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Thread: What would become of god if our universe were a simulation?

  1. #1 What would become of god if our universe were a simulation? 
    Forum Sophomore Vaedrah's Avatar
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    Aug 2008
    Science fiction movies like the "matrix" suggest the possibility of a simulated world were people exist - not an original idea of course. If we existed in a simulated universe, how would we be able to detect this?

    Within our admittedly limited local knowledge of how things work, perhaps we could assume some similarity between our "inner universe" and this "outer universe", were such a possibility so. For example, we have software programs such as "second life" that we inhabit with animals and structures similar to our current experience. We also define them to follow similar physical laws, such as obeying gravity, requiring food or eventually experiencing death.

    We could hypothesis that such inhabitants, in our simulated creation, would not be able to think, have free will, possess a soul etc. Is this a fair comparison though? After all, we are not experts in all matters of technology. If we were inhabitants of a simulated universe created by others, would they not also consider the same of us?

    The question I pose is how could we tell? What experiment could we perform to discern the difference between a "real life" and a "simulated life"?

    Again, perhaps we can imagine some correlations between both "lifes" exists. Also the manner of simulation may also have similarities. For example, we consider our "real life" to flow continuously in time whilst (computer) simulations use "discrete time steps". It follows therefore that a discrete time universe would behave differently from a continuous time universe.

    To illustrate, we know how to implement discrete time implementations of analog filters using "Digital Signal Processing" or DSP technology. This requires the time step between samples to be small relative to the time between (significant) changes in the signals being processed. If this condition is violated, we get "alias" responses.

    How does this relate to the speed of light "c". It is said that we cannot exceed this velocity, or at least transfer information across a distance faster than that which could be achieved using light or radio waves traveling at c. Does this effect seem similar to that expected from a discrete time sampled system? Would the velocity limit implied by "c" corroborate, to some degree, the possibility of our universe being a simulation?

    If we were simulations, how would we know ourselves? Perhaps the best analogy comes from Hitch-hiker's Guide To The Universe in the chapter where the "mice" that secretly run the earth required Arther Dent's brain to "complete the ?matrix"

    Mice; We want Author Dent's brain
    Arther; You can't have it!
    Ford Prefect; You can have a mechanical replacement
    Zaphod; A small one should do the trick - you wouldn't know the difference...
    Arther; I'd know the difference!!!
    Ford Prefect; That's just it - you'd be programed not to!

    Inside a simulation, we would not be able to prove one way or another but we might have observations that could cause us to consider the possibility. For example, entities in the "outer universe" could arbitrarily fiddle with events inside the simulation. They could make anomalous outcomes occur. People, for example, often report "flying saucers" that sit uncomfortably with our current understandings of the universe. Further we have "abductions", "shadow people", "ghosts", remote viewing", crop circles", "dark matter", dark energy", to name a few. Are these potential evidential categories for life inside a simulated universe?

    If we were a simulated species, then how would the god concept now be interpreted? Would the entities that created the simulation be, by definition, our god(s). Certainly they could "create" a "Jesus actor son" to enter our simulation and perform "miracles" as many Christians believe. This intervention might have been motivated by simple curiousity - "what if we introduced this new character and watched what happens"?

    Alternatively would we redefine "god" as some entity further removed from the "outer universe" and its inhabitants, so that they too were reportable to him (or her or it). If so, could it be construed as arrogance on our part to presume that we could have superior religious knowledge inside a simulated universe whilst our designers did not? Or could it be that our designers "speckle" our simulated universe with hints of an outer deity?

    Unless we can test the difference between "real" and "simulated" we cannot simply state that the suggestion is impossible, and therefore hope the questions evaporate. It seems reasonable to speculate that the knowledge of inhabitants within a simulation would be inferior to the knowledge of those outside. We could therefore not claim that, because our (internal) technology could not accomplish such an arrangement, that it therefore follows that inhabitants in an outer universe would be so equally limited.

    Further, if no possible method could theoretically be construed to test the difference (s) then perhaps these questions are untestable and in a "Popperian" sense, not useful. Even so, can we devise such a proof to support such claims of non dis-provability when suggestive observations of limitations and commonly witnessed anomalies as I describe might point towards our existence potentially inside a simulated universe?

    According to Carl Popper, theories cannot be proven but they can be dis-proven. Even though religion is based on faith rather than measurement, followers of most faiths still use their minds and attempt to construct consistent frameworks. What would become of god though, if what I suggest could be true?

    "The sky cannot speak of the ocean, the ocean cannot speak of the land, the land cannot speak of the stars, the stars cannot speak of the sky"
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  3. #2  
    Forum Professor Obviously's Avatar
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    Aug 2007
    Occam's Razor.

    I don't have much more to say. Everything being a simulation is an interesting thought, but the complexity and processing power of the given system which upholds the simulation would probably approach near infinity.

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  4. #3 What would become of god if our universe were a simulation? 
    Forum Sophomore Vaedrah's Avatar
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    Aug 2008
    Interesting comments Obviously. However it is somewhat unfortunate that the "Occam's razor" philosophy is only a general principle. For example, people used to think the earth was flat because it "appeared to be flat". According to Occam's razor,(approximately rephrased) "when two explanations are presented to explain an outcome, the simplest explanation is generally the best". A flat earth is simpler than a round sphere, so Occam's razor suggests a wrong conclusion.

    In the same tradition, people used to think the sun circled the god centered earth. After all, it "appears" to do so. We generally don't accept this now. A more complicated explanation is that we circle the sun and the stars don't circle us either. Occam's razor has to be taken with a grain of salt I would think

    Also, I imagine the simulation engine would be complex but that would only be relative to our inferior standards. I wonder how complicated would it really need to be. We only see a small snapshot of the universe at any one time. Equally we can only process small amounts of information at any one time. The quantity of information requiring immediate simulation could be relatively small. Compression software for, say, converting DVD's to AVI formats makes use of slow changing backgrounds that require less attention than fast changing items. CD's converted to mp3's have similar processes involved. There would be no need, for example, to simulate the detail of distant suns; instead they could be presented as outcomes, a bit like tinfoil dangled in space for our observation. Would we be able to tell the difference?

    It's no use presenting ideas that cannot be tested, but I suggest that simulation scenarios might be testable through observation. Just as in statistics, no test is 100% certain and population studies, political poll predictions etc usually work on a margin of error basis. The same approach could be applicable to explaining our universe and whether it is completely consistent or has some nagging anomalies to explain. Of course, as Carl Sagan once said "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" but questions do not require compliance with such a directive. Questions just need to have a plausible existence of solutions.

    Perhaps the "big bang" was a Bill Gates windows98 "blue screen of death" for a previous simulation run on an outer universe Pentium core? The interesting behavior of light having a constant speed "c" is suggestive. I wonder, if we made a simulated inner universe, would we also introduce similar limitations?
    "The sky cannot speak of the ocean, the ocean cannot speak of the land, the land cannot speak of the stars, the stars cannot speak of the sky"
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  5. #4  
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    Those are certainly some interesting ideas you have...
    If I'm not mistaken, Jewish mysticism (Kabbalism) seems to also have some "matrix-y" ideas about the universe as well. This topic seems more suited to the Philosophy or Physics board, though. There wasn't a terrible mention of God in your post.
    "Impossible is just a word people use to make themselves feel better after they've given up."
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