Micah Redding — faith in humanity's future

In this series:

The Most Powerful Being and the Simulation Argument

As a disclaimer, this is a thought experiment, not an attempt at a scientific argument.

Okay, so continuing my thoughts on the Simulation Argument, I’d like to throw in some possible additions to it.

The More Powerful Being Argument

  1. If more powerful beings create more simulations
  2. And less powerful beings create fewer simulations
  3. Then we are probably in a simulation created by a more powerful being.

The hole in this argument is that it is possible for a “long-tail” to be in effect, where the mass of less powerful beings create more simulations in total than the total number of simulations created by the more powerful beings. Someone better equipped mathematically will have to help me out here.

But I think that this argument would still hold under either of the following conditions:

A. If the power distribution follows an exponential curve, where the last being in the sequence would be more powerful than all the other beings combined.

B. If the power distribution follows the Pareto principle, and 20% of the beings hold 80% of the power.

If an entity’s ability to create simulations advances with technological progress, and if Moore’s Law continues to hold, then we’d have condition A. If resources are allocated according to prevailing standards, and that continues to hold indefinitely, then we’d have condition B.

We can take this further.

The End of Time Argument

  1. If the number of simulations increases exponentially over time
  2. Then we are probably in a simulation created very near the end of time.

The Most Powerful Being Argument

  1. If the most powerful being creates more simulations than every other being combined
  2. Then we are probably in a simulation created by the most powerful being.

These both, of course, are operating on the basis of condition A.

And finally,

The Infinite Being Argument

  1. If there exists a being (or beings) who creates an infinite number of simulations
  2. Then we are probably in a simulation created by an infinite being.

Could such a being exist? I have no idea. I have no idea how we would establish that, other than looking at the broad scope of the multiverse, and suggesting that it might be possible.

But these arguments as a whole seem suggestive to me, indicating that if we are in a simulation, it is probably one created by an extremely powerful being near the end of time. And that would explain why we don’t keep getting “Out Of Memory” errors.

Next: Some Simulation Argument flowcharts



How would we know if we were getting out of memory errors? Do the character's in The Sims know when your computer gets an out of memory error or even when the computer reboots? I don't think they do. They're not programmed to be aware of these errors. When the computer crashes or reboots either the sim characters are not conscious, or time doesn't exist for them during the reboot. From their perspective nothing out of the ordinary happened.


Matt, you're exactly right, we wouldn't know. I was really just kind of joking about that. However, it does *seem* as if our universe is pretty big, runs pretty smoothly, and at a very high resolution. Not to say that the *seeming* couldn't be simulated as well. But if the arguments I make above have any validity, then it would support the idea that our universe is run as a pretty complete simulation - ie, is pretty *real*. This then explains our feeling that we aren't in a game, that the world has real substance - it's such a high-level simulation there is no meaningful distinction between reality and simulation.

Lincoln Cannon:

Noah, these are interesting thoughts. I like the "More" argument. The "Most" and "Infinite" arguments don't sit as well with me, not because of any logical errors, but rather because I don't like the underlying assumptions that are necessary to consider it possible for there to be a "Most" or "Infinite". They are flip sides of the same limited coin, and I have esthetic problems with limits - which is not to say that I can prove there are none. Finally, you made me think of this passage of Mormon scripture, which I love but do not interpret particularly literally: http://lds.org/scriptures/pgp/abr/3.19?lang=eng#18


I don't know if I would say there isn't any meaningful distinction between reality and our simulated world. For one we can't exit our simulated world and re-enter it to let anyone know if there is a difference or not, we have no experience of the truly real world to compare our own to. Perhaps the real world is a million times more real than the world we're currently living in. Actually it is much more likely that the real world is a lot more real than our world. (All of this is, of course, assuming our world is a simulated world.)


Actually that would make a good additional argument here. If a larger world generates more simulations than a smaller world, we might suspect that we are being simulated by a world significantly larger than our own. The difference here is that, with the exception of my *Infinite Being Argument*, all of the above arguments are plausible within the existence we know. This larger, more complex world you're arguing for here, requires that we assume a broader set of existences. I'm fully comfortable with that, given my acceptance of the [Multiverse](http://micahredding.com/blog/2010/02/01/life-the-multiverse-and-everything), but we should note the distinction. But to address the larger point I was getting at, the complexity of the world we live in would suggest that we are not being simulated by our *near descendants*, but by beings very large and powerful. If the world we found ourselves in was very pixelated, it would suggest a simulation from our very near future. The higher the complexity of our world, the more we would suspect it is a simulation from a distant future (or reality).


Lincoln, it took me a bit to realize what you were saying: there is (hopefully) no Most, because there is no end. So let's consider this. If there is no end, then we're looking at an infinite series of ever-increasing power (and therefore, simulations). This puts us in a similar situation to the *Infinite Being Argument* - probability would suggest that we are being simulated arbitrarily high on the "great chain of being". I don't know how to make sense of that, except to suggest that this starts to look like a *convergent being*, where the series itself can be considered to be progressing towards a limit, and that limit is itself being-like. [Gödel, Escher, Bach](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6del,_Escher,_Bach) has a very nice skit analyzing that sort of thing.