Skip to main content

We may not exist in a simulation

Those who support the simulation theory propose that we are living in some kind of simulation and that there could be somewhere "outside" this simulation where our controllers reside. If you follow this argument it goes like this

Take the current development of virtual reality and extrapolate 20 years into the future. Now imagine that you could be immersed in this virtual reality without any access to the physical world, and probably have some kind of amnesia induced in you such that you are not able to remember your past in the physical world.

Staring into that virtual reality you would be convinced that it is the only reality. This argument does hold water in some sense and I agree with it on some terms one of which is that our consciousness might be interfacing with this universe through the Virtual Reality suit of our bodies. I say virtual reality because I want to point our thinking to that kind of VR which we know about today like oculus projected to how it may look like in 20 years. But my point of difference is that it is not a Virtual Reality but a Reality that we are interfacing with our bodies and that our consciousness might be existing on some meta-level of some software stack that is above our physical universe. Yes, we are in some kind of computer operating system! I talk about this extensively in my book: The Universal Operating System. But I beg to differ on the matter that this computer operating system is a simulation.

A simulation is a model of some real system. For a simulation to exist, there must be some real system out there that it is kind of simulating. So, therefore, if our universe is a simulation like a game created by some programmer, then it is fake and thus there is some "real" universe out there where the computer running our universe resides it.

Rather I view our universe and any other universes out there like a stack of software in a typical computer system with we humans and other individual existences no different from software programs running in this operating system.

In a typical computer system, every program has an environment in which it runs which is provided by the operating system. We are processes, that is running programs, running in the environment of the universe which is an operating system.

So rather than living in some kind of game like simulation, the universe we exist in is real and not a simulation. There are no programmers out there running our universe like some kind of game, there is no outside.

We are at the highest level of abstraction of an enormous software stack, with so many layers hidden from us. Just like you don't have access to all the programs running in your typical computer. Most of the time you are just interested in doing your tasks like browsing the internet or writing in some word processor. You are not really interested in the memory allocation system running underneath the system. But memory allocation is going on, and there are some other programs, invisible to you when running on user mode but real.

There could be other universes running in parallel, just like virtual machines can run multiple operating systems on one computer. Although personally, I don't subscribe to the multiple universe theory in which we are duplicated in every other universe with the only difference that we might be different people in those universes. This is too egocentric an idea for me to accept and smells of geocentrism.

I think there are multiple universes out there, but just like a Virtual Machine Softer like VMware can run multiple operating systems at once with each OS running privately with its own application programs, each universe is running independently. The operating systems can share data with each other, which might be a key to devising means of travelling to other parallel universes. Some of them might have planets with humanoid beings and some of them could be devoid of life just like in our own universe.

I cannot fathom all the complex configurations that the system of our universe can assume but I know it is real and not a simulation.

This question begs one to answer, where is the hardware then? This question occurs when we carry the analogy too far. I am comparing the universe to our current understanding of computer architecture. If I was in the time of ENIAC before operating systems I would have made a different kind of analogy.

The analogy I am making here with the universe as some computer operating system should not be taken too far especially as concerning modern computing, modern as in 2019 ish type of computing. Future humanity might find other models of computing that may not function like ours.

Nowadays we build some fixed hardware and write software to operate on that fixed hardware. The operating system is usually the lowest layer that interacts directly with the fixed hardware and gives us an environment to write user mode programs.

This may not be the only mode of computation available but just one model we have come across that suits the way we think about things. There could be modes of computing where there are no fixed hardware or software layers and everything is just hardware.

If you could control atoms to arbitrary precision and with a modest expenditure of energy, then you would not need to have some kind of fixed hardware to run your programs. You would instantly put together some new hardware that is the program itself by assembling all the required atoms. And this is how I think the universe is doing its own computation.

Rather than have some kind of fixed hardware running somewhere, the universe simple creates an embodiment of the entire program in some physical form, be it mineral, vegetable or animal. Remember that humans are animals too. In this lieu, planets could be programs too as well as stars, galaxies and any other configuration.

So rather than running a program on fixed hardware, or a fixed chunk of matter, the universe will just assemble all the atoms needed to run the program and instantiate it in a bigger computer that is the universe itself.

Let's clarify on this a little more. A program is a set of bits that control some fixed hardware by altering certain fixed configurations rhythmically until the result of some computation is arrived at. But if you could control atoms to arbitrary precision, you will not need to have some fixed architecture to represent your computation and you will not need to separate software from hardware.

The software in our computer systems are bit patterns which are represented using certain properties of matter. In our hardware systems, we engineer matter to allow it to operate on our software to produce results.

In the universe, computation could be brought about by bringing atoms together to form a high-level structure representing the solution to some computation. In human computing we want our solution to be understandable to us but the universe really doesn't have to obey this constraint. It creates solutions by literally creating things that represent the solution.

Not all solutions created by the universe are static objects, sometimes the solution is a tree, a donkey, a cat or a human being. This brings about another question, if the universe is busy creating objects that are running in it like software running in some operating system, and if these objects/entities are solutions to some computations just like Microsoft word is a solution to the problem of needing a word processor then what is the reason for creating the solutions in the first place and what problem is the universe trying to solve?

Answering this question in its entirety is beyond me. It is no different from an electron running around on some circuit board asking the purpose of it's existence when it is not aware of the fact that the owner of the computer is browsing the internet to attend to some goal like shopping for sneakers and it is that goal that the electron buzzing around the circuit is fulfilling like a kind of side effect.

If the universe is an operating system and we are programs running in it, then the purpose for which we exist might just be a side effect of some higher level goal that is being executed at a meta-level of existence which we have absolutely no access to just like an electron on a circuit board has no access to the life outside the computer.

I talked about some rules that human software must obey to survive in the universal operating system in a second book: Life is Technology. But these rules are no different from the rules an electron must know such as if you and a group of other electrons enter an AND logical gate from one door with no other group entering from the other door at the same time then your charges will be changed from 1 to 0. This is just an idealization of what might be going on and not to be taken literally. The ideas I elucidated in that book are like the laws of life in the universe, not necessarily physical laws like gravity but laws of life that should be obeyed no different from obeying gravity.

It is left for future humanity to either verify or refute these ideas, but for now, you could take them as some very interesting piece of fiction, after all, we are allowed to dream and come up with creative ideas. At worst our ideas can serve as seeds for thought in certain new directions.


Popular posts from this blog

Next Steps Towards Strong Artificial Intelligence

If you follow current AI Research then it will be apparent to you that AI research, the deep learning type has stalled! This does not mean that new areas of application for existing techniques are not appearing but that the fundamentals have been solved and things have become pretty standardized.

Software of the future

From the appearance of the first programmable computer, the software has evolved in power and complexity. We went from manually toggling electronic switches to loading punch cards and eventually entering C code on the early PDP computers. Video screens came in and empowered the programmer very much, rather than waiting for printouts to debug our programs, we were directly manipulating code on the screen.

At the edge of a cliff - Quantum Computing

Quantum computing reminds me of the early days of computer development (the 50s - 60s) where we had different companies come up with their different computer architectures. You had to learn how to use one architecture then move to another then another as you hoped to explore different systems that were better for one task than they were for another task.