Our Simulated Universe and the Chain of Existence
(1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage;
(2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof);
(3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation. It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor-simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation.
I’ve bolded the important part of #3. This is a common belief in the simulation hypothesis, something I’ve previously called tiresome (and it still is). He uses the word “certain” in the video and a few other videos I’ve seen in the last year also said certain. Or nearly certain. He’s very proud of this belief and I suppose a lot of people have come along and pat him on the back about it.
But for me there is a major problem with this hypothesis and (as usual) it stems from hubris. While he does mention nested simulations the implied meaning of most of this discussion is that we are one of many simulations that have been made by some advanced civilization. This stems from the desire for us to be “special”. Our creator must be “real”.
But here is the problem with the hypothesis. There is no reason at all that it would not equally apply to our creator. It would also apply to their creator. It would apply to that creator’s creator as well! What you have is a chain of creation that is infinitely long.
Oddly relevant image…
There is only one thing we know for certain in this infinitely long chain. Somewhere along this infinitely long chain we are the end of a branching link. Much like evolution we are at the end of one particular branch and we have yet to splice out and make branches of our own. This doesn’t really matter too much but it helps put things into a bit of perspective.
There exists “above” us an infinitely long chain (that’s fun to say) that we are postulating is full of nothing but peaceful, friendly, deeply interested and devoted civilizations. Not a single one is currently annihilating itself, not a single one has turned off its simulation, not a single one has had a system failure.
Think of it like flipping a coin. Lets say that as long as the coin lands on head we are resting beneath infinitely many peaceful links in the chain. Not a single one has annihilated itself. But a single tails and we are doomed instantly. Also keep in mind that no matter how far up the chain we go there are still infinitely many civilizations simulating civilizations above them.
(Image from: http://www.mathsisfun.com/calculus/limits-infinity.html)
You can’t technically divide by infinity. However the closer you get to infinity the closer it approaches 0. Effectively if the chain is infinitely long the chances that not a single civilization is not (or has not) annihilated itself is 0. Which means if we are in a simulation we are instantaneously doomed and you are not reading this. Which sucks because I enjoyed writing it.
But, you might argue (as my brilliant father-in-law did), what about time dilation wiggly wobblies? This is true, in video games we often speed up time by certain values because we want to get to the “good parts” quicker. The Flash in comics has even said before they for other people his 90 hours of work seem instantaneous but for him it feels like 90 hours of work.
(Googling Flash is not really SFW in many cases)
We return to my previous point about infinity. Planck time is the shortest possible unit of time. It has to do with the planck length and the speed of light. There is no reason to assume that time acts differently in the universes above us (doing so requires again, a bit of hubris) and we can safely assume that they too divide into finite units of time. With this in mind even if you divided time into its smallest possible parts you would still be hit with the problem that with infinitely many nesting simulations one at this very instant is annihilating itself.
This all comes back in some fashion to an idea like Drake’s equation and the hypothesis of how likely it is that there are other intelligent life in the galaxy. I am formulating my own which effectively takes the same idea but postulates how likely it is with infinitely many highly advanced civilizations how likely is it that all of them would be peaceful and still exist.
It seems to me that the only possible way that we could be in a simulation is if the odds of a civilization making a simulation to this degree is incredibly unlikely. Because anything close to certainty creates a chain reaction that leads to it being effectively impossible that we are part of a civilization. Once you come back to the “it could happen” realm of possibility you are doing something closer to religion than to science.
This, and probably a dozen or more other reasons, is why I still find the Matrix theory to be tiresome and lazy. The only reason people postulate it is because they want to be the “first person” to have pointed it out if it were found to be true. This is the same reason people rush to say they were the first to hear the word of god, or see a miracle happen, or post on a YouTube video.
We find some value in firstness and we are willing to abandon rationality to obtain it.