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### Author Topic: How to tell if the Universe is a computer simulation  (Read 5998 times)

#### Josh

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##### How to tell if the Universe is a computer simulation
« on: October 11, 2012, 06:34 AM »
How to tell if the Universe is a computer simulation

Saw this, thought of our admin mouser who was an aspiring AI researcher.

It's a famous question among academic philosophers and drunken college students alike: how can we be sure we're not living in a gigantic computer simulation? Fortunately, researchers from the University of Bonn in Germany think they've cracked it.

Their reasoning is pretty straightforward, according to Technology Review: if the cosmos is just a numerical simulation, calculated on some insanely powerful supercomputer tucked away in another world, there should be clues around us that can reveal the truth. Glitches in the system, if you like, that give the game away.

Moving from that reasoning to the science required to find those clues isn't quite so easy. To kick things off, the team of researchers from Bonn have speculated that the problem with all simulations is that they're discretized: to model a physical phenomenon, the real world has to be represented by separate points in time and 3D space. Sure you can make the distance between those points reeeeeeally small—but you still have to have this kind of grid.

Source

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##### Re: How to tell if the Universe is a computer simulation
« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2012, 10:01 AM »
Interesting, but perhaps myopic. I don't think I buy it. I checked to see, and it appears they are presupposing a discrete system, which leads to absurdities. For example:

1) Light is both a wave and a particle
2) Zeno's paradoxes - they mostly rely on the misapplication of discrete/indiscrete systems

It makes sense for our current level of computer and software technology, but that in itself seems naive.

If anyone has a lot of time, and really really really wants to look into it, check out plasma dynamics/physics and fractals.

From the article:

To kick things off, the team of researchers from Bonn have speculated that the problem with all simulations is that they're discretized: to model a physical phenomenon, the real world has to be represented by separate points in time and 3D space. Sure you can make the distance between those points reeeeeeally small—but you still have to have this kind of grid.

From the first bold there, I think that things will immediately break down there, so they're basically proving that things break down in a discrete system. I don't think it shows that we are a simulation though.

For the second bold there, I'm not so sure that we can represent the world in 4D. I don't have any answers, but I do have questions.

For the third bold, it just goes back to my comment on systems above and 4D. Not so sure that's true.

Still, it was quite interesting. (I've not read the entire paper, and know that I won't have time to do so.) Stuff like this is always fun to think about~!
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#### mouser

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##### Re: How to tell if the Universe is a computer simulation
« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2012, 10:13 AM »
I'll just point out one more quick problem with this approach:
To kick things off, the team of researchers from Bonn have speculated that the problem with all simulations is that they're discretized: to model a physical phenomenon, the real world has to be represented by separate points in time and 3D space. Sure you can make the distance between those points reeeeeeally small—but you still have to have this kind of grid.

There is (and has always been) a very active debate in the physics community about whether the real world is in fact discrete at the lowest level when you really get down to it.

#### 40hz

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##### Re: How to tell if the Universe is a computer simulation
« Reply #3 on: October 11, 2012, 11:08 AM »
^Every time they ask that seemingly simple question it ends up being turtles all the way down.

#### f0dder

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##### Re: How to tell if the Universe is a computer simulation
« Reply #4 on: October 11, 2012, 12:11 PM »
Computer simulation? That's too far out, man.

Really, we're all just in the head of somebody who's having a wicked DMT+Acid trip.
- carpe noctem

#### Carol Haynes

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##### Re: How to tell if the Universe is a computer simulation
« Reply #5 on: October 11, 2012, 12:23 PM »

Interesting idea - as computer simulations get better and better (eg. computer games) and simulated characters get better and better AI at what point do the characters become 'sentient' and would they know they are a simulation?

If a quantum description of the universe is correct (and most indications seem to point in that direction) then are we actually characters in a future version of the Sims? The capricious nature of some human behaviour perhaps suggests so ;-)

#### 40hz

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##### Re: How to tell if the Universe is a computer simulation
« Reply #6 on: October 11, 2012, 12:47 PM »
Interesting. Although positing something is a simulation implies that there is something else hosting it (i.e. reality?) that is not.

Looks like we've looped right back to square one with that. Curses! It's turtles again!

BTW: Check out the 1999 movie The Thirteenth Floor for a really good treatment of this same topic.

-----------------------------------

It's really quite simple Professor. It's an infinite sphere, the center of which is everywhere, and the circumference nowhere. So the further into it you go, the bigger it gets.”
« Last Edit: October 11, 2012, 01:06 PM by 40hz »

#### superboyac

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##### Re: How to tell if the Universe is a computer simulation
« Reply #7 on: October 11, 2012, 12:58 PM »
I have a good clip of Carl Sagan explaining this subject in a great short segment.  It appears to be an endless recursive loop.

#### Stoic Joker

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##### Re: How to tell if the Universe is a computer simulation
« Reply #8 on: October 11, 2012, 01:02 PM »
Okay... So (technically...) the Myans are/were correct in that the batteries in the cosmic being's iUniverse device our (apparently game) world exists on will fully discharge on 12/21/12 taking the sum total known (to us) universe off into oblivion.

So, in other words ... We all have to die because some (advanced being's) kid forgot to charge their iPod.

Great...

#### superboyac

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##### Re: How to tell if the Universe is a computer simulation
« Reply #9 on: October 11, 2012, 01:04 PM »
^^apple made it, so of course, there's no replaceable battery.  And they close the genius shop down thousands of years ago, so there goes that.  That's why we gotta move to Titan.

#### mahesh2k

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##### Re: How to tell if the Universe is a computer simulation
« Reply #10 on: October 11, 2012, 01:06 PM »
If a quantum description of the universe is correct (and most indications seem to point in that direction) then are we actually characters in a future version of the Sims? The capricious nature of some human behaviour perhaps suggests so ;-)

It reminds me of this paper.

#### 40hz

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##### Re: How to tell if the Universe is a computer simulation
« Reply #11 on: October 11, 2012, 01:09 PM »
We are all just ideas spontaneously emerging and fading in the mind of Steven Jobs.

Oh me!...oh my!...AUM!

Shanti!

#### Stoic Joker

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##### Re: How to tell if the Universe is a computer simulation
« Reply #12 on: October 11, 2012, 01:13 PM »
We are all just ideas spontaneously emerging and fading in the mind of Steven Jobs. Shanti!
-40hz

OH DEAR GOD, the Shame! The Horror!  ...I have to go kill myself immediately.

#### superboyac

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##### Re: How to tell if the Universe is a computer simulation
« Reply #13 on: October 11, 2012, 01:14 PM »
i wouldn't be so certain of the quantum theories.  they have as many holes as, um, *other* theories.  If you're interested, I've attached a really great summary of all that stuff in a short ~100 page document.

#### superboyac

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##### Re: How to tell if the Universe is a computer simulation
« Reply #14 on: October 11, 2012, 01:20 PM »
Since vision seems to be our most convincing sense, I always like to know what's the smallest thing we are actually able to see without needing to resort to artist's conceptions or shadows and such.  Here's one of them:

That's the tip of a needle made of tungsten.  Each ball is supposedly an individual atom.  Although, I think this is a colorized image.  But that's ok, at least it's still an actual picture of something.

#### Carol Haynes

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##### Re: How to tell if the Universe is a computer simulation
« Reply #15 on: October 11, 2012, 03:25 PM »
Since vision seems to be our most convincing sense
-superboyac

ROFLMAO ... that was a joke ... right?

#### superboyac

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##### Re: How to tell if the Universe is a computer simulation
« Reply #16 on: October 11, 2012, 03:29 PM »
OK, one more.  This is a cotton thread going through a needle.  scanning electron microscope image (in other words, bad ass):

False colour scanning electron micrograph of a single strand of cotton thread passing through the eye of a needle. The cotton thread is seen to consist of many individual fibres.

Here's a shaved beard.  Where's the EPA??!!  We can't destroy our rain forests like this!

Shaved beard hair. Coloured Scanning Electron Micrograph (SEM) of beard stubble on a man's face. The hairs are embedded in skin, are cleanly cut, and have regrown after being shaved. Their short length would appear as stubble (a "five o'clock shadow"). A "wet shave" using a razor results in the hair ends being this cleanly cut.

#### TaoPhoenix

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##### Re: How to tell if the Universe is a computer simulation
« Reply #17 on: October 11, 2012, 03:44 PM »
Since vision seems to be our most convincing sense
-superboyac

ROFLMAO ... that was a joke ... right?
-Carol Haynes

Naw, "most" - out of several more even less convincing senses! If you think hearing is convincing, listen to the election debates!

For all the chaos of sight, I think most of us have banged into objects in the dark.

#### 40hz

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##### Re: How to tell if the Universe is a computer simulation
« Reply #18 on: October 11, 2012, 03:49 PM »
There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.

There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

The story so far:

In the beginning the Universe was created.
This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.

#### 40hz

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##### Re: How to tell if the Universe is a computer simulation
« Reply #19 on: October 11, 2012, 03:56 PM »
Since vision seems to be our most convincing sense
-superboyac

ROFLMAO ... that was a joke ... right?
-Carol Haynes

No funnier than being 'convinced' by any of the other four "official" senses, the two or three alleged "extra" senses, quantum mechanics, economics, or what passes for monetary "theory."