Are we living in a computer simulation?

16GRAY-master495This NYT article, “Is the Universe a Simulation?”, discusses the argument that it is statistically probable that we’re all living in a computer simulation, and that what we call mathematics is just us deducing some of the code that runs the simulation.

In some ways this strikes me as pure semantics, but it’s also pretty fascinating to contemplate.

“It seems spooky to suggest that mathematical entities actually exist in and of themselves,” Edward Frankel writes. “But if math is only a product of the human imagination, how do we all end up agreeing on exactly the same math?”

Galactic center

Rad photo of the Milky Way galactic center, NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day:

A Wide Field Image of the Galactic Center 
Image Credit & CopyrightIvan Eder

Explanation: From Sagittarius to Scorpius, the central Milky Way is a truly beautiful part of planet Earth’s night sky. The gorgeous region is captured in this wide field image spanning about 30 degrees. The impressive cosmic vista, taken in 2010, shows off intricate dust lanes, bright nebulae, and star clusters scattered through our galaxy’s rich central starfields. Starting on the left, look for the Lagoon and Trifidnebulae, the Cat’s Paw, while on the right lies the Pipe dark nebula, and the colorful clouds of Rho Ophiuchi and Antares (right). The actual center of our Galaxy lies about 26,000 light years away and can befound here.

Implied spaces

I saw this video today and thought it was pretty interesting:

The article on NPR that introduced me to the video says, “Brains, you may not realize, make arbitrary assumptions to keep our world intact. Sugihara knows exactly where those assumptions pop into place.”

This reminded me of Implied Spaces, a really terribly written novel by a fellow named Walter Jon Wiliams that has stayed with me nonetheless. I was fascinated by an idea presented in the novel: The titular “implied spaces,” which are portions of manmade planets where ecosystems or types of terrain give way to one another — or, more accurately, the liminal zone in between these different spaces. There is no code to tell the planet what to put in between spaces, just what goes in the spaces themselves, hence you get the “implied” spaces.

Williams doesn’t really explore these implied spaces in much depth, he just describes them as mostly empty, barren or jarring features of the planets and uses them as a metaphor for the corresponding liminal zones in the technologically-tweaked brains of a post-singularity humanity who can come back from death by simply uploading their latest mind-dump to a new body. There are thus many liminal zones in people’s memories, and even in their very existence — the time between their latest backup and a particular body’s death, the time between death and rebirth, the time between rebirth and the next backup of their brain, etc. But the book mainly deals with how a sinister force exploits those gaps in people’s super advanced techno-minds to brainwash a bunch of people, and the intergalactic warfare that (I’m sure you can imagine) is provoked by these nefarious actions.

I say this knowing exactly how nerdy it will sound: I’m real into the idea of liminal spaces, ever since I first learned about them in a book of literary theory. I like that Williams’ novel was about someone exploiting liminal or “implied” spaces in a future people’s brains, just like in this video Sugihara exploits the liminal zone — the no-man’s land between perception and reality — in our modern brains.