Reading all the recent brouhaha over the “are we living in a simulation” argument, I’m compelled to write this post.
I seriously wish the people who talk authoritatively about “simulation”, or “simulating life”, have actually tried it themselves. You know, modelled the behaviors, the interactions, the environment, and actually written some code.
Realise this: We cannot yet even accurately simulate a teaspoon of water!
Why? We are talking about 10^24 molecules of H20, thats why! *Even* if every molecule’s state could be accurately saved in one byte of memory, it would require 1 million peta-bytes. Even if we somehow managed that, the processing power necessary to move to the next state would be enormous. It would take minutes to perform the same movements of all the molecules that reality does in an instant.
Of course, this is assuming that one byte per molecule would be enough. I think, when we actually do reach that capability in a few years/decades, we’ll find that its not enough. We’ll find that the simulation still doesn’t behave accurately like water, when, for example, the temperature is dropped. “It doesn’t freeze into ice at a simulated temperature of 32F.” Then we’ll find that to achieve that it is necessary to model the states of the individual electrons in each molecule, their orbits and spins etc. And of course, the problem will once again become as difficult as it is today.
And may I remind you, the proponents of the WALIAS theory argue that all our population, all the species, the oceans, the planet, the *entire* universe is a simulation being run by some post-human species. Now, if one teaspoon of water is so much trouble, why do we expect to be able to “simulate” even one single human brain, which, uhm.., is arguably more complicated?
Does this sound like pessimism? It will to some. I don’t think that way at all. Rather, I think the wrong kind of people have jumped onto the wrong type of bandwagon and are pushing a wrong kind of science.
If we are all indeed living in a simulation, then the only way for any of us to accurately re-simulate anything existing within our world, is to do it using the constructs used by those who are simulating us. We, the simulated, cannot use new constructs created by us to simulate anything in our world. We can only use new constructs created by us to simulate new things, using new rules in a new simulated world.
Therefore, in regular discussion, a simulation should *always* be interpreted as “a crude approximation”. We, or anybody else, *cannot* look at something built according to the rules and constructs of one world-system, and create an *exact* copy using the rules and constructs of another world-system. It is a physical impossibility.
But, what if through persistent advancement we are able to correctly figure out our exact building blocks, our constructs, the lowest level rules of our world. My own personal view is that we cannot, or for that matter, no entity within a world-system can ever ever realize its own lowest level building blocks, because doing so would violate the laws of its existence. This is where I’ll run afoul of lots of folks, but that is a different matter.
Now, even if we do allow that concession, suppose we do figure it out, and we use it create a copy of some less advanced species known to us, lets say chimps. Suppose we do succeed, and we have a living breathing chimp in front of us. Then that chimp is *NOT* a simulation, it is the real thing! We will have as much control over its behavior as we do over a real chimp. And whats more, it will be *existing* in our own world, our own universe, not within in a walled-garden simulation. Therefore, if the post-humans have followed this scenario, then we exist in the same world as them, and therefore, we are not a simulation.
And, for all of us trying to “simulate life” sometime or the other, I’d like to make this comment: The simulated “life form”, if implemented correctly, no matter how similar its behavior to some real-world life-form, is its own species. It is pointless to compare it with the existing real world thing. Because that is in effect, similar to comparing apples and screen pixels. Yes one day we will succeed in creating artificial life forms, yes they will have “consciousness”. But, the moment they learn to communicate with us in a meaningful way, the word “simulation” will become taboo pretty soon.