Are we living in a computer simulation?

Think back to your earliest memory.

Or indeed any childhood memory.  Something vivid, where you can shut you eyes and  remember every sight, sound, smell in crystal clear detail..

Got it?

OK here’s the crazy thing..

You weren’t there.

Well at least not physically.  Of course, as we know, the billions of cells which make up a human body are in constant states of death and birth, and so it can be fairly accurately estimated that about once every seven years,  the cycle has completed itself and so not a single one of the cells which formed you seven years ago actually exists now.

So why do we remember?

It’s basically a mystery.

What’s even more amazing is the rate at which brain cells die and are born, your brain itself is completely regenerated even sooner.  Something like once a year or so.  So our memories might not even exist in first generation form at all,  they could simply be memories of memories (copies of copies) if you like. 

This would of course explain why I can never find that really important thing I put safely in the super easy-to-remember place that time (I’m not sure how long) ago.. (I can’t even recall exactly what it was even to be honest)

Anyway, I digress.. go back to the childhood memory..

In fact pick something more recent, a few years ago, months ago maybe,  hell, even yesterday will do.

Now here’s the even crazier thing..

You weren’t there either.

In fact you’re probably not even here now. (maybe)
The reason I bring all this up is someone was asking me the other day about my piece ‘Ancestor Simulation’ (I believe their actual words were “what kind of a name is that for a piece of  music?!’),  so I thought I’d explain the inspiration..  Fellow geeks; I apologise in advance, you no doubt already know this one, so this blog will be rather hackneyed.. If you haven’t heard of ‘Ancestor Simulation’ though read on…

Now you’ve probably seen “The Matrix”, so you’re already more familiar with this theory than you realise.

“Ancestor Simulation Theory” (to give it its full, and even less title-friendly name), was first thought up by a theologist bod named Nick Bostrom, who also has many interesting ideas about how the world is going to end in one catastrophic disaster after another (always a good bedtime read)

Anyway, worryingly it’s been very hard for anyone to disprove his arguement on Ancestor Simulation, and it is certainly one of the more rational arguements for an all empowering universal creator of some description.  I’ll explain it now very simply in case you non-geeks haven’t heard it before :
The conclusion of the arguement (based largely on probability) is that at least one of the following propositions must be true:

“(1) almost all civilisations at our level of development become extinct before become technologically mature

(2) The fraction of technologically mature civilisations which are interested in creating ancestor simulations is almost zero

(3) You are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.”

The supposition is that we have a choice of a few destinies, given enough timescale.  We either become extinct (either we blow ourselves up, or nature takes care of this for us),  or we and our technology evolve to the point where we reach a ‘posthuman’ stage in our evolution, where running real-life an acurate simulation of our universe is not only possible, but the kind of trivial thing one could do on a mobile phone whilst waiting for the no 29 bus.  Now assuming we have survived, and we are indeed interested in running a computer simulation with our (by then) vast amounts of computing power, then there will be simulated minds just like ours, and working out the numbers there would actually be vastly more simulated universes (in fact possibly billions) than the one real one. And with each universe simulation containing billions of minds, the odds of you or your individual mind being a real one are billions to one against. Scary stuff.

Now this may sound like nonsense, but think about how computing power has increased over the last say, 50 years,  and for the purposes of the theory,  timescale is irrelevant – it could take us a million years to reach that point, it wouldn’t matter.

Of course this very idea, this blog even, could be what’s known here in geekworld as an ‘Easter Egg’,  ie a subtle clue from the programmers that all is not quite what it seems.  But then, maybe, just maybe, we are indeed ‘real’ after all (whatever that means).


*By the way, there is no Sex in this blog at all.  I simply put that in the title to attract your attention, and get you to read all that boring stuff above in the vein hope of a little titilation. Sorry.

**There is however one Lie,  which is of course is explained above

 more from KK at :

Life on Mars ?

In just over two months time, NASA’s (aptly named) Phoenix lander will reach Mars, marking the beginning of its many reconnaissance missions in it’s ambitious (but entirely do-able) 30 year plan for a manned mission to the infamous red planet.   Just short of a century since we landed on the moon, we are to set foot on an alien planet for the first time in history.  It’s quite a daunting prospect.  Though with the way things are going here on Earth,  it is likely to be our main chance at a longterm future.  The age of space exploration has truly begun,  and (if we are not stupid enough to blow ourselves up in the meantime.. and lets face it nationalistic shows of military force are the main driving force behind such projects ironically), it is – fingers crossed – likely to be the main thing our era is remembered for.   If we are still around,  our grand-children’s children (perhaps even our grandchildren) will undoubtedly be the first settlers on other worlds.

Assuming we maintain world peace (a first in human history), now we have the combined power to destroy ourselves entirely,  with massive overpopulation problems and environmental catastrophies to come (together with massive advances in technology) the colonisation of other worlds is likely to become a fairly exotic, though essentially normal , everyday and almost mundane activity (much like say, a typical British family relocating to Spain).  I’m sure awful reality shows on the subject will be made and transmitted on whatever medium is the fashion at the time  (I would suggest the title ‘Life On Mars’ but that’s been done)

By the way, if this all sounds a little ‘star trek’ or something to you, you probably watch too much TV  (or follow popular thought-fashion a little too closely – the two things are often connected).   Try and get some perspective and shift your paradigm a little.  This is all hugely significant to us all.  Yes, due to the very public space race in the 1960s, and the popularity of science fiction generally (especially in the 1950s and 1970s),  there is a tendency to almost consider such thought as dated or fantasy even,  but there is a certain reality to it and it is the one thing, along with the advent of high technology, which will define our generation.

On a separate though kinda related subject,  the solution to the energy crisis also lies in nearby space.  Most likely in solar energy : a large farm of super-panels covering a portion of the (relatively empty and unused) Sahara desert would create enough energy to power the ENTIRE world, and is sustainable,  or solar panels on satellite ‘power stations’ in orbit  could generate around 6 times their equivalent on Earth (as there is no atmosphere for the sunlight to filter though),  where even less infrastructure, space and environmental damage would be necessary.

Thinking bigger though,  more energy goes to waste (entirely naturally) in our galaxy than humankind has used in it’s entire lifetime every single second.  If we could somehow harness this energy (fighting our primative urges to weaponise it of course) we would not only have many billion times the energy we need, without major environmental damage,  but we could perhaps use this abundant energy to develop and power the next generation of transport technology,  and like our pioneering ancestors here on Earth, set sail.. but this time to the stars.