Comment on Are we real ?

folkert Tue, Nov 18, 2008
Fun to watch, though to me this searching for a "creator" is way too anthropomorphic and of course we can see reality as a computational process — it's the closest metaphor we have at the moment, but that will be updated immediately once we have a new set of metaphors, because things will always turn out to be a bit more complex than we imagine them to be at any given time. In some ways the back & forth about an intelligent designer or not feels too much like religious bickering and trying to get away from the church — people tirelessly searching for a purpose they can understand, one that fits in their current capacity of comprehension. This series seems to me conservative and dramatized: I think the nature of the universe is so vastly different from what we can suppose that it seems a waste of time and energy to work from the pompous notion that we are the most intelligent creature and our brains are the most complex system in the universe. I don't really buy that an intelligence like ours can exist inside an unintelligent environment.

Nick Bostrom said it in part 5: "these kinds of arguments show at the same time the limitations to the reach of the human intellect."

I also do not understand the idea that the laws of nature would be so perfectly fine-tuned that they exactly and precisely allow for our existence. It seems to me that things make a lot more sense when approached from the opposite angle where we exist precisely because the laws of nature are the way they are, not the other way around. We are a direct result, or symptom, of the processes that create reality. We are part of reality, not some stand-alone phenomenon that can miraculously exist inside the universe because its laws are so perfect for us — such an ontology can only lead to a creator.

We are just one experiment exploring the infinity of abstract possibility.

Thankfully Spaceweaver interprets it in a much more productive and inspired way:

Beyond this point, I think this simulation hypothesis does point towards the possibility that our own cognitive processes are inherently recursive. The so called computer upon which this whole universe is simulated is no other than our own mind.

One of the more interesting riffs on this subject that I've come across is Greg Egan's Permutation City, where in a computer-simulated reality, intelligent life in the form of complex swarms of insects has evolved as a result of an experiment by the inhabitants (digital copies of humans) — quoted from the synopsis:

The citizens of Permutation City were on the verge of making contact with the intelligent life that had evolved on Planet Lamberti. However, a town hall vote restricted the Autoverse scholars from making contact until the insects had independently hypothesized the existence of a creator.

Durham confides in Maria that he doesn't believe the insects will ever seriously consider the concept of a creator and intends to make forbidden first contact with the life of Planet Lamberti. He believes this is necessary because he's no longer able to freeze the Autoverse simulation and worried that the rules of their simulated universe are breaking down.

What he doesn't realize is that the intelligence of Planet Lamberti has exceeded the complexity of their own world, and that Lamberti has ceased to be defined as their simulation — they are now defined in terms of Autoverse physics rather than the other way around. Shortly after failing to convince Planet Lamberti of the creator theory, the insects discover a set of field equations with a stable solution for each of their universe's elements.

To the citizens' alarm, Permutation City and eventually the entire processor-network begins to collapse into nothingness. Their processor network is no longer necessary to the existence of the Autoverse; there is a better solution that has superseded it, rendering the processor network literally nonexistent. This is a kind of reverse ontological argument: rather than the subjective, conscious necessity of God virtually creating him, his non-necessity destroys him.