Closer To Truth: Debating The Simulation Hypothesis

There is an ongoing PBS TV series (also several books and also a website) called “Closer To Truth”. It is hosted by neuroscientist Robert Lawrence Kuhn. He’s featured in one-on-one interviews and panel discussions with the cream of the cream of today’s cosmologists, physicists, philosophers, theologians, psychologists, etc. on all of the Big Questions surrounding a trilogy of broad topics – Cosmos; Consciousness; Meaning. The trilogy collectively dealt with reality, space and time, mind and consciousness, aliens, theology and on and on and on. Here’s a fourth helping of my comments on one of the general topics covered, the subject dealing with the concept of the simulation hypothesis – are we ‘living’ as virtual reality beings in a simulated landscape? Much of what follows centres around debates I entered into on the various topics heading each section.

Arguing God from First Cause?

Are there really lots and lots of separate and apart fundamental nesses or just variations on one theme – a bits and bytes theme perhaps? Perhaps an electron is software coded as 1011 but its antimatter counterpart, the positron is an 1101. Variations on the quark theme might be 1010 for an up-quark and 0101 for a down-quark. The photon could be 0000 and the graviton 1111, and so it goes. By implicating software, I am of course invoking the Simulated (Virtual Reality) Universe scenario, otherwise known as the Simulation Hypothesis. That is, we’re all just virtual beings existing in a computer simulated landscape.

If something space isn’t a particle, then what pray tell is space? Space can’t be a field. Space cannot be a force. Both fields and forces require particles to generate them. What’s left? Either space is NOT a something at all, or space is a yet unclassified / undetected particle, or space is a something out of “The Twilight Zone”. What is space? Not what are the properties of space, but what IS space? General Relativity insists that space is a something, but proponents can’t tell me what that something fundamentally is. I say that space might just be a virtual reality simulation; just pure software.

Did the Universe Begin?

Despite the best efforts to argue the contrary in philosophy and theology (and sometimes even in cosmology), nobody can create something from nothing.

Therefore something has always existed because something can only arise from something.

That something has always existed is rather unsettling since therefore everything that can happen, has happened an infinite number of times and will continue to happen an infinite number of times.

That would perhaps imply that the cosmos is cyclic, like going round and round and round the circumference of a circle for all eternity.

But perhaps not cyclic in an absolutely identical way each go-round. Instead of 1,2,3,4,5,1 you might have the next cycle be 1,4,5,3,2,1 and then 1,3,5,2,4,1 – or not. Maybe it just has to be 1,2,3,4,5,1 for all infinity.

But perhaps at our level of reality the apparent creation of something from nothing is an illusion, albeit an illusion that will have to be repeated an infinite number of times.

There are numerous examples in our experience of experiencing seemingly something from nothing when in actual fact we experienced something from something.

First there was no pain, then there was pain, but the pain didn’t arise out of pure nothingness.

First there was no light, then there was light, but the light didn’t arise out of pure nothingness.

First there was no sound, then there was sound, but the sound didn’t arise out of pure nothingness.

First there was no odour, then there was an odour, but the odour didn’t arise out of pure nothingness.

First there was no taste, then there was taste, but that taste didn’t arise out of pure nothingness.

First you had no awareness, no personality, no intellect, no consciousness, no ideas, thoughts, desires, perceptions, etc., then there was awareness, personality, intellect, consciousness, ideas, thoughts, desires, perceptions, etc. But the awareness, personality, intellect, consciousness, ideas, thoughts, desires, perceptions, etc., didn’t arise out of pure nothingness.

Something from something is the order of the day as dictated by Mother Nature.

The illusion of the creation of something from nothing could easily arise if we exist in a simulated landscape; the creation of a Simulated (Virtual Reality) Universe by some nerdy computer/software programmer. First there was nothing, then the software kicks in and then there is something. But in reality, even at the reality level of the computer/software programmer, there always had to have been a something to work with.

How Are Multiple Universes Generated?

Ultimately the buck stops somewhere. Ultimately there is a really real cosmos. However, from that starting point, one could have simulations within simulations. Some really real software programmer simulated a cosmos, perhaps a Multiverse or Megaverse cosmos, and we, as simulated beings virtually inhabit that cosmos. In turn, we have created simulations both for training purposes, for research purposes as well as for entertainment-related purposes. Perhaps in the far future we, even as simulated beings, might create second generation simulated beings with actual consciousness that can in turn create a third generation of simulations. Perhaps our software programmers were in kind simulations in their own right, but the ultimate origin, the apex of the pyramid, can’t be a simulation. A simulation is a product of intelligent design, it is an artificial construction, and as far as our logic dictates, it is only the natural (the really real) that can, in order to kick things off, generate the artificial. From there on in, it could be simulations on down the line. How close we are to the apex – that ultimate really real reality apex – is not knowable. Therefore, we could be the really real apex. However, statistical probability tends to argue against that scenario.

So yes indeed, the possibility exists that our Universe is the original Universe, the one and only really real Universe and that all the really real intelligences that inhabit our Universe then go on to create simulated universes, and ‘life’ forms. However, if you take our world, Planet Earth, and call it a really real planet with really real intelligent life forms, then those really real intelligent life forms have created hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, and ultimately many times that amount of simulated worlds and simulated intelligent beings (i.e. – video games). Now, go up the scale one notch, and what are the odds that we aren’t just one of millions of simulations created by really real beings that inhabit a really real world and hence we only think we’re really real? No doubt if you could ask a character in one of our video games if they considered themselves really real, they’d have to answer in the affirmative.

Actually IMHO the simulation hypothesis solves lots of problems. As a brief example, take radioactive decay. How can something that totally lacks causality – according to particle physicists – end up with a neat and precise mathematical relationship – the half-life? Perhaps it’s all just programmed software. Further, IMHO, the quantum enigma is perfect evidence that supports the Simulation Hypothesis. The infamous double-slit experiment isn’t readily explainable as really real reality; perfectly explainable as a software-generated illusion.

It’s quite easy to generate an entire universe without resorting to any simulation hypothesis, providing that a previous universe existed and a cosmos that in a broader context hosts multi-universes either in space at one time and/or sequentially. It’s the same way that it is easy to generate a human being, providing that there was a previous human being, or actually in this case human beings. Humans come and humans go but in the context of the broader context of the overriding human population. You have multi-humans both in space and sequentially though no single human encompasses that entire spectrum.

There are those who insist that the non-physical can create the physical.

Sorry, but as long as they insist that the non-physical (whatever that means) and the non-spatiotemporal (is that really a word?) generates physical reality as well as time (which is just change or motion) and space (the void that allows change to happen in) then I just cannot take them seriously. Logic, theory, observation and experiment all agree that such a proposition is nonsense.

And true believers can’t introduce a nebulous concept like God because God (assuming a God of course) is a something with structure and substance who interacts with matter/energy and exists when dealing with His (alleged) creation in a specific place at a specific time. The Bible says so. So there is nothing non-spatial or non-temporal about Him.

If you can’t have an endless (infinite) cosmos because otherwise things would have long reached equilibrium – entropy rules, okay? – And if you can’t create something of structure and substance out of absolutely nothing (you can’t make the physical out of the non-physical), then I guess that leaves as the most viable scenario for the illusion of creating something from nothing rests with the Simulation Hypothesis. All roads from the micro through to the macro lead to a virtual reality!

Well if the something-from-nothing scenario has flaws, as I believe it does, and if my something-from-something scenario has flaws, which true believers believe it does, then the Simulation Hypothesis can solve the impasse. There clearly was a beginning – as true believers maintain – but there was nothing physical created from something non-physical – as I maintain.

Since we know absolutely nothing about the type of Cosmos or reality that our software programmer(s) inhabit, it’s pretty useless to speculate. As far as I am concerned, and I am only concerned about our reality and only our reality, then as far as I’m concerned the Simulation Hypothesis resolves the concepts and the conflict, allowing me at least to move on to other topics, some of which now follow.

Why Aren’t Aliens Already Here?

I believe that the Simulation Hypothesis is the most probable hypothesis when it comes to choosing between differing possibilities of reality. However, the key word revolves around what I “believe”. I cannot prove that the Simulation Hypothesis is the be-all-and-end-all of our reality – not yet at least though I’m working on that. Thus, I must keep an open mind to the possibility that our reality isn’t virtual but really real and so my pontificating on the aliens-are-here, the UFO extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH) and related, is to be examined in that really real reality scenario.

But if the Simulation Hypothesis is correct, what would it mean for aliens to be here? It would mean no more and no less than what would it mean for a simulated couch to be in your simulated living room or a simulated tree in your simulated front yard or a simulated crook to pickpocket your simulated wallet. Sceptics keep asking a question about the motivation of whoever programmed into our simulated landscape the this, and the that and the next thing too, including the concept of simulated anomalous lights in the sky and simulated extraterrestrials having their wicked way with a select few of us. I have no idea what the motivation of our Supreme Programmer might be.

I suggest though that one needs to perhaps look at things through the eyes of our very own simulated beings part-and-parcel of our simulated landscapes in our video games. What would these virtual beings that we have programmed think of all the bits-and-pieces that we have included in their virtual world? Why is this guy shooting at me? Why is this monster lurking in the shadows? Why is this Little Green Man abducting and raping my daughter? Do we not include aliens, and all manner of alien interactions in our own video games? Have we not created video games that revolve around “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” and their associated extraterrestrials? So, if we do it, what’s the issue with what someone (or something) might include in the programming of our simulation and simulated landscape?

It could well be the fact that as far as our Supreme Programmer is concerned, we are just trivia. If this Supreme Programmer has designed hundreds or thousands of simulated universes and landscapes, then yes, we’re trivial. But then so too are any simulation or video games that we create. You buy an off-the-shelf video game and isn’t really all of the contents really trivial? But back to virtual reality aliens. Since we have programmed hundreds of video games that feature aliens, and produced hundreds of movies and TV episodes (cinema being just another form of simulation) that featured ET, some made even before the start of the modern UFO era, why should we (Royal We) and why should you (as in just you, the reader) raise eyebrows at the thought that our Supreme Programmer(s) featured aliens? Many forms of what passes for entertainment is trivial. Our science fiction novels and short stories feature aliens by the bucketful who don’t “have to travel through space, time, space-time, or even a mental space to get “here”.” Well actually they have to travel via a mental space – the author’s mental space or the film producer’s mental space or the programmer’s mental space. So maybe we’re just entertainment for the Supreme Programmer, the “we’re” including aliens and UFOs all rounding out the Supreme Programmer’s cosmic landscape.

If we could talk to our video game or simulation characters (or characters written into a novel or who appear on the silver screen) – and as anyone will note, we can’t, yet – they might ask questions very similar to simulation hypothesis skeptics about why we (the Royal We), their creators, programmed this or that or the next thing in creating their simulated landscape. We (the Royal We) might respond that that’s the way we wanted it, even if it was trivial, or absurd.

Whoever, whatever, programmed our Cosmos and our local landscape had a sense of the absurd. Perhaps that’s our Supreme Programmer’s sense of humor coming to the fore. What absurdities? Quantum physics is absurd. The fact that we just can’t come up with a Theory of Everything (TOE) is absurd. An accelerating expansion rate for the cosmos is absurd. Dark Energy and Dark Matter are absurd concepts. Crop circles are absurd (but they’re here). The Loch Ness Monster is absurd (but people report seeing it or them). Long Delayed Echoes are absurd (but verified). Transient Lunar Phenomena (TLP) are absurd (but verified). Those Martian rock ‘anomalies’ like lizards, rats and skulls are absurd (but they have been photographed). Biblical ‘miracles’ are absurd but millions believe they happened. The SETI “WOW” signal is an absurdity but it happened. There are all manner of archaeological absurdities, but I’ll mention just one – The Temple of Jupiter at Baalbek in modern day Lebanon. There are many things that are absurd when it comes to the human species: here’s one – humans are the only species where the saying “don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes makes actual sense. If photons cannot escape from a Black Hole then neither can gravitons, yet gravitons convey the gravitational force which means that Black Holes exert no gravity and that’s therefore an absurdity. Then you have quasars that appear linked but have vastly differing red shifts which is also an absurdity. The missing satellite of Venus, Neith, is another absurdity as in how can a satellite vanish. You have physical constants that apparently aren’t – constant that is. Time travel to the past is both theoretically possible (General Relativity) and theoretically impossible (paradoxes) – it’s an absurdity to have both something that can be and not be at the same time. Ghosts are absurd yet there are probably more sightings of ghosts going back to ancient times than there have been sightings of UFOs. Perhaps UFOs, the “Greys” and related are also absurdities, but they exist in good company with the rest of what passes for our simulated cosmic ‘Twilight Zone’.

And quite so, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere when addressing the Simulation Hypothesis, no free will exists. The characters in our novels have no free will; the characters in our films have no free will; the characters in our video games have no free will. If we’re the creation of a Supreme Programmer, we have no free will. We might have no free will when we boldly go, but as long as we think we have free will, then we (Royal We) can be convinced of our boldly going prowess. That by the by could equally apply even if we exist in a really real reality.

But if interested readers have digested anything I’ve posted about the Simulation Hypothesis, they would be aware there is one vast difference between my postulated Supreme Programmer and a supernatural deity, God if that word floats your boat. My postulated Supreme Programmer is a fallible SOB and oops happen and absurdities happen. God, being omni this and omni that and omni the next thing couldn’t and wouldn’t create any oops or absurdities.

It is important to contrast a creation by a perfect being, an omni-God, whose creation logically would be perfect – no anomalies, no absurdities – and an imperfect being like a mortal flesh-and-blood computer programmer whose programming would not always be perfect and would probably contain anomalies and absurdities. The proof of that pudding is it the constant updates and upgrades you get for your PC as well as the news stories that surface from time to time about security programming flaws in software that allow the less than ethical among us to do relatively nasty things to our privacy, our bank accounts, our databases, our private and public institutions, like hacking into the NSA or the CIA, or having the NSA and the CIA hack into our PC’s.

Now from the inside, as virtual beings, we could never know for absolute certain that anomalies or absurdities weren’t designed deliberately or built into the system. But that doesn’t mean we (Royal We) can’t damn well have suspicions, especially when the anomalies or the absurdities just keep on mounting up. So there is no such thing, as you suggest, of a proven “oops”, but there certainly can be suspicions that something is screwy somewhere. There couldn’t logically be such suspicions if an omni-God (or equivalent) were the only option regarding our creation, something that was the case in ancient times before computer programming and software simulations was conceived of in anyone’s philosophy. An omni-God is no longer the only creation scenario game in town.

Here are a few more absurdities to ponder over. There are three generations of elementary particles, yet only one plays any significant role in the cosmos. The other two contribute nothing of substance and structure, so why is there a second and a third generation of the elementary particles? In archaeology, the Mesoamerican Olmec massive multi-ton stone heads scream out ‘made in Africa’ or ‘we’re African’, yet there should not have been any cross-cultural contact between Africa and Central America way back in Olmec days. Such a scenario is deemed an absurdity. Lastly, turning again to human anomalies, we alone in all the animal kingdom have a bipedal gait without benefit of a balancing tail. A bipedal gait without any balancing mechanism makes us very unstable on our feet. We’re very easy to knock over. We can lose our balance, fall down and do ourselves a mischief very easily relative to the rest of the animal kingdom. That Mother Nature would select for such an absurdity, is, well, an absurdity.

Exceptions to the rule, like the human bipedal gait, require extra special scrutiny since at first glance lone exceptions appear highly out-of-place and anomalous. Another example is with respect to velocity. Velocities can be added and subtracted with one exception – the speed of light. Why is this so? Nobody knows.

I repeat, our Universe might be deliberately designed to be a “Twilight Zone” Cosmos, but the odds seem to favour some unintentional “oops” caused by lapses in the programming that was done by my postulated Supreme (but fallible) Programmer. Given the absolute complexity of designing a simulated cosmos from scratch, it is logical to suspect that anyone who isn’t an omni-God would goof a few things up. You can’t prove that, but you certainly can suspect that not all is right with the Cosmos; you can have your doubts! The bottom line is that anomalies and absurdities most certainly argue against an omni-God but support the idea of a fallible creator, like a computer programmer.

By the by, if some people really do wish to call the Supreme Programmer, the software/computer programmer responsible for our Simulated (Virtual Reality) Universe “supernatural”, that’s fine by me as long as it’s not an omni-supernatural he / she / it / they. This is just suggesting that the creation of virtual reality falls outside of the natural. But what this nitpicking actually contributes to the subject of ET and whether or not aliens are, or are not here, quite escapes me. I doubt if the readers give a damn whether or not a computer programmer can be defined as someone who is “supernatural”.

I have, by the way, never told anyone that they are just a simulation. I have stated, again and again that I believe the simulation hypothesis has a strong claim to being correct. If the simulation hypothesis is correct then clearly UFOs are also a simulated part of that overall simulated landscape, and of course they cannot be a threat to our “real” existence since we don’t have a “real” existence. But they might be a threat to our simulated existence, just like a virtual reality entity in our video games can be terminated. So while a major threat to our simulated existence is the entities that control the simulation, simulated events within the simulation can also be a threat to life and limb. A simulated tornado can terminate a simulated being just as much as a real tornado can terminate a real person.