Is 'Simulation' possible?

I even heard Dawkins consider it, though I don’t have a site. I would hate to get all Matrix-like; But could we all just be experiencing a “false reality?”

I don’t know where to put this thread, so I apologize if it’s the wrong forum.

I’m just wondering if it’s possible, I’m not saying there’s any reason to take a leap in that pool of thought.

Probably. Especially since it wouldn’t actually need to be all that detailed; since it only needs to fool us, the simulation would only need to be detailed enough to fool human senses. Since our scientific instruments are part of the simulation they could be forced by the programmers to show us a finer level of detail that’s only there when we use those instruments. And if “they” have direct access to our minds “they” could simply force us to overlook any discrepancies anyway.

Sure, it’s possible…tautologous, but possible. It’s possible that we could be in a simulation so realistic that we’d never realize it, since the very question posits a simulation so realistic that we’d never realize it. Situations like this are commonly called “Brain in a Vat” questions in philosophy, but being deadends they don’t get a lot of airplay.

I’m surprised you would chime in saying it’s possible. I know you’re a pretty strict atheist, correct? I know you’re not saying it’s probable, or *likely *we are simulations. One would be taking a leap of faith in saying we were all a “Brain in a Vat”, and there’s no reason to think we are, but the *possibility *of it means there’s a *possibility *of a creator.

I don’t mean to be confrontational; I guess I just want to know if you’re the type of person that’s open to the *possibility *that there *could *be something “bigger” than us? But someone who also knows, (like I do), that there’s no reason to believe in something “bigger”?

I wish I has the Dawkins video.

Is Dawkins talking about a “false” reality- i.e., being stuck in the Matrix? Or is he positing that the way the laws of physics in our universe behave is consistant with our universe being the expression of a higher-order reality? IOW, our universe is “real” as far as it goes, but there is something “realer than real”, which might not even be humanly recognizable as a physical universe?

From what I remember of the brief time he talked about it, he was questioned by someone about something I don’t even recall. I’m not sure this is accurate, it was a while ago that I saw it.

After dismissing a posed enquiry he said something like;

“Now! I DO believe in the possibility we could be some sort of simulation of some sort. But, eh, if you’re willing to go that far…”
Then he dropped it.

I don’t see the contradiction, myself.

I guess I want to know what to call myself, an atheist or a hard agnostic. I guess athiest.

Found this.

I have always found the documents at Are You Living In a Computer Simulation? entertaining; the idea itself is an interesting thought experiment to examine old but always relevant questions, like “What can we know?” and “What is reality?”

It’s also embedded into a tradition in the arts, which at times seem to be fascinated with the question. During Spain’s siglo de oro, playwriters like Calderón shaped the idea of the desengaño, the end of deception and realization of the truth about life, the universe or … you know. Variants of the idea were revisited in Magic Realism during the 20th century and were discussed in epistemology; the Radical Constructivism is related to the idea, though the supporters rather proceed from the point of view, that, while we are embedded within reality, it’s (almost) impossible for us to gain any knowledge about it, since we are trapped within the constructs built by our minds. But the constructs are not arbitrary since they are not allowed to collide with reality in a way that ends our existence; evolution keeps us reality-conform. Or to give an example: While neither the tree nor the space might exist the way a monkey perceives it, its sensory apparatus and its processing of the data must allow the monkey to jump where the reality behind the branch exists or it dies.

I have read a couple of opinions that the peaks of interest towards such questions coincide with specific states of mind within the culture but I always seem to find a ton of reasons to disagree with the pov.

Unlikely claims about gods, the simulation hypothesis breaks no physical laws, is not internally incoherent, and makes no fake claims to evidence. It’s an interesting speculation, that’s all. Nor does it even pretend to actually answer the question of where the real universe came from. Nor would the beings responsibly be “gods”; they’d just be advanced aliens. Not innately morally superior, not deserving of worship, not capable of ignoring physical laws, not even necessary immortal or especially powerful; they’d just have to be good programmers with impressive hardware.

Thanks for answering. They wouldn’t be considered “gods”, huh? Even if they themselves were simulations, by other advanced intelligence… “god(s)” has many definitions. So are you sure “gods” wouldn’t fit the description? Why not? I’m just asking; (should have put this in GQ because I’m just being inquisitive).

They aren’t supernatural; aren’t even necessarily superior beings. They aren’t “gods” any more than some ancient Emperor who declared himself a god was. Would a bunch of aliens who showed up with technology so powerful and advanced that we couldn’t understand it be “gods”? Or would they just be powerful aliens?

Edit: For that matter, was Apollo in the original series episode Who Mourns for Adonais? a genuine god? He was worshiped as one; he was an alien worshiped as the Greek god Apollo in ancient times.

When I was in college, Ed Fredkin, a believer in the simulation hypothesis, came to our class. His argument was that our universe is inherently digital, and that Planck time can represent simulation time steps. He said that the miracles reported in ancient days were bugs in the simulation, and the lack of miracles today is a result of the bugs being fixed.

I’ve written lots of simulators since then, and as a result the idea is less appealing. The main reason is that if we were the purpose of the simulation, it wouldn’t have taken so many simulation time steps to get to us. Assuming that the simulator writer has to pay, something, for computational resources, the universe is more complex than it would have to be. It would save a lot of cycles for us to begin 5 b.y. after the Big Bang, with a smaller universe.

I agree that belief in simulation is compatible with atheism, in principle. The simulator writer might have god-like powers (though we don’t know how easy it would be to fiddle) but almost certainly not morally perfect, and so not a god.

A cute idea that I’ve run into variations of before, but it of course fails due to not proving that there were any actual miracles that need explaining. All we need to do is look around in modern times with people convincing themselves that salt stains on overpasses are divine visitations to see how stories of miracles can start without any need to postulate something extraordinary, or even something interesting.

But if we are in a simulation there’s no particular reason to assume that we are the point of it; we could just as easily be just another experimental result, or even an unnoticed, unimportant oddity in a corner of the database no one has bothered to examine.

And if we are the point of the simulation all sorts of shortcuts could be taken to make it look much more complete than it really is. For that matter, the simulation could simply have been started up last week with a pre-specified “universe”, human civilization, and population complete with false memories of a pre-existing history.

True, but he was appealing to people who believed that there had been miracles. Miracles are explained by the hypothesis, but the hypothesis does not require them.

True, but my argument then says that we shouldn’t be a part of the simulation of what they writers really care about.

If you have done this kind of stuff, it is much easier to run the simulator the proper number of steps from a simple initialization state (the Big Bang) than to figure out the entire state of the simulation more or less by hand partway through.

Not necessarily. For example if the programmers are the distant descendants/creations of modern humanity, the purpose of the simulation may be historical. In which case there’s little point in starting billions of years ago, especially since doing so wouldn’t result in the Earth simulation they were looking for.

Assuming our descendants don’t have the powers of the creators of Riverworld, what good would a historical simulation without pretty complete data on the state of the world at the time?

What you’d do is to start it from the initial state, save it at a particular point, and then reload tweaking various parameters or events. You might start with the first protohuman, at the point we diverged from our common ancestor with the chimps.

You can’t get an accurate simulation of history because you don’t know the state well enough. If you want one piece, you wouldn’t have to simulate everything.

Perhaps they have such information and are, say, running multiple slightly different versions to compare alternate historical possibilities. Or perhaps they have incomplete information and are running a vaguely accurate simulation for entertainment purposes. Or perhaps we are the equivalent of a museum display.

I think, it makes some sense to wonder why we and not somebody else might decide to do such a simulation if the kind of technology was feasible? Entertainment is surely one use; the timescale isn’t necessarily a reason against it, since the tempo of time within and outside any simulation wouldn’t be synchronized in most cases.

Another is insight in questions that is not accessible from within a system; if, for example, Gödel’s incompleteness theorems were applicable beyond math for, well, cognition in general (yes, I know), we’d find a kind of unmovable barrier when it comes to knowledge wrt ourselves or every system that we are part of.

A simulation of another universe might penetrate such a hypothetical barrier in two ways: we can observe the elements within, their interdependent relations and the complete arch of their developments in a manageable amount of time. Repeat this experiment often enough and you might find underlying patterns that are otherwise impossible to see.

And if the simulation allows the development of self-conscious beings, their insight might bring us into contact with ideas that we, limited by our species-specific imagination, could not come up with.

In both cases, we’d have a very good reason to not manipulate the universe beyond the initial phase.