Building simulations to allow for escape
Suppose for a second that we are living in a simulation. This is the simulation hypothesis, and I won’t get into the details here as there is plenty of literature on it already. But supposing this is the case, do you want to be able to test it? Or, going, a step further, to be able to communicate with our simulators? Breaking out? OK, some people might be happy in our make-believe world, but no doubt many want to find out. So we start to look for little inconsistencies in the fabric of reality. But what if there were an easier way? A cheat-code?
I’m not suggesting that there are any cheat-codes in our (possibly simulated) reality. But, we are getting a lot better at making simulations, particularly simulations of life. As these become more and more intricate, then presumably at some point, they will host some level of consciousness. Would we want our creations to be able to find out they’re in a sim? Or to communicate with their makers?
First, let’s consider that simulated conscious beings might in fact be an accident — something that’s emerged out of a different simulation (e.g. the universe). This is a tricky one, as we’d have no idea in advance of any of the parameters of the simulated consciousness(es). In effect, we’re trying to communicate with aliens, so we might start with encoding some universal truth (universal at least within the axioms of the simulation), and burying it somewhere deep inside the fabric of the simulation — an Easter egg if you will. Some sort of an alert mechanism would also be necessary; should the emergent consciousness(es) find the Easter egg, then at least the simulator(s) could find out.
On the other hand, if we start simulating something that we already know about (for example ourselves), then we could be more targeted with our Easter egg. Direct communication might be possible (i.e. speaking with God), though not necessarily desirable. Would the simulated consciousness(es) need to have gained a certain amount of knowledge before knowing the truth? Could it be discovered by accident? What would be the reason for revealing the nature of the simulation to its target?
We get into some interesting ethical territory in both scenarios. In the former, if a consciousness has developed and alerted us of its presence, then we’d have some very hard thinking to do before switching the simulation off, even if it’s fulfilled its other purpose. In the latter case, we’d have to have sorted out this ethical quandary before even switching the simulation on. And what would be the effects on the simulations (and it’s consciousness(es)) of knowing they are being simulated?
So now let’s flip the table (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ and consider that it is us being simulated, and our simulators are thoughtful beings, and have considered these factors. If we’re an emergent property of a universe simulation, then perhaps reaching out might be necessary to stop the simulation being terminated when some goal is reached. If we’re being directly simulated, then perhaps the opposite is true.