Are we in a simulation? This short video explores the question

When people say simulation they always think that the creator is trying to learn something from the simulation, what if our simulation is real time strategy game played by board aliens?


We all live in our own personal simulation, running on a blob of fatty meat inside our skulls. You can see the glitches - optical illusions, for example.


I want to be a hadron.

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If this is a sim there would be nothing to wake up you are part of the code, not the computer. When that power button gets pressed, that is IT.

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Tripy, right? But even tripier is there is no reason that you would have to run any of the creatures at once. Everything could be processed individually then run and we would never be the wiser.

What if the real world is continuous and infinitely divisible and the fundamental particles are a fudge to make it easy to simulate?

The most bizarre thing about the simulation argument is the idea that we could know anymore more about the world that is simulating us than Mario knows about our reality.


I bloody well hope so.

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I think it’s the equivalent of a junior high school project for science week.
And as usual, one kid on the team does all the real work, and the others just dick around and mess things up.


I forget (been years). How was Neo awakened?

Yes, adding CERN in V 598.15.03b was a nice touch.


Drugs man, drugs.

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It always amuses me that people who buy into the likelihood of the simulation hypothesis think they can outsmart their putative simulators. They always frame it as asking if we’re in a simulation. If they’re correct, then they bloody well are the simulation. The Matrix wasn’t actually a place like a community pool humans visited. It was just a bunch of lies told to their neurons. So not only would the putative simulators control and be able to edit what the researchers believe about the signals they interpret as their nonexistent external universe, but even if the simulators allowed or even encouraged the researchers to discover the nature of the simulation, the results would by definition be unreliable. It’s a non-falsifiable hypothesis and therefore scientifically a moot point.

Descartes painted himself into this corner 400 years ago, but at least even he was honest enough with himself that the only way out was to posit a benevolent deity. Granted his reasons for said being’s necessity were unsupported bullcrap, but at least he knew he wasn’t going to science his way out of the Cartesian theater.


The simulation hypothesis is creationism in a new box.


Awakened from the vat of KY he was in as a human battery, not the “take the red pill, and see the truth. take the blue pill and remain asleep to reality,” choice that Morpheus offered him. I can’t remember what made him sit up in that vat of goo. And I don’t want to watch the movie again to find out.

The point of a simulation is to create a digital (or computational) replica of the thing being simulated, or to investigate alternate realities, since it is easier and more economical to create digital replicas than to physically build them. If it can be simplified, great, since that is less computationally intensive. But that’s not the point of simulation, and with chaotic systems simplification is likely to make the simulation less accurate. The reason our weather and climate forecasts are inaccurate the further into the future we go is because the simulations are over-simplified.

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Building a simulation is not the same as being able to understand everything happening in it. We are probably ourselves at the point of being able to build simulations containing complex artificial life, and soon, evolving artificial intelligences. This does not mean we would be able to edit what such an intelligence believes; it would likely be so complex that it would be a black box to us. Whether the hypothesis is falsifiable depends on the hypothesis; a hypothesized “no interference” simulation would be falsifiable if we found evidence of interference.


That’s like saying “the big bang theory is creationism in a new box”. It isn’t, because the big bang relies on well-founded science such as quantum theory and astronomical observation; “God did it”, not so much. Likewise, we now have the science to enable us to create our own simulations, and the difficulty in creating simulations of portions of the universe are technical and economic, not metaphysical. Granted, once you start talking about the ethics of such simulations, then the discussion rapidly starts to mirror theology.

No it isn’t.

Big bang theory is based on scientific principles. It seeks to work in disprovable assertions.

Theorizing about the motives of “designers” and conditions that are defined to be identical enough to be undisprovable is pretty much theology.

The reason that simulation theory is just warmed-over Intelligent Design is that the part of the theory that’s being added - “maybe we’re living in a world somebody designed” - isn’t the part that up for proof or disproof. The only scientific tests argued for are to look for things that don’t seem to match our idea of what a “non-designed” system would look like. That just leads to a re-hash of all the watchmaker analogies that people have put forth for centuries. The idea that “because we can make watches, maybe we live in a kind of super-watch made by a super-watchmaker” isn’t new at all, no matter how sophisticated our “watches” have become.

It’s just removing the word “God” and replacing it with “unknowably advanced alien civilization” or “beyond-the-scope-of-human-achievement super-computer”. That addition of an unknowable creator with motivation and agency is not testable, and without it, all the scientific tests are what we’re already doing to understand reality, without putting a cosmic puppeteer behind the set-up.


Prediction is usually not the purpose of simulations (weather being a rare exception). It’s the same thing with machine learning – typically the real goal isn’t to create “black boxes” that can predict outcome from input but rather to create a model that can be interpreted to find the important factors because it is simpler than the real world.


Aside from the fact that computers need not be digital, these are the same thing. I disagree with the assumption that a simulation needs to have any point or that it can be assumed based on the in-simulation mechanics (including economics), but if the point is to create more economical replicas as we understand the concept then that is the same as saying the point is to create a simplified model. If you need a simulation as complex as the real thing (†), then you’ve simply created a new equally complex and therefore no more economically efficient model out of a different substrate.

This is incorrect. Climate is a little different since it’s constrained by boundary conditions (such as the conditions AGW is currently altering), but weather forecasts become less accurate over time because the evolution of the system is dictated by the fundamentally probabilistic behavior of Brownian motion. Even if you could instantaneously create an exact duplicate of the system, whether a physical copy under identical external conditions or an identical informational representation down to the exact same quantum state or some other fundamentally identical model (‡), the equally complex copy that begins the same will still diverge from its original as soon as it begins to evolve over time.

It may and probably would take longer to diverge than the simplified computer models currently employed in weather forecasting, and indeed one potential application of quantum computing is to create more sophisticated predictive models, but diverge it will and it will do so for exactly the same reason our current models diverge from the actual weather over time, fundamental indeterminacy.

More complex models cannot eliminate probabilistic indeterminacy, only manage it and our current models already do that, just not as well as a more complex model may be able to.

(†) …which may well be the case for certain applications, but not weather prediction.

(‡) …and you can do none of these things because any attempt to clone the quantum state of the system will fail because that too is a probabilistic process and indeed may well be integrally related to the probabilistic uncertainty of classical chaos.

You misunderstand me. I am saying you could never know, just as Descartes could never know his hypothetical demon wasn’t simply deceiving him. Unlike some areas of metaphysics, empirical science requires confidence in the inputs. If you’re a simulacrum, you can’t trust those inputs. Everything you learn is suspect. You can find all the evidence you want. It won’t tell you one way another if you’re in a simulation, just as any attempts to prove any other Creator are non-falsifiable. I’m not telling you don’t try or even that there’s no value in the experiments. I’m telling you empirical experiments can neither prove nor disprove the simulation hypothesis.

Also, while I enjoy these philosophical discussions, I will point out that you and I engaged in this same discussion last year, and it followed almost the exact same outline.