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If you were a software simulation, how would you know?

If you think your sensation of consciousness proves you are real, that's magical thinking. Consciousness is little more than imagining what happens next and comparing your experience to your expectations. Add some memory and some sensors for the environment and you have the entire package. Software can do that. And if programmed to report all of that as a "feeling" it could.

If we are software, it seems likely that we have a lot in common with our creators. It seems more likely that humans would create simulations of other humans as opposed to random creatures. It's the same reason our movies and entertainment are generally about people or creatures who act like people. People who think like us are likely to love themselves as much as we love ourselves.

So let's assume our creators think the way we do, in some general way. That's a starting point.

Let's also assume the programmers have limited resources. They can't program every possible development in our reality, so instead they use shortcuts and tricks. If we see evidence of those shortcuts and tricks in our alleged reality, it raises some questions.

For starters, some humans might be fully programmed and others would be background extras. The extras would be easy to identify because they never have anything interesting to say. You know those people. Check.

Our programmers might also create our history on the fly, and then only for compatibility with whatever is happening at the moment. Your sidewalk doesn't have a history of a crack until someone sees it. And your cat is neither alive nor dead until you see evidence for one or the other. If you want to be more controversial, it would mean finding a fossil creates a past with a dinosaur and not the other way around.

Next, you'd expect a lot of code reuse. And that means the world would be full of repeating patterns. For example, why does it seem that whenever something unique and bizarre happens to me in the afternoon it is also the plot of the only sitcom I watch that very evening? That happens to me about once a week. If I spill Gatorade on the cat, it's the plot of Modern Family that very night.

Yes, yes, yes. I know. Coincidences are just coincidences. It's nothing but statistics acting out. But here's the fun part: We don't understand why statistics work. We know things revert to the mean, for example, but why? The rules of physics seem like programmed rules as opposed to simple logical truths.

Our hypothetical programmers would need to build knowledge barriers beyond which our search for truth cannot extend. For example, we can't travel faster than the speed of light and therefore we can't see the edges of our universe. And when we drill into the quantum world we quickly reach absurdity instead of understanding. It has the smell of something a clever engineer programmed just to keep us from learning our true nature. And can light really be a particle and a wave at the same time? What about quantum entanglement?

Realistically, does it make sense to you that all matter and energy are comprised of different and smaller things no matter how far you peer into the world of the super-small? If a particle is made of X, what is X made of? Can that chain of inquiry go on to infinity? It's absurd. Just the way a clever programmer would build it. If we saw an actual physical brick wall around our solar system we'd know we were programmed. But if every time we extend our knowledge we find new riddles, we live in a prison of limited knowledge without feeling it.

What other clues might we find of our programmed existence?

 
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  For ideas that are less crazy than this blog post, see my book: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.

 
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Feb 5, 2014
"And when we drill into the quantum world we quickly reach absurdity instead of understanding. It has the smell of something a clever engineer programmed just to keep us from learning our true nature. And can light really be a particle and a wave at the same time? What about quantum entanglement?"

I think all the quantum stuff is evidence of the software simulation. I think we're looking at the program code. Instead of seeing 1s and 0s, we're seeing weird vibrating quantum strings -- because our simulated minds can't comprehend the code.
 
 
Feb 5, 2014
No "mismatch the audience" disclaimer? Here we go...
 
 
Feb 5, 2014
@CraigMurphy3

...What?

On average the difference in apparent size between the moon and the sun is 1.4%, many times either of the phenomena you mention.
 
 
Feb 5, 2014
If I'm a software creation, then my creator/programmer should be starving or dead by now. That's OK for me
 
 
Feb 5, 2014
@whtllnew

[not as big a coincidence}

Yes there is some variability in the orbits. But if they follow a normal curve, the middle of the bell curves of each are .45 arcminutes apart and that is 0.125% average difference in size. That is about half the tolerance allowed in billiard balls. Due to the hills and valleys, the earth is not a perfect sphere, either. The tolerance: 0.177 away from a sphere. So, the 0.125% average difference is still an extraordinary coincidence, if this is what it is. The sun is approximately 400 times bigger than the moon and the sun is approximately 400 times further than the moon. Again, a huge coincidence.
 
 
Feb 5, 2014
@CraigMurphy3

[The clearest piece of evidence that something is amiss is in the sky every day. Why are the sun and the moon exactly the same apparent size.]

This is from the Yahoo website:

The moon can appear as small as 29.3 arcminutes and as large as 34.1 arcminutes. And the sun can appear as small as 31.6 arcminutes and as large as 32.7 arcminutes.
(an arcminute is one 60th of a degree, there are 360 degrees in a full circle).

So, yes, it is a coincidence, but not quite as major a coincidence as you suggest.
 
 
Feb 5, 2014
The clearest piece of evidence that something is amiss is in the sky every day. Why are the sun and the moon exactly the same apparent size. Of course, they are the same size because the larger one is much further away than the smaller one. But that begs the point. What natural law causes them to be so PRECISELY the same apparent size that when they appear at the exact spot in the sky the moon precisely covers the sun as if it were a manhole cover. So precisely that you can look at it and see only the flares of the sun shooting out from behind. That is incredible precision and tight tolerance. If the sun or moon were slightly further or closer this phenomenon would never exist. An artist in a video game may make the two so perfectly matched, but how could such a perfect match occur in nature. There is no scientific or natural explanation for this ridiculously unlikely coincidence. Prior to our current level of scientific knowledge it was postulated that when planetary motion was understood, this mystery would also be revealed. It wasn't. That "coincidence" makes all others look extremely likely by comparison.
 
 
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 5, 2014
Right before I fall asleep, I hear this sound:

http://soundbible.com/1361-Dying-Robot.html

...so likely software, me *click-whirl-pop* thinks.
 
 
Feb 5, 2014
Two consecutive days with posts and Wikipedia references... probably not good.

The line of discussion is not new: Rene Descartes has been down this track before. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cogito_ergo_sum. Popularly translated it's "I think, therefore I am."

My answer to Scott is simple: I think, therefore, I am - regardless of whether I'm an organic "program" encased in meat or software on a someone's computer or a "hologram" or whatever other construct we come up with. Sufficient complexity, given time, leads to self-awareness. Even at a quantum level you could argue that that is a logical illusion. It still doesn't matter. I'm aware of myself, therefore I am. The medium and purpose doesn't matter.
 
 
Feb 5, 2014
Scott's trying to sell his creationism again.

What did you expect scientists to find when they looked at smaller and smaller pieces of stuff? We didn't know. So how can our findings violate our expectations? Frankly, the world gets simpler, even if it gets weirder, the more we learn. When you try to make sense of the vast, vast multitude of things that exist, we find that they're permutations of a hundred or so elements, which wind up being permutations of three subatomic particles, which end up being a few quarks.

Your creationism has the same problem as all other creationism. It doesn't answer any questions. Presuming that we're simulations, what does that tell us about the machines (?) that simulate us, or the beings (?) that created those machines, or the materials that they're made of (?) or the energy they consume (?). And if they have any understanding of such things, why aren't those understandings part of our simulation for us to discover?
 
 
Feb 5, 2014
It appears that the subroutine that prompts you to write about this subject has been caught in some kind of infinite loop.

Perhaps during your next meditation session, you can break the loop by focusing your mind on the words: Ctrl-Alt-Delete
 
 
+9 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 5, 2014
We do know why things revert to the mean. It's called the Law of Large Numbers, which is a rigorously proven mathematical theorem.
 
 
Feb 5, 2014
We're not software. Once a piece of code is written it can be copied and used ad infinitum - like the robots cloud code updates in one of your previous posts. So why would each of us spend years potty training when it only needs to be done once? Therefore not software.
 
 
Feb 5, 2014
I'm trying to find a witty way to draw a line between your post and the third panel in today's comic, which seems to shed a lot of light on what type of "reading material" Dilbert enjoys when he's alone in front of the computer.

Bravo on getting another one past the editors Scott.
 
 
Feb 5, 2014
And why are we bothering with this topic? For one thing, the rest of your blog seems designed so that it cant be disproved. For another whether or not were software is irrelevant. Unless you have some practical plan for escape this reality were in is the one we have to deal with, so instead of trying to convince ourselves its not real we should try to find out the rules of the reality were in so we can make the best of it.
 
 
Feb 5, 2014
How about repetition of humour? Groups of people find the same things funny. Do people who like Dilbert also like Garfield?
 
 
Feb 5, 2014
[If you were a software simulation, how would you know?

If you think your sensation of consciousness proves you are real, that's magical thinking.]

Close but not quite. You're right in saying theres no real way for us to know we're not software, but our-or at least my- sense of my own existence is enough for me to say Im real. Not real as in not software, real as in a sentient being and should be respected as such.
 
 
 
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