We talked about simulation theory today.
Walking long distances with another person has an odd way of bringing up subjects that rarely get brought up. We put ourselves in these uncomfortable situations, whipping ourselves to a lather for no tangible purpose, and as a result our minds are freed from their typical resistance to the unknown and the atypical.
So we talk about it. Me, my grandfather, and two lovely strangers from Vermont. Relics of the old hippie days when folks protested Vietnam and became painters, back when society cared about art and when people didn’t cynically dismiss anyone who pursued the dreams we all have but are too chicken-shit to reach for.
Simulations, that is. “Simulation Theory”. Nick Bostram is one of the leading thinkers surrounding the topic, but a lot of other smart people have thrown their intellectual weight into the arena. Elon Musk, Bill Gates (by the way, other than being “tech guys”, these two have about as little in common as my butthole and the Sahara Desert. Which is to say, a bit, but not enough to justify lumping them into a category together).
The idea here is that we can make two assumptions with a fair degree of certainty:
- Computers will continue to improve over time
- If we could simulate a universe, we would
Still with me?
If computers continue to improve over time, and humans manage not to exterminate ourselves, we will almost certainly create a computer capable of perfectly simulating a universe similar to the one we currently find ourselves in.
Given these two assumptions, which are near to 100% certainty given what we currently understand about computer science and human nature, then we will inevitably create a universe inside of a computer which, from the inside, would be indistinguishable from our own.
So this is the inevitable fact of this shit, right here, OK?
Humans are going to do one of two things:
A. Die in a spectacularly horrible apocalypse
B. Create a brand new universe inside a computer
Right, now here’s where the fucked up part starts.
If we know that one of these two outcomes is inevitable, in the event that a human-like species were to gain sufficiently advanced technology, then we can assume that, perhaps, this has already happened.
That may seem like a stretch, but consider this:
If we, in fact, did create a simulated universe… Would we stop there?
No. We would make another one, a bigger one, a better one, a whole fucking cloud of universes. Why? Well… Imagine that in this simulated universe, we can play with time any way we want. We can look backwards to the very beginning to see how new universes really form. We can play with the physics to see if the way we understand the universe actually works the way we think it does. And, most interestingly of all, we could simulate the rise and fall of civilizations.
We could watch apes become men, men become supermen, supermen become Gods, before everything finally fades into oblivion. All of this happens in the blink of an eye, viewed from the outside. Millions, billions, trillions of years worth of information, created from nothing. In a world where data is the most valuable commodity there is, the first simulated universe would be the most valuable invention of all time.
We’re left with a rather grim conclusion.
Unless we are living in the first universe, we are probably living in one universe among billions.
Also, our universe is only about 11 billion years old. There is some debate over how long the universe will stick around for, until the inevitable heat death that dooms all existence to eternal blackness, but most scholars agree it will be somewhere between 100 trillion years and another number so fucking massive you can’t even pretend to wrap your head around it.(if you’re curious, 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years, or “10^100” if you want to be equally confused but also want to look at the number without your eyes going out of focus)
By even the most conservative of estimates, we are living in an infant universe. Our planet is 4.3 billion years old. That’s almost half the time the entire universe has existed. What scenario is more likely, that we have come to exist out of nowhere precisely at the beginning of the universe, or that we are the simulation of the beginning of the universe in which our creators lived?
What I’m trying to say here…
Just, chill out. Y’know? Smell a flower. Drink a glass of wine with someone you love. Enjoy this simulacrum of a life we’ve been placed in. It’s (maybe) the only one you’re going to get, and it’s not real anyway so fuck it. Do what makes you happy.