It seems likely that we’re living in a simulation. In the following blog articles, I’ll try and examine a plan which could provide a path to a possible exit, if that is indeed the case. Here’s how it all goes together.
Escaping The Simulation Part 1 : In this blog entry
1. I’ll outline a reminder of ‘The Simulation Hypothesis.’
2. I’ll examine the concept of communications which are hidden in the fabric of life. I’ll also explain why I think elegance is important in this context.
3. I’ll consider systems, what’s inside them vs what’s outside them, how they’re monitored, signal vs noise, statistical anomalies and alerts.
4. I’ll present a case study – A real life signal that Earth has received from outer space; the ‘Wow’ message, including the key components that it contained.
5. I’ll give an example just for fun, based on a recent blog post, how Pac Man could save the day using the sum of these ideas.
Starting at the very beginning:
1. A reminder on The Simulation Hypothesis
Nick Bostrom came up with the idea. I’ve actually written about it before and the name for the problem I’m laying out. He called it The Simulation Hypothesis
In short, what we consider to be our reality may very well not be real.
It’s more than likely that you know what Moore’s law is. One simple example of progress along Moore’s curve is the quality of video game graphics.
With that in mind, the Simulation Hypothesis boils down to this. Can you can imagine a future, say 500 years from now, in which the resolution of computer games has progressed (by Moore’s law) to a level in which reality can be simulated perfectly? If you can envisage such a thing, then, Mr. Bostrom suggests, it stands to reason that we are almost certainly living in a computer game. The reason for such an assumption is remarkably mundane.
Any society which could create one simulated Earth, says Bostrom, would almost certainly create many. They’d do it either for entertainment, or to test an idea, or to evolve a new solution to a problem.
There may be many billions of simulations running at any one time. And if you believe the detail within each model could be sufficient to render it as realistic as reality, then the chance that we are in the one real ‘reality’ is infinitesimally small. It follows that it is almost certain that what we see is a simulation.
Simulations to what end?
It interests me to think that the point of our universe could be to observe how a particular mammal in Africa or Bolton, evolves over the next billion years.
Maybe one of those evolved creatures could serve a purpose or solve a problem in the real world. Perhaps they evolve to eat plastic . Maybe they are flying insects which turn out to be most efficient way to turn airborne carbon in to solid fertilizer. You and I might exist only to surround it (the point and purpose of the simulation) with sufficient threat that it will evolve. We might never even meet the thing which is the point of the simulation.
2. The concept of communications which are hidden in the fabric of life. The importance of ‘elegance’ in this context.
Science Fiction stories have introduced me to hundreds of new ideas. One good example is ‘Contact‘, a Sci Fi book written by Carl Sagan which I read when I was a teenager. In it, the designers of the universe have hidden a message in a circle. More specifically, the information was distributed within the mathematical ratio Pi.
Among the billions of random digits, after the 3.14159265 that your calculator will show you, was a sequence. Grouped together were many contiguous ones and zeros. In the book, the computer conducting the analysis of Pi spotted them because the quantity of co-located binary numbers stood out as mathematically unlikely. They found a statistical anomaly.
What they saw was also elegant
What they saw made sense, in part, because of the elegance of the binary signal they saw. I think they saw a circle of zeros drawn in an 11 by 11 grid, when Pi was studied in base 11. Isn’t that elegant? A circle in a circle, in an 11 by 11 grid, in base 11?
To summarize, they found a circle, hidden in a message, in a circle (Pi.)
That was mind blowing to me when I read it. It meant that every aspect of the ‘reality’ that we consider normal, its most fundamental components, had been invented, designed for us by something outside our world.
3. All About Systems
‘Contact’ raised a number of important ideas. One of the most important to me was the general, taken from the specific. The system – what was inside it vs what was outside it.
- It was a computer crunching the numbers of Pi in the book. That’s the system.
- Outside that system, mathematicians sat, observing the ‘machine’ they had built.
- Once they understood, through statistical analysis, that there was a message in Pi, they explored further.
Later, in a development that explained the guts of the book, through a different ‘channel’, they determined that there was a design for a spaceship which could take earthlings to new places, hidden in a message we received from deep space.
In the book ‘Contact’ the human race received a message from outer space. We understood the message by looking in to the system from outside it and observing a statistical anomaly: something mathematically unlikely, hidden in Pi, which triggered an alarm outside the system.
In the next blog article, I’ll explain a real world example of the same phenomenon.
After that, it’s just one step to understanding the mechanism I believe we could use to escape the simulation we’re in. I’ll use Pac Man as a simple example of how that could be done.