How to live in This Matrix | Prologue
If we are living in a simulation, how should we go about our lives?
Physicists and philosophers have been at it for centuries, still do you wonder why the most important questions about this universe are unanswered? Have you had enough of the work hard-achieve-celebrate cycles but the clarity of your life’s purpose still evades you? Have you seen a recurring pattern in the way the society behaves, its ebb and flow, the time-symmetry? Are you subconsciously subscribed to your belief-systems that’re holding you back and you aren’t able to consciously override? Do you get bored of everything too soon and that stops you from being excited for new things?
That’s the Neo syndrome, and I wish there was a red pill. Until Morpheus gets it for us, life will be painful. Meanwhile, we can ponder over this question:
If we are actually (in) a simulation, what do we do about it?
When Elon Musk said it a few times, the idea hit popular mainstream. He believes, if we look at the current rate of technological advancement and fast forward it a decade or two, we’d be capable of running life-level simulations in virtual reality. And hence, we are living in a simulation. This thought is based not on the assumption that we’d want to do it but that we are already headed in that direction. It’s pointless to argue against Elon on the technological feasibility of doing such a thing. We’ll discuss the feasibility of LifeSimulator MVP as of today in chapter 2. Elon’s idea echoes Nick Bostorm’s paper (2001) which argues that we are living in a simulation- is the most likely among three, mutually-exhaustive future scenarios. The other two, less-likely scenarios being: that we as a human race die before we are able to run such simulations, or that we are not interested in running simulations of our evolutionary history. I personally believe, it is quite likely that the human race is eradicated (or severely hurt) before we set-up proper life-like simulations. If it’s upto us to write our future, should we aim for one in which we are not extinct until we get to simulation-singularity?
Hypothesis P — At a certain point in our future, we’d be able to simulate our reality.
Hypothesis Q — We are living in a simulation right now.
- Q is not intuitively derived from P. In fact, P just implies that we could be able to run simulations in our future. Why do those simulations need to be of our time (if Q is true)?
- How far in the future is P? Is it 20 years away or 100 years or 5 years? Depending on how far in the future is that event, your potential strategy to deal with it, will change. It would also affect how we sketch the post-humans.
- What are the pre-requisites to run simulation at a universe scale? Sure, we could have the technology to do it. Is there a need or want for it? We have the technology to build 1000s of spaceships and head to Mars but we aren’t moving out of our couch, are we?
- Are we living in a simulation or we are the simulation? Is there a difference?
In the coming chapters, we’d explore these questions and dissect the laws of our present universe to understand the principles which the creators used to craft our world.
At its conceptual essence, there are two human endeavours — we infer models for things/ideas/laws we see around us to understand it better (eg: The standard model) and we build models of things we want to create around us to visualise it better (eg: architectural model for an office). We do use what we learn in the former and employ it into the latter. If an architect builds a warehouse R based on his model M1 and another architect builds a model M2 based on R, M1 and M2 might look different but will embody all the information of R’s reality equally well. The difference between M1 and M2 can be attributed to scale factor.
One of the tools that’d come in handy in our quest will be “model dependent realism”. It is based on the idea that our brains interpret the input from our sensory organs by making a model of the world. When such a model is successful at explaining events, we tend to attribute to it, and to the elements and concepts that constitute it, the quality of reality or absolute truth.
Model dependent realism
Coined by Stephen Hawking in his 2010 book, The Grand Design, model dependent realism asserts that all we can know about “reality” consists of networks of world pictures that explain observations by connecting them by rules to concepts defined in models.
A model is a good model if it:
- Is elegant
- Contains few or no arbitrary/adjustable elements
- Agrees with and explains all existing observations
- Makes detailed predictions about future observations that can disprove or falsify the model if they are not borne out.
Saying we are in a Matrix, is a model for our present universe. What follows is that the laws of our universe are either laws creators coded in or a consequence of design choices which they made. We’d need to understand which of the two is it (among countless other questions). And to really understand if it’s the former or the latter, we’d have to put ourselves in the shoes of the creator. Can we do that? Can we start with a belief that there exists a creator and we can model him in our image? If that model can pass the 4 point test above, scientists shouldn’t object to that theory.
At this juncture, it’s worthwhile that you take a moment to establish where on the scale of belief do you stand. You could believe in the simulation-theory or you could not. Or you could be a shade of grey as a non-zero probabilistic believer in which case, what Robin Hansen said (in this paper) should be of interest:
If you assign a non-zero subjective probability to the possibility that your descendants will create sophisticated simulations which include people… then you should assign a non-zero subjective probability to the possibility that you now live in such a simulation.
So to the extent that there are consequences of your actions which are different in a simulated world, and you care about these consequences, a non-zero probability of simulation should influence your decisions. The higher the probability you live in a simulation, the more influence that possibility should have on your decision.