The Simulation Argument

Modern philosophy and modern science have teamed up to develop a new theory of existence known as the “simulation argument”. It contends that nothing in our universe actually “exists” but everything, including the universe itself and everyone in it, are the products of a massively powerful computer simulation established by some incredibly advanced civilization that began eons before us. The exponentially higher levels of computing power this civilization has achieved has lead to computers that can simulate artificial intelligence to the point of having conscious agents “living” within the simulation..and of course, how would we know if it were true? All of our “thoughts” would simply be processes, processing on a server somewhere, complete with all of the sensory perceptions that we think we are experiencing. http://www.simulation-argument.com/simulation.html
Science, interestingly enough, has contributed some thought-provoking contributionsto this theory: http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2012-10/11/universe-computer-simulation

The flaw in such a view is that consciousness can be reduced to “computations”. Computers, no matter how smart they become, cannot be shown to have consciousness. Even futurist dreams of one day being able to digitize the complete contents of your brain (data and/or structure)  and then eventually upload it into a robot after your original body has died, do not seem sound when you consider that what you really want to continue is your consciousness, not just your brain’s information – after all, even if you could digitize your brain – if you uploaded the information into a robot before you died, what then? There is another “you” there, but “you” #1 would not have two consciousnesses. “You”, it seems, are tied to one consciousness, and there doesn’t seem to be any way around it.

That said, let us assume for a moment that we do exist as processes in a massive computer simulation. Think about what that means about the creator of the simulation and the power he/she/they have. Our creators – our God – have every right to “test” us to see if we will choose “good”, and have every right to punish what they consider to be “bad” activity. They could, with the utmost of ease, choose to extend the processes of the good people indefinitely, and terminate the processes of the bad people. They could even write into the simulation a wholly unique conscious agent – one patterned after themselves, one that always demonstrated right choices because that was its purpose – one that knew it’s purpose was to point to the creator, and could claim to “be” the creator, and all the while was controlled or guided by the creator because they shared an open connection. The creator watching and guiding the agent would be able to cause miracles to corroborate the claims of the agent and bring about faith in the people who cared to pay attention. Although, in this example, God wouldn’t have had to send in his perfect agent to give an example of good, there is nothing stopping him from doing so –  to give his “processes” a gift to help them along in the choosing. The creator could even love his creations very deeply.

An interesting side note to this theory is that repeated attempts to call out to the creator to “prove” himself would go as they in fact do – largely unheeded (when grand gestures or comprehensive proofs are asked for anyway) because, after all, the simulation is still a test to see who will choose good without complete knowledge of the outer reality. Without proof, however, there still exists something of incredible value – evidence, signs: the complexity of the universe, the miracles and power present in the world, the intuition stirred up by the subtle signposts left by an architect, and the lives that have been changed by these. Regardless of the details of the “outer world”, always follow the signs .

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One Response to The Simulation Argument

  1. TMB2 says:

    I find it ironic that you state the ‘modern science’ has contributed to this hypothesis, because to take seriously the idea that we (if there is a ‘we) live in a simulation completely guts science of any of it’s power.

    The principle of induction, upon which science has been built, has no reason to be valid if such a hypothesis is believed. As an example: The universe is thought to be 14.6 billion years old. Why? Because the blah blah blah can be projected backward to such a point in time, given such and such are constant. But if the simulation argument were to be believed, why would we think that there was a distant past? Why not equally rationally believe that the simulation is tiny subset of a universe, started not at t=0 but rather t=x, where x is five minutes ago? This would give the ‘outside’ world a great savings in computing time. Why model the whole compressor when you can fake the boundary conditions?

    Additionally, why believe constants are actually constant? why not a step function? Why not chaos? Such experiments are carried out everyday in this world. Even if our uniform and repeated experience says that the gravitational constant is x, what guarantee do we have that it would have been the same in the distant past (if the distant past was actually simulated). The simulation argument, if believed, makes the uniformity of natural causes an irrationality. Science is dead.

    Worse, though, I’m sorry to say is your third paragraph, which talks about terminating the bad personal processes, and indefinitely extending the good personal processes. I understand that the context of the paragraph may have called for simplicity but, my dear reader: that is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ in any sense. God does not save good people from termination – good people don’t need saving! Rather, God looks at those who hate him, spending their lives on that which is offensive to him, and, out of his depths of mercy, acts to save his enemies from their justified end: Hell. Jesus the Christ absorbed the just debt that we owe God as penalty for our innumerable evil deeds. God saves the bad people.

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