Years ago on steemit.com I explored the simulation hypothesis quite a bit. It started with fascination, and then a question. I pursued that question. By the end of my journey I had decided that I consider it very possible that this could indeed be a simulation. I haven't stopped thinking about this since that time. I have wanted to revisit the subject for some time. I am finally getting around to it. I know this will be a lengthy topic that will need to be broken across several posts. It will be written in my typical stream of consciousness format. I have made an outline that currently consists of the following in terms of where I would like to go with these posts. Let us see how well I stick to the outline...
(Image Source: From an old steemit.com post of mine)
SIMULATION HYPOTHESIS: The idea that everything you see, think, and reality itself that we observe is running inside of some kind of simulation.
- If we are in a simulation hypothesis it does not make other religions irrelevant, it actually increases their potential for being possible. (The post you are reading)
- Deism the Simulation Hypothesis from the past...
- If we were in a simulation how would we know?
- What about time?
- What about simulations creating simulations?
- What about quantum states?
If you do not need a primer on the Simulation Hypothesis and you do not see it as a threat to religion you can likely wait for the next part. This part may not be of particular interest to you. I could be wrong though. It could inspire you or revive memories.
The Simulation Hypothesis is No Threat To Religions
I wanted to start this iteration of my exploration into this topic addressing one of the reactions I most frequently encounter. When the term Simulation Hypothesis comes up invariably some people that consider themselves very devoted to some traditional religion or another will find the concept offensive. I wanted to address this head on at the outset. By doing so my hope is they will not be in attack mode when reading the rest of what I have to say.
The simulation hypothesis is no threat to your religion. It actually makes all religions (even the most magical) more feasible depending upon how it is approached. It does not have to defeat your religion. It can be the missing element that explains how the unknown parts of your religion that are taken for granted, or simply as faith could actually be possible.
The simulation hypothesis does not destroy any religion, except one. For it to exist those that approach atheism as "no creator" should feel threatened by it. If on the other hand if they are the type of atheist that simply is against "theistic religions" that are formalized and authoritarian it should be no threat to them either.
To understand why this is the case I think you need to stop and think about what a simulation actually is...
What is a simulation?
While I am not a fan of resorting to dictionaries for such answers I know some of you are. I will therefore begin with some definitions from a couple of dictionary sites for the word simulation. Please note I do not recognize the authority of these sites or any others to dictate meaning. It can be useful to people that are unfamiliar with words. I will certainly explain my personal thoughts on the word after these definitions.
- imitation or enactment, as of something anticipated or in testing.
- the act or process of pretending; feigning.
- an assumption or imitation of a particular appearance or form; counterfeit; sham.
- Psychiatry. a conscious attempt to feign some mental or physical disorder to escape punishment or to gain a desired objective.
- the representation of the behavior or characteristics of one system through the use of another system, especially a computer program designed for the purpose.
- the act or process of simulating
- a sham object : counterfeit
- the imitative representation of the functioning of one system or process by means of the functioning of another
- examination of a problem often not subject to direct experimentation by means of a simulating device
Collins English Dictionary - Complete and Unabridged
- the act or an instance of simulating
- the assumption of a false appearance or form
- (Computer Science) a representation of a problem, situation, etc, in mathematical terms, esp using a computer
- (Mathematics) maths statistics computing the construction of a mathematical model for some process, situation, etc, in order to estimate its characteristics or solve problems about it probabilistically in terms of the model
- (Psychiatry) psychiatry the conscious process of feigning illness in order to gain some particular end; malingering
Now with that out of the way. As I am writing about this subject it needs to be as clear as I can make it when I refer to simulations. A simulation is a system developed to represent a set of ideas that can be expressed over time in such a way as to enable the person using/observing the simulation to control the flow of time with regards to what they are simulating. A simulation is a model for an idea. It is a set of rules that can then be simulated to observe what the outcome of these rules might produce over time. A simulation is a recipe for a self-contained existence/reality.
It could be in scale models of a building before it is constructed. Time is stationary in that model, but it is used to simulate the viability and plan for the life sized construct later on.
It could be in a painting of a fictional person (or real) with the ideas of the painter used to express it. In this example time would be stationary.
It could be in a Planetarium designed to mimic the solar system. Which could be time stationary, could be motorized, or could be repositionable.
It can be in worlds created inside of computers. This is where my focus will primarily be as it is where my exploration has focused in my life and it is where things make sense to me when I consider this topic.
I do think it is important that you understand that a simulation can take many forms. Ultimately it is something created to follow a set of rules and conditions.
What is the Simulation Hypothesis?
I personally believe that the concept has existed throughout known history. It has only been given the label "Simulation Hypothesis" recently and that is largely due to computers and how we've watched our own computer simulations become more and more complex in an astonishingly short amount of time. We've been getting closer and closer to simulating our own realities and they come ever closer to being indistinguishable from reality. Thus, was born the Simulation Hypothesis. If we are doing it, why couldn't some creator/player/God have done the same thing with us but at a much more developed level?
(WIKI - not the most unbiased of sources or reputable at this point)
The person that pushed it into the modern spotlight was the philosopher Nick Bostrom.
Many works of science fiction as well as some forecasts by serious technologists and futurologists predict that enormous amounts of computing power will be available in the future. Let us suppose for a moment that these predictions are correct. One thing that later generations might do with their super-powerful computers is run detailed simulations of their forebears or of people like their forebears. Because their computers would be so powerful, they could run a great many such simulations. Suppose that these simulated people are conscious (as they would be if the simulations were sufficiently fine-grained and if a certain quite widely accepted position in the philosophy of mind is correct). Then it could be the case that the vast majority of minds like ours do not belong to the original race but rather to people simulated by the advanced descendants of an original race.
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.
— Nick Bostrom, Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?, 2003 Link to - Are you living in a computer simulation?
This is what started it up. It gained immense interest from many people including Elon Musk, people on Steemit, and myself. I was particularly interested because I'd been dabbling with simulations off and on since my early teens. I was making my own versions of John Conway's Game of Life on Commodore 64s in the early 80s after reading about them in one of the various magazines I could get my hands on. I'd read about boids and simulating bird flocking and I'd rush to make my own version. I'd learn about the Mandelbrot Set and fractals and go make my own versions of those. I would watch a Nova episode talking about the three body problem with orbiting planets that had some visuals on the screen and I'd go code my own simulation to do that. I would read about Eliza and Natural Language processing and I'd go make my own of that. All of those things I did before 1990.
I haven't stopped doing things. I've iterated upon many of those things. When I am working on game development those are often things in my arsenal of ideas. Ultimately in designing games the concept of procedural systems has been hugely influential upon me and my thought processes. It is also something some scientists sitting on panels discussing the simulation hypothesis failed to take into consideration when they decided to state what is and is not possible. If they'd understood procedural systems it made their impossible suddenly possible.
I was aware of this as I watched a lot of prominent scientists on stage debating the topic. It can be an eye opener when you realize that you know something these people do not. For they certainly know a lot of things I do not.
What Nick Bostrom did was to make all of us that had already been messing with these things stop and think about what we had been doing. That was important. Historically he was not unique in the idea of reality being a simulation he was just the one who put it in terms relating to a computer program.
So why is this no threat to religions?
Let me take Christianity as an example. I am not going to pick a particular denomination, and I am certainly paraphrasing/condensing. None of these are my views. They likely are not yours either. I am using them only as an example.
God Created the world in seven days and nights and the peoples, the animals, etc. For those against dinosaurs and what people say about them. God could have stuck those in the ground to give us exciting things to find.
To me that just as easily translates to God created a simulation with all of those conditions. Starting out with the animals and the world in a pre-built condition as a game developer to me screams level design. Christianity can neatly fit inside of the Simulation Hypothesis. It doesn't contradict Christianity. It actually gives a viable path for potentially explaining some of the areas that some people (I use the phrase as well) call "magical thinking".
Now pick any other religion...
They all could fit inside of a simulation. The Simulation Hypothesis doesn't destroy religion. It actually requires a creator. It provides a concept for how a creator might be able to actually create the things we have described in our religions. It strengthens the possibility of even the most magical of thoughts.
You may have noticed further above I used creator/player/God. I inserted player intentionally there.
Our video games are simulations. As the rules and the worlds become more complex we increasingly immerse ourselves into an alternate reality.
As the player you did not create the game. Yet you are potentially one of millions playing in that game with it reacting to what you did. Millions of simulated universes.
Was there a creator? Yes the developers of that game. Yet in the case of games we do not simply observe. We interact. The developers gave us a simulation that can spawn instances for each player.
Monotheism - Check
Sometimes the simulations allow multiple players into the same world...
Polytheism - Check
Until the next part...
In closing. The Simulation Hypothesis is no threat to your religion. It might make it more plausible.
In my case I used to call myself an Atheist/Deist well aware of the contradiction. During my exploration of this subject I dropped the atheist part of that. I consider myself a Deist. That will be explained in the next post.