Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Matrixology - Are you really a Sim?

The New York Times recently reported on a new theory held by Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford University, that there is a 20% chance that our world is really the Sims. "Some computer experts" (which ones, I ask you?) have projected that, based on trends in processing power, we will have a computer system by mid-century that "could run “ancestor simulations” of their evolutionary history by creating virtual worlds inhabited by virtual people with fully developed virtual nervous systems." This boils down to making us into an extended game of the Sims. Unlike the Matrix, where people could disconnect, "wake up" from their simulation, it would be nothing be a virtual network made of nothing but virtual brainpower.

Now, let me ask you, 20% chance?! I mean, seriously. It's a very intriguing idea and appeals to me in a philosophical and sociological way. However, to take it seriously, I really don't think so. I think that it certainly could soon be possible to run grand scale simulations in worlds (like Second Life - for more SL info, see my previous post on the subject) from our ancestors eras in a similar way to how we currently enjoy fantastical worlds (take, for instance, the popularity of the World of Warcraft or Ultima Online). Second Life has definitely taken on a whole life and economy of its own, but not to the extent this philosopher is talking about.

It would have to be a seriously powerful computer beyond all imagining to not only control a world of this size (and multiples for different eras), but to also imbue the virtual residents with emotions and with a self-awareness so they would feel like they were in control of their life. I'm picturing a Terminator 3 scenario here, where the virtual minds somehow gain their independence from their puppeteers and nuke the world.

In any event, not likely in my opinion. But an interesting philosophical discussion. Might we now see some "I'm a sim" defenses in trials like all those "Neos" out there who thought the world wasn't real so they could do whatever they wanted?

5 comments:

Gopi Rajaseharan said...

"...but to also imbue the virtual residents with emotions and with a self-awareness so they would feel like they were in control of their life."

Sounds like the same effect you get when you smoke a bit of pot...

mielikki said...

I'm a fan of the
"Whose dream is this anyway"
existential view of the world.
If it was my dream, I would have woke up LONG ago.
A sim, huh. If I am a sim, I want to know who's at the controls!

The Lethological Reader said...

It's kind of like that last scene in MIB where they have our galaxy as a marble that's being played in a game of marbles by some aliens.

Gopi Rajaseharan said...

"...our galaxy as a marble that's being played in a game of marbles..."

...which I thought was quite a marbellous concept :)

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