Friday, January 2, 2009


I came across an article the other day about a mathematician who had attempted to calculate the probability that we are all living in a matrix; a simulation and not the ultimate reality. Now that is peculiar enough of an idea that I became immediately interested - especially since it turns out that the odds are pretty fair that we are living in a simulation! :-) I found an exhaustive treatment of the subject on a web site authored by Nick Bostrom of Oxford. Now consideration of this idea takes you quickly down into the other rabbit holes of exponentially accelerating change, transhumanism and the Singularity.

The Singularity refers to a flash-over point, a basic state change, where the rate of change has accelerated to the point where human beings cannot possibly keep up -- unless they are wielding some phenomenally capable computing technologies. The Singularity is brought about by advances in software technologies such that we succeed in making software capable of improving itself. This kicks technological progress into high gear giving birth to artificial intelligence (AI). Ultimately this hyperbolic rate of change will result in a hyper-technonological world where unaugmented human beings will have a very hard time keeping up. Enter transhumanism - the augmentation of the human being into a entity who can remain relevant in the wake of the Singularity.

So, winding this back onto the idea of a simulation, you can readily see the motivation for building one. In light of a scenario like the Singularity, a motivation for building a simulation might be an attempt to create a refuge in a universe that's suddenly become incomprehensible. Another motivation might be a grasp at immortality - a new, non-biological platform on which to run your consciousness. Of course, if we were living in a simulator and then we created a simulation into which we downloaded ourselves, one might begin to wonder how many levels of simulation we are separated from the ultimate reality.

One of my favorite science fiction novels that dances around this theme is Accelerando by Charles Stross. Stross is always an engrossing read but Accelerando seems an especially well expressed story. I can't imagine the difficulty of trying to create a plausible story around something that is, by definition, so unimaginable. Charles Stross must be augmented somehow. Yeah, that's it! Hey, where is MY augmentation??? I could especially use a memory enhancement just about now.

So one other idea that I keep thinking about is that if we are living in a simulation, isn't it nice how just about everything in religious theology kind of finds its place and has a straight forward explanation in this version of "reality". Hmmmm..... Or, coming at it from the inside-out perspective, could it be that the whole purpose of our simulation is to birth an AI?

Do you want the red pill or the blue pill?

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