April 12, 2019

WE ARE ALL DESIGNIST NOW:

Are we living in a simulation? This MIT scientist says it's more likely than not (Dyllan Furness, April 9, 2019, Digital Trends)

Digital Trends: The simulation hypothesis is a complex and controversial topic. What first got you interested in writing a book about it?

Rizwan Virk: I had an experience playing virtual reality ping pong and the responsiveness was very real to the point where I forgot that I was in a room with VR glasses on. When the game ended, I put the paddle on the table but, of course, there was no paddle and there was no table, so the controller fell to the floor. I even leaned over onto the table and almost fell over. That experience really got me thinking about how video game technology is evolving and how it could end up being so fully immersive that we would be unable to distinguish it from reality.

Describe the simulation hypothesis for people who aren't familiar with it.

The basic idea is that everything we see around us, including the Earth and the universe, is part of a very sophisticated MMORPG (a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game) and that we are players in this game. The hypothesis itself comes in different forms.

In one version, we're all A.I. within a simulation that's running on somebody else's computer. In another version, we are "player characters," conscious things that exist outside the simulation and we inhabit characters, just like you might take on the character of an elf or dwarf in a fantasy RPG.

So, for example, in The Matrix there's that famous scene where Morpheus gives Neo the choice between the red pill or the blue pill. When he takes the red pill, he wakes up (in a vat) in the real world, where he controlled his (simulation) character. He was jacked in through a physical cable in his neocortex. In that particular version of the simulation hypothesis, we are conscious or biological beings outside of the simulation and each of us controls a character. 

When The Matrix first came out, the simulation hypothesis seemed purely science fictional. Why do you think it's taken more seriously today?

The first reason is that video game technology has advanced and we can now have millions of players on a shared server. Also, 3D-rendering technology has gotten really good. We can actually represent 3D objects in 3D worlds. In the '80s and early '90s, there wasn't enough computing power to render a world like World of Warcraft or Fortnite. It relied on us being able to build optimization techniques that allowed us to render just what the character sees. A third of [my] book is dedicated to video game technology, how it evolved in the past, and what the stages are to get from where we are today to a "simulation point," (where simulation is indistinguishable from reality).

The other big reason why scientists and academics are starting to take it seriously is Oxford professor Nick Bostrom, who wrote an article in 2003 called "Are You Living in a Simulation?" He came up with a clever statistical argument for the simulation hypothesis. He says, suppose some civilization somewhere gets to the simulation point and can create highly realistic "ancestor simulations." With more computing power, they can spin off new servers and new civilizations really quickly. Each of those servers can have billions or trillions of simulated beings within them. Therefore, the number of simulated beings is way more than the number of biological beings. If just one civilization reaches the simulation point, probability says you are likely a simulated being because there are way more simulated beings in existence than biological ones.



Posted by at April 12, 2019 12:02 AM

  

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