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Mathematician: Is Our Universe a Simulation?

samzenpus posted about 7 months ago | from the is-it-real? dept.

Math 745

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Mathematician Edward Frenkel writes in the NYT that one fanciful possibility that explains why mathematics seems to permeate our universe is that we live in a computer simulation based on the laws of mathematics — not in what we commonly take to be the real world. According to this theory, some highly advanced computer programmer of the future has devised this simulation, and we are unknowingly part of it. Thus when we discover a mathematical truth, we are simply discovering aspects of the code that the programmer used. This may strike you as very unlikely writes Frenkel but physicists have been creating their own computer simulations of the forces of nature for years — on a tiny scale, the size of an atomic nucleus. They use a three-dimensional grid to model a little chunk of the universe; then they run the program to see what happens. 'Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom has argued that we are more likely to be in such a simulation than not,' writes Frenkel. 'If such simulations are possible in theory, he reasons, then eventually humans will create them — presumably many of them. If this is so, in time there will be many more simulated worlds than nonsimulated ones. Statistically speaking, therefore, we are more likely to be living in a simulated world than the real one.' The question now becomes is there any way to empirically test this hypothesis and the answer surprisingly is yes. In a recent paper, 'Constraints on the Universe as a Numerical Simulation,' the physicists Silas R. Beane, Zohreh Davoudi and Martin J. Savage outline a possible method for detecting that our world is actually a computer simulation (PDF). Savage and his colleagues assume that any future simulators would use some of the same techniques current scientists use to run simulations, with the same constraints. The future simulators, Savage indicated, would map their universe on a mathematical lattice or grid, consisting of points and lines. But computer simulations generate slight but distinctive anomalies — certain kinds of asymmetries and they suggest that a closer look at cosmic rays may reveal similar asymmetries. If so, this would indicate that we might — just might — ourselves be in someone else's computer simulation."

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A looping simulation, apparently (5, Funny)

fascismforthepeople (2805977) | about 7 months ago | (#46261403)

That paper is from November 2012. We should have been able to catch it a little bit earlier than this. That, or the person running the simulation missed an important loop bug.

Re:A looping simulation, apparently (-1, Flamebait)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 7 months ago | (#46261419)

This is a proposition made by a man trapped inside his mind.

Re:A looping simulation, apparently (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261453)

Dear Homo,

This is not about a Kardashian or OJ or the Super Bowl. This discussion is timeless and does not go stale.

Also, the first link above, which the submitter cited, is to a NY Times article from two days ago which ties all this up into a nice neat bow.

In other words, go suck a cock.

HTH.

Re:A looping simulation, apparently (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261707)

Your cock or his cock? Oh what am I saying, I would suck either or both.

Re: A looping simulation, apparently (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261731)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aggoy25iJB8

Re: A looping simulation, apparently (3, Informative)

NoEvidenZ (807374) | about 7 months ago | (#46261455)

They did catch this years ago. http://m.slashdot.org/story/17... [slashdot.org]

Some possible ways (5, Funny)

Shalian (512701) | about 7 months ago | (#46261413)

Some possible ways to determine if we're living in a simulation:

Look for signs of optimizations/short cuts in the simulation:
Is there a maximum speed?
Is there a minimum size?
Is there a limit as to determining an object's position and momentum?
etc...

Re:Some possible ways (5, Funny)

StripedCow (776465) | about 7 months ago | (#46261463)

Another idea: try to generate an overflow, or division by zero.

What could possibly go wrong?

Re:Some possible ways (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261529)

I traveled so far in the future once that I ended up in the past. I think I caused time to overflow.

Re:Some possible ways (1)

SumDog (466607) | about 7 months ago | (#46261583)

It's like that episode of Futurama

Re:Some possible ways (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261717)

That was the old Futurama...it's dead now.

Re:Some possible ways (4, Funny)

Sique (173459) | about 7 months ago | (#46261727)

I'm going to sign a petition that division by zero should be permitted if human lives are in danger.

Re:Some possible ways (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261735)

Another idea: try to generate an overflow, or division by zero.

What could possibly go wrong?

That has already happened numerous times in the universe. Result: a black hole.

Re:Some possible ways (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261475)

maybe we are the short cut.

Re:Some possible ways (3, Interesting)

WilliamGeorge (816305) | about 7 months ago | (#46261507)

The behavior of light in the 2 slit experiment might be an example of this.

I find it hilarious, though, that people are open to this possibility but so hostile to the idea of creationism. Both amount to the same sort of situation: a created universe, rather than one devoid of any design or purpose.

Re:Some possible ways (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261593)

I would think people aren't hostile towards creationism as an idea, but more towards the people who tout it as the undeniable truth.

Re:Some possible ways (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261795)

The big bang theory is a pretty stupid idea, as it's creationism under a thin veneer of speculative pseudoscience. There are loads of fedora-wearing neckbearded needledicks who lambast creationism while championing the big bang theory, and all without realizing the folly and hypocrisy of their ways!!! Jesus fucking Christ on a cross!

Your attempt at diplomacy serves only to validate idiots' belief in stupid fucking theories. Stupid shit is stupid shit no matter who believes in it (this article is the kind of shit I'd expect to see on Infowars), so let's show a little tough-love and call the idiots out for who they are. But who are they? Goddamn idiots! It's that simple, and when you know it is, then you have the authority to levy judgement. But not judgement unto Christ, but judgement unto idiots. And they're's a lot of stupid goddamn idiots in this world, because Frank Zappa himself said that stupidity is like hydrogen in the universe because there's a lot of it. An awful lot. Like, seriously, did you see that Bill Nye Video? I always thought Beakman's world was cooler than Bill Nye, but Bill Nye is pretty good, but anyway -- the debate. Did you hear all the idiots in the crowd, hemming and hawing and being stirred up like fools over their retarded medieval belief system? You bet your fucking ass I did. And it just goes to show that everything I'm saying, and just said, is true. You know it because you can feel it in your gut, and perhaps your nuts, like when you're on a roller-coaster and it descends down a steep slope and your two testes behave like accelerometers like the cochlea in your inner-ears because it's a feeling so instinctive, so timeless, that you know it from within like when you were born full of raw instinct before bullshit social norms polluted your judgement.

-- Ethanol "fuck beta" -Fueled

Re:Some possible ways (1)

frisket (149522) | about 7 months ago | (#46261617)

No, if we live in a created universe, then it's one in which evolution is the paradigm used for development once the universe was set going.

Re:Some possible ways (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261685)

Testable.

Re:Some possible ways (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261697)

I wasn't aware people were trying to teach that we are in a simulation in public schools.

Re:Some possible ways (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 7 months ago | (#46261725)

I find it hilarious, though, that people are open to this possibility but so hostile to the idea of creationism.

There's "creationism," meaning the belief in an entity that created the universe, and then there's "Creationism," the belief that the creation of the universe is documented in a 2000 year old book, in spite of centuries of diligently gathered evidence of our own inquiring minds the contrary.

Re:Some possible ways (2)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 7 months ago | (#46261809)

I find it hilarious, though, that people are open to this possibility but so hostile to the idea of creationism.

I think you'll find that the number of people who are open to this is several orders of magnitudes smaller than the people who believe in traditional creationism.

Re:Some possible ways (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261517)

I understand! So if premature optimization is at the root of all evil, then the devil was a sloppy coder!

Re:Some possible ways (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261539)

I'll add another one:

Try to find a glitch in the matrix

If this is a simulation then like for any significantly large piece of software, there are bugs.

Of course, this sort of thing irrationally pisses off the Republicans so whether we are or not in one, we should fund this research. They get so angry and irrational at the movie The Matrix. Imagine all of the xtian hate over this research.

Flawed premise. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261561)

First: humans observed the universe.
Next, humans invented mathematics to model these observations.
Then, humans refined mathematics over time, to even better model these observations.
Then, humans became surprised at how well their model fit the universe, seeming to have forgotten how hard they worked to make it so.
Then, humans started coming with very silly ideas about the model actually being the reality it models.

The inclination to have faith in something fanciful doesn't always come from the religious.

Re:Some possible ways (1)

Altesse (698587) | about 7 months ago | (#46261673)

(I assume your comment was ironic, but I'll reply anyway)
> Is there a maximum speed?

There is : c, speed of light.

> Is there a minimum size?

There is : the Planck length [wikipedia.org] .

> Is there a limit as to determining an object's position and momentum?

There is : the Heisenberg uncertainty principle [wikipedia.org] .

So...

My favorite way (1)

ron_ivi (607351) | about 7 months ago | (#46261779)

Try to get the attention of the guys running the simulation (through prayer, sacrifice, whatever).

If it works - and they enter their debuggers to communicate back - then yup - probably a simulation.

It probably just works for a while, though, since their management will probably enact policies not to flood the worlds too often.

Re:Some possible ways (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 7 months ago | (#46261789)

You laugh, but yes, those are used as actual arguments. The fact that the universe seems to have a finite resolution is seen as particularly significant.

The Thirteen Floor (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261417)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0139809/

This is old news mister slashdot.

Re:The Thirteen Floor (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261659)

Even older news:
World on a Wire - 1973 ("The Thirteenth floor" - see parent - is a remake of this one)
http://www.allmovie.com/movie/world-on-a-wire-v144137
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070904/?ref_=nm_flmg_wr_29

Re:The Thirteen Floor (1)

ari_j (90255) | about 7 months ago | (#46261781)

Of course we are in a simulation. But only XKCD seems to care about what language that simulation is programmed in [xkcd.com] .

Re:The Thirteen Floor (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 7 months ago | (#46261817)

Or maybe it's all just A Bunch of Rocks [xkcd.com] .

Maybe so... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261421)

This new Beta mode seems pretty unrealistic to me...

*rimshot*

The Matrix (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261439)

The Matrix is everywhere.

why math works (1)

somepunk (720296) | about 7 months ago | (#46261443)

1) physical sciences are based on measurements. all the fancy theory follows from these!
2) measurements are numbers.
3) Profit!

Creation did take six days (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261445)

God reniced the simulation process to -20 for six days to skip through all the boring stuff.

Bug! Where are the bugs?! (1)

advantis (622471) | about 7 months ago | (#46261451)

[Neo sees a black cat walk by them, and then a similar black cat walk by them just like the first one]
Neo: Whoa. Déjà vu.
[Everyone freezes right in their tracks]
Trinity: What did you just say?
Neo: Nothing. Just had a little déjà vu.
Trinity: What did you see?
Cypher: What happened?
Neo: A black cat went past us, and then another that looked just like it.
Trinity: How much like it? Was it the same cat?
Neo: It might have been. I'm not sure.
Morpheus: Switch! Apoc!
Neo: What is it?
Trinity: A déjà vu is usually a glitch in the Matrix. It happens when they change something.

Re:Bug! Where are the bugs?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261647)

I have déjà vu all the time, but I did injure my head a few years back.
I have déjà vu all the time...

Future? (5, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | about 7 months ago | (#46261459)

According to this theory, some highly advanced computer programmer of the future has devised this simulation, and we are unknowingly part of it.

Wouldn't he have to be a computer programmer of the present, if he wrote this simulation and we're in it RIGHT NOW?

-jcr

Re:Future? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261521)

Outside of our simulation concept of time may be different or not exist at all. Therefore I'd say that both are wrong.

Re:Future? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261527)

My thoughts exactly. Well, if our universe is billions of years old then it was a computer programmer in our subjective past.

But TFA has the same "future programmer" in it. Not sure what to make of it.

Re:Future? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261551)

Or maybe even from the past, since they started the simulation at some point in the past.

Re:Future? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261629)

Wouldn't he have to be a computer programmer of the present, if he wrote this simulation and we're in it RIGHT NOW?

Well, if I had to hazard a guess, I don't think we'd have any real concept of what the timeline would be like in the real world, or even the simulation of the world, that simulated us. Since I guess technically, this could loop forever, and we could be several generations of simulations from whatever the real world is.

But regardless, that programmer would have technologies that are far advanced our own, so they would be equivalent to a future human. But, since this is a simulation that has been running for billions of our years, it could be possible that the simulation has been running for thousands of years in the real world, depending on the power of the computer running the simulation, which would then put them in the past for when the simulation started, and yet into the present for where we are now.

42 (2)

phish_head (750687) | about 7 months ago | (#46261461)

The universe was created and many thought it was a bad idea.....

law of energy in a VR (1)

denisbergeron (197036) | about 7 months ago | (#46261471)

If we are trapped in a VR, so a tree that fall in a forest when nobody is there to listen wont do any noise because it's it's will be a use of computer power unuseful. Maybe Sartre was right after all.

But, did quark obey to mathematical law ?

Simulation or not (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261473)

I am not stressed out by the notion we might live in a simulation because it changes nothing about the fundemental questions about the nature of reality, it only changes the context in which we ask them. It does add a whole new layer of interesting questions to examine, but strip away the stimulation and you are left where you were before. At a deep level, I would hope that our simulation might have the lofty purpose of answering the very questions we ourselves are seeking. In the end my greatest hope would be for transcendence so that I might take what I have learned here and apply to yet a higher reality. All in all, one might say it is more comforting not less as it leaves much more concrete things to aspire to.

Re:Simulation or not (4, Interesting)

quantaman (517394) | about 7 months ago | (#46261577)

I am not stressed out by the notion we might live in a simulation because it changes nothing about the fundemental questions about the nature of reality, it only changes the context in which we ask them. It does add a whole new layer of interesting questions to examine, but strip away the stimulation and you are left where you were before.

Maybe, but if we are living in a simulation maybe the real world has characteristics that change the question.

Maybe the real world has deities that are regularly and obviously involved with the running of the reality and our universe is the results of an experiment that says "what happens if there are no visible gods?"

Or maybe they're mostly happily atheistic and they're wondering what would happen if people were given a more superstitious nature.

Maybe they're energy beings wondering what would happen if you change the laws of physics to allow these massive fireballs they called stars to form, and we're some kind of weird phenomena that's popped up in the simulation. Our consciousness isn't really a feature of our universe but a flaw the simulation that they don't notice because in the real world consciousness is a phenomena that occurs everywhere and is easily explainable.

If we are living in a simulation there's really not a lot we can assume about what's going on outside.

Re:Simulation or not (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261631)

Plot twist: they call us iso's.

http://tron.wikia.com/wiki/ISO

Re:Simulation or not (1)

erik.martino (997000) | about 7 months ago | (#46261605)

If the world is a simulation, then it must be based on a formula of some sort. Mathematical formulas doesn't need a computer or a person with a pen and pencil to exist. So a simulated world doesn't need the simulation. Is it simulated then? It only has meaning for the ones that simulates it, not for the people inside it.

Clothes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261481)

So... how much do clothes cost in the Matrix?

Pointless Because ... (4, Insightful)

TrollstonButterbeans (2914995) | about 7 months ago | (#46261491)

What is the definition of "not a simulation".

If I am in a simulation and it seems real to me, what is the opposite of this?

Re:Pointless Because ... (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 7 months ago | (#46261621)

Dwarf Fortress

This is not a simulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261511)

In a simulation your lives and events could be run many times over and over in different mathematical scenarios. But in what is known as reality you only get one shot at a lifetime, and failure is messy. This is not a simulation, sorry. Denied.

Re:This is not a simulation (1)

VanGarrett (1269030) | about 7 months ago | (#46261675)

If your life and the events thereof had been run through the simulation more than once, without that knowledge being a designed part of the simulation, how would you know? You are, after all, a part of said simulation.

I've given this idea some thought as well, but the conclusion I've come to is that I don't think that we're part of a computer simulation. I do, however, think that whatever it is that makes the universe possible is liable to operate on principles similar to a computer, and may even be somehow artificial.

obligatory matrix reference (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261515)

Was it the same cat?

simulation (1)

kendallgreen (2881967) | about 7 months ago | (#46261531)

Not if you take the red pill

Ahh, religion (2)

rrohbeck (944847) | about 7 months ago | (#46261537)

But this time for the science minded. It's simulations all the way up!

Oh and this idea is as old as dirt.

As old as a few thousand years BC. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261819)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_%28Illusion%29

Flawed logic (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261553)

Finding anomalies can not prove or disprove our world being a "simulation" or not.
Indeed, until you define what a simulation is and what it is not, this entire hypothesis contain no significant meaning whatsoever.

From a logical perspective, the universe can contain universes within every little part of it, in a fractal way, which before anyone claims ownership of this idea, has also been postulated in the Vedas for thousands of years.

ill-posed question (2)

khallow (566160) | about 7 months ago | (#46261557)

one fanciful possibility that explains why mathematics seems to permeate our universe

How could math not permeate our universe? There has to be some sort of structure or priors. And once, you have that, you have something that math can work on. And once you have that, you have math permeating your universe.

Why is this Front Page news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261567)

He's not even basing this off a mathematical model, like physicists do when they say things like this, he's basically ranting like a madman on a street corner. He's putting less effort into this than DesCartes did for his Evil Demon.

More questions (2)

StripedCow (776465) | about 7 months ago | (#46261571)

Here are some other questions, related to this "creationist" theory:

1. In how many dimensions is this supposed simulator living?
2. Is the simulator itself embedded inside another simulator?
3. Why then, do we have only 3 spatial dimensions?
4. What are the chances of us being at the bottom of an infinite chain of simulators?

Re:More questions (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 7 months ago | (#46261665)

1. In how many dimensions is this supposed simulator living?

42

2. Is the simulator itself embedded inside another simulator?

Yes, it's inside a box in my closet.

3. Why then, do we have only 3 spatial dimensions?

Whoever said we only had 3?

4. What are the chances of us being at the bottom of an infinite chain of simulators?

If the number of simulators is infinite, then the chances of us being at any on particular position in the chain would be as close to 0% as mathematics allows.

Re:More questions (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 7 months ago | (#46261757)

3. Why then, do we have only 3 spatial dimensions?

Why should we have more?

Can't be (1)

HeavyDevelopment (1117531) | about 7 months ago | (#46261581)

If this was a simulation it would be like Second Life. We'd all be carrying giant pink dildos and constantly trying to hump everything.

The Answer. (1)

OFnow (1098151) | about 7 months ago | (#46261585)

It's unclear why a simulation would be necessary since Douglas Adams already revealed the answer: 42.

Re:The Answer. (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 7 months ago | (#46261671)

But had they not created this simulated universe for Douglas Adams to be born into and write his book, they never would have known that.

Compuing Resources are Finate (1)

TechnoGrl (322690) | about 7 months ago | (#46261595)

Even were we to imagine some technology and technology advanced civilization capable of simulating an entire world, the minds within them, and anything that such minds can perceive and be affected by (i.e. we can perceive and be affected by atoms, electrons, quarks, etc but we can not perceive or be affected by an atom or particle say 100 million light years away) - even if we postulate such an enormous computing capacity - the capacity has to be finite. Even were the "computer" running the simulation the size of a world or a star or a galaxy, it is still a finite thing. Thus the simulation (the amount of our universe which we can perceive) must be "digitized" somehow - it can not go on forever and must break down at extremely small scales. So there must be a smallest "distance" or "time unit" and things like that in the universe in which we live. If we lived in a universe where the physics was "analog" or "fractal" (for want of a better word) where regardless of how small a time period we look at (or a distance or an energy unit) there can always be something smaller this would entirely disprove the simulation(I think) theory as the capacity of the computing machine needed to create such a universe would be infinite leaving no room for the "programmers". In our universe we do live with a physics which has smallest possible units of distance, time and energy which does not prove or disprove the simulation theory but does give one something to think about.

Re:Compuing Resources are Finate (1)

frisket (149522) | about 7 months ago | (#46261657)

Right. Go read Charlie Stross's Accelerando

Silly language games. (5, Interesting)

aussersterne (212916) | about 7 months ago | (#46261603)

For this to be true in even the most allegorical sense would require that we stretch the definitions of "computer" and "simulation" well beyond anything we currently understand and well beyond the bounds of our ability to be concise and specific about what the terms mean. Using these terms here is just mixing up apples and oranges.

We might as well, in other words, say that our universe is a blender inside a giant appliance store, a stageplay inside a giant theatre district, a mildewing blow tickler inside a giant hoarder's garage mess, or anything else bearing the one of the rough relationships signal:carrier, content:form, fragment:whole, instance:structure, etc.

I mean, what sort of computer are we talking about here?
What is its nature, not just logically, but physically? Do we even know that we're speaking "physically"? Isn't this the scale at which such quantities break down?
And doesn't our idea of computation and simulation require precisely that mathematical rules apply for these to be carried out in the first place?

Re:Silly language games. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261627)

And who is simulating the entity simulating our reality...
And so on...

No doesn't hold water for me. Im more inclined to believe 'convergence' than 'design by entity'

Re:Silly language games. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261815)

Seems pretty simple to me. A computerized space probe collided with God.

Universe and perfect simualtion are equivalent (2)

caseih (160668) | about 7 months ago | (#46261633)

If the simulation is completely perfect, then it also must have a near infinite amount of memory as well, or else little inconsistencies would be manifest and detected. But philosophically, if one were to create a simulation, and that simulation is perfect and infinite in size and scope, then it is by definition the same as if you had created the universe. So really it doesn't matter, except to mathematicians whether or not it's a simulation or reality. It's fundamentally equivalent at this scale.

Re:Universe and perfect simualtion are equivalent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261733)

You assume that they are simulating their own universe. They could be simulating any number of differences and configurations that we would have no idea of. So in the end, even if we learned all there is to learn of our simulation, we may still know nothing of the world beyond it.

Re:Universe and perfect simualtion are equivalent (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 7 months ago | (#46261785)

If the simulation is completely perfect, then it also must have a near infinite amount of memory as well

Why? The observable universe isn't infinite.

It's fundamentally equivalent at this scale.

True, but it would be incredible to find out that it was true. Also, handy to know if someone from "up there" might be liable to wiggle their fingers in our pond.

Re:Universe and perfect simualtion are equivalent (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 7 months ago | (#46261831)

near infinite

Also: no such thing.

Turtles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261643)

So if the simulator is simulating something that is a mathematical truth, then does that not mean the universe of the simulator also obeys the same laws? In that case, their universe may be simulated as well?

simulators all the way down?

Of the future? (2)

ve3oat (884827) | about 7 months ago | (#46261667)

... some highly advanced computer programmer of the future ...

If we are living the simulation, then the program has already been written, so it must have been a programmer of the past. There is nothing 'futuristic' about it, except that the programmer might have a better computer than any of ours.

Re:Of the future? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261807)

Maybe it is not even a simulation. Maybe we live in a pure function, our whole universe past and future exist in its entirety.

What's the point of this? (1)

dkf (304284) | about 7 months ago | (#46261681)

Maybe we are, and maybe we aren't. Without a way to find out, a way to get out, or a way to influence the outside in a way that's useful to us inside, what is the point of this speculation? It's practically equivalent to the philosophical position that it's all a dream, which is something that every culture seems to come with from time to time, and it's always a totally useless theory. It just doesn't lead anywhere; it's a logical dead end.

If you are going to write an article in the NYT, at least pick a subject that could lead to someone somewhere getting some sort of benefit. Well, beyond a paycheck for writing an article in the NYT...

Re:What's the point of this? (2)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 7 months ago | (#46261823)

Maybe we are, and maybe we aren't. Without a way to find out...

They're proposing exactly that, or at least a way to get started.

a way to get out, or a way to influence the outside in a way that's useful to us inside, what is the point of this speculation?

Really? Speculation got our species where we are today. If scientific discoveries had to wait around until someone in pursuit of a practical goal found them, we'd still be leaving in hovels and crapping out of the window.

And even without that: because it's interesting.

Just a bunch of athiests (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261687)

Just a bunch of Athiests trying to prove there's a god without actually saying there's a god.

"programmer from the future" give me a break.

Recursion? Nesting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261691)

Maybe reality is simulations all the way down? If we are simply part of some advanced civilization's computer simulation, could they be simply part of an even more advanced civilization's simulation? Repeat ad nauseum.

Does it matter? (1)

allcoolnameswheretak (1102727) | about 7 months ago | (#46261693)

While an interesting thought experiment, somehow I think that the conclusion is irrelevant. If we decide to distinguish between reality and a hyper advanced simulation, what is reality, if not just that? Reality or simulation, this is the universe we live in.

Statistical basis (5, Insightful)

CODiNE (27417) | about 7 months ago | (#46261703)

Many people dream every night. Statistically there would be many more dream worlds than real worlds. So therefore this world is more likely to be a dream world than a real world.

Re:Statistical basis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261775)

Except that dreams are physically inconsistent, which allows for objects to appear and disappear, locations to change instantaneously, and physics to be bent at will.

Our world out have no laws that seem to be permanent, as any law of nature could be broken at random or at will. And we certainly would observe such occurrences upon study.

Could we then have a memory of the Scientist? (1)

OpenSourced (323149) | about 7 months ago | (#46261709)

I mean, a Designer that watches what you do, and is very interested in your behavior. Has set some rules that you must obey, but won't communicate with you. It's everywhere, can see the past and the future as a single continuum, can change reality, it's omnipotent but has chosen to limit It's own power. ...

No, nothing seems to check.

Future? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261715)

"some highly advanced computer programmer of the future" ...of past, surely.

This explains quantum physics (5, Interesting)

MobyDisk (75490) | about 7 months ago | (#46261719)

Quantum physics seems to be the ultimate proof that the universe is a simulation.

The universe, intuitively, seems to be analog and continuous. That "feels" right to us. But quantum physics shows that it is actually discrete. But that is exactly how computer simulations work! They use very small time scales to make things appear continuous. We know that below certain time scales, things are essentially random. This is consistent with a computer simulation. You can't accurately simulate something that happens in less time than one "frame" of time. There is a whole area of mathematics that deals with how to make simulations work accurately [wikipedia.org] given the limitation of discrete time scales.

The same happens with physical sizes. Below the Planck scale [wikipedia.org] the universe starts to break-down and become random. This is exactly how things would work if the universe was using binary arithmetic. Suppose that every particle in the universe has a coordinate. You can represent it's position over a vast scale, but only with limited accuracy. The plank scale is that limit, and it indirectly tells us how many bits are in the coordinate field of each particle. When we try to measure the position of something accurately, we find that the position becomes random. And if you try to measure it's speed to more resolution than one "frame" of time, it becomes less accurate. Worse-yet: the only way we can measure the position or speed of a simulated particle is by comparing it to another simulated particule, which introduces yet more error. We are ultimately limited by the accuracy of the simulation.

One side-benefit of this is that we have an awesome source of stastically predictable randomness. Quantum computers are actually using the randomness of the simulator to take advantage of cpu-cycles that are "outside" of our universe. Within the simulator, we can only build a computer that is so fast. But if we find a way to tap into the computing power of the simulator, like by using the side-effects of one of it's built-in functions, then we can compute a result faster than anything we can do ourselves. It is like calling into "native code" while we are running in the interpreted bytecode.

Another indication that we are in a simulation is that quantum physics shows us that wave functions collapse when we observe them. That makes sense: why should the universal simulator waste time calculating quantities that are not currently being measured? Imagine a vast number of inputs, a vast number of calculations that produce outputs, and a smaller number of observers of those outputs. You can easily optimize away things that are not being observed. But we found a way to notice the side-effect of not calculating certain values. It's like a side-channel attack on an encryption algorithm. You can tell how many bits of a password are correct even without the output by seeing how long it took to calculate, or how much power the computer consumed. I wonder if the designers of the simulator didn't know that we could see these kinds of side-effects, or if they are too difficult to fix. Either way, we are seeing side-effects of some of the shortcuts and optimizations.

Perhaps one day one of the programmers will look over at their printer and find a little note from someone way down here inside the simulation. If you could hack a few words outside of the system, what would they be?

Re:This explains quantum physics (4, Funny)

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) | about 7 months ago | (#46261791)

Hello world

Re:This explains quantum physics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261813)

If you could hack a few words outside of the system, what would they be?

"Hey, asshole, take me, this lowly character of yours, out of this dreary shithole universe and into a simulated paradise."

The Matrix (1)

the 0x (2883849) | about 7 months ago | (#46261721)

There is a flaw in the logic of figuring out how to test if we live in a simulation or not. They presume that it is human scientists that have made the simulation. We all know that it's really machines. I know the truth now! Excuse me while I go try leap from one building to another.

First you have to assume... (1)

Dan Yocum (37773) | about 7 months ago | (#46261747)

That the cow is a perfect sphere in a vacuum...

[rimshot]

Not very plausible (4, Insightful)

yesterdaystomorrow (1766850) | about 7 months ago | (#46261751)

Mathematics, especially simulation, is actually a very weak approach to physical phenomena in themselves. It's good for human insight *about* the phenomena, but in most cases the equations are intractable and a simulation is miserably inefficient at getting the specifics right. A small molecule can assemble itself in picoseconds without mathematics, but a simulation takes a huge supercomputer run. If you'd like to simulate something bigger, you'll find that simulation scales very badly.

The Nature of the Programmers (2)

TechnoGrl (322690) | about 7 months ago | (#46261761)

A couple of thoughts come to mind: one is what the nature of the simulation (if we accept the simulation argument for a moment ) tell us about the nature of the programmers? Certainly we know that, considering the tens of millions killed in our various recent world wars as well as the millions of innocent children who starve to death every year, that the whatever the "programmers" of our universe are, they have no more consideration for us as we would for various cultures of bacteria killed off to test a new antibiotic. I wonder what else we could infer about the "programmers" simply by observing our own world.

Secondly I wonder if it would be somehow possible for the beings inside the simulation to "hack" the simulation itself somewhat how a computer virus in our machines can cause unexpected/unwanted/unplanned for behaviors in our computer systems. What would you have to do to corrupt and possibly take over the program running the simulation of our universe?

To whoever is running this simulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261763)

To whoever is running this simulation: FUCK YOU for making my goddamn life so shitty.

Intelligent life in the universe. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261771)

Apart from the intelligent life that wrote our simulation, if this simulation behaves according to the laws of mathematics, including statistics, then I presume it's safe to conclude that there must be other intelligent life here in our simu-verse.

Now it's just a matter of finding it.

Program Within a Program to Infinity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261773)

Great...this is going to keep me up all night. Are we in a program within a program...etc.?

Nice try (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46261803)

Yeah just try explaining this one in a murder trial. But you see our world is a simulation, there is no way you can try me for murdering something that doesn't exist.

Shades of Stanislaw Lem (1)

blue trane (110704) | about 7 months ago | (#46261835)

"Klapaucius constructs a massive machine capable of simulating the entire universe"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T... [wikipedia.org]

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