Is this "base reality"? Probably not, say some


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/10/10/is-this-base-reality-prob.html


#notmybasereality
#2

“say some”?

Uh, “say most”, maybe? Except for all those people who think Hitler is still alive in Argentina, playing Parcheesi with Elvis.


#3

Base reality for me will always be a rough carpet on the floor - thanks to Rainer Werner Faßbinder’s TV-Movie “Welt am Draht”, one of the more faithful adaptions of Daniel F. Galouye’s “Simulacron 3”.


#4

When I read of things like this, I ask if we are truly trapped in this “lesser” reality, or if we are willing participants of the game. Sure, we may be disappointed that our avatars don’t have a God Mode hack, but we may find this reality entertaining all the same, much like we find playing World of Warcraft entertaining even if we keep getting fragged.

Beyond that, the question is if a simulation can properly model parts of the “wrapper” reality without knowing its parameters? How can a simulation tell which natural laws the simulator running it follows? Note that nothing in the Simulator may know that it is in a simulation, or what the engine behind it is like.


#5

Why bother trying to escape this reality when you don’t even know if the ‘next reality’ you find yourself in is going to be any better, or even if that one is the final “base reality”? The rabbit hole has no bottom.

To borrow a line from Voltaire, just tend your garden.


#6

Turtles all the way down, man. It’s an infinite number of Russian-nested turtles in, like, both directions, so, like, relax, dude. There is no base.


#7

It reminds me of Stanislaw Lem’s “The Futurological Congress”


#8

It’s worse than you think. We’re not players—we’re NPCs.


#9

We’re gonna trot out this old horse again? Alrighty then.

If this thread takes off, it’s only a matter of time before someone asks how we’re supposed to outsmart whatever could program a convincing reality apparently occupied by several billion parallel streams of consciousness. Here are three of the possible answers.

  1. Same way that bacteria “outsmart” the global medical community. If the programmer(s) aren’t “always-on” omniscient, and if they can make mistakes or simply choose not to be immaculate, then even simple emergencies might find cracks in the prison. This does however raise the same specter that this could be the Great Filter that answers the Fermi Paradox, in one of two ways.

1a) The simulation may merely generate our perceptions procedurally and the simulator, whatever it is (black hole powered computer, pure energy, some eternal dude playing with rocks, really bored kid with a TRS-80 and way too much time), may not be set up to run more than a few billion processes. In fact, it may only be set up to run one, and I’m just an illusion fed into the only mind in existence, whoever you are.

1b) Any simulacra (such as us) that find the cracks in reality and try to exploit them, get treated the same way outbreaks of dangerous bacteria do, with extreme sanction, so as soon as aliens find say the hack for FTL travel (and I suspect circumventing the laws of physics is Musk’s main motivation), they get the ol’ fdisk treatment.

  1. We’re supposed to find the cracks, and that’s the test to see if we get to visit or emigrate to the next reality in the Markov chain. In this case it’s dangerous not to look for the cracks, because whoever gets there first may no longer be dependent on the simulator staying turned on.

  2. There is no programmer. The simulator is a naturally emerging feature of some reality (presumably a reality quite different from this one).

But #3 raises another issue that I consider the real problem. Our idea of what a simulation can be is inherently limited. Just as words like infinity and eternity are mathematical abstractions that, if they have any physical meaning, are outside our current understanding, our distinction between “base reality” and “simulation” could be equally naive. Reality as we know it may in fact be a “real” simulator. There might even be multiple self-consistent interpretations of it’s patterns, of which we might see only the one we’re part of. Just as the same sounds can have multiple meanings in different languages, we might share a substrate with other simulations. This begs the question not only whether we can find cracks in the simulation, but whether we can find a way to make contact with these other patterns. Understand that this would not be a parallel universe in the conventional sense. It isn’t “next door” or a divergent quantum reality such as Hugh Everett hypothesized. It’s us and our perceptions read in a different order.

And that actually brings us to one last issue with what a simulation is, specifically what consciousness is. If I had the answer, I’d be richer than Musk. But if reality is a simulation generated only when a consciousness is looking, distinct consciousnesses themselves might be an illusion. Each process (consciousness) might call on a shared library of perceptions (both external and internal, though the distinction between the two could also be an illusion if this is simulation as we think of it). Indeed, the Principle of Parsimony suggests this is probably so if this is a simulation, since it would be pointlessly wasteful to duplicate all the data billions of times over. Understand that this isn’t just saying that we’re drawing on a collective memory. What is thought but the active access and editing of memory? So when, for instance, you and I have a thought that uses some of the same qualia (properties of perception), even when it’s just a perception of your own thought (your “inner” life), it’s actually probably the same entry in the library being read at the same time by both our processes.

TL;DR - Individuality may be the greatest simulation of all.


#10

That’s what I was thinking. Why would there be a base reality? The more I think about it, the more I think Tegmark’s Mathematical Universe Theory (or something close to that) is probably true. The base reality is probably just mathematics and there’s no physicality to this reality or any other reality.


#11

Well, that’s what you would say if you wanted to get to achieve God-mode first :wink:


#12

This is the premise of Rudy Rucker’s excellent novel Mathematicians in Love. In fact, I strongly recommend Rucker stories in general to anyone interested this sort of topic.


#13

Yeah, they’re silly. Hitler’s in Uruguay playing pinochle with Leon Trotsky.


#14

I refute it thus!


#15

To me, René Descartes’s Meditations on First Philosophy is the classical example of how an extraordinary intellect (one manifestly far smarter than I*) can talk himself into whatever he wishes to be true by accepting and ignoring only one fallacy, in his case the circular necessity for the very God of who’s existence he was searching for a proof.

*This isn’t false humility. It’s actually corollary to the first answer I gave in my long comment above. If a less intelligent person can, by using rigor, find the logical flaws in the reasoning of a more intelligent person, then even whatever or whoever can program a convincing simulation may not be unassailable.


#16

All I know about Descartes is the cogito, which I believe comes from a separate treatise. What you describe sounds rather like Anselm’s Ontological Proof also, at least in its (to me) circularity. But then, both men are, as you say, smarter than I! :slight_smile:


#17

Yes, cogito ergo sum is the Latin translation of je pense, donc je suis from Descartes’s Discourse on the Method, but the same principle axiom conceit expounded at greater length forms part of the chain of reasoning in the Meditations.

The main problem ontological proofs run into is that they try to logically prove their own axioms. Gödel’s two incompleteness theorems show that such endeavors are doomed to fail.


#18

I always enjoy it when cosmology features turtles.


#19

Obligs…


#20

And the perspective of an interceding 300 years!

Headcanon: It’s always seemed to me that Descartes threw the bit about God in to appease the powers that be. And that he intentionally made it flimsy, so that anyone could see the flaws who wasn’t willfully blind.