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The Reality of Our Simulated Reality

“Everything is “real” if you experience it. And a simulated universe is as real as the universe that simulates it because reality is defined by the information it represents — no matter where it’s physically stored.” So says Maxim Roubintchik in “We Might Live in a Virtual Universe — But It Doesn’t Really Matter“, and I agree. It is unfortunate that people tend to dismiss the simulation hypothesis upon first encounter because they fail to grasp that it doesn’t in any way diminish the reality of what is being referred to as a simulation. And it’s not really their fault because there is usually so much to get your head around that this conclusion is inevitability left until fairly late in the discussion. But by then many have already established their bias against the proposition. Once that happens most are not open minded enough to reconsider their antagonism. Oh well, there’s still the rest of us.

Roubintchik makes the case well and so there’s no need for me to go on about it. I just wanted to heartily endorse his conclusion and add that it matters. It matters. Reality is real whether it can be thought of as simulated or not. But that it is likely simulated does have implications for many fascinating questions. One of them is the Fermi Paradox, which is very thoroughly explained in this article by Tim Urban. Aaron Frank, in “Is Virtual Reality the Surprising Solution to the Fermi Paradox?” offers the simulation argument as a possible “surprising solution”. This is sort of what I’d concluded some time ago. He says:

“If technology trends toward a world of microscopic computers with infinitely complex realities inside, this might explain why we can’t see any alien neighbors. They’ve left us behind for the digital wormholes of their own design.”

Why colonize outer space when inner space is so much larger, richer, and accessible? Seriously, why? I mean, maybe someday a few million years before the Sun is ready to swell up and swallow us, then we’d want to relocate at least to the outer reaches of the solar system. And then again billions of years later when universal heat death becomes a thing we might decide we need to squeeze every scrap of computronium out of it in order to achieve something like the Omega Point.

(If we really do need to achieve the Omega Point and if achieving it does require a universe full of computronium then we’d better be right about there being a whole bunch of similarly simulating civilizations out there because we’d all need to pull our heads out of the simulated sand at around the same time and work together to build said Omega Point as too much of this potential computronium will have sailed over the horizon of our respective visible universes for any of us to do it on our own. It’s unlikely that a disaster so remote in time would galvanize us to expand into outer space much sooner.)

I said that Frank’s conclusion was “sort of” like my own because he is suggesting that there are scads of equally or more advanced civs out there, all of which are foregoing outer space for inner space. But I think he is picturing them as “out there” in our universe. But our universe is likely one of the virtual realities occupying our own inner space, or at least our descendant’s inner space, though I think the former is more likely as who has better motivation to simulate our lives than we, ourselves.

In my view the 2 trillion galaxies, each with hundreds of billions of stars and trillions of planets that we see in our telescopes, are just elaborate desktop art for us. We are alone in our universe. What saves me from crass geocentricity is my conclusion that there are countless other universes, corresponding to the simulated backdrops of similarly simulated and simulating civilizations.

So, where are the other civilizations? They aren’t merely “up there” but preoccupied. They are literally out of this World.

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