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The Matrix Media Movies

The Computational Requirements for the Matrix 953

Posted by michael
from the more-matrix-philosophy-yay dept.
goombah99 writes "Nick Bostrom discusses the computational requirements needed to simulate human existence. He offers a proof based on the anthropic principle, that you are almost certainly a computer simulation and not "real". The idea is that given that humans don't go extinct in geologically short time then eventually computer capability will allow complete simulation of the human cortex. Consequently, there must be far more simulations running in future millennia than seconds since you were born. Thus its astronomically more likely you are a simulation than real ... if humans don't go extinct shortly. Recalling the 13th floor, Robin Hanson discusses how one should try to live in a simulation. David Wolpert also weighs in on the physical limits of Turing machines for simulation of the universe. This also may explain why time travel seems impossible: we dont meet visitors from the future since only the present is being simulated."
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The Computational Requirements for the Matrix

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  • by cyrax777 (633996) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @03:26AM (#6088518) Homepage
    drugs are bad mmmmkay
    • my thought exactly. There's no way processor speed can continue at its current pace to that point. It would have to be nearly infinately fast to simulate all the 10000000000000000000000000000000000's of atoms i can see right now, and even put an electron microscope up to and see formations of. There's just too much to simulate, that is, of course judging that this person is saying that WE will be able to do it eventually. I don't doubt that it's possible that processors are a lot faster beyond the matri
      • by Dylan Zimmerman (607218) <Bob_Zimmerman AT myrealbox DOT com> on Sunday June 01, 2003 @04:48AM (#6088781)
        Well, you see, the funny thing is that you don't need to simulate the atoms at all. All that you need to simulate visually is the smallest object a person can resolve with his unadied eyes. Everything else is simply mapped on top of that.

        For touch, you just simulate the smallest texture difference that a human can feel. For sound, all you need to do is simulate the sounds that a human can hear.

        All of these would need to have a certain safely margin to account for people whose senses are better than others, but all that you really have to feed the brain is sense data. As long as it is input propperly,

        Now, you would need to physicaly simulate things, but you can reduce the complexity of a model arbitrarily if you are willing to sacrifice quality. The computer detects that we don't need high quality simulations of tables, so it only simulates where the corners would be and fills the rest in as a polygon.

        Of course, all of this assumes that you have a more-or-less sentient computer. It would have to be able to decide when we don't need obscenely high quality simulations in order to save its processor power. That wouldn't require true sentience, but it would take quite a bit of clever AI programming.

        All of this is a gross simplification. It would still be impossible with modern computing methods because it would require a computer larger than Jupiter, and that's not even with a power source.
        • Incorrect. For a more primitive being, perhaps animals at the zoo, such an environment would suffice. However, if you are creating a virtual world where the smallest resolution is only a few microns, you will inevitably run into problems when the intelligent beings of that world attempt to use science to learn. If our world were virtual, and had no detail below 10 microns, or a tenth of one, or a thousandth, scientists with knowledge of what should be, would notice. Experiments could be devised using
          • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 01, 2003 @05:32AM (#6088913)
            Well, reality is what we perceive. A computer can only simulate worlds which are less complex than the world in which the computer exists, but if the simulation is closed, its inhabitants have no way of proving that it's a simulation. They simply have no way of knowing how things are in the real world. Even bugs in the simulation would appear as an empirically found law of physics to them. A laser in such a world would not exist except as a function of the basic elements that exist in the simulation. However, such a simulation would obviously need to either be seeded without science and develop it by itself or overthrow the science it was seeded with.
          • by spongman (182339) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @06:13AM (#6089033)
            Surely the results of such experiments could be faked. For example, it could be simple to build a 'matrix' where the value of PI could be, say, 5, or where Newton was correct and light permeated space the instant it was emitted and mass had not effect on time.

            Hell, there are limits to our own understanding of both the extremely small and the extremely large. What if those limits are not that far from the limits of our "simulation"? How would you tell? Build bigger accelerators/telescopes? How big would they need to be?

            Our knowledge of "what should be" is based purely on obseravtion. We're always testing the boundaries of our knowledge. But who's to say that when we delve deeper into the depths of the cosmos we won't discover a message:

            "game over, insert coins to play again."
            or
            "Hi, this is God, I'm not in right now, please leave a message."
          • by B'Trey (111263) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @07:48AM (#6089246)
            Incorrect. All that needs to be simulated is what you actually perceive. In modern games, the engine calculates what can and can't be seen and doesn't draw the things that can't be seen. A simulation would use a much more sophisticated version of that algorithm. If you're looking through a microscope, microbes are individual simulated. If you aren't looking through the microscope, then they aren't simulated, or are simulated in the aggregate to calculate gross effects that might be perceivable (such as tainted meat causing food poisoning.)

            Remember, the simulation has to know exactly what you're doing and what you're perceiving in order to feed the information to your brain. If you turn your head, that isn't a physical motion. The simulation detects the impulses that indicate you desire to turn your head, and adjusts your visual and physical feeds to simulate that motion. So it's certainly capable of determining that you are peering through a microscope and adjusting the level of detail accordingly. How detailed is the simulation? Precisely as detailed as it needs to be, but no more.

            One interesting result of this is that observation would affect the behavior of the universe. Also, changes in the environment, such as the presence of a second slit in a screen, might alter the algorithm used to calculate the behavior of, oh, I don't know, maybe photons.
            • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 01, 2003 @08:12AM (#6089288)
              Cause and effect transcend observation. The only reliable way of simulating a world with certain basic rules is to simulate these rules all along, not simplifying them when no one looks. Simplifying the calculations removes information about the state of the simulation. That is most likely going to be detected at some point, and then the rules you want the inhabitants of your simulation to perceive would be invalidated. If you don't simulate all quarks, then the inhabitants will sooner or later realize (sic!) that quarks are not what you want them to be.
              • Certainly, simplifying the calculation removes information about the state of the simulation. So what? We don't have access to any more information than the simulation does; therefore we have no way to prove that the simulation's calculations are incorrect.

                Your argument essentially boils down to the claim that we would be able to run our own simulation (either a computerized simulation or a pen-and-paper calculation), and compare the results of it to "reality." However, calculating the future state of a
            • One interesting result of this is that observation would affect the behavior of the universe. Also, changes in the environment, such as the presence of a second slit in a screen, might alter the algorithm used to calculate the behavior of, oh, I don't know, maybe photons.

              Only if the simulation is poorly written, which we can't assume. It is not conceptually difficult to imagine that the "zoomed in" parts of reality exactly match the approximation to a fine enough level of detail that we can not tell the d
            • Incorrect. All that needs to be simulated is what you actually perceive. In modern games, the engine calculates what can and can't be seen and doesn't draw the things that can't be seen. A simulation would use a much more sophisticated version of that algorithm. If you're looking through a microscope, microbes are individual simulated. If you aren't looking through the microscope, then they aren't simulated, or are simulated in the aggregate to calculate gross effects that might be perceivable (such as ta
          • by qubex (206736) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @08:37AM (#6089339) Homepage
            Actually we do know the Universe's smallest "pixel size": the Plank Scale. Who's to say whether this is a computational limit imposed upon our simulation by external beings or a true physical limit?

            Also, it isn't actually true that a computer cannot simulate soomething more complex than itself. If time is no object, it can simulate something a million times more complex than itself in a very long period of time. Who's to say that maybe a single second in our simulated world takes a million, maybe even a billion years to compute in "real time"?
          • by goombah99 (560566) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @11:39AM (#6089987)
            I think a lot of people are missing a key points.

            Godel's theorem in a nut shell: you cant prove inconsistency in any set of axioms within the context of those axioms.

            suppose for a moment that this is a simulation with a finite amount of memory to parameterize the "world". the state of this system is propgated from time slice to time slice by some set of finite difference equations. well this means that everything is perfectly self-consistent. if you devise any experiment within the simulation itself to measure any observable then you will discover it is self consistent. The laws of nature a person living there would formulate would in fact be the correct ones for that system. you would never be able to discover an inconsistency.

            consider for example QM. basically in a quantum world there ARE limits on resolution. indeed the limits are surprisingly like how one creates a simulation. for example, in any practical 3-D game the voxels of distant objects have larger volumes than the close by ones that you can see more clearly. likewise fast moving objects in the background are less precisely placed from frame to frame while maintaining on average an accurate speed.

            its as though someone gridded the game in such a way as to have hyper cubes of constant delta-P time delta-X. hey wadda ya know that's the heisenberg uncertainty principle.

            Indeed its easier to simulate a trajectory if you dont have to do it exactly. simply compute the approximate result with error bars and then any time the result is closely inspected you return a different sample from the approximate distribution. Thus one does not have to memo-ize everthing the game player has looked at carefully, you can recreate it on the fly each time something is inspected at high resolution simply by drawing an approximate sample from the distribution. The fact that two looks never quite agree is written off as the "hiesenberg uncertainty principle", or to the QM notion that inspecting an object can change its state.

            Another hiesenberg principle is the energy-time uncertaintly (to measure the energy of something precisely takes increasing amounts of time). Again this is in keeping with a simulation. to compute the simulation to increacing levels of precision will take more time.

            and remember folks the simulation does not have to run in real time!

            Finally to digress a bit. Just suppose for moment the supposition that this is simulation is true. then might it might also be possible that the people doing the simulation are also simulations. and so on ad infinitum. the interesting thing is that at each layer of this onion it seems to me that the plausibility that you live in a simulation increases. this is because with each subsequent layer the plausibility of sufficient computer power prior to extinction improves.

            • and remember folks the simulation does not have to run in real time!

              Lots of peopel are saying this, and I agree, but I agree the opposite: I believe the simulation runs many times faster than real time.

              At first, processing power is slow and you must run simulations slower than real time. However, technology progresses, and eventually the simulation can be run parallel to real time. (As others have said, the simulation does not have to calculate everything, just as Quake doesn't calculate walls and

        • Uh, what if someone builds a device to look at smaller objects than the unaided eye can see?

          There are so many ways to do that, that it might conceivably be better to simulate at a lower level than to deal with all the possible special cases, or allow people to detect the flaws.

          As for processing limitations, it's might not be impossible if you can underclock the minds of participants - put them in suspended animation or something.
          • by Naikrovek (667) <jjohnson @ p s g .com> on Sunday June 01, 2003 @05:46AM (#6088951)
            High level emulation. If there is a microscope for you to look through, it is being emulated, then whatever has created the microscope can program it to rewrite everything you look at with it in a way that makes sense to your species.

            it would be mind-numbing to write (much less RUN) a program that would fully emulate every atom in the world at all times. all you have to do (ask anyone in movies) is emulate the minumum amount to look realistic on screen. if someone needs to look closer, emulate what they're examining properly, only while they are examining it. Otherwise you can very easily emulate a white box with bumpmaps, rather than the wood, the drywall, the paint, the electricity, and everything else that makes a wall. until someone examines the wall, you can get away with just a white box with paint-like bumpmapping.
            • by znode (647753) <znode@[ ].de ['gmx' in gap]> on Sunday June 01, 2003 @09:07AM (#6089418) Homepage
              all you have to do (ask anyone in movies) is emulate the minumum amount to look realistic on screen.

              On the Summer Reading List thread, many slashdotters mentioned The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect. Within Ch. 6 was a description of how Prime Intellect "rewrote" the Universe, as follows:
              "No, you wouldn't. Let me ask you something. If I leave here...if I go back to civilization...does this forest continue to exist?"

              "I can leave it running in your absence if you want."
              Caroline wanted to throw up. Now even the forest wasn't real. Nothing was real. "Don't bother. Get rid of it."
              Instantly, it disappeared. She was standing in an antiseptically white space so pure and seamless and bright that the eye balked at reporting it to the brain. She was standing on a hard, smooth surface, but it was not visible. There were no shadows. There was no horizon; the floor and the sky looked exactly the same, and there was no transition from one to the other. She might have been standing on the inside of some enormous white ball.
              Prime Intellect was still there. "What is this?" she asked.
              "Neutral reality," Prime Intellect said. "The minimum landscape which supports human existence. Actually, not quite the minimum. I could get rid of the floor. But that would have startled you."

              So basically, the visual portion of this world would just be like a raytracer running constantly. Whatever the eye can see it simulates and draws; out of the eye, nothing is (and need to be) simulated.
          • by Dylan Zimmerman (607218) <Bob_Zimmerman AT myrealbox DOT com> on Sunday June 01, 2003 @05:57AM (#6088981)
            Then you simulate what would be seen. Everything could be treated as a surface with a varying transparency and a texture mapped on top of it. You wouldn't have to visually simulate anything smaller than the eye could resolve, but if needed, the simulation could simulate portions in more detail.

            It would be easier from a programming standpoint to simulate all of the individual atoms, but that would be prohibitively slow. We're talking tens of thousands of years for less than a second of simulation time using conventional computers on anything less than a planetary scale.

            Quantum computers and chemical computers could speed it up greatly, but it would still take massive amounts of raw processing power to keep track of all of those atoms, let alone let anything interact with them.

            You can never see anything smaller than the smallest dot that your eye can perceive. However, you can design devices to enlarge objects (or increase the resolution of your eye, depending on how you look at it).

            One of the huge problems with The Matrix is the question of how people were actually put into it. If anyone had memories of the real world, then they would undoubtedly find a way to pass them on to their children. So, that implies that none of the first generation of Matrix denizens was ever outside the Matrix at any prior point in their lives. Yet they had parents. The programs in the Matrix aren't compassionate at all, so they certainly couldn't have raised the children. Perhaps they had been imprisoned for millennia, but if that were the case, I would have expected the robots to have wiped out the last of the independent humans. Due to the way memories are stored, there is no way to erase specific memories from the human mind without some serious brain damage. We can only stop new ones from forming. Perhaps the robots were able to create synthetic sets of memories for the first parents, but again, how? That would require someone in the Matrix in the first place so that his memories could be copied. Perhaps the first parents were willing subjects? I don't really see that as in The Animatrix, the general populace was destroying the robots in the streets. That would be like southern whites agreeing to be slaves to some blacks during the Civil War. Very few would. Perhaps enough did that they were the first generation.
        • All of this is a gross simplification. It would still be impossible with modern computing methods because it would require a computer larger than Jupiter, and that's not even with a power source.

          Here you assume that the system running the simulation exists in a world much like the one we experience. It's pretty easy for us to simulate a simple 2D world, for all we know, this is some dumbed-down simulation with 'only' 3 dimensions.

        • > Well, you see, the funny thing is that you don't need to simulate the atoms
          > at all. All that you need to simulate visually is the smallest object a
          > person can resolve with his unadied eyes. Everything else is simply mapped
          > on top of that.

          From a programmer's point of view, this is a bad idea. After all, you will
          need special plugins for every device that aids the eyes. You have to check
          if any of your simulated physicians invents a tool like a microscope, and
          then hot-upgrade your simulator
      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 01, 2003 @04:50AM (#6088791)
        You're missing the point. The idea is that you don't need to simulate the world, but just the part that YOU percieve. For example, I don't need to simulate the tree in the forest (it does NOT make a sound when nobody is there to hear it). If you only simulate things that humans can actually see at any moment in time (ie: feeding impulses into your brain - and making your brain think its reality) then the computation involved isn't that great (well, huge, but isn't impossible).

        Just consider current generation of 3D games. Some games can make your heart beat faster, or make you jumpy, etc. The point being that eventhough at a concious level you know it's only a game, your brain is still fooled subconciously into thinking the game might be real, and thus, makes your heart go faster and pumps up the adrenaline (as if you're gonna be running away from that monster for real).

        Now, imagine that game with 3D goggles, perfect sound, etc, where YOU are not conciously awear that it is a game...

        This is the future, and I think we'll see it far sooner than most people realize (20 years tops).
      • by Aglassis (10161) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @05:07AM (#6088840)
        There's no way processor speed can continue at its current pace to that point. It would have to be nearly infinately fast to simulate all the 10000000000000000000000000000000000's of atoms i can see right now
        They don't necessarily have to be that fast. Its not like there is a time limit since they are defining time. Even if they took 10000 sec to simulate 1 sec, it would not alter our perception since it is only based on the past. It will still be 1 sec to us.

        And why not assume that they did some simplifications? Why should we assume that the universe that we exist in the the one that the simulators run? It could be much different and the laws of physics different as well. It may be able to run simulations of huge amounts of atoms because that may be a trivial amount of processing time to a much more complex universe.
        • I'd mod you up but I have no points.

          And even if our bodies are "real" and not simulated and we are just wired in like in the Matrix, our minds could possibly be slowed down to allow the simulator to keep up.

          For example, we could be in a simulation that was set up to keep space travellers entertained and their minds from decaying too fast whilst they traverse vast distances in near suspended animation - no FTL. And perhaps something went wrong and that was eons and eons ago, so the current bunch of people
    • Re: drugs are bad (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dave_mcmillen (250780) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @11:26AM (#6089934)
      C'mon, he must be right, he's got equations and everything.

      Oh, but wait . . . The quantities in the equations are completely made up and meaningless. So, let me rephrase my earlier assessment: This is complete hookum. Because the number of hypothetical "ancestor simulations" is large compared to the number of actual developing civilizations, we are "almost certain" to be in a simulation rather than real? Huh?

      Let me present an alternative, equally plausible hypothesis: The entire universe is being run by tiny, invisible pixies, who implement all the laws of physics by grabbing things and moving them around in exactly the right way when we perturb our environment. (Why they do this is unknown.) Unfortunately, there is no empirical test that can distinguish between this situation and one in which the laws of physics arise just because of the way real particles interact.

      Let's all just agree to pretend that we're not living in pixie-world or The Matrix, OK? It makes no difference, anyway, and it's a whole lot simpler. And if you want to kill your neighbour or your boss, you can't console yourself that they were just simulated anyway.
  • I Want Out! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 01, 2003 @03:30AM (#6088524)
    Where is the red pill?
  • woooah (Score:5, Funny)

    by mjdth (670822) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @03:33AM (#6088539) Homepage
    this article is way too deep for 3 am. i'll just wait until /. accidently reposts it sometime later this week at a more reasonable hour.

    but either way, i wouldn't believe this because it would be too scary if it were true.
    • Re:woooah (Score:3, Funny)

      by pyrote (151588)
      That's what they were wanting you to say... it's all written... here on this cd.
    • Re:woooah (Score:5, Funny)

      by evilviper (135110) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @04:08AM (#6088665) Journal
      The /. has you...

      Follow the white rabbit...
      • by comet_11 (611321) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @05:44AM (#6088948)
        Trinity: Morpheus, the post was modded down, I don't know how.

        Morpheus: I know, they used the overrated exploit. There's no time, you're going to have to get to another post.

        Trinity: Are there any trolls?

        Morpheus: Yes.

        Trinity: Goddammit.

        Morpheus: You have to focus, Trinity. There are mod points at Wells and Lake. You can make it.

        Trinity: All right.

        Morpheus: Go.
    • Re:woooah (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 01, 2003 @04:13AM (#6088682)
      I don't see how it's truth would change anything (from your mind's perspective, at least), so I'm not sure why you would find it "too scary." Consciousness built on neurons made of atoms is no more real than consciousness built on simulationed neurons made of simulationed atoms. Consciousness is as consciousness does.

      • Re:woooah (Score:5, Funny)

        by MainframeKiller (105858) <mark DOT slashdot AT keegan17 DOT ca> on Sunday June 01, 2003 @04:58AM (#6088820) Homepage
        I don't see how it's truth would change anything (from your mind's perspective, at least), so I'm not sure why you would find it "too scary." Consciousness built on neurons made of atoms is no more real than consciousness built on simulationed neurons made of simulationed atoms. Consciousness is as consciousness does.

        My Momma always said life is like a box with a cat in it, you never know if it is alive or dead...

        What do you expect, it's 5 am and I'm stuck at work!
      • Old philosophy (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Aceticon (140883) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @06:24AM (#6089059)
        Cogito ergo sun (I think therefore i am.)
        Descartes, ( Born March 1596, died Feb 1650)

        This all goes down to the old questions:

        • Do I really exist?
        • Does the world around me exists?
        • Is the world as i percieve it to be?
        Descartes tried to answer the first question.

        While trying to explain the other two, don't forget that the only proof that you have that the world out there exists comes through your senses. For all you know, there are no other people out there - maybe your senses are being mislead:

        • by a complex computer simulation
        • by a powerfull telephatic entity
        • by a drug
        • by yourself - you've suffered psychological trauma this is all a dream
        • ...
        According to Descartes, the only thing you can be sure about is that you exist.
        • Re:Old philosophy (Score:5, Informative)

          by blancolioni (147353) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @07:22AM (#6089204) Homepage
          Descartes tried to answer the first question.

          Descartes tried to answer all three.

          We get to self-existence. Since everything has a cause, there must be a root cause, and this must be God. God, as we all know, created the world, therefore that exists too. And since God is good, he wouldn't lie, therefore the senses must provide an accurate picture.

          Thre's a reason everybody stops after Cogito ergo sum, and that's because the rest of the reasoning was a bit, well, dodgy.

          I'm sure I've misprepresented it a bit, but Rene can always speak up if he feels slighted. No? Well, then.
  • screw it. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cfscript (654864) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @03:33AM (#6088540)
    i don't care if the entire universe is real, a computer simulation or an atom in a giant being.

    hypothesise all you want, it doesn't change the fact that A is A and you have to go to work on monday. the last thing the current american society needs is a new kantian theory to overtake it.

    i'm all about philosophy and learning as much as i can, but no matter what, existence exists. wish all you want, carrie anne-moss isn't going to magically appear, and your troubles won't disappear until you get off your ass.
    • Re:screw it. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Matthias Wiesmann (221411) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @05:03AM (#6088834) Homepage Journal
      I agree, the most annoying thing about the article "How to live in a simulation" is that it makes the classical IMHO erronous assumption that the simulator (the entity that controls the simulation) is basically like us.

      This text roughtly assumes that the simulator is basically an american guy and the main reason for simulating a universe is to go to a party. Very deep philosophy. The simulator might well be a zen poet two centuries in the future interested in the pattern of human emotions, or some alien student trying to build the most absurd form of life. There is simply no way to know. So trying to please this simulator is completely absurd.

      The talk about seeing the weaknesses in the simulation because certain parts are not simulated also takes the wrong perspective. Assuming you build a simulation that is not homogenous, you will make sure that the where there are simplifications they will have little influence (i.e they are not noticable). As for the hypothesis that certain people are not true, I don't like when people start talking about true/chosen/über/whatever people.

      This is just some guy projecting his own bias on some theoretical entity and using this to justify his own (egoistic I might add) approach to live as being "logical". I agree that this is not what american society needs, but I fear it is what it wants. Of course, this has been the stuff of religions for centuries, replace simulator by god and voilà!

    • Re:screw it. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MsGeek (162936)
      hypothesise all you want, it doesn't change the fact that A is A and you have to go to work on monday. the last thing the current american society needs is a new kantian theory to overtake it.

      No matter what the "true" structure of the world is, whether there is an objective reality behind it or not, the fact remains that in order to survive and function in the world one needs to pretty much live ones life as if A truly equals A.

      Any amount of philosophizing notwithstanding, if you are walking towards a b

  • Episode of Star Trek (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ScottGant (642590) <scott_gant AT sbcglobal DOT netNOT> on Sunday June 01, 2003 @03:33AM (#6088541) Homepage
    The episode was "Ship in a Bottle" where Moriarty and his love are sent off in a computer simulation at the end. They think it's all real, but they're really just both in a simulation of the galaxy.

    At the end, Barkley wonders if he himself is part of a simulation and says "Computer, end program".

    Ok, that's it. I'm a Nerd.
  • What if (Score:4, Interesting)

    by katalyst (618126) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @03:35AM (#6088548) Homepage
    There is no end to what ifs.....
    For example, if a charecter being simulated in a 13th floor styled simulation, did not understand the concept of wireframes (when he reaches the "edge" of the simulated world), would he consider it abnormal?
    Similarly, in our "real world", space - the outer void - the vaccum - can be a means of conserving memory by being empty space, so that the "system" is able to process high detailed simulations on planets.... maybe only one planet has life (simulated) because the "system" is only capable of processing the complex simulations of one such biosphere
    All i'm trying to say is that it's possible to come up with innumerable theories.. its exciting, it stimulates are brains, but HOW SERIOUSLY are we supposed to take them?
  • So... (Score:3, Funny)

    by orange_6 (320700) <jtgalt@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Sunday June 01, 2003 @03:36AM (#6088553) Homepage Journal
    I'm simulated.

    Can I still be stimulated?
  • by CrazyJim0 (324487) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @03:37AM (#6088557)
    Its not bullet time, so much as FPS lag.
  • I don't know if humanity will go extinct in a geologically short period of time, but I do believe that it is very possible (likely, even) that our society will colapse under the weight of geometrically increasing resource demands.
  • why ohh why.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Squarewav (241189) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @03:39AM (#6088563)
    The matrix was a good movie but come one thats it a movie. it had so many holes in the plot like why the robots did not just switch too nuclear or something far more powerfull then sucking body heat from people who are living in a virtual world. It seems like every week or so slashdot posts a story about some long ass report about how the matrix could be real. You dont have to justify likeing a movie, just enjoy the movie how it is a kung foo/super human/slowmotion fights. reminds me of that theme song from mystery science theater 3000 (something like) "if your wondering how they eat and sleap and other science facts, repeat to yourself its just a show you shood realy just relax"
    • Re:why ohh why.. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by KrispyKringle (672903) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @04:02AM (#6088648)
      Better than suggesting alternative power, why doesn't anyone ever point out the laws of thermodynamics?

      This is always what got me about The Matrix. There is even a comment somewhere along in the first movie about how the living are fed the waste of the dead. Well, great, but what about conservation of energy? Where is this energy actually coming from? In our normal ecosystem, it comes from the sun via photosynthesis. Here, no sun, no plants, people eating people...sounds like perpetual motion.

      And even if we do accept that animals can somehow power these machines, why don't they just use pigs or cows or something? Or give lobotomies on birth? Eh?

      But as you said, quit thinking about it all seriously, and just enjoy the movie. It's a vehicle, and not every aspect should be taken at face value or should be expected to make perfect sense.

    • reminds me of that theme song from mystery science theater 3000 (something like) "if your wondering how they eat and sleap and other science facts, repeat to yourself its just a show you shood realy just relax"

      Oh great. That means not only are we a simulation, but I have the likes of Crow T. Robot watching it and making pithy comments about my life.

  • by SolubleFrank (637562) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @03:40AM (#6088566)
    No, I'm telling you your just trapped.
  • Much like religion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrbeaton (529364) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @03:41AM (#6088568)
    For any religion that believes that we are placed here by a higher being, we essentially are living in a simulation. God created us and is now sitting back watching us run around.

    One of the articles mentions ways to change one's behavior upon realization that it is all a simulation... sound familiar?
    • God playing SimCity? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kilonad (157396) * on Sunday June 01, 2003 @11:05AM (#6089857)
      You know, now that I think of it, it does sound familiar. Whenever people first start playing SimCity, they build up a small city and start unleashing disasters on it just to see what they do and to have a little fun. Then they get bored and just kinda leave it running for a while, intervening now and then, until they eventually just leave it the hell alone (or close the program). Seeing as how God was supposedly vengeful in the Old Testament, and hasn't rained down sulfur much lately, I'd say it's possible we all exist in a very advanced version of SimCity.
      • Seeing as how God was supposedly vengeful in the Old Testament, and hasn't rained down sulfur much lately, I'd say it's possible we all exist in a very advanced version of SimCity.

        So you're saying that God just got bored and went away?

        What happens when He discovers Quake? Is the Uncertainty Principle the result of sloppy overclocking?

        Finally, what happens to us when His mom tells him to shut down the computer and go outside to play?

  • by eaglebtc (303754) * on Sunday June 01, 2003 @03:41AM (#6088569)
    I believe it is possible in 2199 for an advanced computer to simulate an existence like SimCity.

    However, if everyone is a digital projection controlled by a computer program, then how is it the humans inside the matrix are capable of independent thought? Why isn't it like "Big Brother" in George Orwell's 1984, where the Thought Police were always watching for crimethink? Even if the computers' super-advanced AI engine could simulate thoughts *for* the human, and trick them into thinking they came up with it themselves, then why would the system allow a human to discover what is outside the Matrix? Is there a certain amount of "tolerance" built into the system? I guess that would explain the need for "agents."

    ...But if no one was allowed to think a "wrong" thought...there would be no law enforcement, but no one would care because they wouldn't need to be taught about obeying the rules because no one would ever think about breaking them (The Pre-Crime Division would take care of that) ;)

    Soo...this goes back to my initial inquiry -- where does the independent thought come from? Is it somehow hardwired to the person's brain through the matrix? If so, they need subconscious experiences (daydreams, nightmares, etc.) in order to have independent thought. So the Matrix must have had a certain level of tolerance built in.

    But.... if the Matrix *was* built by a race of cruel machines designed to control humans, then why was the Matrix programmed the way it is? Are they torturing humans with a life they once knew, before AI came into play and destroyed that which they had?

    All this makes me want to see "Revolutions." I hope they answer all these questions, like "Who Created The Matrix?" It's too human, too sympathetic to be built by cold, heartless machines. There is religion in the matrix, so someone had to program that in.

    • by malloci (467466) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @04:21AM (#6088709)
      ...But if no one was allowed to think a "wrong" thought...there would be no law enforcement, but no one would care because they wouldn't need to be taught about obeying the rules because no one would ever think about breaking them (The Pre-Crime Division would take care of that) ;)

      Wasn't that the premise of the original matrix (the one built prior to the trilogy)? It was a paradise, but the problem was that no one believed it and so massive amounts of people would wake from it. Hence the reason why the second matrix was built (going back to Agent Smith's description in the first movie).

      I always thought the matrix was more a playground for individual minds to play in. If you set up an environment that is engineered to look like our world, place the minds in the system with some initial parameters (e.g. you are a programmer looking for work and like potato chips and coffee, etc) and then let those objects loose in the system, things should flow fairly smoothly. The matrix was more like a drug to keep the minds of their batteries happy basically, and the reason they chose this section of our history is that it was "the height of our civilization". But even Neo has a choice by the architect in the second movie.

      I would say that control came by limiting choices. This comes from the societal structure that is put in place, something which most people are more than happy to live within. The few that refused to accept that were shown a different reality (i.e. unplugged from the matrix). However, the one wrench that Matrix:Reloaded tossed into the mix was Neo's ability to sense the machines on the other side. This would indicate that the true architects of the matrix built a buffer zone in which those minds that didn't believe the first matrix would wake up into the second thus saving them as a power source for a while longer and ensuring that every once and awhile you could flush those who would attempt to destroy your creation. By controlling the resistance you have complete control as Orwell showed us in 1984.

  • Odd. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Soko (17987) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @03:41AM (#6088573) Homepage
    This also may explain why time travel seems impossible: we dont meet visitors from the future since only the present is being simulated."

    IOW, branch prediction in the Great Itanium in the sky isn't working too well, is it?

    Here's anoher one for your Saturday Night "Isn't that fucked up?" discussions: I've always wondered if time actually is linear. We and our physics are stuck in the current space/time continuum, and therefore we would have no idea if time actually followed say, a sine wave, since we would have no other point of reference.

    Whoa.

    Soko
  • by BanSiesta (41108) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @03:42AM (#6088576) Homepage
    So I'm just a piece of code then? I bet I'm not even indented properly. Bastards!

    I hope I don't get optimized away...
  • What the......? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BWJones (18351) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @03:43AM (#6088578) Homepage Journal
    O.K., aside from the rather schizoid posting, I clicked on the link and actually read some of this stuff. Why? Because it's 1:40 a.m. and I can't read any more real science without it leaking out of my ears. So, at the end of the article, filled with leaky logic and propositions that would get an undergraduate philosophy student in trouble, I get to this:

    Another event that would let us conclude with a very high degree of confidence that we are in a simulation is if we ever reach the point where we are about to switch on our own simulations. If we start running simulations, that would be very strong evidence against (1) and (2). That would leave us with only (3).

    and I have to wonder.....this guy is a postdoctoral fellow at Oxford? Jeez, what are they paying these guys for? Pop culture derivative drivel about a movie whose sequel sucked? [slashdot.org]. This is like high school philosophy where you would sit around drinking beer in someones mom's basement saying "so, dude, how do we know if we are really here?" Please. I'm all for arts and liberal education, but let's work at thinking about things that can make a difference.

    • Re:What the......? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by maxpublic (450413)
      The sad thing is that a lot of what passes for modern 'philosophy' is the same drivel being spouted by this guy, only 'cleaned up' in a tautological fashion so that said drivel is impossible to disprove. Also impossible to prove in any meaningful sense, but modern philosophy doesn't recognize empiricism as a valid approach (and in fact tries to deny it by placing much of its supposition in the fantasy realm of the 'metaphysical').

      What I find interesting is that people actually get *paid* to indulge in thi
      • Re:What the......? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Snowspinner (627098)
        The sad thing is that a lot of what passes for modern 'biology' is so ridiculously practical as to ignore basic questions like why making a drug to save someone's life is worthwhile - what's so innately valuable about life? Modern biology is entirely unconcerned about ethical questions, relying on the unproven, unargued, and unacknowledged a priori assumption that knowledge about life is good.

        What I find interesting is that people actually get *paid* to indulge int his masturbatory nonsense. Talk about an
    • Re:What the......? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Soko (17987)
      Jeez, what are they paying these guys for? Pop culture derivative drivel about a movie whose sequel sucked?. This is like high school philosophy where you would sit around drinking beer in someones mom's basement saying "so, dude, how do we know if we are really here?"

      And you asked that question because...it might have been fun? Aren't these people entitled to a little fun too?

      Please. I'm all for arts and liberal education, but let's work at thinking about things that can make a difference.

      IME, the h
  • by Larne (9283) * on Sunday June 01, 2003 @03:48AM (#6088593)
    the number of things that don't exist is vastly greater than the number of things that do. Therefore, statistically speaking, you don't exist. Any evidence to the contrary is just the product of your diseased, nonexistent, imagination.
  • Not Exactly... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by KrispyKringle (672903) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @03:50AM (#6088606)
    "(1) The chances that a species at our current level of development can avoid going extinct before becoming technologically mature is negligibly small

    (2) Almost no technologically mature civilisations are interested in running computer simulations of minds like ours

    (3) You are almost certainly in a simulation."

    ...So if you think that (1) and (2) are both false, you should accept (3).

    Obviously this last sentence is meant more to play up the conclusion that we are in a simulation. (2) is the most plausible; it is incomprehensible to me (though admitedly I may be of a lesser mind that those running the simulation) why greater beings would waste CPU time on mere humans.

    In all seriousness, though, if we assume 2 to be true and 1 to be false, we can most certainly dismiss 3. And if we assume 1 to be true, where does that leave us?

    "Let us consider the options in a little more detail. Possibility (1) is relatively straightforward. For example, maybe there is some highly dangerous technology that every sufficiently advanced civilization develops, and which then destroys them. Let us hope that this is not the case."

    Of course most mutations die out. This is how evolution works. Obiously, we can assume that if evolution has gotten us this far, it is likely that it will have created similar intelligent beings and perhaps even more advanced than us (or we ourselves will acheive such a level of mental greatness).

    This is a fun intellectual debate (and clearly meant to gain the limelight) but its a bit overblown, too, I think.

  • by ites (600337) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @03:53AM (#6088612) Journal
    But Occam's razor says we do not need to assume humans and computers are resonsible for it. The simulation is all around us... some examples:

    - you consider the world to be composed of things with surfaces and textures, yet in fact most of everything is interatomic space. Matter is a simulation.
    - you consider yourself to be a being, complete and individual, yet you are built from trillions of cells each with a lifecycle, not to mention hosts of other organisms that cohabit your body, even your gene pool. Individuality is a simulation.
    - you think you are reading this text, and yet it is just a sprinkling of letters and dots and random ideas. Language is a simulation, the Internet also.
    - you believe you exist, and yet we are truly just temporary assemblages of matter acting as hosts for the multilevel game of life. Existence is a simulation.

    But none of this means much: as in the Matrix, if I stab your simulated heart with a simulated knife, your simulated body will simulate death. And your simulated consciousness will try very, very hard to avoid that. Welcome to the Real World.

  • by crashnbur (127738) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @03:56AM (#6088625)
    This also may explain why time travel seems impossible: we dont meet visitors from the future since only the present is being simulated.
    It wouldn't matter when what or who is simulated or how or why or where. If it is indeed a simulation, the "architect" of the system could organize some feasible means of simulating beings from some imaginary future, which -- within the confines of the simulation -- would constitute time travel.

    If this indeed were a simulation, the rules would only be as strict as the design allowed, and they would only be broken when the designer(s) allowed...

    ...unless, of course, you buy the Architect's explanation in the Matrix Reloaded that a perfect design, by which sentient entropy would never lend itself toward a "system crash", is slightly impossible.

  • by rice_burners_suck (243660) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @03:58AM (#6088633)
    If we really are living in a simulation, I think we need to send someone outside to hook up a NAT server, so we can connect the Internet to the world that encloses ours.

    Advantages: We will be able to communicate with the people who run our world from the "real" world. I can already see people on IRC asking all kinds of favors, like "I want to be rich. Someone important. Like an actor."

    Disadvantages: Script kiddies will get into the machines of the "real" world and they'll perform a DOS attack. Next thing you know, you're just walking down the street minding your own business when suddenly the street you were on turns into a toxic waste dump and a couple of identical cats walk by.

    But anyway, if we ever do build a simulation, we should definitely connect our Internet into the world we make. That way, people who figure it out will be able to communicate with us. We'll tell 'em we're God... Screw the Prime Directive.

  • by Timesprout (579035) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @03:59AM (#6088638)
    Cos I have a few changes I would like to make to this simulation. Simple things like

    Person* Timesprout = GetPerson(xxxxx); Timesprout->physique = "Addonis";
    Timesprout->attraction_level = "irristible to supermodels and actresses;'
    Timesprout->wealth = BILL_GATES->wealth * 10;
    Timespout->abode[0] = "Island paradise surrounded by beautiful nubile girls";
    Timesprout->car[0] = "Ferrari spider";

    I'll see how these work out before commiting more.
    • by Soko (17987) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @04:37AM (#6088749) Homepage
      And the output:
      Warning: Use of undeclared variables on line 1

      Compiler error at line 2, missing ";"

      Compilation aborted.
      If you're going to program life, you'd better be a damned good coder.

      Soko
      • If you're going to program life, you'd better be a damned good coder.

        Well, the preferred method seems to have less to do with good code and more to do with greedy self-replication. The good code grabs the mutex, consumes all the IO resources and forks like crazy while the bad code starves until it catches the 'kill -KILL' signal.

  • by ScottGant (642590) <scott_gant AT sbcglobal DOT netNOT> on Sunday June 01, 2003 @03:59AM (#6088641) Homepage
    Slashdot linked to what Dr. Bostrom called a "Brief, popular synopsis. But read the original paper instead if you can."

    Here is the original paper:

    http://www.simulation-argument.com/simulation.ht ml
  • Whoa (Score:3, Funny)

    by Iron Monkey543 (676232) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @04:02AM (#6088649)
    I just had my 8th Corona. All of this crap just made more sense.
  • life(); (Score:5, Funny)

    by aardwolf204 (630780) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @04:06AM (#6088660)

    So what your saying is that if life as we know it is a simulation then the meaning of life() is Return 0;
  • by irritating environme (529534) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @04:09AM (#6088673)
    What does it matter if what we view and perceive is "reality" or a simulation? You can't detect the difference, you were born into this "reality", simulated or not, and I'd bet that you'll die in it too.

    There isn't any evidence of artifacts of some simulation, beyond the existence of the laws of physics. And there certainly isn't any way to break it. If there is a higher power/controlling computer, they don't seem to care about us that much.

    In terms of what we mathematically define as computation (given the observed rules of the simulation we know as life), it would be pretty hard to simulate what scientists view, measure, and track with our computational technology. The geometric rate on our computational engineering will probably slow drastically in the next century (to be liberal), so we can't count on a trillion times more space and speed.
  • Not really (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dfeist (615612) <mail@dankradfeist.de> on Sunday June 01, 2003 @04:12AM (#6088680) Homepage
    Two baseless claims.
    First, we won't ever have the computing power to simulate a universe. That's simple to find out: If you want to simulate something completely, Your computer hase to be bigger than what you want to simulate. Because somewhere you have to store all the information, and you'll need exactly as much quantums to store the information about them as you simulate. Conclusion: we won't be able to even simulate the earth.

    For sure, that doesn't yet prove we aren't a simulation. One can't prove or disprove anything about that, and that's why this isn't science.
    There could of course be a universe with enough storage and computing power to simulate our universe (and that could again be a simulation etc). If you know something about quantum physics maybe you can imagine what computing power is necessary - for each single quantum, you need to compute the forces to each other, and some probabilities, too. We're far from even simulating very little amounts of matter today.
    But saying it would be more probable we're being simulated is like giving probabilities for the existence of a god - ie one can't say anything about it. It's outside of what one can give something like probabilities for.
    The only thing we could look for was if we find evidence for that our universe is simulated with computers similar to the ones we're using today, ie we could search for typical errors or something like rounding...
  • by xihr (556141) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @04:55AM (#6088807) Homepage

    This is a common misapplication of the anthropic principle. All the weak anthropic principle (which is the only one appropriate) states is this: For you to be here now, conditions in the Universe must be right to allow you to be here. In probabilistic form, it simply states: The probability of your existence being made possible by the history of the Universe is 1.

    Most people with something to prove use this to make probabilistic arguments based on the probability of life, or the number of existent civilizations, but these are misguided. The anthropic principle tells you nothing about how many civilizations are out there, or how likely other similar creatures are, it simply says that for you to be here, the Universe must allow your existence.

    Arguments such as the ones made in this article are based on a faulty understanding the anthropic principle. They are assuming a probability distribution that they not only have no reason to believe is true, but which the anthropic principle says nothing about.

  • The Matrix? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Sunlighter (177996) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @04:56AM (#6088811)

    You can download the Boost library for C++ and have a Matrix in your own computer already. I think it even has a Matrix class. So you can pose and possibly answer important questions like:

    • Is the Matrix square or rectangular?
    • If it's square, what is the Determinant of the Matrix? (My hypothesis: The One. But we'll have to see the last movie to find out.)
    • If it's square, what is the Cofactor Matrix?
    • If the Matrix is square, does it have an Inverse? What is it?
    • Is it a floating-point Matrix, a Matrix of exact arbitrary-precision rationals, or a Matrix of bits like the ones Knuth used in his MMIX processor? (Maybe it's a Matrix of Unicode code points, which would explain those freaky green displays.)
    • If it is floating-point, how does it deal with round-off errors? How does it deal with denormals, infinities, and NANs?
    • If it is rectangular, what would be the result of Gauss-Jordan elimination? (I can imagine Agent Smith wanting to use that.) How long would it take to compute? (If it's not wider than it is long, Gauss-Jordan won't do much good, although in that case you could use Gauss-Jordan on the transpose of the Matrix. If the Matrix is square, Gauss-Jordan will only produce the Identity Matrix.)

    Sure is interesting to think about. (Heh heh...)

  • by Pedrito (94783) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @09:58AM (#6089567) Homepage
    I think the biggest flaw in his argument actually supports possibility of living in a "matrix" even more. He assumes that the consciousness of 6 billion people in the world are being simulated. Why? What if I'm the only simulation? All the other people in the world could just be representations for me to interact with.

    I know you think this is your simulation, but sorry, it's really mine. I'm the "real" on here.
  • by SiMac (409541) on Sunday June 01, 2003 @10:33AM (#6089699) Homepage
    Your own brain already simulates the outside world. What? You thought what you saw was really what's out there? Your brain is only showing you part of the story.

    Most people don't realize that the brain gives them a description of the outside world, not a picture of it. Try drawing a still life. What? Too difficult? Why? If you actually saw the world as it is, it wouldn't be too difficult, the only problem would be making the brush strokes. But instead, you need knowledge of the technique of perspective, you need knowledge of shading, etc. Why do we need knowledge to draw a world we're seeing with out own eyes?

    Furthermore, what our brain presents is not the whole truth, even if it is a partial truth, which this article presents an article against. We see three dimensions of a world that could have many more, according to some theories. Some people only see two dimensions of this world. Some people don't see any dimensions of this world. Why do we assume that other important things, like specifics about the very way things are, are not modified by are brain? They are, at least indirectly, by our evolved emotions, but we assume that there's no modification at the sensory level. When it seems so easy to introduce noticeable differences at the sensory level by hallucinogens, why can't we believe the brain is already doing it to an extent?
  • simulation or VR (Score:3, Interesting)

    by samantha (68231) * on Monday June 02, 2003 @03:40AM (#6093864) Homepage
    What has bothered me about this line of thought is the notion of simulations rather than VRs. I would consider it much more likely that we are living with a computationally created reality than that the more limited version of this, that we are a simulation, is true. I kept hoping that the definition of "simulation" would be made clear. Unfortunately it was fairly implicit that the author expects our descendants to create sims of us to play/work/interact with. But why exactly should they wish to do this? And what happened to our "true selves" anyway?

    If I was a compassionate future AI determined to do what I could for human beings despite their proclivity to destroy themselves and one another, I might well pop the lot of them into tailored VRs where they could live out their urges over and over again in a sort of VR mediated reincarnational system, until they were adequately housebroken. Then they might be let out onto the main datasphere.

    But I find it far less likely that future descendants would be crass enough to run us as if we were real just for their own amusement without consideration of the ethics involved.

The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can't be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it. -- E. Hubbard

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