work had been destroyed, someone else eventually would have discovered the same Pythagorean theorem. Moreover, this theorem means the same thing to everyone today as it meant 2,500 years ago, and will mean the same thing to everyone a thousand years from now — no matter what advances occur in technology or what new evidence emerges. Mathematical knowledge is unlike any other knowledge. Its truths are objective, necessary and timeless.

What kinds of things are mathematical entities and theorems, that they are knowable in this way? Do they exist somewhere, a set of immaterial objects in the enchanted gardens of the Platonic world, waiting to be discovered? Or are they mere creations of the human mind?

This question has divided thinkers for centuries. It seems spooky to suggest that mathematical entities actually exist in and of themselves. But if math is only a product of the human imagination, how do we all end up agreeing on exactly the same math? Some might argue that mathematical entities are like chess pieces, elaborate fictions in a game invented by humans. But unlike chess, mathematics is indispensable to scientific theories describing our universe. And yet there are many mathematical concepts — from esoteric numerical systems to infinite-dimensional spaces — that we don’t currently find in the world around us. In what sense do they exist?

Many mathematicians, when pressed, admit to being Platonists. The great logician Kurt Gödel argued that mathematical concepts and ideas “form an objective reality of their own, which we cannot create or change, but only perceive and describe.” But if this is true, how do humans manage to access this hidden reality?

We don’t know. But one fanciful possibility is that we live in a computer simulation based on the laws of mathematics — not in what we commonly take to be the real world. According to this theory, some highly advanced computer programmer of the future has devised this simulation, and we are unknowingly part of it. Thus when we discover a mathematical truth, we are simply discovering aspects of the code that the programmer used.

This may strike you as very unlikely. But the Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom has argued that we are more likely to be in such a simulation than not. If such simulations are possible in theory, he reasons, then eventually humans will create them — presumably many of them. If this is so, in time there will be many more simulated worlds than nonsimulated ones. Statistically speaking, therefore, we are more likely to be living in a simulated world than the real one.

Very clever. But is there any way to empirically test this hypothesis?

Indeed, there may be. In a recent paper, “Constraints on the Universe as a Numerical Simulation,” the physicists Silas R. Beane, Zohreh Davoudi and Martin J. Savage outline a possible method for detecting that our world is actually a computer simulation. Physicists have been creating their own computer simulations of the forces of nature for years — on a tiny scale, the size of an atomic nucleus. They use a three-dimensional grid to model a little chunk of the universe; then they run the program to see what happens. This way, they have been able to simulate the motion and collisions of elementary particles.

But these computer simulations, Professor Beane and his colleagues observe, generate slight but distinctive anomalies — certain kinds of asymmetries. Might we be able to detect these same distinctive anomalies in the actual universe, they wondered? In their paper, they suggest that a closer look at cosmic rays, those high-energy particles coming to Earth’s atmosphere from outside the solar system, may reveal similar asymmetries. If so, this would indicate that we might — just might — ourselves be in someone else’s computer simulation.

Are we prepared to take the “red pill,” as Neo did in “The Matrix,” to see the truth behind the illusion — to see “how deep the rabbit hole goes”? Perhaps not yet. The jury is still out on the simulation hypothesis. But even if it proves too far-fetched, the possibility of the Platonic nature of mathematical ideas remains — and may hold the key to understanding our own reality.

Edited by NGOG
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Guest Len B'stard

It's interesting you should post this today, i was watching an interview with Bertrand Russell last night where he made mention of similar things. Maths is based on, if not quite tangibles then functional realities borne out the assessment of certainties. I believe Lord Russell called it the one avenue in which a kind of perfection could be reached.

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I am deeply frightened by the notion of a human being (excuse the pun) responsible for our reality. Then again, surely it's no more plausible than the idea of a god programming our existence?

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Guest Len B'stard

Really? Cuz i hear the sound of their sister fannying about with their manuscripts :lol:

Poor Nietzsche.

Although it's worth entertaining the possibility that thats a bunch of kowtowing bullshit dreamt up by a bunch of people that had difficulty reconciling themselves with the fact that genius can often come hand in hand with being a fascist bastard.

Language is a virus.

Burroughs! :D Welcome to the Len shows off how many books he's read thread...thats two of the four covered already!

Edited by sugaraylen
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Really? Cuz i hear the sound of their sister fannying about with their manuscripts :lol:

Poor Nietzsche.

Although it's worth entertaining the possibility that thats a bunch of kowtowing bullshit dreamt up by a bunch of people that had difficulty reconciling themselves with the fact that genius can often come hand in hand with being a fascist bastard.

Of course. See Heidegger. But it's pretty well accepted these days that his sister's hands were all over Will to Power, not that the consensus is irreversible.

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Really? Cuz i hear the sound of their sister fannying about with their manuscripts :lol:

Poor Nietzsche.

Although it's worth entertaining the possibility that thats a bunch of kowtowing bullshit dreamt up by a bunch of people that had difficulty reconciling themselves with the fact that genius can often come hand in hand with being a fascist bastard.

Language is a virus.

Burroughs! :D Welcome to the Len shows off how many books he's read thread...thats two of the four covered already!
You missed the Step Brothers reference though.
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Who knows...it's plausible.

How?

How is it not?

Despite all our advances and our sense of daily comfort in our shared existence, we're ultimately walking about on a giant floating rock in the middle of a literally infinite expanse of space with galaxies we know next to nothing about, planets we will never explore in this lifetime or the next, and at the end of the day, we don't really know how we got here, what our purpose in life is, or whether there is an afterlife. And now there are theories that our universe is just one in an infinite series of big bangs and eventual implosions, where space gets stretched out and then rebounds into itself and starts all over again, that maybe there were millions or billions of other universes before ours.

It's just fucking strange to think about isn't it? So maybe life is all one big simulation, who knows. It wouldn't be any crazier than the stuff I just mentioned above.

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Guest Len B'stard

Who knows...it's plausible.

How?

How is it not?

Despite all our advances and our sense of daily comfort in our shared existence, we're ultimately walking about on a giant floating rock in the middle of a literally infinite expanse of space with galaxies we know next to nothing about, planets we will never explore in this lifetime or the next, and at the end of the day, we don't really know how we got here, what our purpose in life is, or whether there is an afterlife. And now there are theories that our universe is just one in an infinite series of big bangs and eventual implosions, where space gets stretched out and then rebounds into itself and starts all over again, that maybe there were millions or billions of other universes before ours.

It's just fucking strange to think about isn't it? So maybe life is all one big simulation, who knows. It wouldn't be any crazier than the stuff I just mentioned above.

The above in it's entirety is precisely why it is not plausible. There is a HUGE difference between discovering that something is remotely possible as a theory and it being plausible. And this is the problem with people that kinda run with certain kinds of ideas, whether it be conspiracy theorists or tinfoil nuts, they take a bunch of maybes, juice em up and then strut about the place citing is as 'plausible'.

And whatcha mean how is it not, you're the one saying it, you tell me how it is, thats the God botherers hustle isn't it, 'prove God doesn't exist!', well i don't have to, you proposed a theory, it's your job to show me how it works. Whats that shit they say, the burden of...the onus of...i don't fuckin' know but the shit means its up to you to prove it :lol:

Edited by sugaraylen
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The above in it's entirety is precisely why it is not plausible. There is a HUGE difference between discovering that something is remotely possible as a theory and it being plausible. And this is the problem with people that kinda run with certain kinds of ideas, whether it be conspiracy theorists or tinfoil nuts, they take a bunch of maybes, juice em up and then strut about the place citing is as 'plausible'.

And whatcha mean how is it not, you're the one saying it, you tell me how it is, thats the God botherers hustle isn't it, 'prove God doesn't exist!', well i don't have to, you proposed a theory, it's your job to show me how it works. Whats that shit they say, the burden of...the onus of...i don't fuckin' know but the shit means its up to you to prove it :lol:

I think it's more than just "remotely possible". Look how far technology has advanced over the last 30 years....30 years ago, the internet was almost a myth....what we fit in a smart phone today would have taken up half of a football field 30 years ago. Then look at 50 years....and 70 years....and 100 years...etc....a little over a hundred years ago, people were still using candles as their primary light source.

So how is it not possible that technology could advance to the level of simulating an entire universe? It could conceivably happen at the rate it is currently advancing.

Edited by Kasanova King
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Who knows...it's plausible.

How?

How is it not?

Despite all our advances and our sense of daily comfort in our shared existence, we're ultimately walking about on a giant floating rock in the middle of a literally infinite expanse of space with galaxies we know next to nothing about, planets we will never explore in this lifetime or the next, and at the end of the day, we don't really know how we got here, what our purpose in life is, or whether there is an afterlife. And now there are theories that our universe is just one in an infinite series of big bangs and eventual implosions, where space gets stretched out and then rebounds into itself and starts all over again, that maybe there were millions or billions of other universes before ours.

It's just fucking strange to think about isn't it? So maybe life is all one big simulation, who knows. It wouldn't be any crazier than the stuff I just mentioned above.

The above in it's entirety is precisely why it is not plausible. There is a HUGE difference between discovering that something is remotely possible as a theory and it being plausible. And this is the problem with people that kinda run with certain kinds of ideas, whether it be conspiracy theorists or tinfoil nuts, they take a bunch of maybes, juice em up and then strut about the place citing is as 'plausible'.

And whatcha mean how is it not, you're the one saying it, you tell me how it is, thats the God botherers hustle isn't it, 'prove God doesn't exist!', well i don't have to, you proposed a theory, it's your job to show me how it works. Whats that shit they say, the burden of...the onus of...i don't fuckin' know but the shit means its up to you to prove it :lol:

Nah, even scientists will tell you it's possible God exists, just that there's no scientific evidence for it. And I agree with that.

It's plausible to me that the universe is a simulation. I never said I believe it or that it's a theory with evidence behind it... just that there are crazier concepts out there. But of course until there's proof, there's no reason to believe it.

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Who knows...it's plausible.

How?

How is it not?

Despite all our advances and our sense of daily comfort in our shared existence, we're ultimately walking about on a giant floating rock in the middle of a literally infinite expanse of space with galaxies we know next to nothing about, planets we will never explore in this lifetime or the next, and at the end of the day, we don't really know how we got here, what our purpose in life is, or whether there is an afterlife. And now there are theories that our universe is just one in an infinite series of big bangs and eventual implosions, where space gets stretched out and then rebounds into itself and starts all over again, that maybe there were millions or billions of other universes before ours.

It's just fucking strange to think about isn't it? So maybe life is all one big simulation, who knows. It wouldn't be any crazier than the stuff I just mentioned above.

The above in it's entirety is precisely why it is not plausible. There is a HUGE difference between discovering that something is remotely possible as a theory and it being plausible. And this is the problem with people that kinda run with certain kinds of ideas, whether it be conspiracy theorists or tinfoil nuts, they take a bunch of maybes, juice em up and then strut about the place citing is as 'plausible'.

And whatcha mean how is it not, you're the one saying it, you tell me how it is, thats the God botherers hustle isn't it, 'prove God doesn't exist!', well i don't have to, you proposed a theory, it's your job to show me how it works. Whats that shit they say, the burden of...the onus of...i don't fuckin' know but the shit means its up to you to prove it :lol:

Nah, even scientists will tell you it's possible God exists, just that there's no scientific evidence for it. And I agree with that.

It's plausible to me that the universe is a simulation. I never said I believe it or that it's a theory with evidence behind it... just that there are crazier concepts out there. But of course until there's proof, there's no reason to believe it.

Everything is possible when you know nothing.

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On a side note, although I think it's "possible" that it could happen....I don't think it's a reality. I think the truth to the mysteries of the universe (scientifically) lies closer to what quantum physicists are beginning to discover.

Edited by Kasanova King
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