One day, humans as we probably know ourselves will cease to exist. Regardless of whether we will end up completely wiped out with no evolutionary descendants, or leave one or more post-human species as our inheritance, we humans will inevitably be gone. Be that as it may, on the off chance that we do leave modern relatives, those descendants might be quite interested in creating ancestor simulations, virtual universes populated by cognizant people. Furthermore, if the technology to craft such simulations was adequately popular, they could multiply so widely so that the first-person experience of such simulations would outnumber the first-person experiences of humans who have actually existed in fundamental reality. This presents an interesting problem if you happen to find yourself having a first-person conscious experience: how would you know whether you would you are one of the first people, or a precursor reenactment, particularly when there are a greater amount of the latter?
A key problem in the simulation argument is trying to understand what simulations are made of. Simulations are things that we use to talk or to consider different things. In this regard, they don't advance out of ones base reality. They are still base reality. They are made of the same stuff everything else is made of. For instance, if we were to create a 10-inch 3-D replica model of a whale, it would still be an object, although an object that we use to refer to a much larger object. A simulation on a computer of the stars is still another object made of rather complex networks of electronic gates and devices sophistically connected and when we program a driving simulator, it is still physical thing used to refer to real cars.
It is a dynamic object we use to refer to another object. However, no place does it exist where we we have a pure simulation that is not an object. The thought that simulations are a kind of immaterial entity that are, in spite of being reliant on their physical substrate, nonetheless different, is a leftover of the aforementioned belief in a higher—and potentially better—reality. It's a belief that we have no motivation to consider important. This all too common notion that we would mistake a simulation of the world for the world is both theoretically and empirically flawed.
Conceptually, it is a foolish thought—something that if taken to be truth, discredits itself. Truth be told, if, say, simulated fire might be a meaningful notion, what would it be composed of? We can think about it like this: Fire. If we were to create a simulated fire , what could it possibly be composed of. It could not possible be made of the same components of what fire is actually made of, because if it was, we could no longer call it simulated fire. We couldn’t because that would simply be untrue, it wouldn’t be simulated fire anymore. In any case, neither might it be able to be made of simulated stuff, because—that's the purpose of being a simulation—there is no such thing as simulated stuff. All we know is physical. All we know has a place, indeed, to base reality. How would a simulated fire even act? Could it burn things? But how? If a simulated fire is not actually hot, why should a simulated mind think or feel?
Empirically, the expanding computational power that we believe to exist in the future wont really be able to change the water of computer games into the wine of a undeniable fully simulated world. Making bigger chariots and spears will never lead to a tank. Sometimes there are conceptual gaps that cannot be bridged by incremental changes. Living in a simulation is not like building a 1-mile-high tower, which is yet so challenging and nearly impossible but still plausible, yet rather like having a planet with a specific mass and no gravity. No measure of technological progress will achieve the latter, no matter what.
To better help us think, lets somehow try to imagine a time where we will eventually create a simulation full of sentient beings. To me, there is no tenable reason I can think god to put these sentient beings in a universe and world that is as complicated as the our very own. If we can somehow computationally create sentience, we could and should just as easily create a much simpler virtual world for them. Why would we want these “beings” to have to go through all the hardships and disasters that us humans are currently experiencing. For instance, simulating a World of Warcraft style world brimming with sentient characters would in any case be just as staggering, and in fact, if my goal is to create a virtual playground for sentient creatures, I can't think of any motivation to implement quantum physics or string theory of whatever more profound levels of science that we haven't even found yet. It just feels like a misuse of computation.
On the other hand, there can be value in just a pure physics simulation. If we were to to simulate the rules of the universe to the our best capabilities and just let the program run we could see what would emerge from our “simulated big bang”. I’d love to know as well. But such a simulation would be extraordinarily computetionally expensive, to the point where its no longer obvious ( and to me seems fairly unlikely) that we will ever actaully be a able to achieve that fidelity.
One can defend against the massive complexity by proposing only simulating parts of the universe that the sentient creature interacts with. Which could definitely be plausible if you were doing the much simpler world-of-worldcraft stye simulation that I mentioned above. But if you want your simulation to have the physics fidelity and incredible consistency that we certainly seem to experience in our world, its not clear that you actually save anything. You only "have" to simulate what the characters interact with, but in order to ensure that they comply with the laws of physics properly, you basically are required to simulate their entire light cone at maximum fidelity, which gets you right back to the insane complexity costs. And again, its also hard to fathom why anyone would care to have that level of fidelity and complexity, when there's no reason for the sentient denizens of the world to even suspect it. Implementing quantum physics in such a world just seems like a colossal waste of resources.
All of which is to say that I think given the extreme complexity of the world we live in today, especially at the microscopic world, and how consistent the implementation is, I think its unlikely that any civilization would advance enough that they would be simulate a universe like ours. And even if they did, it would seem like a huge waste of resources to simulate the universe in the specific way that we observe it. Not impossible, but I don't think the statistical argument is compelling when you consider the actual details of our world
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