Either we don't live in a simulation, or computing works differently outside the Matrix

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/10/03/elon-is-wrong.html


Does this apply even if the “universe” is procedurally generated - like Minecraft, say, which is often offered as a comprehensible example in the simulation hypothesis?

See also, Haldeman’s Forever Free, which is a fun and unexpected take on this (as in, I wouldn’t have expected it from him after Forever War, not that its ideas are themselves terrificially unusual)


I’m terrified by the idea that we might not be living in a simulation.


Yup, you’re right. In a simulation good enough for you, not me or anyone else but just you to live in you can throw a lot away. You don’t need to know the location of every particle at any moment until you attempt to observe it. To fit a whole planet earth into a simulation just for you, you can generalise what’s happening on the other side of the planet. In your reality you can just assume ships are navigating the world because that’s what you’re told, stuff arrives in shops you go into from far distant lands only when you need it, and so on. If you suddenly went to find one of those ships then it’d have to be created for you.

If you do play the statistics game, and you assume a power curve of whatever shape, the chances would be that we’re in one of the many lower-fidelity simulations rather than an all encompassing perfect one.

The type of artefacts of that you’d spot are places where information could be compressed, like covering the surface of the planet with 70%, that’s solved a whole heap of problems. Next keep an eye out for possible mathematical formulas for simulating millions of plants.

If there are patterns, it’s either because nature loves patterns, or maybe it’s a method of saving CPU power.


Well, just in case we are in a simulation, I vote we delete Donald Trump.

Hell, lets just delete the entire GOP - what do you say?


Well as we’re all apparently here, an explanation would be that Donald Trump is the point of the current simulation.


It turns out that figuring out these particles’ locations scales at order n-squared, meaning the amount of computing power needed doubles with each additional particle, which means that “storing information about a couple of hundred electrons would require a computer memory that would physically require more atoms than exist in the universe.”

The fact that I may be too stupid to understand the various arguments presented here is definitely distinguishable from zero, but…Is the existence of something predicated on our ability to measure the likelihood of its existence or its position within the universe?

Or maybe we just lack the proper math.

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Yes, it applies. The limit of 200 electrons is very very very small. A procedurally generated universe, that includes consciousness (even for a single person), would still need to simulate waaaaay more than 200 electrons at a time. According to this research, simulating a single uranium atom would require more atoms than exist in the universe.


I suppose our host universe P = NP and in here it might be that P ≠ NP is a resource constraint from the hypervisor.

…or people did way too much pot in college.

I mean! Look at our solar system … it might be an atom in a larger object… woah.


My coffee tastes just as good either way.


Well, who says, that the simulators will simulate something on their level of universe? Our universe may look astonishingly complex to our computing power (current and future), but it may be nothing more than a badly simulated environment in some super-power alien game, sold by the millions to alien teenagers which live in a universe so unbelievable more complex than everything we know. And, as said in Iain M. Banks’ “Algebraist”: In the end it doesn’t matter for our day-to-day lives…


Counterpoint: to determine the location of a particle, I need only that particle. Particles may compute their own state. The universe is a model of itself, at 1:1 scale. The question isn’t whether the the future states of the universe can be computed- the fact that time’s arrow moves ever forward answers that question neatly.

The question is “Is the universe parsimonious, or is its state compressible?” To wit, can you predict the state of the universe 10 minutes from now with a computer smaller than the universe in less than ten minutes? Philosophically, I would suspect that you can’t.


Your math is wrong, you said “n-squared” (or n raised to the second power), but the article and your description is of 2 raised to the n-th power. 2^n grows significantly faster than n^2.


The number pi, as far as we know, goes on forever and doesn’t repeat. Therefore, to store the value of Pi you would need more atoms than are in the universe.

However, you can also store it this way: π = circumference / diameter


If you truly think that this disproves their research, I recommend you email the physicists about it (d.kovrizhin1@physics.ox.ac.uk, zoharahoz@gmail.com). I also recommend emailing the science editor at Science (science_editors@aaas.org), because it would seem that their peer review system isn’t working.

Who knows, there may be some other way to store a quantum Monte Carlo simulation of 200 electrons without needing more atoms than exist in the universe, but I doubt it’s a simple as storing the ratio of two numbers. The researchers may have insights into such possibilities, I don’t know.


Well, maybe there is no need to get into the finer details to have a decent simulation.
They may have an accurate statistical model for atoms, without needing to simulate the single subparticles.
And for everything far enough, probably even less is required.


It’s fun to think about the problems of simulating a / this universe and all, but the details are kind of moot. Even if the assumptions are sound, the simulated-universe argument is a defective piece of reasoning, similar to the Ontological argument for proving the existence of God (or anything else).

In both cases the flaw is in treating “existence” as an attribute, like being “blue” or “heavy”. If you say that something is blue within your thought experiment, fair enough, it’s your fantasy. But if you say it has the attribute of existing, you’re making a claim about the real world, not your hypothetical world, and that’s not up to you. You’re just creating a new, worthless definition of the word “existence”. Things (such as God or the Matrix) either exist or they don’t; it’s not a quality that can be argued into being.


Obligatory SMBC:


Elon Musk’s ability to found a company that makes self-driving cars

Elon didn’t found Tesla… or Solar City… or ebay… or think up the hyperloop. He did start Space X though, which is pretty cool.


Right - or this is a pay-to-play game, and he’s the “whale” player.