2011 July 03 Sunday
If We Are In A Computer Simulation

Is the universe just a big computer simulation running in another universe? Suppose it is. Then I've got some questions:

  • Are intelligent entities modeled as objects? In other words, are they instantiated and managed as distinct tracked pieces in the simulation? Or is the universe just modeled as huge numbers of subatomic particles and energy?
  • If intelligences aren't modeled as objects are they at least tracked or studied by whoever is running the sim? Or is the evolution of intelligence in the sim just seen as an uninteresting side effect and irrelevant to the sim's purposes?
  • Is The Big Bang the moment the sim started running? Or did it start long before that point? Or has it been started at a much later point with data loading in to make it look like it started earlier?
  • Do the creators of the sim intervene as it runs? Do they patch it?
  • What is the purpose of the sim? Entertainment? Political decision-making? Scientific research?
  • Were the physical laws of the universe designed to reduce the computational cost of the sim? If so, what aspects of the physical laws were designed to make computation cheaper?

Imagine the purpose of the sim is entertainment or decision-making. Either way, it could be that out-of-universe sentient beings actually enter this universe and interact with some of its intelligent entities. Interact with simulated people for fun. Or interact in order to try out different experiments of political development. In the latter case I would expect more rerunning of the same sim backed up to restart at the same point but with some alteration of what some people say or do.

So what's your (simulated) gut feeling? Are you in a sim? If so, what's it for?

Update: Some commenters wonder why simulate a whole universe unless you want to simulate intelligence? Maybe the outer universe is many orders of magnitude larger in numbers of stars and planets and they want to see what a less crowded universe would be like.

Here's an even better idea: Suppose the real outer universe has massive planets all in close proximity. Suppose they have quintillions of people who are all very similar in this highly interconnected universe. So there's no diversity of intelligent life forms. So they decided to create a universe sim where the stars are so far apart that each intelligent life form evolves separately and is different in many ways. This provides the homogeneous simulator people experience of greater differences than they can see in their own universe.

Update II: Maybe we all suffer from the Dunning-Kruger Effect and can't grasp the extent of our mental deficiencies that render us unable to grasp the motives of the sim writers. There could be motives beyond our ability to suspect or conceive.

By Randall Parker    2011 July 03 09:36 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (48)
2008 April 03 Thursday
Holodeck Simulations To Get Realistic In A Few Years?

We aren't talking about simulated humans as artificial intelligences yet. But a guy at Brookhaven thinks at least for real time rendering of objects with realistic lighting we might be a few years away.

Are supercomputers on the verge of creating Matrix-style simulated realities? Michael McGuigan at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York, thinks so. He says that virtual worlds realistic enough to be mistaken for the real thing are just a few years away.

A petaflop bopper might be able to render realistic simulations of light in a virtual world.

Although Blue Gene/L can model the path of light in a virtual world both rapidly and realistically, the speed with which it renders high-resolution images still falls short of that required to pass the Graphics Turing Test.

But supercomputers capable of passing the test may be just years away, thinks McGuigan. "You never know for sure until you can actually do it," he says. "But a back-of-the-envelope calculation would suggest it should be possible in the next few years, once supercomputers enter the petaflop range that's 1000 teraflops."

Expect some people to become addicted to time spent in simulated environments. Throw in some AIs to interact with and the simulated worlds will become enjoyable to a lot more people.

By Randall Parker    2008 April 03 10:45 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (28)
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