“Great” minds think the universe is a computer program


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Computer program

The matrix, the first episode, was a fun movie. But as a description of reality? Please.

Yet some of our foremost science and technology thinkers seriously propose that we live in a computer program. Of BBC story:

The idea that we are living in a simulation has some prominent advocates.

In June 2016, tech entrepreneur Elon Musk claimed the odds are “a billion to one” against us living in a “basic reality”.

Likewise, Google’s artificial intelligence guru Ray Kurzweil has suggested that “maybe our whole universe is a science experiment of a high school student in another universe.”

Far be it from me to question such rich and influential thinkers, but really? Where is the evidence ?

The idea is not only promoted by technologists:

Cosmologist Alan Guth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States has suggested that our entire Universe could be real while still being a kind of laboratory experiment. The idea is that our Universe was created by a super intelligence, much like biologists breed colonies of microorganisms.

Why think such a thing, asks the article. Well, because …we create sophisticated computer programs, so why not believe that we are just part of it?

Who can say that before long we will not be able to create IT agents – virtual beings – who show signs of consciousness? Advances in understanding and mapping the brain, along with the vast computational resources promised by quantum computing, make this more likely by the day …

Isn’t it likely, then, that another intelligence elsewhere in the Universe has already reached this point?

Such “virtual beings” would not be really “beings”. They wouldn’t “think” either. We are and do. Accepting this premise would force us to deny the flesh-and-blood reality of the real world, to deny any evidence in pursuit of a futuristic fantasy.

But why take such a premise seriously? An interesting answer (emphasis mine):

Some scientists argue that there is already good reason to believe that we are inside a simulation. One is the fact that our Universe seems designed.

Constants of nature, such as the forces of fundamental forces, have values who seem well tuned to make life possible. Even small changes would mean atoms would no longer be stable or stars could not form. Why this is so is one of the deepest mysteries in cosmology.

Uh-oh. When advocates of intelligent design explore the hypothesis that the universe and life are better explained by an intelligent cause than by random, aimless forces, they are shouted, attacked and ridiculed as somehow “anti- science ”.

For example, in Signature in cell, Stephen Meyer suggests:

Contrary to previous arguments in favor of smart design, Signature in cell presents a radical and comprehensive new case, revealing evidence not only of individual characteristics of biological complexity, but rather of a fundamental constituent of the universe: information.

Ridiculous, right?

Back to BBC story:

“The Universe can be thought of as a giant quantum computer,” explains Seth Lloyd of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “If we look at the ‘bowels’ of the Universe – the structure of matter on its smallest scale – then these bowels consist of nothing more than [quantum] bits subject to local digital operations.

This goes to the heart of the matter. If reality is only information, then we are neither more nor less “real” whether we are in a simulation or not. Either way, information is all we can be.

Oh. So why is the heterodox scientific hypothesis of ID despised, but this unverifiable conjecture is treated with all due respect?

I think it’s because embracing the matrix scenario and the idea of ​​infinite universes allows their followers to remain materialists in good standing. It is fascinating how important this belief is in some circles.

Image credit: physyst, via Pixabay.

Posted at The Corner.

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Gordon K. Morehouse