Before I get into this post I have an announcement. Although this site lacks any donation mechanism, if you like what I write and want to reward me as its author I have created an account with istuff- if that’s what they’re called. Basically it’s a pyramid scheme, I’m not going to lie. However, because there’s no money involved I don’t see any problem with it. I’m supposed to obtain referrals in order to get my free iPod. Signing up takes about 5 minutes, and then doing one of their offers takes 5 to 10 more. Please use my promo link here so I’ll get credit towards my iPod. Thanks!
Now, more in-depth on your brain, simulations, and the computability of the universe. Asking if the universe is computable is basically asking if all aspects of the universe’s functioning are a) universal, b) consistent, c) predictable, and d) functionally limited in scope to our own universe. If the laws of physics are not universal then one part of the universe might follow different laws of physics than another. If they are not consistent then they may be subject to change over time. If they are not predictable then mathematics cannot duplicate them- although randomness and like phenomena are duplicable in a probabilistic fashion. Lastly, if the universe is not limited in scope, then we’re just sunk. Basically what I’m saying by the scope of the universe is that there cannot be some other non-observable otherworld that affects our own universe. Although that outside influence may itself be subject to universal, consistent, and predictable laws, if we can’t discern its workings from within our own universe then we cannot simulate our own universe because we can’t simulate its effect. Although the most complicated of our 4 contingencies, it’s probably the one we have least to worry about. Most physicists or scientists would agree that all four of these are well established to be true of our universe.
If the universe is computable, and there are those who say it isn’t although they are completely wrong, then it is physically possible to create a simulation matching our own universe in complexity, size, or resolution, but never all three at the same time or our entire universe must necessarily have been subsumed into creating such a simulation. We can shave off a massive amount of unnecessary computing power by limiting our simulation to salient details only. For example, we can use macroscopic heuristics to make objects behave like objects without needing to simulate the position, energy disposition, etc. of every atom within said object. Unless someone within the simulation is actively perusing each atom of that object, nobody will notice the difference. And if anyone should examine those atoms, why our simulation can just render those atoms for them like the light turning on in the refrigerator. So in a conceptual sense, it wouldn’t be very hard to make a simulation that was extremely believable to someone within it. There are several different models of simulation we might have, and each has its advantages. A brain interface simulation like the Matrix means that you get to keep your body, and don’t face any of the weird issues associated with copying your mind from one place to another. However, you also don’t get to play the simulation at whatever speed you would like because it can only operate at the same speed that your extra-simulation brain can handle. If you still want to keep your body, maybe you can go for a half-and-halfer arrangement, where you plug in your brain and a temporary copy of it is loaded up into the simulation as a virtual self, strongly typed back to your original brain which must be temporarily disabled so the “real” you doesn’t walk off. This is weird because there must necessarily be two copies of you existing at the same time, one in reality (unconscious?) and one in the simulation. But this method gets you the in-simulation advantages of scaling with the simulation’s speed, etc. etc. Of course the best way in my opinion is to just be a virtual self completely. This means you are governed by the simulation’s physics, and so on and so forth. Probably the most effective way to manage this situation is for your virtual self to exist in a meta-simulation connected computer that you own. So you still have a body- it’s just a computer connected to the Internet, basically. If you want to create a simulation for yourself, you can do it within your computer, like imagination with a sensory supercomputer. You might even opt to purchase/rent additional processing power into your property if you so desired. Or, you can place your processor into another simulation governed by someone else, somewhat like interfacing with a game over the internet. Your mind would of course be kept discrete and secure from all the other workings, but functioning within the simulation.
Now things get interesting. Once we had a simulation that was indistinguishable from reality, why would you want to live in actual reality? There’s no reason whatsoever why there should arbitrarily be only one- that’s absurd. But your body as you know it could be exactly created as a sequence of virtual atoms within the simulation. If that was all you did then there would be no effective difference between being in a simulation and being in “real life.” But why stop there? Carefully crafted algorithms to alter the content of the simulation would effectively give you magic powers. Absolute control over material reality, mind reading perhaps, whatever floats your boat. If you owned your own private simulation you would be as a god among NPCs. While you could play one hell of a game of Sims or Civilization or whatever you wanted, I imagine playing with only bots would get tiresome very quickly. What you need are some real intelligences to sink your teeth into. Of course in such an advanced simulation, you have lots of options. Option A is to simply arrange some virtual atoms into intelligent agents. There’s nothing stopping you from having a legitimate human opponent whenever you wanted. Or even a super genius opponent. Hell, you could hand-craft a genius expert at anything you wanted by setting up a smart person in a situation where they just practice practice practice at whatever you want to challenge them at. You then set the simulation on maximum speed and step back for a millisecond. When you return your opponent will have perhaps thousands of years of experience, and will destroy you. You could simulate the Matrix universe which contains within it another simulation, or perhaps the Firefly ‘verse, or whatever other fiction world you pleased. Full Metal Alchemist anyone?
Option B is probably even more fun: other simulation gods. PVP takes on a whole new meaning. Highlander is just the beginning. World of Warcraft is the tip of the iceberg. Try KAOS in a simulated real-world environment, with each player being assigned some other player to kill, somewhere in the world. I for one would particularly look forward to some genius coding up some Halo-like universe where a player commands armies in RPG/RTS format where each of your characters is essentially a real person. You start off solo and may eventually build up armies of millions if you so desire, and if you can. Each side would be headed up by one Player. Maybe they can respawn, but that’s kinda pathetic. If you die, you should be dead. In a game like that any hardware you may have obtained could be easily gotten back in a new character if you were so inclined. Randomly generated authentic characters, on the other hand, would be priceless.
Which raises an interesting and vital question- if you’ve created a real person in a virtual world, do they have rights? Are they entitled to better than a gameworld of eternal war? We have no problem blowing away humanoid models in modern shooters, but when those models are atom-for-atom replicas of real people with fully functioning brains and the works, then what? I’m not really sure of this point, to be honest. While I do believe that they would be people in every sense, and that in truth their reality is just as “real” as ours despite the fact that they live in a simulation stemming from ours. However, I am disinclined to believe that it is unethical to create such a world. It is unethical to kill people within that world, but the creation of a world with the intent of waging bloody mayhem within it is not unethical. The distinction here is that by the act of creating the world, you have not killed anyone. In fact you have given life to everyone created within that world. The fact that you did so in order for other people to wage war within it is irrelevant. Intent is never significant: only action matters. However, even if you were to go inside that world and kill everyone within it, have you really taken anything from them? After creating your world, are you morally obligated to keep it running on behalf of those within it? No, you can cancel your simulation whenever you like and you have given those within it life for a certain period. Is it better than never having existed at all? Of course. In fact, I would go so far as to say that any existence whatsoever is superior to nonexistence. Yet, while some people will continue to enjoy war games with perfectly realistic human beings, I’m not sure I would find it enjoyable for long. The people running the simulation would obviously sanitize the battlefield to make it enjoyable because nobody would pay to participate in the hell of war as we know it. Perhaps some of the more hardcore people would want a somewhat realistic experience, but I’m not one of them.
I suspect that we would see many more peaceful video games with much improved realism. Current games are trying to capitalize on the visceral immersion factor they can acquire through violence. If they’re indistinguishable from reality, that gut reaction is no longer necessary. Simulating a poker room, open ocean, or even a farm (where you only decide what gets done- it fast-forwards through the actual farm labor, if you’re even the one doing it) makes a lot more sense. Interestingly though, anything you learned to do in such a simulation would be fully applicable in real life. If you learned to swordfight in your pirate game world then if you picked up a sword in real life, the skills would be the same. This is ignoring the fact that if we have developed sufficient technology to interface your brain with a computer to that degree, you could probably just download whatever knowledge you desired and it would be available to you in both cases. The possibilities of creating simulations for ourselves are just endless. I want to be a cyborg.
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