The simulation argument of the Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom is that we may live in a computer-generated reality. Maybe he’s right. There is currently no known method by which we can examine the parameters of our “programming”. So it is up to each of us to decide whether or not to believe in the Matrix.
But maybe it’s a little more nuanced. Maybe it’s only half wrong – or half right, depending on your philosophical point of view.
What if it is us live in a simulation but there is no computer (in the traditional sense) to run it?
Here’s the craziest, most unlikely theory I could piece together from the strangest papers I’ve ever dealt with. I call it: “Simulation argument: Live and Unplugged.”
Bostrom’s hypothesis is actually quite complicated:
But it can be explained pretty easily. According to him, one or more of the following must be true:
- It is very likely that the human species will be extinct before it reaches a “post-human” stage
- It is extremely unlikely that a posthuman civilization would run a significant number of simulations of its evolutionary history (or variations of it).
- We almost certainly live in a computer simulation
Bostrom is basically saying that in the future, people will likely be running ancestral simulations on their fancy futuristic computers. Unless they can, don’t want to, or humanity is wiped out before they get the chance.
As many people have pointed out, there is no way to do science when it comes to simulation hypotheses. Just as there is no way for the ants in an ant colony to understand why you put them there or what is going on behind the glass, you and I cannot bridge the gap to chat with the programmers who are responsible for the Coding are responsible. We are constrained by physical rules whether we understand them or not.
Except of course in quantum mechanics. There, all the classic physics rules that we have devised over millennia make almost no sense. In reality, for example, you and I see every day that an object cannot be in two places at the same time. The heart of quantum mechanics, however, is precisely this principle.
The universe in general seems to obey different rules than those that apply directly to you and me in our daily lives.
Scientists like to describe the universe in terms of regulate because from where we stand we are basically looking at infinity from the perspective of an amoeba. There is no basic truth for us to compare notes to those when, for example, we are trying to figure out how gravity works in and around a black hole. We use rules like math and the scientific method to determine what is really real.
Why are the rules different for humans and stars than for singularities and wormholes? Or perhaps more correctly: If the rules are the same for everyone, why are they then applied across systems in different measures?
For example, wormholes could theoretically allow objects to draw links through physical spaces. And who knows what is actually on the other side of a black hole?
But you and I are stuck here with boring old gravity and we can only be in one place at a time. Or are we?
Organic neural networks!
The human being as a system is actually incredibly connected. Not only are we a little adjusted to the machinations of our surroundings, but we can also spread information about them at unbelievable speeds over long distances. No matter where you live, you can, for example, know the weather in New York, Paris and Mars in real time.
What matters is not how technologically advanced smartphones or modern computers are today, but that we continue to look for ways to improve and develop our ability to share knowledge and information. We’re not on Mars, but we know what’s going on, almost as if we were.
And what’s even more impressive, we can transfer this information over iterations. A child born today doesn’t have to figure out how to make a fire and then spend their entire life developing the internal combustion engine. It’s already done. You can be happy and develop something new. Elon Musk already built a pretty good electric motor, so maybe our kids will figure out a fusion motor or something even better.
In terms of AI, we are essentially training new models based on the results of old models. And that makes humanity itself a neural network. Each generation of people adds selected information from the previous generation’s output to their input cycle and then develops new methods and conclusions, batch by batch.
Where it all comes together is the craziest idea of all: Our universe is a neural network. And because I’m writing this on a Friday, I’ll even raise the stakes and say that our universe is one of many universes that together form a large neural network.
This is a lot to unpack, but the essential thing is to start with quantum mechanics and keep our assumptions as we zoom in beyond what we can observe.
We know that subatomic particles, what we call the quantum domain, react differently when observed. This is a feature of the universe that seems incredibly important to anything that might be considered an observer.
If you think of all subatomic systems as neural networks, with observation being the only catalyst for execution, you get an incredibly complex computational mechanism that is theoretically infinitely scalable.
Rather than miniaturizing assuming that each system is a single neural network, it makes more sense to think of each system as a layer within a larger network.
And once you reach the largest self-contained system we can imagine, the entire universe, you come to one necessary conclusion: if the universe is a neural network, its output has to go somewhere.
This is where the multiverse comes in. We like to think of ourselves as “characters” in a computer simulation when looking at Bostrom’s theory. But what if we’re more like cameras? And not physical cameras like the ones on your phone, but rather the term “camera” when a developer sets a POV for players in a video game.
Image: Magic jump
If our job is to observe, it is unlikely that we are the entities that the universe outputs as a neural network. Obviously, on a large scale, we are viewed more as tools or necessary by-products.
However, if we simply think of our universe as just another layer in an exponentially larger neural network, it answers all the questions that arise from trying to see simulation theory as a plausible explanation for our existence.
Most importantly, a naturally occurring, self-sustaining neural network doesn’t require a computer at all.
In fact, neural networks almost never include what we normally think of as computers. Artificial neural networks have only been around for decades, but organic neural networks, AKA brains, have been around for at least millions of years.
Wrap up this nonsense!
In conclusion, I think we can all agree that the most obvious answer to the question of life, the universe and everything is the craziest. And if you like crazy you will love my theory.
Here it is: Our universe is part of a naturally occurring neural network that is spread over infinite or nearly infinite universes. Each universe in this multiverse is a single layer designed to search through data and produce a particular output. Within each of these layers are infinite or nearly infinite systems that comprise networks within the network.
Information moves through natural mechanisms between the layers of the multiverse. Perhaps wormholes receive data from other universes and black holes send data to other layers for output extraction. Seems about as likely as all of us who live in a computer, right?
Behind the scenes, in the places where scientists are currently looking for the missing dark matter in the universe, are the underlying physical mechanisms that invisibly merge our observations (classical reality) with what ultimately lies beyond the great final starting layer.
My guess: there is no one on the reception side, just a rubber hose that connects “output” with “input”.
Published on April 2, 2021 – 20:06 UTC