The Simulation Hypothesis: an economical twist (part 2 of 2)

Offending Copernicus

Of course this is all wild and ultimately pointless speculation, so I won’t be at all upset if you decide it is more worthwhile to go watch a game of baseball or cricket instead of reading the rest of this post. But if you’re still with me, then isn’t it a curious coincidence that you happen to be alive right at the time when humanity is rushing headlong towards the creation of AGI and superintelligence? And that you might very possibly be alive to see it happen? Doesn’t that situation offend against the Copernican principle, also known as the mediocrity principle, which urges scepticism about any explanation that places us at a privileged vantage point in time or space within the universe?

Another curious thing about the situation is the extraordinary amount of computronium that our simulators seem to have dedicated to the task of creating our context. That “context” is a universe of 100 billion galaxies each containing 100 billion stars. (Although no aliens, as far as we can tell.) And this universe has been running for 13.7 billion years.

Maybe our simulators have a great deal of computronium lying around, and maybe they don’t perceive time the way you and I do. Maybe they didn’t have to sit around twiddling their (indeterminate number of) thumbs while the earth began to cool, the autotrophs began to droll, neanderthals developed tools, we built a wall, we built the pyramids, and so on. (3)

The economical twist

An alternative possibility to all this expense is that our simulation only appears to have 10,000 billion billion star systems and a 13.7 billion-year history. If you have the capability to create beings like us then you presumably have the capability to convince us of the reality of whatever context you would like us to believe in. And you would save a fortune in time and computronium by faking the context. So if we do live in a simulation that was created for a specific purpose, surely it is more likely that we were created quite recently – maybe only a few minutes ago – kitted out with fake memories and the appearance of an enormous backstory and a vast spacial hinterland?

If that is true, it begs the question of what happens to us after the simulation completes its purpose. Perhaps it gets re-run in order to optimise the outcome. Perhaps it is just switched off and we all go to sleep, dreamless. Or perhaps we have the opportunity to combine our minds with that of the superintelligence that is created, and ascend to the level of the simulators.

Turtles all the way up

Of course the simulators themselves may be going through a similar chain of reasoning about their own existence. Perhaps we are somewhere in the midst of a deep pile of nested simulations, each created by and ultimately dependant on the one above. In a description of our world sometimes attributed to Hindu legend, the earth is a flat plate supported by elephants standing on the back of a tortoise. When asked what the tortoise is standing on, one adherent replied, “it’s turtles all the way down”. (4) Perhaps, in our case, it’s turtles all the way up.


(3) Big Bang Theory, theme tune

(4) A conversation between Bertrand Russell and an elderly lady mentioned in Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time”


One thought on “The Simulation Hypothesis: an economical twist (part 2 of 2)

  1. Agreed it is wild speculation, but ultimately pointless? – i do hope not or we really are wasting our time and should find something more (spiritually?? 😉 ) profitable to us both.

    As you point out speculation on how far down (or up) things go has been a part of human thought since at least the time of the Greeks.

    I agree it would be pointless to speculate on why (rather than if) a far superior intelligence would go to all the effort to create such a simulation which as previously mentioned contains (apparently to our senses/calculations) so much that is completely irrelevant to the lives of the simulants involved. Why is it necessary to have us be a 3rd generation star made up of the dust of previously existing star systems that blew themselves apart some 30-70% of the age of the Universe ago – a fact we only revealed in my grandfather’s time? Why create dark matter/energy – how can that possibly affect our role in the program. There’s just way too much irrelevant stuff which would consume enormous computronic resources to be any part of an advanced simulation program (Unless our creators are compelled to create as real a version of their reality to solve some problem in their ‘real’ universe that an ábbreviated version may not produce sufficiently accurately?

    Hmmm… i think i just blew my pointless arguement?? I was about to end with…. because we have such limited intelligence compared to them we could never hope to figure out their reasons for creating us in the first place.

    OK – so if it is true that we are in a simulation and are coming to the point of being sufficiently technologically able to initiate our own simulations who believe they are in the same situation we are discussing it would be possible to be recursive both ways ad infinitum and we would never know where on the continuum we are – Would it even matter? Further to that – is there even a purpose to it all or is it simply a neverending (or beginning) story? The Ultimate ourobouros in fact.

    I have a similar conundrum along Spiritual lines… I believe in One God of the Universe, responsible for and conscious of everything in Creation (i don’t actually go along with the 6000 year bit – but am open to change my mind should more facts emerge in support – perhaps the ‘backstory’ of time and massive space does apply, it may just be a false memory and the bible has a hint of this in their version of time and space). So just why would an infinitely powerful God create and desire relationship with such tiny, petty, ignorant and stubborn creatures as us? Especially since a greater and greater proportion of us no longer believes in Him/Her/It.

    All in all i suspect we really need to create an ASI to figure out the reason why we are all here and i would not be in the least bit surprised to find that the answer it gives us is a very simple one….


    And that probably is God’s answer as well.

    (There’s got to be a short story/novel in there somewhere?)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s