Saturday, February 13, 2021

The Simulation Hypothesis is Pseudoscience

[This is a transcript of the video embedded below.]


I quite like the idea that we live in a computer simulation. It gives me hope that things will be better on the next level. Unfortunately, the idea is unscientific. But why do some people believe in the simulation hypothesis? And just exactly what’s the problem with it? That’s what we’ll talk about today.

According to the simulation hypothesis, everything we experience was coded by an intelligent being, and we are part of that computer code. That we live in some kind of computation in and by itself is not unscientific. For all we currently know, the laws of nature are mathematical, so you could say the universe is really just computing those laws. You may find this terminology a little weird, and I would agree, but it’s not controversial. The controversial bit about the simulation hypothesis is that it assumes there is another level of reality where someone or some thing controls what we believe are the laws of nature, or even interferes with those laws.

The belief in an omniscient being that can interfere with the laws of nature, but for some reason remains hidden from us, is a common element of monotheistic religions. But those who believe in the simulation hypothesis argue they arrived at their belief by reason. The philosopher Nick Boström, for example, claims it’s likely that we live in a computer simulation based on an argument that, in a nutshell, goes like this. If there are a) many civilizations, and these civilizations b) build computers that run simulations of conscious beings, then c) there are many more simulated conscious beings than real ones, so you are likely to live in a simulation.

Elon Musk is among those who have bought into it. He too has said “it’s most likely we’re in a simulation.” And even Neil DeGrasse Tyson gave the simulation hypothesis “better than 50-50 odds” of being correct.

Maybe you’re now rolling your eyes because, come on, let the nerds have some fun, right? And, sure, some part of this conversation is just intellectual entertainment. But I don’t think popularizing the simulation hypothesis is entirely innocent fun. It’s mixing science with religion, which is generally a bad idea, and, really, I think we have better things to worry about than that someone might pull the plug on us. I dare you!

But before I explain why the simulation hypothesis is not a scientific argument, I have a general comment about the difference between religion and science. Take an example from Christian faith, like Jesus healing the blind and lame. It’s a religious story, but not because it’s impossible to heal blind and lame people. One day we might well be able to do that. It’s a religious story because it doesn’t explain how the healing supposedly happens. The whole point is that the believers take it on faith. In science, in contrast, we require explanations for how something works.

Let us then have a look at Boström’s argument. Here it is again. If there are many civilizations that run many simulations of conscious beings, then you are likely to be simulated.

First of all, it could be that one or both of the premises is wrong. Maybe there aren’t any other civilizations, or they aren’t interested in simulations. That wouldn’t make the argument wrong of course, it would just mean that the conclusion can’t be draw. But I will leave aside the possibility that one of the premises is wrong because really I don’t think we have good evidence for one side or the other.

The point I have seen people criticize most frequently about Boström’s argument is that he just assumes it is possible to simulate human-like consciousness. We don’t actually know that this is possible. However, in this case it would require explanation to assume that it is not possible. That’s because, for all we currently know, consciousness is simply a property of certain systems that process large amounts of information. It doesn’t really matter exactly what physical basis this information processing is based on. Could be neurons or could be transistors, or it could be transistors believing they are neurons. So, I don’t think simulating consciousness is the problematic part.

The problematic part of Boström’s argument is that he assumes it is possible to reproduce all our observations using not the natural laws that physicists have confirmed to extremely high precision, but using a different, underlying algorithm, which the programmer is running. I don’t think that’s what Bostrom meant to do, but it’s what he did. He implicitly claimed that it’s easy to reproduce the foundations of physics with something else.

But nobody presently knows how to reproduce General Relativity and the Standard Model of particle physics from a computer algorithm running on some sort of machine. You can approximate the laws that we know with a computer simulation – we do this all the time – but if that was how nature actually worked, we could see the difference. Indeed, physicists have looked for signs that natural laws really proceed step by step, like in a computer code, but their search has come up empty handed. It’s possible to tell the difference because attempts to algorithmically reproduce natural laws are usually incompatible with the symmetries of Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity. I’ll leave you a reference in the info below the video. The bottomline is, it’s not easy to outdo Einstein.

It also doesn’t help by the way if you assume that the simulation would run on a quantum computer. Quantum computers, as I have explained earlier, are special purpose machines. Nobody currently knows how to put General Relativity on a quantum computer.

A second issue with Boström’s argument is that, for it to work, a civilization needs to be able to simulate a lot of conscious beings, and these conscious beings will themselves try to simulate conscious beings, and so on. This means you have to compress the information that we think the universe contains. Bostrom therefore has to assume that it’s somehow possible to not care much about the details in some parts of the world where no one is currently looking, and just fill them in in case someone looks.

Again though, he doesn’t explain how this is supposed to work. What kind of computer code can actually do that? What algorithm can identify conscious subsystems and their intention and then quickly fill in the required information without ever producing an observable inconsistency. That’s a much more difficult issue than Bostrom seems to appreciate. You cannot in general just throw away physical processes on short distances and still get the long distances right.

Climate models are an excellent example. We don’t currently have the computational capacity to resolve distances below something like 10 kilometers or so. But you can’t just throw away all the physics below this scale. This is a non-linear system, so the information from the short scales propagates up into large scales. If you can’t compute the short-distance physics, you have to suitably replace it with something. Getting this right even approximately is a big headache. And the only reason climate scientists do get it approximately right is that they have observations which they can use to check whether their approximations work. If you only have a simulation, like the programmer in the simulation hypothesis, you can’t do that.

And that’s my issue with the simulation hypothesis. Those who believe it make, maybe unknowingly, really big assumptions about what natural laws can be reproduced with computer simulations, and they don’t explain how this is supposed to work. But finding alternative explanations that match all our observations to high precision is really difficult. The simulation hypothesis, therefore, just isn’t a serious scientific argument. This doesn’t mean it’s wrong, but it means you’d have to believe it because you have faith, not because you have logic on your side.

225 comments:

  1. Dr. Hossenfelder, most physicists would agree that the laws of Nature are both beautiful and consistent, the principle of least action being (for me) the most profound example. That they exist at all seems to leave only two explanations: we live in a simulation or a multiverse (or one of a many-worlds universe). But neither has any scientific evidence, so your pseudoscience conclusion is correct.
    But as you admit, it's really fun to think about. Thank you for posting your analysis!

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  2. You hit both nails on the head. Simulating physics is worth the work to estimate solutions to the natural world we measure. However, this is different than saying the world is a simulation. Secondly, in order for beings in some other reality to simulate this one they need more quantum information, or what ever counts as information if something beyond quantum, than what we have in this universe.

    Simulating the world runs into three problems those who have been cyber-modelers are familiar with. The first is that if you simulate a gauge theory on a lattice the Lagrangian applies for a lattice so the potential of the system is periodic. The quantum fields are quite analogous to Bloch waves in condensed matter. There are then physical departures from real world QCD and other gauge physics. Does this converge to the real physics in the limit the lattice becomes infinitesimally gridded? This is a bit of a discontinuous limit and a proof of this convergence in this discontinuous or singular limit is related to a proof of the mass-gap. Further, simulating quantum mechanics on a computer requires some tricky digital filtering techniques, lest the simulation develop an exponential explosion. This is related in ways to the Bell inequality that QM resists some underlying classical wiring. And finally, general relativity on a computer with Regge calculus or adaptive gridding also has tricky issues with computing and the nonlinear properties of GR mean one has to apply damping algorithms to prevent spurious runaway calculations. It is similar to QM in a way.

    If there are god-like beings running a simulation of this universe they would need, and need to live in a reality with, more information than what is contained in the simulation. This is of course if they simulate the whole shebang. Now suppose this is like the Star Trek holodeck where the simulation is only near exact when we are looking at it. That would mean in some ways the world is not fine grained beyond the trajectories of the Voyager spacecrafts. I understand in the Islamic world it is popular to think the universe beyond the solar system is just a rendering by Allah and does not really exist. Maybe even the world behind my head and where no one else is watching is coarse grained. However, coding that would be tricky.

    The simulation hypothesis is rather nonsensical. We have no reason to think in a multiverse setting that there are conscious beings outside of the universe we observe. The 90’s song with the lyric, “God is a slob like us,” comes to mind, which is that any intelligent life is not likely to be in some categorically transcendent place beyond us. Since the Matrix movies this sort of idea has been popular. I sort of wish these things would go away, and I wish scientists would not promote them. Avi Loeb with his questionable idea of Oumuamua being some sort of ET spacecraft is another case of this. These things become noise in the popular discussions of science that have a curious persistence.

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    1. Lawrence Crowell wrote:
      “I understand in the Islamic world it is popular to think the universe beyond the solar system is just a rendering by Allah and does not really exist. Maybe even the world behind my head and where no one else is watching is coarse grained. However, coding that would be tricky.”

      It doesn’t necessarily need to be “coarse grained.”

      No, it merely could exist in a context that is loosely similar to the information stored in the photographic plate of a laser hologram.

      In other words, when the metaphorical “laser” of your direct attention (observation) is not looking at (or touching, or hearing, or smelling, or tasting) what resides behind your head, it (3-D reality) simply relinquishes its positionally-fixed (explicated) three-dimensional status and thus reverts back into fields of quantum information.
      _______

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    2. "the universe beyond the solar system is just a rendering by Allah and does not really exist"

      Sounds like a cowboy job. Always get a detailed quote from your deity.

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    3. "noise in the popular discussions of science"
      The confusion is deep rooted in physiology and prevalence and priority of education, so it won't go away any time soon. Basically, it's the confusion between an illusion (i.e. the figment of unquestioned Iron Age, or earlier, beliefs) and an abstraction (i.e. the observed and expressed relations, distilled through the mill of inquiry and the scientific method).

      The root is a classical (for physiologists) metaphysical mistake (i.e. not mistake in the practice of metaphysics, but a mistake of how metaphysics develops as behavior, as many were curious of that phenomenon; some, e.g. Ivan Sechenov in his considerations, proposed a hypothesis that it develops from the structure of our language and forming the concept of independent agency of 'I' from an early age which is taught to instill sole responsibility for actions, aka 'free will', initially for reasons of survival and later reinforced as a habit, so basically a random mistake and the later laziness). Making a reduction from an implicit context missing the context, while taking it to be a generalization.

      It indicates the unexamined fundamental assumption of 'undeniable' 'reality' of the concept of a main agent and its 'undeniable' existence as an independent entity (i.e. the birth of anthropocentrism, free will, extrapolating to similar independent reality of all phenomena, etc.) on the basis of which the further epistemology develops and leads to the most convenient explanations (generalizing 'agent'-cy to phenomena, "rain falls because someone above is crying...", and the rest escalations). Hence, the mistake develops in thinking that the reduction is the generalization.

      On questioning the basis on which the statement was made in the first place (on what basis the 'undeniable' existence of reality of the independent agent is assumed, or even better - what is a formal proof of existence? how it is known or 'who knows?'), it is usually assumed to be 'self-evident for any sane human being' or the respondent becomes aggressive and/or tries to attack/defend/flee the unexamined basis and not to consider it. Also typical physiological behavior.

      Hence, the common mistake and inability to distinguish the illusion from the abstraction. Forgetting that the basis for any statement was unclear in the first place (not rooted in the proper context and explicit model) and arguing around that statement. Not understanding abstraction. The only solution is unfairly complicated to implement (judging on our current stance) and basically consist of some sort of unlearning of all previous 'assumptions' (i.e. grounded in developing healthy inhibition of physiological reflexes). Korzybski proposed 'a method' as many others. The only trouble with those attempts is that they can be read/implemented by those who generally mostly do not need them anymore. And as a species we don't value education and don't understand its priority. It's kind of "educate or perish" for Homo... so, no luck.

      PS In continuation about Markov's QM and BT - still perplexed as it seems axiomatic (BT works on QM level, not necessarily tells everything about the nature of the underlying 'field'-whatever), but thanks for developing ideas around that (the Lagrangian reference was curious, etc.) as it helps to look from the different angles. The math there is heavy, no time for this now (the usual excuse). Speaking of lattices, Jonathan Gorard from Wolfram team expressed some very interesting considerations about sameness of Einstein's field equations and Feynman's path integral over QM state space in their approach (can follow up to a point, read relations, but not the exact details, these are not yet published, but there are papers on approaching GR and QM in their formalism).

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    4. PPS To clarify the most confusing expression above "about sameness of" EFE & FPI. It was meant that the mechanism of derivation of each relation on its appropriate space is similar in their formalism. EFE as representation of relations of energy distribution along geodesics in Minkowski space-time, and FPI playing the same function in 'entanglement space' whatever it is (they call it branchial space), a sort of, relations between 'localized-enough energy' distribution along 'geodesics in entanglement space'. With time as some sort of measure or delay for computation between updates. (I think, it's even worse now :-), but here you go).

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    5. PPPS Only not "Minkowski space-time", but 'curved Minkowski space-time', so some Riemannian manifold.

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  3. Hi Sabine, very nice post.

    Given your past criticism of fine tuning arguments in physics, I was actually expecting you to also say something about the absence of well defined probability distributions more generally in simulation arguments. With words like "likely" and "unlikely" being used very casually, that seems to be a danger.

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    1. thats exactly what I was expecting as well =)

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  4. Our universe doesn’t play by the typical rules of third-dimensional space and time. Are these potential evidential categories for a simulated universe glitch? Of course, the “programmed material universe” model would resolve many of the mysteries in cosmology:

    • Time began..."boot up" and Planck scale length/time -.pixels

    • Malleable time...only in a virtual reality

    • Curved space... only in a 3d processing network

    • Max speed....C is the fastest transmission rate (pixels/second)

    • Dark matter...no chameleon particles ever detected, null processing

    • Antimatter and antiparticles...reverse processing and antitime only in a virtual reality

    • Double slit...set of reboots explains QM wave-functions and collapse

    • Gravitational force… C# programming language (double nested loop formula)

    • Electromagnetic force… computer program “if/then” logic

    • Electron tunneling...quantum world is real; physical world its product (e.g., nuclear fusion)

    • Quantum “spooky actions”...code reallocation ignores objects, events, distance, etc.

    • Quantum entanglement… SQL language setup - database (objects inversely correlated)

    • Quantum jump… software code “variable assignment” (value suddenly changed)

    • Randomness...client-server acts to which we are not privy

    • Reincarnation/Resurrection … cutting text from one document (life) and pasting that text into another document (personal experiences, personal identity, self)

    • Life after death… “auto-save” software computation substrate that causes (or helps to cause) purposeful intelligence and enlightened consciousness to survive death

    • Teleological nature… cosmic predisposition (goal-oriented and goal seeking) to the formation of life, consciousness, and the value that is inseparable from them

    • Fundamental nature of reality…mind-computer “turing instruction” in a “turing table” transitioning through computational possibility

    Of course, if the universe is indeed a simulation, there is a good chance the beings running it are unaware of us. It’s one thing to make the simulation work, and quite another to figure out what the heck is going on inside. Unless they have a very advanced diagnostic specifically looking for planet-based biological intelligence, we might just be undiscovered artifacts in the data. Our simulation may be only a tiny speck on a vast universal, astronomical, or cosmic scale. Another possibility is that if our “programmed material universe” is being actively monitored it's entirely possible that every time someone detects a glitch, the observers or monitors roll us back to the last saved version.

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  5. The Simulation Hypothesis suggests that all of reality, including Earth and the rest of the Universe, could in fact be an artificial simulation. I am afraid that this hypothesis implicitly suggests that all of reality is exogenous, like for instance an elevator at work. Not taking account of the difference between endogenous and exogenous processes makes the hypothesis unrealistic.

    By the way, there are at least three phenomena by which an (acute) appendicitis can be diagnosed. At least one of them cannot be faked in case of a simulating person.

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    1. Whether it is exogenous or endogenous, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference anyway. So why bother?

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    2. Because the difference is of scientific interest to me and I have no reasons to think that we would not be able to tell the difference. In economic science the difference is commonplace. In physics I miss it.

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  6. If we lived in a simulation and it is "digital" then we would probably find that all of our field theories are in fact discrete field theories. On the other hand we could go back to the analog computer. Simulation as analog computer would crunch no numbers but simply evolve given initial conditions and some sort of mass/energy substrate. 42 anyone? But, since that sort of simulation would look exactly like what we have, and you really couldn't confirm or disconfirm, who cares?

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  7. Elon Musk also brings the argument that at current pace of evolution of games graphics, in no time it will be indistinguishable from reality. This supports that our experiences could be simulated, with high definition needed only to what is front of us but does not explain how a simulated person becomes a conscious being. It is The Matrix (movie) hypothesis, fun to talk and a more likely hypothesis than the former.

    It was also fun to watch the 2 hrs 2016 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate, with Neil deGrasse Tyson and Jim Gates, who found error correcting codes in his equations. It reminded me when Planck played with equations to justify black body radiation, leading us to quantum mechanics.

    That said, this is all consequence of our non-understanding of what consciousness is. In my view they are valuable and may lead us to something deeper.

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    1. We are half way there. QAnon is a sort of virtual reality creation of sorts. We are at a stage where the volume of information and the ability to manipulate it, an in particular with images and video, that what is real and not is becoming hard to follow. For some people the pseudo-realities this offer are psychologically enticing. Our recent and now past president did a good job of playing on this.

      Science increasingly relies upon digital processing of data and comparisons with models. This can easily start to look not much different from internet claims of various things, most of them wrong. The growth in interest in the flat Earth is something the internet made possible.

      Just wait until there are direct cyber-neural connections, which BTW is something Elon Musk advocates and I think wants to make money off of. We are rapidly approaching a time where there may be no criteria for what is true or false and real and fake.

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    2. There's a truly enormous computational gulf between simulation to the accuracy of low-res human senses and simulation to the accuracy of current physics. We *might* be half way to human senses but we certainly aren't halfway to a full simulation of physics.

      To me, the question is whether only turn on the high-res bit was needed - eg, when someone happens to be looking "down the microscope" - and run the simplified calculation the rest of the time. But what exactly are these meta-magical simplified calculations? Wouldn't we love to get our hands on them! As far as we can tell, we actually need to do the full calculation to get the full hi-res result and this requires a quantum computer the size of the universe.

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    3. In a sense that is true. The most complete way to simulate the universe is to use the universe as the computer to run the simulation.

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  8. The other problem is that Boström’s argument eats itself: "If there are many civilizations that run many simulations of conscious beings, then you are likely to be simulated.” But every simulation must contain less information than the one it is simulated within. And that means that there are *enormously* more simulated universes that are simpler than this one and still contain conscious beings (maybe as many as 10^(10^100) more, at a rough guess). So if, as Boström claims, it is “likely” we are simulated, it is also “likely” we would find ourselves in a much simpler situation. Oops.

    Of course what this really illustrates is the absurdity of the word “likely” in Boström’s original claim.

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    1. It gets more complicated. How about simulated universes generated by beings who themselves are in a simulated universe. In fact this could nest almost endlessly. This then starts to look like Turing's universal Turing machine that emulates all other Turing machines. That means it can emulate itself, and emulate itself emulating itself, and emulate itself emulating itself emulating ... . Things get a bit nuts if you think about it.

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    2. good point. and Boström does not explain how Mario Bros becomes conscious.

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    3. So if, as Boström claims, it is “likely” we are simulated, it is also “likely” we would find ourselves in a much simpler situation. Oops.

      Accepting nested simulations isn't necessary. Even if post-humans simulate only their ancestors up to but not past the point they become post-humans where they run such simulations, Bostrom's argument still holds. Post-humans would run MANY ancestor simulations, potentially many times over using slightly tuned parameters each time to, similar to how we run many, many fluid dynamics simulations while designing aircraft, or predicting the weather.

      Thus, the number of simulated consciousnesses would exceed the number of real consciousnesses, which is all Bostrom needs for his argument.

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    4. In that case, the moment we get to the point of simulating consciousness ourselves, Boström's argument flips on his head. If we simulate consciousness then by this argument we ourselves are "unlikely" to be a simulation. Oops again.

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    5. Simulation hypothesis, transhumanism, Kadeshev Type 0 to IV civilizations and so forth are examples of what happens with people who either do not do actual science or do not really understand it.

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    6. Sandro Magi8:33 AM, February 16, 2021

      "Post-humans would run MANY ancestor simulations"

      But it may well be that such simulations would not be good enough to suggest that we could be in a simulation - because there is no known way to convincingly simulate our physics. See the blog post. So, in fact, there is no evidence that convincing ancestor simulations could be produced at all.

      "Thus, the number of simulated consciousnesses would exceed the number of real consciousnesses, which is all Bostrom needs for his argument"

      But it hasn't been demonstrated that these simulated consciousnesses would be good enough to suggest that we might be in a simulation. Bostrom's suggested example set-up is a network of synapses on a computer chip that simulates the mind and the synapses are fired to simulate a reality for the mind-on-a-chip. But it is the firing data that needs to be fed to the mind-on-a-chip that possibly represents an insurmountable barrier. It is not known that this data can be produced algorithmically and there is no other credible method suggested.

      Handwavingly saying some future technology may be able to provide such a method, doesn't make that speculation true. It looks like one would have to be able to derive the laws of physics in such a future technology, and that's simply not known to be possible, however ingenious the future technicians.

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    7. Lawrence Crowell:
      "That means it can emulate itself, and emulate itself emulating itself, and emulate itself emulating itself emulating ... . Things get a bit nuts if you think about it."

      So are you skeptical about actual infinity?

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    8. I do not think infinity is directly observable or measurable. It also gets a bit weird with multiverse ideas of infinite numbers of infinite Coleman-Deluccia bubbles. That runs into some Cantor diagonalization problems. An infinite space by itself does not bother me so long as physics with energy densities and the like are not infinite.

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    9. Andrew Dabrowski12:29 PM, February 17, 2021

      It is not a question of skepticism or o.w., but the facts, which are; Actual infinity is an axiom of set theory. No-one's ever made one without assuming one. Assuming this and the other axioms has led to no known inconsistencies, but equally they cannot be shown to be consistent. The physical universe is finite as far as is known.

      These are the facts which we must all accept, unless we have evidence or proof of an additional fact. People's feelings about these facts are irrelevant.

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    10. "...the facts,..."

      Humans know so little about the universe that it's pointless to exclude possibilities based on our ignorance.

      Anyway, didn't you notice that the facts you mentioned failed to resolve the question? As far we know, actual infinity is possible.

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    11. Andrew Dabrowski2:17 PM, February 18, 2021

      "Humans know so little about the universe"

      Pretty much all observed phenomena are explained by natural science. The 2 main pillars of physics, quantum theory and GR, are confirmed literally quadrillions of times a day on all the world's computer chips and satnav clocks. This is the most certain knowledge we have, because even our trust in Mathematical or logical proofs depends on peer-review by only a few thousand people at best. Think about that. Quantum and GR phenomena are **facts**.

      "it's pointless to exclude possibilities based on our ignorance"

      No, it's pointless to include them without any evidence. Our imaginations are limitless. Look at String Theory - what a complete waste of time and resources that has been. And that's a theory that had a reasonable physical motivation in the beginning, not some whacko imaginings about ancestor simulations.

      From your comments, you seem to hold some respect for metaphysics - it's not clear why.

      "Anyway, didn't you notice that the facts you mentioned failed to resolve the question? As far we know, actual infinity is possible."

      Didn't you notice I didn't claim actual infinity is impossible? It has to be assumed, though, in set theory. Assuming it has so far led to no inconsistencies, so of course we accept it as a possibly consistent concept. Physics is finite as far as we know - I didn't say it couldn't be infinite, just that it isn't known to be.

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    12. "From your comments, you seem to hold some respect for metaphysics - it's not clear why."

      Because there will always be questions that science cannot even in principle answer.

      "I didn't say it couldn't be infinite, just that it isn't known to be."

      But you insist that it be excluded from consideration because it's not scientific. Who cares if it's not scientific, it's interesting.

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    13. Andrew Dabrowski12:24 PM, February 19, 2021

      "Because there will always be questions that science cannot even in principle answer."

      Well, we may need fields like sociology or linguistics, say, to analyse at a level where the complexity is such that answers we need can't be derived from the first principles of physics, but as far as we know, everything is ultimately physics and nothing non-physical is known to exist. Any philosopher who thinks they can say something about the universe which is beyond physics is simply wrong - their thought that there is something other than perturbations in quantum fields, is itself a bunch of perturbations in quantum fields. (As far as we know, and up to the precision of physical measurements.)

      "But you insist that it be excluded from consideration because it's not scientific"

      I simply make the point that we are bound to accept the Gradgrindian facts of the matter. What are feelings are about these facts is not just irrelevant, but possibly misleading. If someone has a sense that the universe is infinite, it is simply a human bias at work, because there is no evidence that actual infinity is physical.

      "Who cares if it's not scientific"
      Scientists, perhaps?

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    14. '"Because there will always be questions that science cannot even in principle answer."

      Well, we may need fields like sociology or linguistics, say, to analyse at a level where the complexity is such that answers we need can't be derived from the first principles of physics,'

      No, I meant meta-questions like why the laws are what they are, why anything exists at all.

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    15. Andrew Dabrowski12:40 PM, February 20, 2021

      "I meant meta-questions like why the laws are what they are, why anything exists at all."

      Those questions are not known to be scientific and therefore not known to be sensible. They might be the equivalent of asking "How happy are electrons?". Although, philosophers would be happy to study the question of happiness of electrons for centuries getting nowhere. And, in fact, they do - it's called panpsychism.

      Another example is given in the blog post. Are we simulations? The blog post shows this question may be insensible.

      The point is that at base physics appears to be quantum-gravitational, and such an environment transcends human intuition. So if your questions are sensible, they will be made so by physical measurements not philosophy. Relativity and the quantum killed philosophy, which was already dead anyway. We always have to check with physics first to make sure our question isn't meaningless, unless we are talking about something emergent from physics like society, say. (* based on current evidence, and up to the precision of physical measurements.)

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  9. "Take an example from Christian faith (...). It’s a religious story, but not because it’s impossible to heal blind and lame people. One day we might well be able to do that. It’s a religious story because it doesn’t explain how the healing supposedly happens."

    I don't quiet follow your reasoning. Even if someday we can heal the blind etc, you could steel say that the argument was not scientific precisely because when it was put forward it was impossible. And “it doesn’t explain how the healing supposedly happens” because it’s impossible in the first place. It seems like a circular reasoning here.

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    1. "Even if someday we can heal the blind etc, you could still say that the argument was not scientific..."

      Yes, and at no point did Dr. Hossenfelder suggest otherwise, although for "argument" I would substitute "story" as I don't know what argument you are referring to--perhaps one that argues that the Jesus story is true, but again that argument was not made here.

      What Dr. Hossenfelder said seems more definitional than deductive to me. Science: rigorously tested explanations which can be used to predict future results; religion: magical explanations taken on faith. (The elevation of faith over evidence and reason sounds very suspicious to those of us who know how con-people work. Perhaps it is just a coincidence, though.)

      Back on topic, it is impossible for any computer in this universe to simulate this universe in other than very coarse-grained detail--I think we can all agree on that. (No, not even if it cheats and trees falling in a forest which I am not in make no sound, there are just too many other things I could be doing with my time for a simulation to respond to all of them in fine enough detail, and what would be the point?), so for it to be a simulation it would have to be done in a higher universe with more resources and capabilities, and that is an unfounded assumption which Mr. Bostrom had no right to assume.

      As for "The Matrix", it was not well thought out. (Most movies are not.) When Neo was offered the red and blue pills, that was a simulation. His body was in a bathtub somewhere and he swallowed no actual pill. There was no more explanation for how the simulated pills worked than there is for how Jesus cured the blind.

      (I wish there were still a Donations Button in additional to the Patreon sign-up. I feel like point-of-view comments like this one deserve a special fee for wasting people's time.)

      Delete
    2. We can heal some blindness. That was one little problem I had with this statement. However, this healing is done by a person who went through medical school, residency and in the case of healing blindness learned advanced techniques. She or he may have even pioneered them, wrote papers on it and so forth. How it is done is peer reviewed and open.

      What is a bit telling is Compte's statement about shrines to the healed. "So many crutches, but no prosthetic limbs." I have a dog I rescued from certain doom begging near a store. She has a withered hind leg due to a birth defect. In the Gospels Jesus healed a man with a withered hand. Ok, ... how could that have happened? Unless the story is about opening the eyes of people to not shower misfortune on such a person, just as I rescued that dog.

      Delete
  10. Sabine wrote:
    "The controversial bit about the simulation hypothesis is that it assumes there is another level of reality where someone or some thing controls what we believe are the laws of nature, or even interferes with those laws."

    One of the main problems I see with the simulation hypothesis is how infinite regress seems to rear its ugly head in that it (the simulation hypothesis) might well explain the reason for *our* existence, but it offers no clue as to how the "higher level of reality" of our "programmer" came into existence.

    Indeed, it just pushes the perennial mystery of the origin of ultimate reality back a notch and resolves nothing.
    _______

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  11. The theory of world simulation is, of course, like a morbid obsession. However, it should be noted that the discreteness of quantum measurements gives reason to think. When the clearly diverging Feynman integrals miraculously give finite measurement results, one involuntarily begins to suspect that analytical solutions are here for the convenience of physicists, and behind all this there is a finite, that is, numbered and therefore in a sense 'digital' reality.

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  12. And here I thought the simulation hypothesis wasn't scientific because it wasn't, you know, testable. The very absolute best you could do in this regard is to note that it is possible in principle to detect some types of simulations. Which then reduces to an argument from incredulity.

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  13. Isn't it just today's version of Gnosticism?

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  14. When all we had was the Newtonian mechanics we had a mechanical universe - aka the clockwork universe.

    Now that we have digital computers we have now a digital universe that they call a simulation universe ...


    Whilst maybe not an empirically based explanation, the simulation hypothesis is a metaphysical explanation, which to my mind brings metaphysics into disrepute. Personally, I don't think the simulation argument is a million miles away from argued rationales for a deity. Again, personally, I don't think the vast majority of religiously minded people are religious on the basis of these kinds ofrationale. Mohammed and Christ simply asserted the existence of God and it's because of their personal witness that many people go along with this.

    Whilst I don't think reality is digital, I think on some way it is discrete. Thats why I'm fond of causal set theory which has a geometry based upon discrete sets and LQG where the volume operators have discrete spectrum. These are two ways of discretising geometry without nary an omnisicient programmer in sight.

    I'd also suggest, that the religious faculty is innate to human beings, despite there - as empirically shown and known - being many athiests, and that this means that there are likely to be many attempts to spiritualise science. Newton, after all, saw nothing incoherent between his unitarian faith and the physics he was doing and in this, he was no different to many in his age.

    In the present era, this has pretty much broken down for many people where science and religion are seen as opposites. I don't think this will last in the long run, what we'll end up having is a fusion of science and religion in the same way that the Ptolomeic universe was part and parcel of Christian cosmology in the Renaissance. But I don't think that this will be any time soon and nor do I think Bostrom's simulation is going to help with this. And nor do I have any idea what this is going to look like.

    I would suggest that Yeats poem, The Second Coming is about this, I mean the despiritualisation of the world and in his reckoning it's going to be another two millenia when the 'gyre' turns again.

    The two millenia is too neat, but otherwise I think his prognosis of roughly that kind of time scale is about right.

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  15. It’s clear that you disagree with the argument of Bostrom (he dropped the umlaut when he moved to England), and his argument might be wrong (I tend to agree that it is wrong as well, but for different reasons which I am writing up in a paper just to annoy Steve Evans), but since the term pseudoscience has a rather well defined meaning which goes beyond a) not agreeing with something or even b) something being wrong, I’m not sure that that is the correct term here.

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    1. Phillip Helbig6:19 PM, February 13, 2021

      Has Bostrom shown that physics can be produced from an algorithm? No.
      So he should reattach the umlaut and return to the village that is missing its idiot. He obviously watched "Tron" once too often.

      "I am writing up in a paper just to annoy Steve Evans"

      Hahaha! You are so transparent.

      You mean that you know the paper is utter nonsense, so now you are getting in your excuses beforehand by pretending the intention of the paper is simply to troll.

      Yeah, right. You think that universal fine-tuning is true without any evidence. Or have you recovered from your mental delusion...?

      Delete
  16. The entire universe does not have to be simulated. Just one person’s brain.

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    1. Phillip Helbig6:22 PM, February 13, 2021

      And a feed to the simulated brain that sufficiently simulates physical reality.

      If the laws of nature could be produced by an algorithm then that clearly would be a way to produce the data for the simulated brain. But no such algorithm is known and there is no other known way to produce the data, and Bostrom didn't suggest one. If you read the paper, his remarks are comical.

      So like universal fine-tuning and the multiverse, the simulation hypothesis is a big waste of time. Except as the subject of an enjoyable demonstration of how a competent physicist can refute years of a philosopher's "thinking" with a few-minute video.

      Delete
  17. With panpsychism, all particles would be holodecks carrying out simulations of real or imagined realities. Just because the external behavior of particles is tightly controlled doesn't mean the internal behavior is as well -- the particles could be going to virtual school, learning to distinguish between tones, colors, and patterns that will come in handy later when they become a more massive particle.

    The conscious universe and parent to extremely large number of particles, having an extremely powerful holodeck simulator at its disposal, can eventually raise some particles to such sophistication to be a homuncular particle in a brain and eventually even to a new universe.

    Someday you may grow up to be a universe!

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  18. Interesting is the function of free will.
    Benjamin Libet suggested that there is no real free will, there is only a personal free vote. or a free choice out of the universal created possibilities we acquire o3r ideas. reason to suggest a super symmetrical multiverse.

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  19. I think that there a a few problems with this kind of simulation hypothesis, but one of them is that there is no obvious way to test it. One way would be to find inconsistencies, like having some laws of physics that contradict each other. Like suppose we had a theory of big massive stuff that was inconsistent with out theory of the microworld ...

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  20. A highly massive homuncular holodeck particle in your brain might have the entire genetic code to make a universe far in the future, a universal genetic code! A trillion years from now, you might be an adult universe, marry and merge with another universe and raise a googol particles that take trillions of years to mature into a new universe!

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  21. The simulation hypothesis is clearly an extrapolation. It is a part of what is sometimes referred to as digital physics. I would say that this is some sort of metaphysics or speculative philosophy but I am afraid that one cannot separate metaphysics and physics. In this sense the simulation hypothesis is not worse as discussions of parallel universes by many physicists. Thereafter I believe it is impossible to draw a demarcation line as you have done it.

    However, as Bruno Marshall has shown it, such a metaphysics is internally inconsistent. The simulation hypothesis implies computational theory of mind. Yet the latter as taken seriously, can be proved to lead to unexpected conclusions. One of them is the rejection of materialism - to this end the best is the paper of Tim Maudlin, Bruno says that his original argument was weaker. The most important conclusion however is that the fundamental reality is associated with consciousness, not with physical laws. Finally, Bruno has proved that provided computational theory of mind is true, the digital physics and the simulation hypothesis are both false.

    Evgeny

    Papers:

    Bruno Marshall, The computationalist reformulation of the mind-body problem, Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology, Volume 113, Issue 1, September 2013, Pages 127–140

    Tim Maudlin, Computation and consciousness, The Journal of Philosophy, v 86, N 8 (1989): 407-432.

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  22. True? All we experience was coded, and we are part of that computer code. NO we are part of an entanglement system between SuSy symmetrical particles living far apart in 12 copy SuSy universal bubbles called the raspberry multiverse.

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  23. What has been overlooked here is that if our universe is a simulaation, then the "outer" universe may have completely different laws than the "inner" one. In that case the arguments about the technological infeasibility of simulating GR, QM, and consciousness are irrelevant.

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    1. As I said, you would have to show that you can derive the "inner laws", ie the current foundations of physics, from something else, which you may call "outer laws" or whatever. No one has managed to do that. If you managed to, you'd be world-famous in an instant.

      Delete
    2. Well we would have no way of knowing what the "outer" laws would even be. Nor is it necessary to "derive" the inner from the outer, only to simulate them, i.e. to make the inner laws _appear_ true to the inner denizens.

      Also we have to make a distinction between
      1. hypotheses which can be tested scientifically and
      2. hypotheses which might be true.

      So the simulation and multiverse hypotheses have "no" for 1. but "yes" for 2.

      Delete
    3. Andrew Dabrowski12:15 PM, February 14, 2021

      But the only known way to make the inner laws appear true for the inner denizens is for them to be true (up to the precision of physical measurement).

      And nobody has shown any way for the inner laws to be derived from some outer laws. If you claim that our universe is all an illusion produced in some outer environment that we can never know about. Fine. But Occam's razor tells us to ignore such a pointless speculation. We can see that the observations of our universe follow from the laws of physics, and the laws of physics have not been show to be derivable. That's it.

      And Bostrom et al.. are making a far, far stronger claim than yours.

      They claim that because we can conceivably produce an artificial closed world within our universe that contains an artificial consciousness that knows only about that closed world (not known to be possible, but ok we allow it as a premiss), then there can, by simple induction, be a sequence of nested worlds P=W(0) > W(1) > W(2) > W(3), ...
      in which our universe is P, and W(N+1) is a world running in W(N) but knows nothing about W(N).

      It then follows, Bostrom et al. claim, that, because this is an unending sequence, P must also almost certainly be a simulation, too. The probability that P is the start of the sequence is almost zero, they claim.

      But this is trivially a fallacious argument.

      Because they don't show that P can be anywhere but the start of the sequence.
      (And even if it is assumed P=W(N) for some N, which would imply our P world is possibly being run in W(N-1) unknown to us, W(N-1) is still fundamentally derived from P).

      So Bostrom et al. can't show that P can appear running in another world, and even if it could, at base everything is still running in P.

      There is nothing known in reality more fundamental than the laws of physics.

      Delete
    4. "And nobody has shown any way for the inner laws to be derived from some outer laws. "

      They don't have to be derived, only simulated.

      "But Occam's razor tells us to ignore such a pointless speculation. "

      Not ignore, just depreciate.

      "And Bostrom et al.. are making a far, far stronger claim than yours."

      I'm not attempting to speak for Bostrom.

      "But this is trivially a fallacious argument."

      Arguments of this type aren't meant to establish anything more than plausibility.

      Delete
    5. Andrew Dabrowski11:55 AM, February 15, 2021

      "They don't have to be derived, only simulated."

      In Bostrom's simulation there has to be no noticeable difference for the mind on a chip between physical reality and the simulated reality. There is one conceivable way of producing this simulated reality - if the laws of nature could be expressed as an algorithm, you could produce some chunks of physical reality in the computer-generated world. But this is not known to be possible, and no other credible alternatives have been provided.

      "Arguments of this type aren't meant to establish anything more than plausibility. "

      Bostrom does put forward a suggestion in his paper that the simulated reality might be scientific, but his argument isn't credible. The rest of his paper is a five-finger exercise in propositional logic about wild propositions whose truth values are completely unknown. It is literally pointless.

      The only simulations here are Bostrom, a bad simulation of an Oxford professor, and philosophy, a bad simulation of a field of knowledge.

      Delete
    6. "In Bostrom's simulation there has to be no noticeable difference for the mind on a chip between physical reality and the simulated reality. There is one conceivable way of producing this simulated reality - if the laws of nature could be expressed as an algorithm..."

      You seem to want say that is the _only_ way, but it's not: the simulation could be just good enough to fool the mind, the way neural-net deep fakes can fool the eye without originating in anything "real".

      Delete
    7. Andrew Dabrowski12:47 PM, February 17, 2021

      You've missed the point, Andrew. I am not required to stare at a blank wall. I am free to carry out any of the observations of natural science, and the_only_known_way to reproduce the results of those observations is from the laws of physics, and, further, no credible way of simulating those laws has been proferred.

      Now obviously, I personally, or even the most efficient of experimentalists, cannot practically carry out all these observations alone. But I see that there is a set of observations that if made would support Dr. H's argument. For all the elements of that set I have personal experience of, no issue has arisen. So, so far, I personally see no evidence that simulations are possible. The possibility that Physics is a conspiracy is a nonsense.

      On your part, to refute Dr. H's claim, you simply need to provide a credible method for generating any physical phenomena without using the laws of physics, or generate the laws of physics themselves. I'm afraid "deep fakes" don't cut it. Remember - the hypothesis is that I am a simulation, but I can carry out scientific observations.

      Delete
    8. "You've missed the point, Andrew. "

      I think a better description of our mutual predicament is "talking past each other". There are degrees of possibility, with extreme forms being
      1. the thing has been done; and
      2. the thing has not been shown to be impossible.
      You seem to live in the vicinity of #1; I hang out around #2.

      Delete
    9. Andrew Dabrowski2:42 PM, February 18, 2021

      I say you've missed the point, because if the issue raised by Dr. H is true, then no matter how good the simulation is it won't be "be just good enough to fool the mind". That's the point. It would be impossible, because I could easily perform a physics experiment which would show I was hooked up to the Oculus Simulator.

      That's the point you haven't understood. Of course, it could be possible for all anyone knows that the laws of physics mght be simulated, but that's not enough for Neil DeGrasse to claim it's 50-50 that we're simulations. That claim has been shown to be nonsense by the blog post.

      Delete
    10. "because I could easily perform a physics experiment which would show I was hooked up to the Oculus Simulator.

      That's the point you haven't understood."

      You're right, I don't get that. Isn't there always experimental error? The uncertainty principle? I'm not a physicist, I may be off base here, but I don't think it's possible to determine anything about the physical universe with absolute precision.

      " but that's not enough for Neil DeGrasse to claim it's 50-50 that we're simulations."

      True, assigning any numerical probabilities here is meaningless, but I interpret Tyson's remark to mean merely that he considers the simulation hypothesis subjectively to be as plausible as any other. I think you're imputing a significance to it that it wasn't intended to have.

      Delete
    11. Andrew Dabrowski12:20 PM, February 19, 2021

      I am not a physicist either, clearly, but the blog comments are open to the unwashed masses, and egregious errors are often pointed out by a kindly passing physicist...

      Yes, the claims of natural science, including the claim of the blog post, are empirical and based on finite precision. So the blog post states that up to the level of the precision of physical measurements one can conclude that there may be an insurmountable barrier to simulations of physics. (That level of precision is obviously way beyond human sensory perception and so physics has led to empirical facts that transcend human intuition. Which is why physicists can ignore the silly philosophers.)

      While Neil DeGrasse has completely missed this point.

      " I think you're imputing a significance to it that it wasn't intended to have."
      You are imputing an imputation that isn't there ;) Of course, Neil DeGrasse just means he thinks we could well be in a simulation. But Dr. H. has pointed out a possible barrier to simulations which DeGrasse and others have clearly missed, otherwise they wouldn't claim what they claim.

      Delete
  24. Dr. Hossenfelder, you say that:
    "for all we currently know, consciousness is simply a property of certain systems that process large amounts of information."
    Even though many distinguished neuroscientists make claims like this, what we really currently know is that consciousness is a property correlated to the neuronal activity of the human brain. Although we experience consciousness on a daily base (at least I do), there is not an objective test to determine if a system is conscious or not. Neuroscience works on consciousness can only measure which brain areas are activated during consciousness, which can be only assessed from reports of the patients/volunteers. Therefore, even claims that other animals with brain are conscious, although quite reasonable from a biological point of view, are only hypothesis, very reasonable but untested hypothesis. If in science the explanation of how something works is required, then,to the best of my knowledge, no one has ever explained scientifically how the neuronal activity of a system like a human brain can create consciousness.

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    1. I didn't say animals are conscious and I also didn't say that someone has explained how the human brain creates consciousness. I said there's no reason to think it requires anything that can't be simulated on a computer.

      Delete
    2. Sabine, no computer will be able to localize its 'I' in homogeneous time, as consciousness does.

      Delete
    3. "Although we experience consciousness on a daily base (at least I do), there is not an objective test to determine if a system is conscious or not."

      As far as I know, there is not even an objective definition of what consciousness is.

      Delete
    4. I'd say it's something that CAN be correlated with a human brain. I've never experienced a correlation with anything else, but I'm just one instance of consciousness, and I don't know what the rules are.

      Delete
    5. True, Andrew. There is only 1-st person access to consciousness. Thus a definition may be only subjective, not objective. So, even a question about computer consciousness we must describe as an 'unscientific question' (according to so called 'scientific methodology').

      Delete
    6. "So, even a question about computer consciousness we must describe as an 'unscientific question' (according to so called 'scientific methodology')."

      Even a question about _human_ consciousness.

      Delete
    7. Andrew, we don't know consciousness except the 1-st person mind. So only can transfer what we know about 'Myself' on something else. BTW, even a consciousness of an 'Other' is under question, if starting from scientific POV. Popperian falsificationism works bad here.

      Delete
  25. So you think its all a simulation? Go out and find a big rock. Take your shoes and socks of and kick the damn rock as hard as you can. Then limp back in and tell us how you feel now about the simulation.

    The fact is we are all running our own simulations. Sensations of pain, sensations of color, smells, sounds are all simulations of the external world that our senses provide to us so that our conscious minds can make sense of the external world.

    That we quite rightly perceive the external world as separate from our internal monolog is a separation which makes the external world feel not as real as our internal selves. Therefore, we have the feeling that the external reality can be illusionary. its an idea as old as Plato and the allegory of the cave. Its probably a cause of all solipsism.

    Well over a 100 years ago there was an incident in the San Francisco Bay Area in which a number of people reported UFOs which were probably just unusual cloud formations. But they reported them as sailing ships in the skies. Then at the time of the birth of the atomic age we had what we now think of as UFOs. We think of aliens piloting flying saucers.

    Now we have computers and computer simulations and theories of uber aliens doing computer simulations of the whole universe. I guess since our would is now much larger than old caves. But its still basically a very old idea just dressed up for modern sensibilities. Sill basically drawn of profoundly deep human sensibilities rather than anything truly scientific.

    Now I gotta go clean out the cat box. Its for sure not a simulation.

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  26. I think that believing in the simulation hypothesis is in some ways very similar to believing traditional religion. In fact, I believe that using the simulation hypothesis, you can get something akin to traditional Christianity. One possible pieces of support that you haven't addressed is the (possibly) unreasonable effectiveness of effective field theory.

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    1. What you get is Gnosticism wrapped in current technology. We're created beings, but children of a lesser god whose whose exact powers and intentions aren't clear.

      Delete
    2. Quite true. And if you trace the simulations vertically, you get Gnosticism and the Sefirot hierarchy. That doesn't necessarily mean it's wrong though.

      Delete
    3. I agree, but I think it rather traduces gnosticism by turning it all technocratic. The translation doesn't compute.

      Delete
    4. To add, to compare gnosticism and Bosttoms argument, though superficially similar, are actually miles apart. It's rather like saying that science fiction is like science. It's not - they simulate the science. In it's inner nature, they are poles apart.

      Delete
    5. "In it's inner nature, they are poles apart. "

      I'm not so sure: any sufficiently advanced technology will seem like magic.

      Delete
    6. Andrew Dabrowski12:40 PM, February 17, 2021

      "any sufficiently advanced technology will seem like magic"

      That's the whole point of the blog post - without an appeal to "magic" one can't get round the issue raised.

      And yet, Elon Musk (with some pharmaceutical assistance possibly), Neil DeGrasse and Bostrom apparently suggest it's likely we are simulated, without presenting any credible way of overcoming the issue.

      All sufficiently advanced future technology may appear like magic to us, but that doesn't mean all magic we can now imagine will one day be technically feasible. We have smartphones, but we still can't raise people from the dead after 2 days.

      Delete
  27. We know of one physical system capable of producing human consciousness, it weighs about 1.4Kg, draws about 20 watts and we produce about 385,000 of them each day. So I think that the premise "There is a machine that can produce human like consciousness" is trivially true.

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  28. A simulation would not have to simulate fundamental physics as such, only the observational consequences of it, for example it would not have to simulate all matter, only the matter that was being currently observed by the conscious actors in the system. It would only have to simulate individual particles when individual particles were being observed.

    I see no reason why this should not be possible. You have to remember that if we are simulated then the system doing the simulation has at least as much calculation power as we do, so if we think we can do some calculation to show that some observed phenomenon was not really produced by some physical event then the simulating system has the calculating power to give us back the results that we would expect to see if the event really happened.

    You could test this by trying to devise a test that we are not a simulation. You can't, because there would always be a way for a simulating system, having at least the same computing power that we have, to produce the results you are expecting to the same precision that you calculated those expected results in the first place.

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    1. "I see no reason why this should not be possible"

      Well, I explained the difficulties with that, but it seems you didn't understand them. In any case, I do not see how it matters that someone does not see a reason why it should not be possible when fact is that no one has any idea how to do it.

      Delete
  29. Finally - take the climate model example. Imagine there was a climatologist trapped in a room and only a data line to another climatologist outside. He asks the outside climatologist to take some observations and send them into him. The inside climatologist wants to check that the outside climatologist is really doing the observations and not just generating them on some computer model and the outside climatologist knows that he is being checked on.

    What test could the inside climatologist devise that the outside climatologist could not anticipate and circumvent?

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    1. Robin,

      It seems you do not know very much about climate models. Let me quote from someone who does know something about them:

      " it is relatively easy to tell the difference between output from a climate model and the real world at scales larger than the grid-scale of the climate model. On scales close to the grid-scale, even an amateur would notice that cloud structures looked unrealistic."

      T.N. Palmer, A personal perspective on modelling the climate system

      It's not a coincidence I used this example. Lots of people don't understanding how difficult it is to simulate non-linear dynamics and that, in such cases, if you throw out details, you will not get the correct dynamics. As I said in my video.



      Delete
  30. This week-end I drove my car through a tunnel. There were no cameras or observers of the law around. Everybody, with few exceptions, broke the speed limit, some jumped over the straight line or did other minor things for which you usually get your license suspended.
    So why wonder an electron is breaking the speed limit on short scales or jumps over potential barriers when nobody is looking (those little offenders...)?

    Humans are simulating quantum mechanics no wonder that human behavior is so difficult to understand and quantum mechanics more so!

    P.S.

    Today headlines: A bunch of quantum particles and their friends are talking themselves out of a situation by trying to alter past events.

    Trends: Social laboratories are simulating their existence using H(uman)-bits instead of Q-bits.

    Let there be fun!

    ReplyDelete
  31. Not explaining how the simulation is supposed to work tragedically dissimulates the simulation.

    ReplyDelete
  32. This is surprisingly uncharitable (to the point of being mistaken about its subject). Bostrom does not assert that it is likely we are in a simulation. He argues that one of three things is true (with one tacit extra one):

    1. No civilisation will reach the stage of being able to run ultra simulations.
    2. Nearly no future civilisation will want to simulate minds.
    3. It is very likely we are in a simulation.
    4. One of his assumptions is wrong. (e.g. computationalism about mind)

    That is, it's about constraining the possibilities rather than asserting one. This is very ordinary in philosophy, and does not deserve to be called "pseudo" anything.

    He finds (1) and (2) unlikely, and maybe this is why you attribute (3) to him. But he is careful:

    > "It is then possible to argue that, if this were the case, we would be rational to think that we are likely among the simulated minds rather than among the original biological ones.

    > Therefore, if we don't think that we are currently living in a computer simulation, we are not entitled to believe that we will have descendants who will run lots of such simulations of their forebears."

    Many silly people miss the point of the paper and assert simulation. But he doesn't.

    Your post's points, that we don't have theory to be very confident in his assumptions, would be biting if he claimed it was a scientific argument. Since he doesn't, your title seems excessive. Unless you want to commit to calling all philosophy (or all anthropic arguments!) pseudoscience. But otherwise "the simulation hypothesis is not science" seems enough. He would surely agree!

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    1. GL,

      I mentioned the other options and explained why I do not discuss them. The point that you evidently entirely missed is that this isn't a philosophical question. It's a question about what properties the laws of nature have and that happens to be my specialty, not Bostrom's.

      Delete
    2. GL6:16 AM, February 15, 2021

      Not quite true if you read Bostrom's paper carefully. He does include an argument to suggest instantiation on a computer of a mind and a sufficient simulation of reality might be scientific. He states that this is to motivate interest in his main argument. But such instantiation is not known to be possible. And so all one is left with is a trivial and irrelevant exercise in propositional logic. The paper is utterly pointless.

      "Unless you want to commit to calling all philosophy (or all anthropic arguments!) pseudoscience"

      Yes, please. Unless you want to provide a single fact that has been derived from "anthropic arguments".

      Delete
    3. Stevens Evans,
      Allow me to quote wikipedia: "The strong anthropic principle (SAP), as proposed by John D. Barrow and Frank Tipler, states that the universe is in some sense compelled to eventually have conscious and sapient life emerge within it."
      This (plus the observation that the observable universe is homogenous) leads to a specific hypothesis, that conscious and sapient life should be numerous. Of course that's not a present fact, but still, that sounds like a falsifiable prediction, don't you think?

      Delete
    4. Jay1:23 PM, February 15, 2021

      It's just a tautology. The Lots of Life Principle - if the universe obeys the Lots of Life Principle, then there will be Lots of Life in the universe.

      If the prediction, which is a tad vague but OK, turns out to be true, then why will it not simply be due to the laws of physics? You have not shown that anything else would be needed beyond the laws of physics.

      It's too complex to determine from first principles of the laws of physics whether this prediction is likely true or not; so in lieu of the impossible calculation Barrow and Tipler present the answer to the question as a principle. It's all very silly.

      Delete
    5. We can't simply attribute frequent sapient life to laws of physics because we can't derive from the laws of physics that sapient life must exist frequently. Or, equivalently, because if the Lots of Life Principle turns out to be *false*, that would have no impact at all on the laws of physics as we know it.
      To be frank, I'm actually sympathetic to the idea that anthropic arguments are kind of silly. But that doesn't mean we should accept every argument for *why* it's silly.

      Delete
    6. Jay9:28 AM, February 16, 2021

      "We can't simply attribute frequent sapient life to laws of physics because we can't derive from the laws of physics that sapient life must exist frequently."

      "Or, equivalently, because if the Lots of Life Principle turns out to be *false*, that would have no impact at all on the laws of physics as we know it. "

      We can determine from the laws of physics whether we would expect life to exist frequently or not. In principle. There is an intermediate stage called cosmic biology. We determine the conditions for life and then check whether those conditions are common in the universe or not. So cosmic biology -> biology -> chemistry -> physics is the sketch of the derivation.


      "John D. Barrow and Frank Tipler, states that the universe is in some sense compelled to eventually have conscious and sapient life emerge within it."

      The universe runs according to the laws of physics. There is no known additional "compelling" going on. Conscious and sapient life is already known to be physically possible. If it turns out to be extremely rare, that might suggest it was an accident of nature; if extremely common, then not.

      "leads to a specific hypothesis, that conscious and sapient life should be numerous"

      We already know the conditions for life are physically possible. If life is common then it simply means the conditions for life are common. It does not necessarily imply any "compelling" unless such "compelling" is shown. SAP would not be implied by the truth of this hypothesis. Because SAP is a pointless and worthless tautology.

      Delete
    7. Do you see any similarity between the following two sentences?

      "We can determine from anthropic arguments whether we would expect life to exist frequently or not. In principle. "

      "We can determine from the laws of physics whether we would expect life to exist frequently or not. In principle."

      ==

      "cosmic biology", that seems the title of a book. You're referring to something from this book specifically or you meant exobiology? If that's the former, I'm curious how they determine the conditions for life. If that's the latter, you got it wrong: exobiology does not determine the condition for life. They look for conditions that match what we know about life on earth.

      ===

      >Conscious and sapient life is already known to be physically possible.

      I can interpret this sentence either as trivially right [yes sapient life does exist] or as trivially wrong [no you can't derive sapient life from known physical laws]. Is there a non trivial reading?

      Delete
    8. Jay11:14 AM, February 17, 2021

      Of course there is a difference.

      We are not determining anything from the anthropic principle. It is simply stating that the universe is compelled to produce life. Well, there is life in the universe, but we don't know whether it is "compelled" to exist.

      While all natural scientific empirical evidence points to neuroscience being derived from biology being derived from chemistry being derived from physics. Additionally, cosmology is derived from physics. So combining the empirical facts of cosmology and biology it is possible information could be determined (determined, not just baldly assumed) about the frequency of sapient life or reasons found to explain the observed frequency of sapient life; and they would ultimately be being determined from physics.

      "They look for conditions that match what we know about life on earth."
      Which are sufficient conditions for life as we know it, Jim!

      " Is there a non trivial reading?"
      All the observations ever made in natural science support the hypothesis that all observed phenomena are physical, including conscious life. So while the statement is simple, the evidence supporting it is the whole of science.

      Do you have a point which isn't trivially irrelevant?

      You have yet to explain how observing life in the universe is evidence that the SAP is true, that life is "compelled" to exist in the universe. When do I get to here about this "compelling"? I'm really looking forward to it.


      Delete
    9. Jay11:14 AM, February 17, 2021

      There is of course a possible physical description of "compelling". For example, if the universe were superdeterministic, then indeed every event in the universe would be bound to happen based on the initial conditions.

      But whether sapient life were frequent or infrequent would not settle the question of superdeterminism, yet it apparently would settle the question of SAP-style "compelling". How can that be? The SAPpers know that infrequent sapient life rules out superdeterminism. They are a whole lot smarter than I thought.

      Delete
    10. " if the universe were superdeterministic, then indeed every event in the universe would be bound to happen based on the initial conditions."

      That's correct, but you don't need superdeterminism for that. Plain, old, determinism will do. Superdeterminism is sufficient, but not necessary.

      Delete
    11. Sabine Hossenfelder1:20 AM, February 18, 2021

      I thought vanilla determinism had been ruled out by the evidence, and superdeterminism is the only loop hole. That's why I appealed to superdeterminism. Is that not the case?

      Delete
    12. Steven Evans,

      Yes, that's right, but you didn't say that you want the universe to also actually agree with our observation. There seem to be a lot of people in this thread who think this is kind of optional, so my apologies.

      Delete
    13. Steven, I specifically said that I was not fan of SAP, remember? Let me clarify my position:
      -SAP is a set of metaphysical ideas
      -as is the belief that all sciences are connected, including your belief that some "cosmic biology" will one day predict from first principles whether sapient life is common or not
      -there's nothing wrong with metaphysical beliefs, as long as one doesn't confuse them with empirical facts
      -you tend to confuse your own metaphysical beliefs with empirical facts, again and again (if you want to argue this point, try to cite the precise empirical evidence you think support your belief that all sciences are coherently connected)
      -you strongly believe in "all in the universe is eventually based on physical laws" while (elsewhere in this thread) strongly rejecting "the universe is computable". At some point, you should realize this is the same idea.

      Delete
    14. Jay12:18 PM, February 18, 2021

      Not quite. They are not "beliefs" - I would simply say there is at least no empirical evidence to suggest otherwise than anything I have written. Of course, if it came right down to it, I would point only to empirical observations as natural scientific facts.

      Anyway, you quite specifically stated that infrequent sapient life would refute SAP + homogeneity of the universe.

      But that is trivially not the case. Because the universe could be superdeterministic with infrequent sapient life for all we know from the empirical evidence.

      This is a simple refutation of your initial claim based purely on empirical evidence. And I see, unsurprisingly, you don't respond to this refutation.

      SAP is a pointless, content-free tautology put forward by extremely, extremely foolish people.

      Delete
    15. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    16. >at least no empirical evidence to suggest otherwise

      That's a textbook logical fallacy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_ignorance

      >you quite specifically stated that infrequent sapient life would refute SAP + homogeneity of the universe

      I did, and this statement holds irrespective of whether or not superdeterminism is the correct description of our universe. Why would you think otherwise?

      >SAP is a pointless, content-free tautology put forward by extremely, extremely foolish people.

      Yeah, you said that already. Do you feel like this somewhat strengthen your beliefs, or you're just mimicking the most usual comment on superdeterminism?

      Delete
    17. Jay8:57 AM, February 19, 2021

      "This comment has been removed by the author."

      Aborted a failed argument, Jay? ;)
      Do you agree with the point?

      (Btw, I always happily admit it when I see I'm wrong, which is why I request it of others. O.w. what's the point of the discussion?)

      Delete
    18. Jay12:44 PM, February 19, 2021

      "and this statement holds irrespective of whether or not superdeterminism is the correct description of our universe. Why would you think otherwise?"

      For the very simple reasons I just gave.

      You stated that:

      "The strong anthropic principle (SAP), ... states that the universe is in some sense compelled to eventually have conscious and sapient life emerge within it."

      And if the universe turned out to be superdeterministic then every event in the universe is bound to happen, so we would be able to conclude immediately from the superdeterminism and the fact of human existence alone that the universe "is in some sense compelled to eventually have conscious and sapient life emerge within it".

      i.e. Superdeterminism => SAP

      But superdeterminism (+ homogeneity) does not imply frequent sapient life as far as is known from the empirical evidence.
      It is possible based on current empirical evidence that the universe could be superdeterministic and there only be 1 example of sapient life (us), which single example the universe would be "in some sense compelled to" have by the definition of superdeterminism.

      So the SAPpers are unwittingly ruling out the possibility, which exists based on current empirical evidence, of SAP (implied by superdeterminism) + homogeneity + infrequent sapient life. Because they are witless.

      Delete
    19. Jay12:44 PM, February 19, 2021

      >at least no empirical evidence to suggest otherwise

      "That's a textbook logical fallacy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_ignorance"

      You are suffering from reading comprehension problems. There is no evidence or reason to think any phenomenon in the universe is not physical. Of course, that doesn't rule out the possibility that philosophers may one day discover ** a single fact ** about the universe which they can show isn't derived from physics. But it has been 2,500 years and we're still waiting...

      Delete
    20. >Aborted a failed argument, Jay? ;)

      A failed publication (more than half of the text disappeared). As I couldn't edit I posted the full version again and suppressed the failed attempt. @SH: it's not the first time something weird and hard to replicate happens -I suspect some automatic rule triggered by links, but I can't rule out it's my mistake.

      >I always happily admit it when I see I'm wrong, which is why I request it of others.

      This attitude is really important for me too, and I too think of me as the kind of person who freely admit it when I'm wrong. But sometime what we think of ourself doesn't match our behaviour. When I attracted your attention on a textbook logical fallacy in your writings, did you admit it or did you answer with insults and straight repetition of the same logical fallacy? When I asked you to clarify whether this "cosmic biology" you were lecturing me about was actually exobiology, did you freely admit this typo-like mistake or did you conveniently forget to address the question?

      >For the very simple reasons I just gave.

      Again, no. You are confusing "what the theory is" with "what the universe is". If I say "In binary, 1 + 1 equals 10", the truth of this statement does not depend on what the universe is. When I say "SAP would be falsified by unfrequent sapient life", that proposition is about SAP, not about the universe. You can't object it by proving/pretending the universe obeys superdeterminism, that's a categorical mistake.

      >philosophers may one day discover ** a single fact ** about the universe which they can show isn't derived from physics. But it has been 2,500 years and we're still waiting...

      A the risk of distracting you from the main issue (this is a logical fallacy, don't conclude anything from a logical fallacy), here's one single fact that is both about the universe and arguably impossible to derive from physics: "We're conscious beings rather than philosophical zombie". Another good candidate is the exact behaviour at the event horizon, for reasons from complexity theory. Another obvious one is the low entropy of the observable universe, that isn't derived from anything physical principle but is (arguably) predictable from (weak) anthropic principle. Plus gazillions of empirical rules we have now idea how to derive from first principles, even when we think we might eventually be able to (one example from physics: think how many Feynman diagrams you need to describe an interaction: what physical principle is at work for your choice?).

      Delete
    21. Jay,

      I don't know what happened but if a comment comes out chopped it's almost certainly because something you typed was parsed as a broken html command. I would strongly advise you to not use "larger than" and "smaller than" signs in the text because they mark the beginning and end of html commands are are likely to cause problems.

      Delete
    22. Jay,

      "here's one single fact that is both about the universe and arguably impossible to derive from physics: "We're conscious beings rather than philosophical zombie". Another good candidate is the exact behaviour at the event horizon, for reasons from complexity theory.

      You are confusing "cannot presently be derived" with "cannot be derived". Maybe you should read that Wikipedia article on the argument from ignorance, because that's exactly what it is. You are asserting a proposition (can be derived) is false because it has not yet been derived.

      Delete
    23. Jay1:56 PM, February 20, 2021

      "When I say "SAP would be falsified by unfrequent sapient life", that proposition is about SAP, not about the universe. "

      And that is what I have simply refuted. SAP is a statement about the universe that would *not* necessarily be falsified by infrequent sapient life, because SAP would be true for a superdeterministic, homogeneous universe with infrequent sapient life - such a universe would be "in some sense compelled to eventually have conscious and sapient life emerge within it". And it is perfectly possible our universe is such a universe.

      Do you agree that we can conclude SAP is true for a superdeterministic, homoegeneous universe with infrequent sapient life? That is, do you agree that sapient life is "in some sense compelled" in a superdeterministic universe?

      Delete
    24. Jay1:56 PM, February 20, 2021

      "When I attracted your attention on a textbook logical fallacy in your writings,"

      I don't accept I committed a logical fallacy for the reason I gave.

      "When I asked you to clarify whether this "cosmic biology" you were lecturing me about was actually exobiology, "

      I clarified that conditions on Earth are known to be sufficient for life, so searching for those conditions as part of a search for life is reasonable.

      "arguably impossible to derive from physics"

      You mean *might* be impossible to derive from physics, by the plain fact that no derivation from physics has been demonstrated. But no convincing argument has been provided to suggest it is impossible to derive from Physics. You are missing a very trivial point again.

      "We're conscious beings rather than philosophical zombie".

      And if neuroscience refutes this one day, finally we will be able to stop paying the "philosophers" who come up with this nonsense. You can provide no argument to suggest we're philosophical zombies. You are just pointing to a gap in the natural scientific project, but coming up with no answer yourself. A project known as "philosophy" that has been continuing without success for 3 millenia. Natural scientists are well aware they don't have a scientific explanation for reported consciousness at the moment.

      "Another good candidate is the exact behaviour at the event horizon, for reasons from complexity theory. "

      Again you are just pointing to a gap in empirical evidence which is unlikely to be filled any time soon. A place where philosophers love to hang out. I think Dr. H did a post on the event horizon recently where you will be able to learn why you are wrong again.

      "Another obvious one is the low entropy of the observable universe, that isn't derived from anything physical principle but is (arguably) predictable from (weak) anthropic principle."

      Another tautology. An universe that exhibits order must be such that it allows order. Amazing insight.

      "Plus gazillions of empirical rules we have now idea how to derive from first principles, even when we think we might eventually be able to "

      Again, you are pointing to gaps that you can't fill yourself. Well done. Natural scientists will meanwhile continue to gather *knowledge*.

      "think how many Feynman diagrams you need to describe an interaction: what physical principle is at work for your choice?"

      Another gap. Well spotted.

      The point is that the only field of study that is filling these gaps is natural science. Philosophy certainly is not.

      Every phenomenon observed in the universe is derived from physics as far as we know. You have failed to illustrate a single example where that is demonstrably not the case. Bad luck, old boy!

      Delete
    25. Steven Evans8:40 AM, February 20, 2021

      "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_ignorance"

      Natural science has discovered 10^10 facts about the natural world, while philosophy has discovered zero. So, yes, we can't rule out that philosophy, now in its 4th millenium of laughable failure, will score a point one day, but the current score is:

      Natural Science United 10^10 v Philosophy Wanderers Nil

      So you are committing the commonsense fallacy of arguing the argument from ignorance from the position of 10^10 to Nil down.
      "We can still win this game boys. The referee hasn't blown his final whistle, yet".

      Delete
    26. As I wouldn't put it past you to present this as a refutation of the whole of natural science, correction:

      "And if neuroscience refutes this one day"

      -> And if neuroscience proves this one day

      Delete
  33. The Simulation Hypothesis postulate that the known matter and it laws are emergent phenomenon of some underlying, low-level mechanics (they called it 'computer').
    The same postulate shared by LQG (loops as 'computer') and String Theory (strings as 'computer').
    These theories try to explain how our matter is 'simulated' by loops or strings, whereas Simulation Hypothesis don't even pretend to explain.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wonder if they have tried to get hold of the Programmer.

      Delete
    2. Aren't you conflating physics with metaphysics? They are quite different subjects.

      Delete
    3. @ Andrew Dabrowski

      Why do you ask? The topic is the Simulation Hypothesis.

      Delete
    4. Conflating a subject with actual content (physics) with a "subject" with no content (metaphysics), just leaves you with the former.

      P u {} = P

      Delete
  34. "it’s not easy to outdo Einstein."

    I want that emblazened on a T-shirt and made mandatory to wear at all AIP/APS conferences.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've got another quote about Einstein that I like, it's by Feynman. He said in a lecture, "Einstein had his head in the clouds and his feet on the ground. Those of us who are not so tall have to choose." Not pithy enough to put on a t-shirt though.

      Delete
  35. It's the latest defensive position for physicalism.

    We can't answer the question "what are quarks made of" with "quark stuff". We're uncomfortable with saying a quark is just a conceptual model for a set of observations of quark properties. We don't want to admit that the word "physical" simply has no meaning at the quantum level, and fall back to Berkeley's idealism and ultimate existence "in the mind of God".

    So we kick the problem upstairs, by agreeing that our reality isn't "physical" but positing that it's created by agents at a meta level; and we imply, without directly claiming, that the meta reality is in fact "physical".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. '... that the meta reality is in fact "physical".'

      Or the meta-reality might be nonwell-founded.

      Delete
    2. jim_h11:27 AM, February 15, 2021

      Physics is just an analysis of observations. "Quarks" is as far as this analysis has progressed, because that is as far has been observed. No great mystery or "issue".

      The problem, as pointed out in the blog post, is that there is no known "meta level" from which physics can be derived. So the philosophers again have produced nothing of worth and the physicists get back to the real work of gathering more precise observations.

      Delete
  36. Tldr; (the discussion)

    @CapilalistImperialistPig - very true, no way to falsify it.
    Even worse: Anything can follow from this hypothesis. To me, that is the main reason, why it is not scientific: Extremely complex, presumptions many and complex and no specific world that is within theory.

    Same reasoning when pulling god into a theory - it immediately is not science any more. - And there are many valid causes of personal standing that justify believing in god.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Did this guy just deconstruct global warming predictions? What if the climate scientists aren't including all the variables in their models. Al Gore told us 15 years ago that we would be suffering dire consequences by now. And all I see is record cold weather.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Global warming adds energy to the climate/environment. Climate models predict that the additional energy will produce greater weather volatility resulting in more extreme weather; wider ranges of temperature both warmer & colder; and more sudden and increasingly unpredictable changes of temperature and conditions.

      The record cold confirms the climate models predicting global warming.

      Global warming pushes the probability distribution of weather away from something closer to a normal distribution to something with fat tails.

      Delete
  38. A small point, but I rather disagree with the criterion used to differentiate religious stories on the basis that no explanation is given. My wife’s car breaks down and a mechanic repairs the car. If she is not able to explain how the mechanic fixed the car that does not make it a religious story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course not. Lots of things that we are not able to explain yet that aren't religious. If she claimed there is no explanation, that would make it religious. I am sorry in case I expressed this unclearly.

      Delete
  39. We or I?

    To me that distinction makes a big difference regarding the palette of arguments that can be put in the balance for or against being part of or being surrounded by a simulation.

    Unfortunately it seems that just this distinction is not well reasoned here. Why would it be "us" and not just "me" living in a simulation? Why is Musk saying "we"?. As soon as it's "us" all the fancy arguments of e.g. physicists, computer scientists, etc. can be thrown into the discussion.

    However, if it is just "me" the simulations of physicists, computer scientists, etc. can sell "me" anything. I would hardly be in the position to verify or falsify what these simulations are telling me. E.g. it would be easy to tell me that Simulation Hypothesis is pseudoscience. But that only works if "you" can claim that there are others thinking alike or at least being able to comprehend and confirm your line of thinking.

    Alas, "me" is the only presence I am sort of aware of. I can't tell anything about "you" ... being. And without the "we", which is conveniently sprinkled into this reasoning, this simulation question is a moot point - a pseudo discussion even?




    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But you didn't find g = 2.7 in your school Physics practical class, did you? You know you could personally check more bits of the matrix if you could be bothered. So you have no reason except to think that Dr. H. is a real physicist talking about reality.

      (If Patrick Duffy inexplicably turns up in your shower, though, then you are probably in a simulation.)

      Delete
    2. Hi Steven Evans simulation,

      I have no riposte to your profound proof, except that for sufficiently witless test pieces even I could write a simulation where g turns out as consistent across the board.

      The Dr. H. simulation based its reasoning on a postulate, namely that it is "us" - the collaboration of real minds - being able to debunk or support simulation hypothesis. Because of this postulate I have every reason to think that this reasoning is flawed.

      As for your Patrick Duffy proof I need to say that you base it on truly nonscientific and weak wording. Why would I not expect that?

      What if Larry Hagman turns up in your shower? Did the underlings running your simulation then more obviously blunder? The point of exploring more bits of the matrix is not to find more evidence for what is to be expected anyway but for the lack thereof.

      Delete
    3. MannotAlFrednotBert1:10 PM, February 16, 2021

      "I have no riposte to your profound proof"

      :) It's a sketch of a profound proof. If you fill in the details, you will see it is correct though.

      "except that for sufficiently witless test pieces"

      The simulation needs to convince Einstein, too.

      The blog post conclusion does not depend on "we" being simulated.

      In Bostrom's paper he talks about individual minds simulated on a chip being fed data so that for the mind the experience is indistinguishable from being in a physical world like ours. It is the simulation of the data which is immediately unscientific and nobody has demonstrated that this barrier is surmountable. Of course, one could appeal to "voodoo" or "magic" but that's not a meaningful solution to the issue.

      To convince yourself that you are not in an individual simulation you would just need to train as a physicist, and you would reach the same conclusion as in the blog post.

      In short, simulating a mind on a chip is conceivable, simulating physical reality is not.

      Delete
    4. Hi Steven Evans sim,

      ":) It's a sketch of a profound proof."

      That reply is telling me that your simulation is not capable of detecting sarcasm.

      "The simulation needs to convince Einstein, too."

      Firstly, it was your sim bringing the example of "your school Physics practical class", not me.
      Secondly, if you now suddenly raise the stakes - from "school class" to "Einstein" - I tell you that a) there is no longer an Einstein sim, b) that it requires more than one mind to agree or disagree about if the Einstein criteria is/can be met or not. But there is just me.

      "The blog post conclusion does not depend on "we" being simulated."

      And that's exactly not what I said. What I said was that I wonder (and also doubt) why it should be "us" and not just "me" being embedded in a simulation - as claimed by the Elon Musk and Dr. H. sims. How can any (sims) tell that others are no sims (but are real instead)? As I already said, the only awareness of presence is that of my good self. Any profound proof of the opposite?

      "In Bostrom's paper he talks about individual minds simulated on a chip being fed data so that for the mind the experience is indistinguishable from being in a physical world like ours. It is the simulation of the data which is immediately unscientific and nobody has demonstrated that this barrier is surmountable. Of course, one could appeal to "voodoo" or "magic" but that's not a meaningful solution to the issue."

      That is a mere conjecture based on even more unfounded assumptions (and once more based on the "our" world postulate): As I have no means of comparing my only world to another one I would never be able to tell the difference between a simulation and not a simulation. Even worse: I couldn't even tell if my environment simulation started n years ago when I was allegedly born or just a microsecond back when my mind state was freshly prepped with all the starting conditions and parameters that make me believe to know what I think I know and that I have a much longer history and that the Einstein sim was right.

      "To convince yourself that you are not in an individual simulation you would just need to train as a physicist, and you would reach the same conclusion as in the blog post."

      Now, that's a pretty gullible claim that could just as well be read as: Once a sim is trained as a physicist sim it would fully accept the belief system implemented in the physicist sim training module.

      In short, simulating a mind on a chip is conceivable, simulating physical reality is not.
      Your sim should not have opted for the credulity-is-a-virtue training module.

      Delete
    5. @MannotAlFrednotBert What is your reason for coming to a place like this and writing this post?

      Delete
    6. MannotAlFrednotBert9:48 AM, February 17, 2021

      "That reply is telling me that your simulation is not capable of detecting sarcasm."

      ":) " <---- sarcasm detected symbol. Do you not understand this symbol's meaning?

      "Secondly, if you now suddenly raise the stakes"

      I am not raising the stakes, you just missed the "profundity" in my "profound" proof. The point is that the simulation will have to simulate all the observations of physics because we, individually, could make any of the observations. g = 2.7 was an example. Do you understand now? I thought it was obvious.

      "As I already said, the only awareness of presence is that of my good self. Any profound proof of the opposite?"

      I already explained that. You appear not to have understood. Shall I explain again? You personally are aware of what we term physical reality; you personally can become aware, if you learn Physics, that that "physical reality" follows from the laws of physics; you personally can become aware, if you learn Physics, that the "physical reality" can only credibly be generated by the laws of Physics and that there is no credible method for generating the laws of Physics themselves. And therefore, whatever this physical reality is, you are aware of it and you know it can only be generated by the laws of Physics and there is no suggestion those laws can themselves be simulated. You also can become aware, if you learn Physics, that your mind itself is, as far as is known, emergent from a physical brain, so everything you are aware of including the awareness organ, is physical. And you are aware, if you have learned Physics, that no possible simulation of this has been shown.

      Clearly if a simulation is not possible, then a simulation from a microsecond ago is also not possible.

      That's what my point was. Do you now understand?

      To prove my argument is correct (Dr. H's argument actually), which it is, you would just need to subject your impressively clever schoolyard skepticism to training as a Physicist.

      If you think physical reality can be simulated you could always provide further entertainment by describing how it can be done....

      Delete
    7. @Vadim8:59 PM, February 17, 2021
      Explain what you understand by "a place like this" - then I might have a better answer for you.

      Generally spoken, the participation in a forum is the exchange of thoughts and the carving out of new perspectives.

      And I am coming to this place for quite some time now.

      Delete
    8. MannotAlFrednotBert5:53 AM, February 19, 2021

      So do you agree that if you learned Physics you would be able to analyse what you are aware of, carry out experiments and confirm personally that you are not in an individual simulation?

      Delete
    9. @Steven Evans9:53 PM, February 17, 2021

      In my Internet sim this emoticon ":)" simply means "smile" :).

      "The point is that the simulation will have to simulate all ..."
      -> ... a simulation where g turns out as consistent across the board. Do you concede that this was already covered by my initial reply?

      "You personally are aware of what we term physical reality;"
      -> I am not sure if that is meant as an assumption or if your sim considers this a fact? But anyway, what you (again) did here is to evade my actual point that there is no "we" while at the same time using "we" to provide more momentum to your assertions. From the perspective of the only non-simulated individual these are untenable. Why? Because a single mind is not sufficient for consensus. I might have an idea of what "red" means. As long as there is no other (real) mind agreeing with me about "red" this perception which I might even call "truth" or "reality" is useless. And exactly the same applies to whatever enlightenment you ascribe to the - single mind - of a "trained physicist". That is my point.

      "If you think physical reality can be simulated ..."
      -> Apart from that "we" do not even know what physical reality actually is the further "we" zoom in to the subatomic realm(s)the fully expanded version of this invitation again amounts to the same thing for the same reasons I already mentioned: The only real mind
      has no choice than to accept what is being provided by the world simulation.

      I also have an invitation for you, kind of a crosscheck: Try to forget about your "trained physicist" paradigm for a moment - do you have any suggestion regarding how the "only individual" can with certainty debunk even the worst world simulation it is embedded into?

      Delete
    10. @Steven Evans6:21 AM, February 19, 2021

      I do of course agree with that I would be able to analyse what I am aware of and carry out experiments. However ...

      I disagree with that I can confirm personally that I am not in an individual simulation - see my recent post above, keywords "consensus", "crosscheck".

      Delete
    11. @MannotAlFrednotBert "Generally spoken, the participation in a forum is the exchange of thoughts and the carving out of new perspectives."

      A convention, isn't it? And the one that is even stronger than using 'we' in the place of 'for all that is currently known through experiment - statistically and behaviorally speaking, almost each modeled instantiation of class Homo by default...', which you've initially questioned. So where did the compliance with some rules come from at the very instant of writing the message? (no need of history or memory or worrying of repercussions, you supposedly could have done otherwise) Who said you should consent? Were you aware where did this event of consent come from? But some event happened that stirred your personal thinking, so that you've raised that question and, stronger, raised it in accordance with some invisible rules. Are you aware of those rules and how do (not 'did' & constantly) they come about?

      So, what is that personal for you question that you think you must find out or clarify? Not what A said, or B said (as eventually who cares what 'we' say, you also may say anything you want, start a blog, record a video, the question is what 'I' wants to find out by such means). So, paraphrasing the question, what do you personally want to find out in raising this question?

      Delete
    12. MannotAlFrednotBert6:57 AM, February 19, 2021

      But the point is that you alone could carry out the physics experiments that would make you alone reach the same conclusion as Dr. H. No "we" required. No consensus required. Remember she's not claiming to have proved we are definitely not in a simulation unknowingly (individual or o.w.), only that current physics implies quite simply and trivially that there may be an insurmountable barrier such that simulations of physical reality aren't possible (even individual ones, although that requires no extra argument).

      If you individually performed the requisite physics experiments, you will reach the same conclusion as Dr. H. Namely you will understand, based on the results of the experiments carried out individually by you which will give you personally all the necessary knowledge of current physics, that there is a possible insurmountable barrier to the simulation of the reality you are individually aware of and you would then understand that it's not necessarily likely that you are in an individual simulation unknowingly, and that it can't be ruled out that there is a barrier that makes such an individual simulation impossible.

      You wouldn't prove to yourself that you're not in an individual simulation, just that there is a possibility that such simulations are impossible. Even individual ones.

      "Try to forget about your "trained physicist" paradigm for a moment - do you have any suggestion regarding how the "only individual" can with certainty debunk even the worst world simulation it is embedded into?"

      What do you mean exactly? Do you mean the mind is raised in this bad simulation? Or switched to it from our physical reality in the middle of the night while it's asleep? If the mind was "raised" in such a simulation maybe it would find it difficult to make head or tail of what it's experiencing, like a primitive human. It's difficult to imagine what kind of consciousness would form in such an environment, Too vague a question, I think, and irrelevant to the point about whether it is likely we are simulations or not.

      Delete
    13. MannotAlFrednotBert5:53 AM, February 19, 2021

      So do you agree that if you learned Physics you would agree with the blog post that simulations (including individual ones) of our reality (what we are aware of) may simply not be possible at all? Do you see that the only reason you don't agree with the blog post is because you don't know enough Physics?

      Delete
    14. MannotAlFrednotBert6:57 AM, February 19, 2021

      "In my Internet sim this emoticon ":)" simply means "smile" :)."

      Yes, I was smiling in response to the sarcasm which you claimed I missed. Are we there yet?

      Delete
    15. MannotAlFrednotBert7:10 AM, February 19, 2021

      "I disagree with that I can confirm personally that I am not in an individual simulation - see my recent post above, keywords "consensus", "crosscheck"."

      The blog post is not saying that it can currently be confirmed that reality is not a simulation (individual or o.w.). It is saying that current Physics implies that it *may* be the case that simulations of reality (including individual ones) are impossible; that there is no good reason to think they are possible. And this follows from the experimental results of Physics, which we can assume you personally could competently carry out individually (so "consensus" and "crosschecking" are irrelevant).

      If you personally carry out the necessary Physics experiments, you will agree with the blog post, and see that it already applies to the individual case.

      Delete
    16. MannotAlFrednotBert7:10 AM, February 19, 2021

      Let me put it like this..

      You agree that if you personally carried out the requisite experiments, you would expect to come to the same conclusion personally as the physicists that E=mc^2? You haven't done the experiment, but you would expect to find E=mc^2, not E=mc^3 or something.

      So, equally, if you carried out the requisite experiments you would expect to come to the same conclusion as the blog post that the laws of physics are not necessarily simulatable. You can reach this conclusion individually so you can conclude it about just yourself - that you are not necessarily a simulation.

      Delete
    17. @Vadim9:14 AM, February 19, 2021

      I want to find out why:

      a) The modus operandi here seems to be that "we" are not a simulation although from the perspective of an individual there is clearly less reason to assume that "we" are real than there is to assume that just "I" am real (I am not talking about Boström's "me-simulation").

      b) If the "we" is replaced by "I" (i.e. the only real individual) what's left of the "all that is currently known through experiment - statistically and behaviorally speaking, almost each modeled instantiation of class Homo by default..." argument.


      For this it is absolutely irrelevant if I discuss this with "we simulations" as they might be the only discussion partners around - should that be the fly in the ointment found by the Vadim sim, which I am not sure it is.

      The rules leading me there are neither invisible nor is there consent required. This is merely the result of me being embedded in the world simulation.

      Delete
    18. @MannotAlFrednotBert
      "less reason to assume that "we" are real than there is to assume that just "I" am real"
      Then you are not being consistent. Before you assume anything about who is more real 'we' or 'I'. How did you get this "the perspective of an individual", "we" and "I" in the first place? Where did it come from?

      "is replaced by "I" (i.e. the only real individual)"
      Same assumption. Where did you learn that you are "the only real individual"? By what primarily organ you know it (in your personal view)?

      "me being embedded in the world simulation"
      So you recognize the difference. With what do you identify?

      Delete
    19. MannotAlFrednotBert12:39 PM, February 19, 2021

      The blog post does not claim that physical evidence implies the physical universe is *not* simulatable, either collectively or individually. It claims that physical evidence implies that there *may* be an insurmountable barrier that means the physical universe is not simulatable, either for a collective or an individual, and that no-one has demonstrated that if this barrier exists it can be overcome (thus "insurmountable"). And the post points out that people like Neil DeGrasse who claim we are likely simulations (individually or collectively) have missed this point.

      'If the "we" is replaced by "I" (i.e. the only real individual) what's left of the "all that is currently known through experiment " argument." '

      Of course, all of it is left. Your comment shows you have not understood the argument at all.
      If everybody else in the world dropped dead (or their simulations were turned off;), you personally would still be free to carry out all the requisite experiments to reach the conclusion of the blog post - namely you would conclude that there may be an insurmountable barrier to the hypothesis that you are an individual simulation. You would know this about yourself and the "reality" of which you are aware. Just like you would know how to integrate functions if you went to calculus class, or you would know how to bake a cake if you went to cookery class.

      Are we there, yet? We must be there now.
      (It's ironic that I'm trying to convince "MannotAI" that he's possibly not an AI...)

      Delete
  40. Regarding: “As I said, you would have to show that you can derive the "inner laws", ie the current foundations of physics, from something else, which you may call "outer laws" or whatever.”

    This reengineering of a universe may be possible if we perturb the universe on its most vulnerable single point of failure. The Higgs field is said to be precariously balanced on a pinhead were a slight deviation away from its current value of its potential would cause it to change its nature and thus change its regulation of our current universe in this changing. If a cosmologist was able to generate a Mexican hat potential that corresponded to that produced by the Higgs field inside an arbitrarily sized volume, a slight addition to the Higgs potential of just a few percent in strength would nullify the many if not all the existing laws of our current universe to some other values. Mass, charge, the forces and how they function, space/time itself and many other characteristics of our universe would be subject to the adjustments that would be made to the Mexican hat potential within the experimental volume. This might give the cosmologist another tool that provides some new and deeper insights into how the current laws of the universe hang together.


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    1. "a slight deviation away from its current value" is absolutely not known to be physically possible.

      Delete
    2. Something that can produce a Mexican hat potential is not easy to come by. But never say never. Take a look at the cavity Higgs polariton.

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    3. You are right that there are experimental results in this area. But the re-engineering would be being done from inside physical reality. It would just become part of Physics that physical reality is re-engineerable from within; that doesn't mean physical reality can be simulated.

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    4. It might be more instructive to consider the method that allows the transition from our current reality to a reality that existed just after the big bang as a gateway process or a time machine which transforms our observational capabilities to allow a refocus from our universe to another universe that had operated under a complete set of new physical properties and laws that had existed when the universe was very young and the Higgs field did not exist.

      The cosmological experimtalist that set up the gateway to access the distant past might rightly claim to have created a analog simulation of the nascent universe to allow for its study and consideration.

      Delete
    5. The reality just after the Big Bang is still physical reality in our universe. Transitioning between different times in our universe isn't going to help simulate it. And you just need a telescope or a LIGO to observe the distant past, no gateways required.

      Delete
    6. One second after the Big Bang, the universe was filled with neutrons, protons, electrons, anti-electrons, photons and neutrinos. The appearance of particles marks the formation of the Higgs field. The timeframe of our observational interest precedes the particle formation process that occurred before the appearance of the Higgs field. Observation by telescopes or a LIGO are possible only after roughly 380,000 years after the Big Bang when matter cooled enough for atoms to form during the era of recombination, resulting in a transparent, electrically neutral gas.

      Delete
    7. Axil5:16 AM, February 18, 2021

      You are still just talking about aspects of the physics of our universe; even before the formation of the Higgs field - that's still our universe and the thing that we are wanting to simulate.

      Primordial gravitational waves generated further back in time than 380K years after the purported beginning would presumably be detectable by a sensitive enough LIGO, one built in space, say. Presumably pre-Higgs, there is no mass so no g-waves, but that's still the thing we are trying to simulate, not the foundation for the simulation.

      It's not clear that finding a more detailed description of the laws of physics will help in determining a way of simulating physics. I can't see where you are going with this.

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    8. Is a universe that exists without the Higgs field: a universe without mass, charge, particles, space/time. gravity, and general relativity the same one as the one we live in today? There are currently unanswerable and unverifiable questions that might be answered if a pre-Higgs universe can be formed and observable. Is the speed of light still the same between the two universes? Where did all the antimatter go when the Higgs field came to be? What caused the inflationary expansion of the universe to occur? How did the forces of nature operate pre-Higgs? There are so many more of these premortial mysteries of interest to address.

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    9. For the fourth time - anything causally linked to us is our universe and operates according to the laws of physics.

      You can't pick a moment in the past of our universe and randomly declare that that is no longer our universe.

      Yes, going back 13.7 bn years there was no Starbucks, no Higgs field, the e.m. and weak force were merged, etc., but it's still our physical universe operating according to the laws of physics.

      There is no evidence that finding out the fundamental laws of physics in more detail would suggest a method for simulating the universe, which is the topic.

      Delete
    10. The proposition is that the laws of nature are emergent from a fundamental causative factor. When that fundamental factor changes, that change is reflected in a change in the associated emergent laws. It is commonly assumed that the laws of nature are fixed and unchanging but is there a condition where this assumption is not true?

      This case is if the fundamental causation changes so that time and space no longer exist, there is no connection between what was and what now is. A change of state has occurred when the fundamental factor changed. Under this proposition that the laws of nature can change in profound ways, it is proper to define the universe that existed in the past is not the same one that now exists since there is no method or criteria upon which to characterize or compare the two universes.

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    11. Nonsense. There is no evidence whatsoever that the universe pre-Higgs is anything but the physical universe in an infant stage but still obeying the laws of physics and causally linked to us now. There is also no suggestion that the laws of physics can be any different to observed. This includes the observation that inertia is the result of the Higgs field, so pre-Higgs there is no inertia - it is all physics.

      Please, no more!

      Delete
  41. I completely agree that the simulation hypothesis is not scientific. The only disagreement is that I wouldn't actually call it an hypothesis; as my 5 and 9 year old kid know due to frequent watching of 'Dinosaur Train' on Netflix, for something to be an hypothesis it should be testable and this clearly isn't, so it should be called the simulation doctrine or simulation dogma or something.

    It is actually a metaphysical or theological speculation, basically a nascent techno-religion.

    I personally quite enjoy metaphysical and theological speculation, but agree entirely with Dr H that it is unhealthy for these to masquerade as scientific theories.

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  42. Bostrom's simulation argument is most simply understood as, simulations either:

    1. can't be built, or
    2. won't be built, or
    3. we are almost certainly in a simulation

    Claiming #3 is most likely is the simulation hypothesis. I think #2 is most likely, where Sabine seems to argue for #1. Bostrom calls future civilizations capable of running ancestor simulations "post-humans".

    I don't think the paper Sabine references demonstrates anything conclusive about the simulation hypohtesis, because a) the model studied in the` paper may bear no real resemblence to how a simulation might actually operate, and b) Bostrom's argument>doesn't really depend on simulating physics.

    I think (a) is self-explanatory, but for (b), the argument is:

    1. post-humans must understand how the human mind works up to and including consciousness in order to simulate it,
    2. since the mind is understood, then the contents of a human mind are available to the simulation, including all senses, beliefs, etc.
    3. since simulating physics is not the point of an ancestor simulation (just run a physics simulation in that case), an ancestor simulation will be about simulating human minds and their responses to simulated sensory input

    Thus, a simulation merely needs to add the relevant sensory facts in our mind, ie. I sensesd I just typed a key, stopped and took a bite of an apple, it doesn't actually have to physically simulate every step, including the apple. Also, our senses needn't even be consistent with the senses of other minds in the simulation. Eyewitness testimony is unreliable, for example.

    This handles macroscopic phenomena we can directly sense, but what about actual physics experiments that test physics beyond our sensory capabilities? Since these experiments are all mediated by our senses as well, and since the simulation has access to the contents of our minds, including what physics properties we are currently testing, the simulation really just needs to present data that conforms the probability distribution for the phenomena being tested.

    Of course this may be sounding increasingly implausible, but it is still hypothetically possible, so case #1 can't be asserted without some monstrous loopholes. However, if we take a step back and ask ourselves why we simulate things, it seems plausible that post-humans simply won't have much interest in such simulations.

    In general, we run simulations when we don't have sufficiently precise or accurate understanding of certain problems. For instance, a closed form mathematical description of P negates any reason to simulate P.

    Asserting that post-humans would run ancestor simulations is to simultaneously assert that post-humans won't have a satisfactory understanding of whatever problems a full ancestor simulation would answer. That by itself already seems less plausible, because a civilization capable of simulating a human mind with perfect fidelity would seemingly understand human behaviour.

    But it's still possible, since aggregate behaviour doesn't always tractably follow from microscopic behaviour, eg. we have a pretty good grasp of how individual moleclues behave, but predicting the weather is still intractable because of a) the sheer number of interacting molecules, and b) equations governing individual motion becomes chaotic when combined. However, despite the chaos, such systems still have some regular macroscopic behaviour which we study via "statistical mechanics".

    Stochastic calculations obviate the need for direct simulation in many cases, so even if human behaviour is similarly chaotic, there is likely a statistical mechanics for human behaviour that would similarly reduce or eliminate the need for direct simulation.

    It's not obvious that post-humans would need much from ancestor simulations, and so I find it fairly unlikely that post-humans would be interested in running such simulations, and therefore, we likely are not living in a simulation.

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    1. I'm not saying they can't be built. I am saying it's not trivial to show that they can be built, and so far no one has delivered an explanation for how it's supposed to work. Without that, it's down to belief, hence it's not a scientific argument.

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    2. Fair enough! The simulation argument is clearly a philosophical argument with some overlap with the sciences. However, there have been all sorts of conjectures in physics that are explored theoretically despite being outside the range of tests for the foreseeable future. Sometimes this seems warranted, and as you've often argued, sometimes it's not. Cheers!

      Delete
    3. Just FYI, I've tried posting a link to an open-access copy of the paper you discuss in the video, but my comment on YouTube keeps getting deleted.

      Delete
    4. Sandro,

      This is very curious. How is it getting deleted?

      Delete
  43. >... ”You cannot in general just throw away physical processes on short distances and still get the long distances right."

    The strategy of delaying creation of model details until they are needed, if ever, is called lazy initialization or lazy instantiation. Computer modelers ensure self-consistency by permitting lazy instantiation only for details not yet observed. Once observed, a detail becomes a permanent part of an alway-increasing, permanent database of details for that world; it can never again be changed.

    It is not quite correct to say there is no parallel to this in experimental physics.

    If one strips away all theoretical interpretations and focuses only on recorded experimental outcomes, quantum "wave function collapse" is indistinguishable from delayed instantiation. Similarly, the irreversible accumulation of information from such instantiations is identical to increasing entropy.

    Ironically, this close parallel between experimental physics and computer modeling is precisely why I find the idea that we are in a simulation so patently absurd.

    The deeper message from experimental physics is that our universe contains a finite and rather smallish -- not Planck level at all -- total information capacity. Below that limit there is, well... nothing, no further details. This is the dark wave function interpretation, to use my own phrase. To see (instantiate) more details, one must borrow energy (information capacity) from some other part of a firmly finite universe.

    In short, there's no free lunch: No matter how broadly a physics theory may cast some net of unlimited details to explain the deeper fabric of reality, experimental physics always and jarringly brings us back to an instantiated reality in which quantum mechanics ensures blurriness at the lower limits. You only get the level of detail you pay for, as any builder of particle accelerators can testify.

    We are not in a simulation because we are already at rock bottom, stressing reality to its maximum resolution limits.

    That's a good thing, really, because otherwise we wouldn't have blurry atoms to give us chemistry, or the continual accumulation of historical instantiation details to give us entropic, thermodynamic time and causality.

    ReplyDelete
  44. The simulation hypothesis is neither science nor pseudo-science, it's metaphysics, a completely different category.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i.e. meaningless.
      Bostrom tries to justify his paper by suggesting simulation might be scientific. But as Dr. H. points out, there is no suggestion that simulations of physics can be implemented. So by Bostrom's own metric, his paper is completely uninteresting.

      Based on current knowledge, to even talk about whether we are simulations makes no sense. Such simulations are not known to be a thing.

      Delete
  45. From David Deutsch’s “The Beginning of Infinity”

    “…in reality, scientific theories are not ‘derived’ from anything. We do not read them in nature, nor does nature write them into us. They are guesses — bold conjectures. Human minds create them by rearranging, combining, altering and adding to existing ideas with the intention of improving upon them. We do not begin with ‘white paper’ at birth, but with inborn expectations and intentions and an innate ability to improve upon them using thought and experience.

    Experience is indeed essential to science, but its role is different from that supposed by empiricism. It is not the source from which theories are derived. Its main use is to choose between theories that have already been guessed.”


    I suggest that the Simulation Hypothesis does not yet stand as a meaningful hypothesis, but should rather get described as the “Simulation Conjecture”

    As a conjecture, it then clearly becomes a part of a larger scientific process, which, informed by empirical observation, may get revised again and again until it arrives at an explanation and an actual hypothesis and theory that one could test.

    Nothing pseudoscientific about this at all, just an early conjecture.

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    1. "Experience is indeed essential to science, but its role is different from that supposed by empiricism. It is not the source from which theories are derived."

      Don't the Physics revolutions in relativity and quantum mechanics refute this? Wouldn't this be more convincing as an argument if Deutsch could produce a theory that was completely different to QFT but gave the same results?

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    2. Just how do, "...the Physics revolutions in relativity and quantum mechanics refute... " Deutsch's assertion and articulation of the scientific process?

      Further, I don't know of Deutsch ever refuting QFT. That said, I certainly don't know everything he has said or written and don't hold myself out as an expert on him.

      Deutsch has stated that he finds the relative state formulation (the Everett interpretation) as convincing. Sabine counters this stance (if memory serves without mentioning Deutsch directly) in "Lost in Math"and more generally on this site and I'd love to hear a discussion between them.

      That said, Deutsch take quantum theory as central to human's understanding of the universe.

      Deutsch has extended his thought around explanation and the scientific process, and how they drive knowledge to his work in Constructor Theory, http://constructortheory.org/what-is-constructor-theory/.

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    3. A^210:13 AM, February 18, 2021

      I see. The quote you posted suggested that experience allowed scientists to choose between already existing theories, not come up with completely new theories based on empirical evidence alone. But relativity and the quantum completely overturned what had gone before, based on the evidence observed. They had been unimaginable 50 years before their discovery.

      The quote you wrote suggests Deutsch thinks physicists were led to QFT by earlier theories, and are not simply looking at the empirical evidence available, and that there may therefore be a completely different theory to QFT which explains the observations as well as QFT (not that QFT would be refuted. I didn't write that). But there is no evidence this is the case and Deutsch has provided none.

      There is no empirical evidence supporting the Everett interpretation, so anybody claiming they are "convinced" by it is incorrect and has simply not understood that physics is an empirical science. No "convincing" happens without empirical evidence. They have been fooled by it, not convinced by it.

      Delete
  46. According to Dictionary.com:

    "SIMULATION

    noun

    1. imitation or enactment, as of something anticipated or in testing.

    2. the act or process of pretending; feigning.

    3. an assumption or imitation of a particular appearance or form; counterfeit; sham."

    I suggest that the problem lies in thinking that just because our overall material reality appears to be constructed from highly correlated patterns of energy and information that produce the results that seem to loosely resemble the results achieved by computer software,...

    ...that it therefore must be presumed that our reality is a "simulation" of something.

    A simulation ("imitation"/"counterfeit") of what, exactly?

    Do the proponents of the "simulation hypothesis" expect us to believe that there exists a higher level of reality that is, what, pretty much the same as our reality, only "more real" (as in not an imitation or counterfeit?

    If so, then how did that level of reality come into existence?

    Again, we are confronted with the problem of infinite regress.
    _______

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    1. Keith D. Gill1:35 PM, February 16, 2021

      "If so, then how did that level of reality come into existence?"

      That's a question for that level of reality.

      "Again, we are confronted with the problem of infinite regress."

      No, because there could be a self-contained level of reality.

      The issue is as Dr. H. points out - convincing simulations of physics are not known to be possible. Maybe a conscious mind can be implemented on a chip, but the data to feed to that mind to convince it in is in our physical world cannot be simulated as far is known. There is no known algorithm or any other method to do it.

      That's the problem. Not infinite regress.

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    2. Me:
      "If so, then how did that level of reality come into existence?"

      Steven Evans:
      "That's a question for that level of reality."

      And why is that?

      I mean, how is that question any different from the question...

      "...if God created the universe, then who or what created God?..."

      ...that the materialists love to ask of the proponents of the "designer" hypothesis?

      Me:
      "Again, we are confronted with the problem of infinite regress."

      Steven Evans:
      "No, because there could be a self-contained level of reality."

      Okay then (and once again), how did that "self-contained" level of reality...

      (a level of reality that is presumed by the proponents of the simulation hypothesis to be the "genuine" or "authentic" or "real" level of reality of which our level of reality is a mere simulation of)

      ...come into existence?

      And if you re-insist that we are not allowed to ponder the ontological nature of the source of the source of our existence, then I'm afraid you are in conflict with the very spirit of scientific inquiry.

      Steven Evans wrote:
      "The issue is as Dr. H. points out - convincing simulations of physics are not known to be possible. Maybe a conscious mind can be implemented on a chip, but the data to feed to that mind to convince it in is in our physical world cannot be simulated as far is known. There is no known algorithm or any other method to do it.  That's the problem. Not infinite regress."

      Can't we at least agree that both issues are a problem?

      Besides, if you are touting (or open to) the idea that human science could someday figure out how to implement a conscious mind on a chip, then it would seem that pretty much anything would be possible.
      _______

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    3. For my part, I do think there is something to what Mr. Gill says. The point is that a simulation implies that the reality it simulates (or a better, more capable one) exists; and once you have admitted that, simulation to an infinitesimal level of detail becomes pointless. We do simulations in engineering preciseless so we don't have to include all the details involved in building the machine and running it in reality, and leaving those details out can save us time and resources while still providing useful information to guide a design process, before committing the design to face full reality.

      So the hallmark of a typical simulation would be that many things are missing in it. I should be alone on a desert island in a pocket universe if I were being simulated to learn something about conscious behavior; secondarily with a few other people; at very low probability with almost eight billion people of whom I interact with thousands, and have read thousands of books in different styles and genres.

      Admission: I have not read Dr. (?) Bostrom's paper, but the logic as presented here, that either simulations can't or won't be made, or else we are "probably" in a simulation seems to fall short of being convincing. Simulations can and will be done, maybe even a few very detailed ones, but not enough at this level of detail to make it a likely simulation because there is no real point to doing it, with a reality to experiment in. That doesn't mean it won't be done if possible, people do climb Mount Everest, but it won't be done a lot, even if possible.

      (The infinite regress part shows that there should be an actual reality at some level, it can't be simulations all the way down (or up). The existence of that reality then makes infinitesimal simulation rather pointless. Or so I think.)

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    4. Keith D. Gill11:55 AM, February 17, 2021

      We can ask any questions and believe anything we want. But here are the facts as known:

      Dr. H. tells us that simulation of our physical universe is unscientific, because there is no suggestion that such a simulation is possible. So the idea is currently a non-starter.

      We already know who created the mythical character, "God" - the humans who wrote the Bible.

      You are welcome "to ponder ontologies" all you want, but it is not science. Equally, "infinite regress" is not a known scientific concept. The natural world appears to be finite.

      The point of natural science is to determine what is real (mass, energy, spacetime) and what are crazy imaginings in our minds ("God", infinite regress, simulations of physics).

      You will notice again and again in this blog Dr. H, talks about whether questions are scientific, and if they are, whether there is evidence to support them.

      This approach, called the "scientific method", has proven very successful. While "philosophical" ponderings about infinite regress, the ontology of matter, God, and whole bunch of other nonsense, has not led to a single fact about the universe.

      That's the point, dearest Keith.

      Delete
    5. JimV12:46 PM, February 17, 2021

      The question arising out of Bostrom's paper is whether physical reality can be simulated to the point where a human mind can't distinguish between the simulation and physical reality, and therefore whether we might unknowingly be in a simulation.

      But the simulation would have to simulate the results of all physical observations and they can only credibly be generated by the laws of physics, and Dr. H. presents a possibly insurmountable barrier to the generation of the laws of physics themselves. So no convincing simulation of physical reality looks possible.

      The point is that we, individually even, can run lots of physics experiments to poke at the matrix, and Bostrom et al. have not demonstrated any credible way of simulating the results.

      The infinite regress part is a speculation upon a speculation, but equally we can speculate that the underlying universe is completely self-contained. All irrelevant though. The only thing we know exists is our physical universe.

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    6. Keith D. Gill11:55 AM, February 17, 2021

      "Besides, if you are touting (or open to) the idea that human science could someday figure out how to implement a conscious mind on a chip, then it would seem that pretty much anything would be possible."

      We have an example (as far as we can tell) of minds instantiated in physical reality. So maybe they can be implemented again in physical reality, but on a different substrate. Just like Excel runs on Mac and Windows. You are aware, too, that chips are already implanted in brains for medical purposes to replace lost brain functionality? Have you thought about an implant, Keith? (Just kidding ;)

      We don't have an example of the fundamental laws of physics being generated. They have just been observed. Therefore this appears to be the bigger barrier currently.

      Delete
    7. Steven Evans wrote:
      "...the "scientific method", has proven very successful. While "philosophical" ponderings about infinite regress, the ontology of matter, God, and whole bunch of other nonsense, has not led to a single fact about the universe."

      The online dictionary definition of ontology is:

      "ONTOLOGY

      noun

      1. the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being.

      2. a set of concepts and categories in a subject area or domain that shows their properties and the relations between them."

      In which case, the entire enterprise of quantum physics deals with the "ontology of matter."  So your retort contains a brazen non sequitur.

      And furthermore, what "...fact about the universe..." has the ridiculous nonsense of say, for example, the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics provided us?

      Yet it seems to be perfectly acceptable (from the perspective of the "scientific method") for physicists such as Sean Carrol or Max Tegmark to unashamedly promote such an affront to reason and logic (again, the *MWI*) as being a plausible possibility.

      And the point is that the proposing of nonsense is not limited to the blatherings of philosophers or theologians.
          
      Steven Evans wrote:
      "The point of natural science is to determine what is real (mass, energy, spacetime) and what are crazy imaginings in our minds ("God", infinite regress, simulations of physics)."

      Well, in light of the fact that the "scientific method" has yet to determine (beyond any doubt) whether or not the three-dimensional features of the universe even exist in their 3-D forms when consciousness is not looking,...

      ...then I challenge you to define the meaning of the word "real"?
      _______

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    8. Keith D. Gill11:15 AM, February 18, 2021

      Keith, you're waffling insanely again. I don't know what you think the point of waffling is.

      MWI is not confirmed physics - it's pure speculation. You should love it - because there's absolutely no evidence it's true.

      Physics has observed that the observations in nature follow from quantum field theory and GR. These quantum and GR phenomena are confirmed daily quadrillions of times in computer chips and satnav cocks.

      Your ideas of "infinite regress", "ontology of matter", "spirit", "God" are figments of your imagination which tell us nothing about what we observe. They have never been confirmed even once, ever, in thousands of years. Never. Yet, you keep writing about them like they are something other than wild imaginings.

      I have told you many, many times that infinite regress is not an issue as topology describes closed, multi-dimensional spaces which don't suffer from such issues. Every time you write "infinite regress", you are simply pointing out your ignorance of topology. The surface of the Earth is finite, and yet one can keep walking forwards around it forever, without falling off - how about that, Keith!

      "I challenge you to define the meaning of the word "real""

      By "real" we mean what is observed. These observations have led to the computer you are using. Your nonsensical ideas have led to nothing but hot air. QED

      Delete
    9. Steven Evans wrote:
      "Keith, you're waffling insanely again. I don't know what you think the point of waffling is."

      By "waffling," do you mean offering up ideas that are intended to get you to look beyond the extremely narrow focus of your tunnel-vision view of the universe?

      Steven Evans wrote:
      "MWI is not confirmed physics - it's pure speculation. You should love it - because there's absolutely no evidence it's true."

      Clearly, you have never read any of my prior rants against the MWI nonsense.

      Furthermore, it's funny how you managed to miss the point I was making, while simultaneously confirming it.

      And the point was that if it is okay for the practitioners of the "scientific method" to promote purely speculative theories for which there is absolutely no evidence of them being true,...

      (theories, mind you, that are infinitely more ridiculous and implausible than anything a theologian might suggest)

      ...then why is it NOT okay for philosophers and theologians to offer up purely speculative theories for which there is absolutely no evidence of them being true?

      It is quite obvious that your superficial interpretation of my comment is simply an extension of the superficial way in which you view overall reality itself.

      Now I am not suggesting that you don't make some good points in your defense of materialism...

      ...however, I do suggest that the problem with your disdain for any ideas with a metaphysical or religious sounding tinge to them, is that you are assuming that just because you personally have never experienced anything in your life that would cause you to be more open minded to those subjects,...

      ...then it must therefore be impossible that anyone else has experienced anything.

      And that is where the error in your thinking lies.

      Steven Evans wrote:
      "By "real" we mean what is observed. These observations have led to the computer you are using. Your nonsensical ideas have led to nothing but hot air."

      My goodness, Steven, you certainly are masterful at missing (or purposely ignoring) the point being made.

      Just how "REAL" is the moon, for example, if according to certain interpretations of quantum mechanics, there exists the possibility that when something is not being observed, then it may well exist as superpositioned waves or fields of energy and information that have no "reality" as we understand reality to be?

      How and where does the concept of "REAl" fit in with that scenario?

      Yeah, yeah, I know, more of my "insane waffling."

      Anyway, Sabine is about to post a new topic, so why don't you get in your last (and inevitable) round of insults and we'll call it a day.
      _____

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    10. " but equally we can speculate that the underlying universe is completely self-contained."--Steven Evans, in response to the utility of the infinite-regress concept.

      I'm not sure we are talking about the same thing (probably not). If by underlying reality you mean the oververse (the one sufficiently powerful to simulate things we are incapable of simulating in what seems to be our reality), the assumption of its existence is what I take to be the point of the infinite regress concept (that there can be no infinite regress, there has to be a stopping point somewhere). Topologically there could be a loop, but a loop does not work for simulated realities; each simulation can only simulate something cruder than itself.

      For me this implies that Bostrom's either ... or ... or else ... is flawed even if we grant simulation power to a higher universe, by my argument above. As I have said previously, it seems obvious to me that such a detailed reality as we observe could not be simulated computationally in this universe, and Dr. Hossenfelder has elaborated on that. Bostrom seems to be trying to evade that by his three-part statement, but I don't see his argument as succeeding even so.

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    11. Keith D. Gill11:57 AM, February 19, 2021

      Keith, you are missing the point completely. Do you read the blog posts?

      It is not OK for natural scientists to claim speculation is fact without any evidence. That's one of the major points of this blog and indeed the current post.

      All theologians are frauds; a good percentage of philosophers are frauds (panpsychists are, logicians are not); and a minority of physicists are semi-frauds (e.g. Luke Barnes). But the physical record is a credible record of observations.

      If you can tell me a recorded observation from the natural scientific record that isn't true, please tell me one. (Note that the utterances of particular physicists like Sean Carrol and Max Tegmark do *not* necessarily represent the physical record.)

      Also, if you can tell me a fact about the natural world that natural scientists don't know but you or "theologians" do, with evidence, then please tell me e.g. you keep mentioning a "spirit" that biologists appear to have overlooked.

      Otherwise, it's not clear what your point is...

      ".then it must therefore be impossible that anyone else has experienced anything."

      Come on then, Keith. Tell us about your experiences which defy explanation by natural science. Have you seen an image of Jesus Christ's bearded face in your morning toast?

      "Just how "REAL" is the moon"
      Well, the tide's just come in near me, so I think it's pretty real.

      "or fields of energy and information that have no "reality" as we understand reality to be?"
      ??? Dear, oh dear. This is reality. The observations of quantum physics experiments represent reality.

      ***** And sure enough, your computer which you are using right now works based on the quantum behaviour of the electron as observed in Physics experiments. *****

      Are you saying that you would not describe your computer and its functioning as "real"?

      Anyway, how about you provide:
      1) A natural scientific observation that you can show to be false.
      2) A fact that you or "theologians" or "philosophers" know about the natural world, that natural scientists do not, with evidence.
      3) A personal experience of yours that defies explanation by rational science.

      Otherwise, you have no point.

      Delete
    12. Keith D. Gill11:57 AM, February 19, 2021

      "Clearly, you have never read any of my prior rants against the MWI nonsense."

      Well done. But MWI is not on the physical record. It is not a physical fact. So you are ranting against a straw man. It is a speculation by a theoretical physicist motivated by considerations of the empirical evidence, and is at least possibly consistent with the empirical evidence. Theoretical physics sometimes is successful, sometimes not.

      I never see you rant against the meaningless nonsense of theology and "religious" superstitions though. In fact, you seem to believe some of these silly superstitions.

      Delete
    13. JimV7:05 PM, February 19, 2021

      Neil DeGrasse et al. are claiming that in the future we will likely be able to simulate physical reality, on computers for example, and they conclude that there is a good chance, therefore, that we are simulations unknowingly. But Dr. H's point shows that, based on current physical evidence, there may be an insurmountable barrier to simulations of the physical universe. DeGrasse et al. don't deal with the issue, therefore their conclusion that we are likely simulations is unscientific. So there is in fact no reason currently to think we are simulations unknowingly.

      The point about infinite regress is then irrelevant as the idea of simulations of physical reality are not even known to be scientific. (For our universe alone spacetime could have a closed topology and be finite, so again there's no evidence of infinite regress issues. Infinite regress is just another rubbish idea from philosophy that is not known to be relevant to reality.)

      Delete
    14. Try 3: as I tried to make clear, I am not and have not argued the physics; I am arguing the logic of a purely philosophical concept. As stated here at least, Bostrom's argument assumes the physics capabilities exist (in order to draw a conclusion from that assumption), and in other forums I have seen the concept of a "higher universe" (capable of things our universe isn't) attributed as an adjunct to the philosophical concept. That assumption and adjunct do not save the logic, as I see it. Your "we do not accept the assumption or adjunct" line is a valid response but does not close the issue as long as some are willing to, and is a non-sequitur in response to my issue. Which is that the concept is not only non-scientific, it is non-philosophic. Some things that are not scientific at the moment will later turn out to be. This will not. (Even if a higher-level universe turns out to exist.)

      Not that anyone should care about my issues with some current philosophers, but perhaps if enough people go on record they will learn to be more cautious with unfounded claims. On the other hand, probably not, and I am wasting my time, as seems to be the case.

      Delete
    15. JimV4:40 PM, February 20, 2021

      It's true that Bostrom writes in his paper that he doesn't care about whether a simulation is scientific or not. But then he contradicts himself in practice, by informally claiming in the paper that simulations are probably scientific. And if simulations are not scientific, as Bostrom appears to have understood, his paper is an irrelevant five-finger exercise in propositional logic.

      "Some things that are not scientific at the moment will later turn out to be. This will not."
      What if someone comes up with an algorithm that can generate the laws of physics? Then it would become a scientific question. (The algorithm would probably need to generate the laws of physics with Trace On, so we could confirm it was generating them, like in the film "Tron", a cultural reference I never tire of making.)

      "Which is that the concept is not only non-scientific, it is non-philosophic."

      You mean it breaks the laws of logic? Where have you shown that?

      You mean this comment:

      "Topologically there could be a loop, but a loop does not work for simulated realities; each simulation can only simulate something cruder than itself."

      Our reality can produce algorithms and it's not known that algorithms can't produce our reality. That's a loop - It from Bit from It.

      Delete
  47. Terry Bollinger10:14 AM, February 16, 2021

    TB,

    But doesn't this assume a non-superdeterministic quantum universe? If the universe obeyed some superdeterministic model, then the path is open for an algorithmic simulation in theory.

    And to Dr. H.,

    Whether the simulation hypothesis is pseudoscience or not, going back to the title, depends on whether the laws of physics can be reproduced algorithmically in debug mode, e.g., so that we can confirm the laws of physics are really obeyed from outside the sim.

    All completely speculative and as good as pseudoscience, but it remains a possibility the film "Tron" could be added as an appendix to the Feynman Lectures.

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  48. I discovered the following the quote by Graves, a biographer of Hamilton who wrote:

    "In 1832, Hamilton meets Coleridge who praise him for understanding' that science needs a baptism, a regeneration in Philosophy' or Theosophy."

    Hamilton was a fan of Naturphilosophie, a movement central to European romanticism which more or less died a lingering death with the growing stature of science as a study of nature in the early 20C and it's probably this influence that led him in this direction.

    Personally,I'd say that Lovelock's notion of Gaia in modern environmentalism hearks back to this. Another fan was Grete Hermann who was a student of Noether and who worked with Heisenberg on the interpretation of QM. She was very frank about how she saw science developing away from an understanding the world to what we would called today technocratic capitalism. What she had to say is also worth quoting:

    "Devotion to art or science, to the creation of relatively free human relationships which is possible in such a protected environment has helped to mislead the world about the real state of affairs in our society. Indeed, it has been assiduously exploited for this very purpose. Those who adapt themselves ... and close their eyes to the political happenings around them for the sake of things which in themselves are valuable, support and strengthen the system by taking up such an attitude. There can be no neutrality when people stand face to face with the moral and cultural decline of a corrupt social order. Those who do not struggle against it grant it their support. However fine and noble their achievements otherwise obtained, they are rendered worthless by the share in the social injustices with which they are burdened."

    Stark words, but she was writing before Hitler came to power and it was apparent to her, as to many others, what a regime like that entailed.

    But her main point stands I think, which is that science and technology is not an innocent. Unfortunately, I've seen few philosophers or scientists take this up. The only ones that I've come across is Grete and Simone Weil with a honorable mention to a British scientist, unfortunately, I've forgotten his name, who wrote in the aftermath of the second world war when he realised that science was implicated in that industrial killing field.

    This seems far from Bostrom. But the basic critique I have of him is that I simply don't see recognise it as philosophy but a kind of pop-philosophy that goes nowhere and does not tackle serious problems, such as the nature of the spirit and it's relationship to science, or indeed to capitalism or technology. If anything, he's technocratising philosophy and metaphysics.

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    Replies
    1. "such as the nature of the spirit"

      There is no such thing as a spirit so it doesn't have a nature. That's that one tackled.

      Delete
    2. "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh". (Galatians 5:16)

      No Spirit, no problem.

      Delete
  49. Sabine, you have addressed a challenging topic here, great. But I have a little comment to a side note.
    You say:
    “… attempts to algorithmically reproduce natural laws are usually incompatible with the symmetries of Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity. … The bottomline is, it’s not easy to outdo Einstein.”

    This sounds as if relativity is so complicated that it is not possible to simulate it, and on the other hand Einstein’s version is without an alternative. True, it is the general understanding that relativity is very difficult. But nature is not that complicated including its relativistic effects, only Einstein managed to make it complicated by his specific way. How come? Einstein started with an incorrect assumption.

    This has some analogy with the history of astronomy. The Ptolemaic system is based on the assumption of a geocentric world. In order to describe the motion of the planets, it was now necessary to develop the complicated epicycle theory. Copernicus corrected this error and planetary motion became simple.

    To change from Einstein’s way of relativity to the one of Lorentz would be a comparable correction. This was already indicated by the philosopher Hans Reichenbach who cooperated with Einstein for some time. Also he compared a change from Einstein to Lorentz with a Copernican step.

    Relativity (particularly GR) in the way of Lorentz becomes simple enough that it could be taught at school. And it could also quite easily be simulated.

    Summary: Einstein’s system is based on the incorrect assumption that the speed of light is the same in all frames. In contrast to Lorentz who found that the apparent constancy is only a measuring phenomenon. In fact, c is not constant in any frame. Which can be proven even with statements of Einstein himself.

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  50. That the universe is a simulation is an extraordinary claim which would require extraordinary evidence as Cal Sagan once said. So far no one has provided even ordinary evidence.

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