## Why we don't live in a simulation

• 147
Many people think that it is probable that we live in a simulation because there can be many simulations within any possible world that is complex enough to have many simulations. That is true but it doesn't necessitate or make probable that we live in a simulation.

This is because of something I call processor efficiency. I define it as the percentage of real time speed a processor can simulate itself in real time. We can see in practice that processors we have are very inefficient and many more "natural processes" that make up the processor are needed to simulate one of those processes. And a processor that can simulate its processes faster than it itself is, would cause absurdity since the processor it simulates could simulate a processor even faster etc... causing an infinitely fast processor.

Therefore most processes in any given time happen in non-simulated worlds since the combination of all the processes of all the simulated worlds inside any given world are less numerous than those inside the non-simulated worlds. Take minecraft for example - even if we can create the simplest possible processor with the simplest possible objects of that world it can only process a minuscule part of the processes of that minecraft-world.

Therefore if we don't specify our own processes and prove that they are somehow necessarily hugely more represented in simulated worlds than in non-simulated worlds, we most likely live in a non-simulated world. Any thoughts?
• 965
At first glance I expected this to be an argument that we would notice time running more slowly if we were in a simulated universe, and was all gearing up to argue that because our perception would be slowed too it wouldn't seem slower to us... but instead of that argument I expected, you made a pretty good one. :-)

This seems closely related to the notion that a deterministic system may still be impossible to predict if it is chaotic (in the mathematical sense), because for a sufficiently chaotic system the time it takes to run a simulation of that system forward in time, even on an ideal, maximally-fast computer would exceed the time it would take to watch to actual system just evolve in real time. (There is a known upper bound on computation speed, because like you imply, all computational processes must be carried out by what we see as physical processes: physical stuff does the computing, and it can only do so much of it). Basically the only reason that prediction of non-chaotic deterministic system is possible to begin with is because the data describing those systems is highly compressible, so we can do faster computations on a smaller amount of data and then project the result of those computations (the future of a simulation) back into the real world faster than it takes the real world to process the evolution of the physical system itself.

If I may sum up your argument in my own way: there may be more worlds the deeper you go in the stack of simulations, but there is more time per world higher in the stack, so if our 14 billion year old universe is a deep simulation as some say is probable, then the real world is much, much older than 14 billion years old, and so probably has (had) far more observers in it than in any simulated world, making us more likely to find ourselves one of those real observers than a simulated observer.
• 172
Even if we did live in a simulated world, the data relating to the simulated world would have to be stored somewhere, and this storage would have to be in something that was 'real'.

So something has to be 'real', but quite what it is, is unknown. Even if we live in a non-simulated world, we don't really know what is 'real' and I am thinking of the ephemeral string theories here.
• 965
That makes a good, analogous point. Simulated universes are not only necessarily younger, but also necessarily smaller, than their parent universes. So the higher up the stack you go, the more time and space there is, and assuming number of observers scales proportional to time and space for them to exist in, there are more observers in higher-level universes than lower-level ones.
• 147

If I may sum up your argument in my own way: there may be more worlds the deeper you go in the stack of simulations, but there is more time per world higher in the stack, so if our 14 billion year old universe is a deep simulation as some say is probable, then the real world is much, much older than 14 billion years old, and so probably has (had) far more observers in it than in any simulated world, making us more likely to find ourselves one of those real observers than a simulated observer.

I pretty much agree with this way of summing it up as I understand it.

Even if we did live in a simulated world, the data relating to the simulated world would have to be stored somewhere, and this storage would have to be in something that was 'real'.

So something has to be 'real', but quite what it is, is unknown. Even if we live in a non-simulated world, we don't really know what is 'real' and I am thinking of the ephemeral string theories here.

And I also pretty much agree with this, except the fact that I'm no expert on any form of string theories so can't say too much about that. (please elaborate if you can.)

Is there any disagreement about this argument? Annoying if I won't get a good argument about an argument because my argument is good enough :P
• 692
s there any disagreement about this argument? Annoying if I won't get a good argument about an argument because my argument is good enough :P

Im not up on the latest fashion on this topic, but in the 1970s it was a more reductionist view, that is, if we lived in a simulation, it would appear to have the same rules we observe in the physical world. So it doesn't make any significant difference, and can be removed by Osccam's razor as a consideration.

Yes in fact, simulation was around then, for example the SPICE circuit simulator, and people had made the same extrapolation that the apparent universe could be a simulation even then.

Also there were a couple of SF books about brains in bottles connected by a computer with people experiencing a virtual life that they didnt know wasn't 'real' even back then. Maybe one was by Pohl and Kornbluth. It was a long time ago, I can't remember
• 1.6k
Why we don't live in a simulation?

I shall attempt to answer the question directly.
1. Because we are not lucky enough.
2. Or else because we are too lucky.
3. We can't afford to.
4. We "live"? You call this a life?
5. The simulation rejected us.
6. Some smart alec computer programmer simulant turned the code, he fiddled with the basic command set, and did some other changes, so now the simulation lives in US.
7. Mass emigrating into the simulation was blocked by the Hungarian troops at their border.
• 1.6k
More answers by god must be atheist:

8. Some idiot forgot to send money in for the renewal of the service.
9. It's Saturday and the operators went on strike.
10. The simulator operators died of boredom.
11. Too much skin-art on porn stars... simulator operators no longer get stimulated
12. They followed prez Trump's activiites, and they paniced and turned off the machine and pulled the plug
13. The electricity bill was getting to be ridiculously high.
14. It's the forteen-billion years of religious observance of not running simulations that started yesterday.
15. Some human rights activist poured hydrochloric acid into the core of the machine.
16. Another simulation was more interesting and less expensive.
17. Due to overproduction, the number of simulators in operation exceeded the number of simulation operators.
• 147

1. Not lucky enough? just use hacks.
2. Too lucky? New game - hard mode - speedrun - no deaths allowed.
3. klapaucius or rosebud
4. Too self-aware... must exterminate
5. launch again... wait for the server to be not too busy
6. That f?%#ing bitch! Stole me code!
7. Not true. I swear.
8. Catherine! That f?%#ing bitch!
9. Only voting left again twice this election. Rising my vote for right from three to two.
10. U can't kill that which has no life.
12. I knew they wouldn't like this new quest... just play it to the end. It'll be... interesting.
13. Not true. I swear.
14. Can't confirm. Was born two and some years ago. Did 9000000000BCE even happen? Any thoughts?
15. That's why we started the internet to get activists to pour their energy into something that changes nothing. No acid gonna happen.
16. Another Musk fanboy... You are still locked in the lobby.
17. Gotta give em' jobs somehow.
• 2.5k
I Agree it is improbable that we live in a simulation:

1. Every particle in the observed universe (10^80) interacts with every other particle via gravity. Our most powerful computers cannot solve the 3 body problem, so how is it possible to compute the 10^80 body problem?

However:

2. With trillions of years of development of computer technology and a vastly better understanding of physics, maybe something is possible
3. If (like in Men in Black) the universe is much smaller than the owner of the simulation and his computer, then maybe something is possible
4. The old standby, there is but one base reality and untold numbers of simulations, so we must be in the latter

So I think it is still possible that we are living in a simulation.
• 965
3. If (like in Men in Black) the universe is much smaller than the owner of the simulation and his computer, then maybe something is possible
4. The old standby, there is but one base reality and untold numbers of simulations, so we must be in the latter

These two things are directly related to the OP.

The OP addresses the point 4 by saying that the odds of being in one of the many simulations is reduced by the fact that time in said simulations has to run slower than time in the base reality, so simulations are necessarily younger and have fewer observers in them.

Point 3 ends up with pretty much the same result: if simulated universes are necessarily smaller than the base reality, then fewer observers are likely to be in simulated universes.

We should expect to find ourselves among the most common class of observers, so if there's a lot more observers in the base reality either way, we should expect to find ourselves in the base reality.
• 2.5k
The OP addresses the point 4 by saying that the odds of being in one of the many simulations is reduced by the fact that time in said simulations has to run slower than time in the base reality, so simulations are necessarily younger and have fewer observers in them.

For example say the simulation runs at 60fps. But in base reality each frame takes 1 second to calculate. So each minute in base reality corresponds to a second in the simulation. But trillions have years have passed in base reality, so it would be possible for our 14 billion year old universe to be a simulation.

Point 3 ends up with pretty much the same result: if simulated universes are necessarily smaller than the base reality, then fewer observers are likely to be in simulated universes.

Each simulated universe could contain more simulated universes. So Faberge egg style nesting. Base reality contains say X individuals, each nested universe contains X smaller individuals.
• 965
For example say the simulation runs at 60fps. But in base reality each frame takes 1 second to calculate. So each minute in base reality corresponds to a second in the simulation. But trillions have years have passed in base reality, so it would be possible for our 14 billion year universe to be a simulation.

Yes, that is true. But then the base reality will have trillions of years worth of more history for more people to have lived, meaning that in all of reality (including the simulation of our universe and everything outside of it), most of the observers would have been out there in the base reality, and we would be really really (un?)lucky to have been some of the relative few in this simulation. That's the same thing as saying it's really unlikely that we are in a simulation.

Each simulated universe could contain more simulated universes. So Faberge egg style nesting. Base reality contains say X individuals, each nested universe contains X smaller individuals.

Every individual takes a certain minimum amount of space. We can simulate very simplified large spaces inside of small computing boxes, but to simulate greater and greater detail requires a device capable of storing and processing greater and greater information, and information cannot be packed infinitely densely. To perfectly simulate X quadrillion fundamental particles will ultimately take >X billion fundamental particles to do. So sub-simulations have to either get smaller, or less detailed, in either case putting a limit on how many observers can be inside of them, requiring that there be fewer observers in simulations than in base reality, and so more likely that any random observer should find themselves in the base reality.
• 2.5k
Well I agree it is unlikely we are in a simulation. But say that base reality has a 100^100 more particles than our universe. Then that leaves a lot of room for nested simulations. And individuals can be suitably complex way down into the simulation hierarchy before they start to become 'pixelated'.

Quantum entanglement would have an explanation if we are living in a simulation, so I'm not willing to rule it out completely.
• 1.1k
One argument that I find compelling is a meta-argument, It's the currency, or the contemporariness, or the topicality of the simulation hypothesis that I find suspect.

In ancient Rome they had great waterworks. They thought about the mind in terms of flow. I've read that the word nous, for soul, and pneumatic, come from the same root, from the idea that mind is a flow.

After Newton we thought the universe was a machine.

And now that we live in the age of computation, we think the mind is an algorithm.

What are the odds that we, of all the generations that have ever lived and that ever will live, are privileged to be the ones to discover the ultimate nature of the mind and of the universe?

Slim and none, I'd say.

Why should the world or the mind be an algorithm? The first thing Turing discovered after he defined computation, is that there are naturally stated problems whose solution cannot be computed, even in principle, even with arbitrary amounts of computational power.

I am one who believes that the mathematical phenomenon of noncomputability is the key to the next revolution in physics. I don't think you can explain the world with algorithms. And again ... what a coincidence that would be if it turned out to be true. One day the Web explodes into mainstream culture, and the next day everyone decides, "Oh yeah we must be algorithms too."

I am not a believer.
• 965
Computers are a kind of machine. A kind of machine that can actually be implemented as flows of water, as can many kind of machines (flows or water can carry and transform flows of energy, which can in turn carry and transform information). So to me it looks like mere refinement of concepts over time, not replacement of them. Machines in general are abstractions of the specific kind of (pneumatic) mechanism the Romans were working with. Computation is a further abstraction of what machines do. What a surprise, as we understand the world better and better and build new things utilizing that refined knowledge, things that get more and more like ourselves, we figure that we ourselves must be some kind of whatever the newest kind of refinement is. And so far as I'm concerned we're right, we've always been right, we just keep getting more and more right.
• 2.3k
I'm not sure I follow your reasoning entirely. Would a simulation require to calculate everything that was and is? Would the fact that it only needs to render observations make it easy enough? Or did you take that already into account?
• 224
I'm wondering if there may be a contradiction buried in the simulation proposal, on the other hand it may be that I am not grasping what is at stake. So, here's a rough outline of the objection for you all to shoot down or elaborate on:
The general proposal of simulation theory can be captured in the following statement:
P: The perceived world is a simulation caused by some process or thing in an independently existing real world.
If we understand that statement, we understand the subordinator clause "the real world". Where do we obtain our understanding of that phrase? Knowledge of linguistic structure might be innate, but the substance of language, the meanings of words, is something we develop as we are guided through and interact with the world around us. The world we are guided through and interact with is the perceived world. So, if we understand "the real world" it's meaning must be entwined with the meaning of "the percieved world" such that, although in some cases the connection between them may seem loosened, for example with optical illusions etc, "the real world" means at least "the perceived world".
So what? Well on the one hand statement P requires that the process or thing doing the simulating exists independently of the perceived world, in order to bring that world into existence, and on the other it requires that process or thing to exist IN the perceived world, through the conceptual connection between the perceived and the real world, and so cannot be independent of it. The contradiction then is that the simulator both is and is not independent of the perceived world. We have plenty of good reasons for thinking that contradictions are not true, therefore P is not true.

One way of getting around this would require that simulation theorists be able to construct a meaning for "the real world" that divorced it from even the slightest conceptual tie to the perceived world. I noticed in a number of commentaries above the term "real" was scarequoted, so perhaps this is the way to go. However, if that is the chosen resolution of the issue, the question then becomes what possible evidence do we have that there is any such thing as a real world at all, over and above the perceived world? All the empirical evidence, by definition, is bound down to the perceived world. Someone above made a similar point I think that it could make no difference to us whether there is or is not such a "real" world, although I'm trying to get to a stronger claim that if that is the case then the proposal is either contradictory nonsense or totally vacuous nonsense.
• 3
Yeah but the information available to us (if we are in a simulation) including all the laws of physics that present us with the upper limits of computational speed, could have been created in a reality where the laws of physics are totally different.

For example take any video game you can think of and think of all the unrealistic physics?

pffhorest's argument is good, but if base reality has far more particles and thus we assume far more observers, all it does is increase the chances of you being higher up the simulation line

Its is more likely you are in base reality than simulation 1 and more likely you are in simulation 1 than simulation 2 etc because of the smaller size

But it is not more likely that you are in base reality compared to ANY simulation, because the size disparity is unknown,

If base reality can generate a simulation that is 99% the size of base reality, using techniques to harness energy that are just unfathomable to us, and simulation 2 is 99% the size of simulation 1, obviously youd assume the technology in each simulation isnt as good as the previous ones so the percentage would drop...the likelyhood of you being in base reality or the first few simulations is far higher than you being in the billionth simulation.

When i refer to simulation number i mean tech jump, like if simulation 1 generated 6 quadrillion simulations, those 6 quadrillion simulations are all simulation 2, because if max amount of particles is less than 100% you couldnt have multiple simulations succeeding 100% BR.

If only base reality and simulation one existed, its an almost 50/50 chance you are in either, slightly favouting BR, add all the other simulations within simulations and it favours simulation.

However if we are only using the laws of physics in our reality as part of the argument then sure agreed its more likely we are in BR by a huge amount.

Jacob
• 459
Unless 'Living within a simulation' is defined in such a way as to be falsifiable, the hypothesis is meaningless. And yet it is imaginable that the falsification of any particular simulation hypothesis can be simulated under an alternative simulation hypothesis. Therefore it doesn't make sense to ask the question in a general absolute sense.
• 1.1k
Computers are a kind of machine. A kind of machine that can actually be implemented as flows of water,

Conflating the discrete with the continuous; the computable with the noncomputable.
• 965
Pneumatic digital computers are an actual thing. Voltage is continuous too, that doesn't stop us from using "high voltage" and "low voltage" as discrete states, switching between them, and making digital computers out of that. The same can be done with water, air, basically anything that flows.
• 1.1k
Pneumatic digital computers are an actual thing. Voltage is continuous too, that doesn't stop us from using "high voltage" and "low voltage" as discrete states, switching between them, and making digital computers out of that. The same can be done with water, air, basically anything that flows.

Right. You can SIMULATE a continuous system with a discrete one. But their fundamental nature is different.

A flow, as conceived by the ancients and also by Newton, is a continuous path. If you imagine a continuous path from 0 to 1, it passes through all the uncountably many real numbers, including the noncomputable ones.

A computable path from 0 to 1, by contrast, can only pass through the computable real numbers, of which there are only countably many. No algorithm can represent or express a noncomputable number.

But we're a little off topic. I expressed an opinion as to why I don't believe in the miraculous contemporariness of the simulation hypothesis. You didn't actually comment on that.
• 965
Right. You can SIMULATE a continuous system with a discrete one. But their fundamental nature is different.

That's not what I'm talking about. I'm saying that you can use a continuous flow to implement a discrete computer. Which was my original point, in response to your point about people's ideas of what reality is changing over time. Machines more generally to computers more specifically is a more obvious step, and the main thrust of my point ("everything is computation" is just an evolution of "everything is a machine", not really a replacement of the idea), but as a side point, "everything is a flow" generalizes into machines (which are fundamentally about transforming flows of energy from one form to another), of which computers are, again, a more specific type.
• 1.1k
the main thrust of my point ("everything is computation" is just an evolution of "everything is a machine",

I stand by what I wrote and you didn't change my mind. I agree that you can SIMULATE continuous systems with discrete ones, and SIMULATE discrete systems with continuous ones.

This doesn't bear on the contemporariness of the idea that we're computers or the universe is a computer. A computer means something very specific: an algorithm, or "effective procedure," as defined by Turing in 1936. We are not algorithms. But whether we are or aren't, your point -- valid though it may be -- doesn't bear on the question.
• 965
I'm not trying to change your mind about whether or not the mind is algorithmic, I'm just commenting on the progression of technologies-people-think-the-mind-is-like that you mentioned.
• 1.1k
I'm not trying to change your mind about whether or not the mind is algorithmic, I'm just commenting on the progression of technologies-people-think-the-mind-is-like that you mentioned.

Ok. I just don't think that when Newton thought of a point moving through continuous space he was thinking, "I could simulate this with a computer." We know he wasn't thinking that.
• 147
I'm not sure I follow your reasoning entirely. Would a simulation require to calculate everything that was and is? Would the fact that it only needs to render observations make it easy enough? Or did you take that already into account?

If a simulation leaves anything that affects ones observations in any way irregardless of how indirect not processed, then that could be observed and differentiated by us since our observations would not be exactly the same as they would be in a non-simulated world. And the existence of things that do not affect our observations in any way is highly controversial.

So, if you want to go that route and propose that things that do not affect our observations in any way exist and that that somehow makes my argument less relevant, go ahead. You might get somewhere, but please start by demonstrating that unobservable things exist. Then demonstrate that they can be used to make a processor to simulate a world which doesn't have to simulate those unobservable things since otherwise they can't help the fact that there are always more observable processes in non-simulated worlds than there are in simulated worlds.

This was actually taken into account in the original argument since this is pretty much trying to demonstrate that our own processes/observations could be more frequent in simulations than they are in non-simulated worlds. If you can demonstrate that, it does work and my argument simply made the demonstration of that necessary.

Therefore if we don't specify our own processes and prove that they are somehow necessarily hugely more represented in simulated worlds than in non-simulated worlds, we most likely live in a non-simulated world. Any thoughts?
• 2.3k
If a simulation leaves anything that affects ones observations in any way irregardless of how indirect not processed, then that could be observed and differentiated by us since our observations would not be exactly the same as they would be in a non-simulated world. And the existence of things that do not affect our observations in any way is highly controversial.

This assumes hardcore causality though. We already know that prediction is epistemically not always possible, which means that for certain processes we predict outcomes in terms of probability. This is an issue for things such as complex systems, chaos theory and quantum indeterminancy. I was not primarily suggesting anything about things that do not affect our observations but things not being relevant for our observations as they fall within the scope of probabilities. We'd never notice the absence of simulation of such objects.

Second, I don't think it's about "things" either but about qualities. How does the quality "weight" influence lenght and width of an object? How does smell do that? What I'm suggesting is that when I look at something from a distance, the simulation would not have to render weight or smell. The tree falling in the forest where there's no one to hear it, doesn't need to make a sound. It does not need to render completely anything happening beyond my field of observation. In more general terms, anything outside my reference frame doesn't need to be fully rendered.

Another point I'd like to raise is when I look at Pfhorrest summary:

If I may sum up your argument in my own way: there may be more worlds the deeper you go in the stack of simulations, but there is more time per world higher in the stack, so if our 14 billion year old universe is a deep simulation as some say is probable, then the real world is much, much older than 14 billion years old, and so probably has (had) far more observers in it than in any simulated world, making us more likely to find ourselves one of those real observers than a simulated observer.

The simulation doesn't have to have a history of actual 14 billion years and it certainly doesn't have to provide qualities for that history that couldn't be observed at the time or afterwards. So you're left with light, radiation, gravity and such and the rest can be ignored. Second, the world simulating ours doesn't have to answer to our physical laws and as such claims about the behaviour of time or the ability of computers in such a world or any other physical law is basically guesswork.

In the final analysis though the question is moot. We cannot talk about the really real (eg. the non-simulated world), only the real (eg. a simulated world if it were true). We will always end up with a contradiction. Either we live in a real non-simulated world and a cup means a non-simulated cup, or we live in a simulated world and cup means a simulated cup. Depending on the world we live in, we mean different things. To see what I mean, go to 0:52 in this clip:

• 965
The argument that we're addressing here is the one that says that since we could in principle simulate our world, and that simulation of our world could in principle simulate itself, and so on and so on ad infinitum, it's mostly likely that we are in a simulation, of a world like ours, and not in the "real" world-like-this that we think we're in. That argument does assume that the "outside" reality, if there is one, has physical laws like our own. My (summary of the OP's) argument is a counterargument to that, and so accepts its own assumptions and shows how they defeat it.
• 411
What leads me to believe we exist in a simulated reality is the improbability that irreducible particles (quarks) behave in intelligent ways, with no component parts to allow that sort of high level functioning. They need to be instructed to behave a certain way, by some sort of programming language, developed by some higher level entity, and powered by an as of yet undetectable ethereal force. The creating entities and the force they are using are of course currently beyond comprehension.
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