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Breaking into the Simulated Universe
Eliott Edge   Oct 30, 2016   Ethical Technology  

I argued in my 2015 paper “Why it matters that you realize you’re in a Computer Simulation” that if our universe is indeed a computer simulation, then that particular discovery should be commonplace among the intelligent lifeforms throughout the universe.  The simple calculus of it all being (a) if intelligence is in part equivalent to detecting the environment (b) the environment is a computer simulation (c) eventually nearly all intelligent lifeforms should discover that their environment is a computer simulation.  I called this the Savvy Inevitability.  In simple terms, if we’re really in a Matrix, we’re supposed to eventually figure that out.

Silicon Valley, tech culture, and most nerds the world over are familiar with the real world version of the question are we living in a Matrix?  The paper that’s likely most frequently cited is Nick Bostrom’s Are you living in a Computer Simulation? Whether or not everyone agrees about certain simulation ideas, everyone does seem to have an opinion about them. 

Recently, the Internet heated up over Elon Musk’s comments at a Vox event on hot tub musings of the simulation hypothesis.  Even Bank of America published an analysis of the simulation hypothesis, and, according to Tad Friend in an October 10, 2016 article published in New Yorker, “two tech billionaires have gone so far as to secretly engage scientists to work on breaking us out of the simulation.”

It is this notion of “escape,” of breaking out of our simulation, that has inspired me to write this article.

Where are we really?

Like everything truly intelligent, the simulation hypothesis demands we have a deep appreciation of paradox—an appreciation that is frequently lacking in simulism dialogs.  That paradox is simply this: if this universe is a simulation, that means, quite paradoxically, it is here, but it is also not here.  We are here and we are also not here.  As Einstein reportedly pressed upon other physicists when they struggled with the information rendering-like nature of wave-particle duality, along with other spooky quantum observations, “Do you really believe the moon isn’t there when you’re not looking?”  The authentic simulist answer must patently be, “There is no moon.”  This is the inevitable and disturbing thread that simulation theory researchers and philosophers largely fail or refuse to grok, but its logic is sound and obvious. 

When you play an MMORPG are any of those objects “real” or “there”?  No—They are information.  Is that level or map in the MMORPG real?  Can your avatars escape it?  No, because neither the levels nor the avatars are really there.  Mario is not really in the Mushroom Kingdom.  It’s all just numbers in a computer.  It is digital information.  The game universe only seems to be there—but it isn’t, and we aren’t.

Now back to us—why does our physics ruleset permit entanglement, or retrocausality, or wave-particle duality, or quantum erasure, or teleportation, or tunneling?  Because all that, along with spacetime, mass, gravity, light, and spin simply isn’t really real in a physical or deterministic sense.  It’s not really there in the way we normally assume.  They are all just effects in the virtual reality, and experiments have shown that the effects are rendered as needed.  Brian Whitworth said it well in his paper Simulating Space and Time:

VR theory is only on the table because objective reality theory doesn’t explain modern physics. In an objective reality time does not dilate, space doesn’t bend, objects don’t teleport and universes don’t pop into existence from nowhere. We would not doubt the world’s objective reality if only it behaved so physically, but it does not. Adjectives like “strange”, “spooky” and “weird” apply, and common sense concepts like object, location, existence, time and space simply don’t work. The world of modern physics doesn’t behave at all as an objective reality should.

So the “escape” begins first and foremost with appreciating the paradox of it all—that means thinking about it, being with it, seeing it:

            The Universe is here and it is not here

            You are here and you are not here

            You aren’t even really in a room

            There is no moon

            It’s just information

            It’s just data

You cannot really be “in” a video game, because being in a video game really means you are a trick of information that only appears to look like a whole you and a whole universe—but it isn’t really.  So how can you escape something you are not really in?  How do you escape something you only appear to be in?  This is the central issue.

It is appropriate to say that this paradox marks one of the most essential ideas in all simulation, virtual reality, and digital mechanical scenarios.  This is where we have to begin any discussion of the simulation hypothesis, or its sister models, or the idea of “escape.”  We have to appreciate the paradox involved wholly before going anywhere at all.  We are here and we are also not here.  It is a waste of time and resources to move forward without having this paradox at the forefront of our attention. 

Furthermore, it is a waste to assume that some physical machine (one that’s in our simulation) is going to be developed that can rip a hole in spacetime (in the video game), and that will somehow lead us to the “true” universe.

Technology will not help you

Although, I admit ignorance regarding what approach these rumored billionaire-encouraged researchers are taking, I will throw in my two cents anyway and claim that making a machine won’t work.  At this point there are still too many assumptions in play to rely on technology to provide the key:

1) A machine in a video game can somehow get avatars out of their video game universe.

To me, hard high tech leading to an escape is an unlikely avenue.  You are more likely to break out of a maximum-security prison with a dry-erase marker than you are to develop some kind of hardware within a simulated universe that can somehow get you out of it.  The reason why is because relying on a machine is still thinking from within the logic of the physics of the video game itself (its spacetime, gravity, geometry, spin, etc.)  You very well might be able to perform experiments to detect whether or not the universe is one kind of simulation or another, but that’s a far cry from technology breaking us out of our universe.

2) More video game won’t automatically generate to keep you inside your video game universe; or, your machine will mysteriously keep breaking down.

Even if you did make such a machine, I anticipate the System behind our simulated universe would simply generate a new, higher wall for you to climb.  Or your machine will mysteriously and consistently malfunction and fail (“gremlins”). 

3) That such a machine won’t lead you to some other video game reality and not “base reality.”

If you did make such a machine, how could you tell the difference between whether or not it was giving you access to “base reality” and not just some other simulated universe?  How do you know that the hole you tear in spacetime isn’t leading you to some other video game world or another?  As Morpheus asks, “How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?

So, if the hardware angle is out (which it really should be) is all hope lost?  No.  The fact of the matter is this kind of thinking is looking in the exact opposite direction.  We should be looking more at consciousness and consciousness states than we should the domain of spacetime, geometry, matter, and technology.  If the universe is a computer simulation then we should look at the player, not the level.  This turn of focus from physical reality to the viewer of reality is exactly the same realization that the founders of Quantum Mechanics wrestled with helplessly in the early 20th Century.  Indeed, the “Observer” and “Measurement” debates continue to this day.

It’s all in your head—and you have no head

Consciousness science and research is largely a nascent field.  This is due in part to the many assumptions that surround consciousness and the brain as well as there being a general failure of agreement in defining consciousness.  The grand poopah assumptions are consciousness is a byproduct of the brain; consciousness will eventually fall in line with material reductionism (consciousness is matter); extraordinary or unusual states of consciousness are negligible brain wetware misfiring; any and all psi effects (telepathy, precognitive dreams, out-of-body experiences, etc.) are all lies, misadventures, quirks, or flukes; first came matter, then came mind. 

However, if the simulation hypothesis, or any number of simulism positions are true, then it follows that the brain is virtual information in a video game—just like everything else.  The brain that we all assume to be carrying around in our bodies is just our avatar’s body’s virtual “brain.”  It’s not really real.  What about brain damage or damage to the body?  Well there are rules to the video game—If you loose a chunk of brain, your data-stream is modified to reflect that.  If you lose an arm, your data-stream is modified to reflect that too. 

Again, in the simulation models, our whole experience of the universe is a virtual reality—so nothing at all is going on as it seems. There is no moon—it is only “there” when a player requests the data (“looks”).  Down on the farm though, it seems like an “observer” “collapses” the “wave.”  Rather than reality being solid, deterministic, and “out there” it is instead a statistical probability distribution—potential information.  This potential information is only ever “rendered” (“collapsed”) when a consciousness (“observer”) makes a measurement.  Game effects only pop up when the player requires them.

So none of it is really real—although it may be safer to say that it is also, paradoxically, real enough.

Now the simulism camp I find most interesting (and there are several) was developed by NASA physicist and consciousness researcher Thomas Campbell.  He feels that the “out-of-body experience” as well as the mystical, religious, extraordinary, and paranormal phenomena that human beings have seemingly stumbled into since the beginning of recorded history is in fact a kind of “breaking out” of our video game ruleset.  We simply interpret it as being episodes like “She had an out-of-body experience” due to our bone-marrow assumptions that spacetime and the body are fundamental, when in fact the universe is the result of a computer simulation and everything is information. 

Campbell also breaks from Nick Bostrom’s now classic thought experiment of our universe being the result of an ancestor simulation created by future posthumans.  Rather, Campbell answers Edward Fredkin who argued in Finite Nature and A New Cosmogony (a decade before Bostrom) that basically since a simulated universe can’t compute itself, it must be computed in Other.  Fredkin states:

As to where the Ultimate Computer is, we can give an equally precise answer; it is not in the universe -- it is in an other place. If space and time and matter and energy are all a consequence of the informational process running on the Ultimate Computer then everything in our universe is represented by that informational process. The place where the computer is, the one that runs that process, we choose to call ‘Other’.

In Campbell’s model, Fredkin’s Other is Consciousness itself.  Campbell’s definition of consciousness is an unusually straightforward one.  Consciousness, to Campbell, is any system that contains the following features:

1. Information input (experience)

2. Information recall (memory)

3. Information processing (sense-making; pattern recognition, etc.)

4. Self-modifying feedback loop (learning)

Any system possessing these features, in Campbell’s model, can rightly be called conscious. 

Campbell’s Consciousness is both the consciousness we find manifest in lifeforms and also the very computer behind our universe—Fredkin’s Other.  It is this outline of consciousness that, when pressed upon by what Campbell calls the “Fundamental Process” of evolution, any number of interactions, lifeforms, universes, realities, or rulesets could naturally emerge.  Anything from cellular automata, to a multiverse, to nature’s “inordinate fondness of beetles” could subsequently appear.  All realities, lifeforms, and interactions are possible under Campbell’s two assumptions: Consciousness exists (as defined), and Evolution exists.

From this model, there is no need for a master programmer or an ancestor simulation.  Instead, those overlords are chucked outright for a single, arguably dim at first, conscious computer that is always forced to either evolve or die.  In the illusory worlds of virtual reality, consciousness itself is entirely real and actually holds center stage.

To Campbell, Consciousness is fundamental.  We, our individual consciousnesses, are partitioned parts of The Big Conscious Computer that crunches out this and every other universe and lifeform.  So, where we really are is in Fredkin’s Other; Fredkin’s Other is Campbell’s Consciousness.  Our avatar—our body—appears to be “in” a simulated universe, a video game.  While our actual awareness experiences this universe as physical spacetime, both the universe and ourselves are actually an information data-stream processing and occurring in Other.

If Fredkin’s Other is Campbell’s Consciousness, then almost everything about life, consciousness, the universe itself, and the simulation hypothesis falls entirely into place.  This would explain why quantum mechanical observations by and large for almost a century seem to be sensitive to, what physicists have called, “observers”, or “measurement.”  It is because consciousness is the fundamental—indeed the essential—medium through which the simulation must be rendered.  Without a consciousness (a player) there is no video game to render and really no need to.

Again, there is no need to simulate or process anything at all without what John Archibald Wheeler rightly called “observer-participants”—players.  No player, no game.

So, in an interesting twist, the computer behind our simulated universe is our own consciousness; “base reality” is Consciousness itself.  This is why the future of simulism is in fact consciousness research and exploration.

Getting in to get out

Human consciousness is particularly sensitive to psychedelic experiences.  Psychedelic science is a famously taboo arena, largely because of government intervention as well as the sometimes utterly alien and titanic experiences they produce.  Yet, in terms of our topic of “breaking out of the Matrix” it would be folly to overlook them due to something as antiscientific as stigma.

Anecdotally (and sadly, due to psychedelics’ banishment to basement chemistry in the mid 20th Century, the majority of psychedelic research remains anecdotal, as well as historical)—powerful compounds like DMT, ibogaine, and even psilocybin and LSD at high doses are known to produce effects and environments that impart on the users a feeling of being exposed to geometric, mathematic, fractal, and other phenomena reminiscent of a cosmically complex computation.  On countless occasions I have been pressed by individuals to elaborate on my ideas about virtual reality and the simulation hypothesis only to later find out that their own psychedelic experiences left them feeling like they had seen into the holy guts and heart of reality, and that it resembled some kind of hyper-intelligent computer system to them.

Peter Sjöstedt-H, a PhD candidate at the University of Exeter, has presented a “history of the notable western philosophers who took psychedelic chemicals and how this may have influenced their thought—how psychedelics influenced philosophy.”  Sjöstedt-H’s psychedelic list includes some of the heavy weights of the standard Western cannon: Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Bergson, Sartre, Foucault, and more.  He writes:

Psychedelic experience has then influenced different philosophers in different ways. Its multifaceted, anomalous, alien, awe-inspiring, and at times terrifying nature is not easily analysed. In fact, it often transgresses the phenomenological criteria by which analysis can take place. But then such novel phenomena can be taken as an augmentation of the phenomenological toolkit rather than as a mere mysterious anomaly to treat with philosophic disregard.

When people say, “Escape the Matrix,” what they really mean is perceiving and even operating beyond the ruleset of our simulation. Maybe shamans, mystics, meditators, philosophers, and the psychonauts of today have been doing this forever.  William Blake put it aptly, “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is …” Furthermore, Professor David Nutt said, “If you want to understand consciousness, you’ve got to study psychedelics.

A monument to our computational overlords

It has been my own thinking that if we’re in a computer simulation, and assuming that simulation is being monitored, then it might be a very interesting turn of events indeed if we decided to build a monument commemorating our realization of this.  This monument would act as a signal to our monitors.  “We suspect you are there.  We suspect you can see this.  We suspect we are in a simulation.”  This monument could look like the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey, except it would be black and white, representing binary systems.  Or, a large statue of Lawrence Fishburne as Morpheus would probably get the point across.  What would happen?  I don’t know—maybe nothing.  I don’t think a laser beam will shoot out from space and land at its feet to spell out the words “Hi there! A Winner is You!”  But, I do imagine something strange and far out enough in the margins might indeed occur, although it will likely still be tenuous enough for the dogmatists to reject.  Crop circles perhaps—(Needless to say, simulation frameworks in general explain all psi and paranormal phenomena quite elegantly.  It should go without saying that if you believe your video game world is really real and something utterly peculiar happens to go down, you might very well be inclined to interpret it as paranormal or supernatural, when in reality it is just the game getting weird on you.) 

Nevertheless, I imagine a monument to be a far more effective pursuit than some kind of other hardware or technology springing us loose.  I this universe is a computer simulation and some “they” are monitoring it from the “outside,” they will likely be intelligent enough to get our drift with such a monument.  In fact, maybe something like a monument is just what they’re waiting for.  After all, we’ve only been addressing each other in the simulism dialog—never the rumored, assumed “them” monitoring it.

Ever play The Sims?  If you have then you know that none of your Sims can do anything in secret.  We, the player, have total oversight.  Here we are discussing breaking out of our video game universe.  Do you think “They”—if there truly is a “They”—don’t already know that we’re thinking and talking about planning a bust?

What to do?

Why is it all here?  Why are we in a simulated virtual reality video game universe anyway?  According to Campbell it is to evolve consciousness.  Since The Big Conscious Computer is under pressure to evolve or die it has further evolved universe simulations and partitioned itself into seemingly discreet conscious lifeforms, all with the universal goal of staving off high entropy via interacting, learning, growing, propagating, adapting, and so on.  To Campbell, our universe is not necessarily the result of posthumans per se, but from an AI that grew universes to interact in so that it could better survive the fundamental process of evolve or die.  Here, both life and virtual reality universes end up springing from the same source.  Since static states are unstable, the credo seems to have become go big or go home.

All you need to get the ball rolling is consciousness (as defined) and an evolutionary impulse of change or die.

But even if Campbell is incorrect, as we consider all the possible paths of inquiry that the various simulism models afford, is it not obvious that the nature and foundation of consciousness, its role in the simulation, as well as the issues of “where” is the cpu behind the universe—and subsequently our location “in” it—must eventually all take center stage?  Where is Mario if he isn’t really in the Mushroom Kingdom?

Fredkin, said it clearly enough, “If we assume that Finite Nature is true, we discover that surprising progress can be made in looking beyond our own world.”

So what is a solid way to begin looking beyond our world?  How do you break out of a universe that you only appear to be in?  All you Neos out there, if you want to break out of the Matrix, look into the wildly queer and otherwise forbidden domain of consciousness research, psi, the paranormal, out-of-body experience, dreams, meditation, and psychedelics.  Indeed, these are the otherworldly themselves—so start with them.  This might not be the answer you wanted (some of you being residents of Big Machine Country) but I’ll bet you bits to bandwidth that consciousness is the key missing from the simulation hypothesis—and consciousness states, the door.  Maybe all that assumed irrationality coming out of shamanism, magic, mysticism, and the Grateful Dead might end up in fact being how to competently exploit Other’s operating system.

Do you really ever escape this simulated universe?  Campbell argues that you can vividly experience information from other realities, but that all of them are simulated.  Furthermore, he argues that getting out of all simulated universes is like trying to get out of consciousness—and can you really get out of consciousness?  All in all, to Campbell’s thinking, we don’t really want to get out of the Matrix.  What we want to do is get into Consciousness. 

Maybe all we really need to do is close our eyes and pay very careful attention.

Happy trails, Redpills.

Collage by David Metcalfe

Eliott Edge is a multidisciplinary artist, writer, philosopher, humorist, and netizen who operates under the online handle OddEdges. Edge describes Odd as “A prolific noösphere squatter spreading Awareness Awareness.” Edge’s primary occupations include cyborg anthropology, universal free education, simulism and digital mechanics, virtual reality and media literacy, psychedelics and psychology, ethical transhumanism, culture jamming, liminality, esoterica, meditation, and consciousness. He is currently working on a theory of civilization called The Second Womb and a scientific-philosophical ontology called Participatory Anthropic Simulism—an effort to create an account for consciousness and the observer effect in a simulated universe context. His artwork has appeared in the Museum of Computer Arts, Stevens Institute of Technology, Anthology Film Archives, and numerous galleries. He is on the advisory board of The Lifeboat Foundation, a member of Das Ubehagen, and the founder of EducatingEarth. He is also a poet, blogger, and YouTuber.


In a universe seemingly infinite any such simulation hardware would be mind-mindbogglingly massive. Incredibly massive - beyond anything our imagination can comprehend. Gogols to the power of Gogols to the power of Gogols worth of operations per second. That is, unless it relies directly upon observation (which Schrödinger’s cat seems to suggest). If reality does not render until a sentient consciousness has the ability to perceive it, then the limits to the system are bottle-necked at the number of conscious entities. It’s going to take a whole lot of exploration and development of automated minds capable of exploration to try to cause some overflow, detect a glitch, or gather enough data about the universe before we will have a means to exploit the system.

That is, unless we devise a better simulation of reality that seems to follow the laws of physics more correctly than those we observe in our reality. It would also prove chaos theory wrong most likely. But we’re going to need much higher orders of magnitude worth of computing power if we can’t find a law that breaks reality and need to resort to causing some sort of “buffer-overflow”

If the universe is a simulation and one in which reality does not exist, why is there a consistency of events in spite of there being no objective source? Also, why create a partial simulation when it would be easier to simulate the whole universe to figure things out? And what about things from beyond our scope of sensory perception that intrude into our lives? Surely there must be at least some plan in order to keep consistency in our universe. It’s probably the best argument against solipsism, that it would be easier to create a real mind to some degree than it would be to have only a simulation. Maybe I’m deluding myself on that account but it’s tough to be sure.

There’s one experience of mine that you might be interested in. It’s a movie that I recall having a similar plot to Fool’s Rush in. The basic plot is the same, a man in a city to supervise the creation of a building in his company’s chain. Except in this movie the main character breaks up with the woman. She might have gotten the baby from somebody else. I don’t remember. Anyways he goes back to work and meets up with a new woman who’s a relative of his coworker and they go together on a yacht cruise presumably to hook up. I don’t know why I can’t find any information on it. It probably is from the same reality but I can’t find any information on it. I’m telling you about it because it’s the only time where I’ve been forced to question whether I’m in one unchanging reality.

Interesting.  I have to ask though, why would one have to “evolve or die”?  If one is consciousness themselves.  Can consciousness ever be aware of its own demise?  I’d say no.  It ties back in with the the quantum reality.  We exist, and we don’t.  Therefore it depends upon the player’s interpretation of if we’re dead, or alive, right?  Clearly in my interpretation of my own “playerness”, I evolve, but in other players interpretations (enemies?) I should be dead.  Another question is which is the “stronger” inclination/observation?  (more probabilistic).  Something, or Nothing?

@Greg, isn’t reality always changing though?  Isn’t today different than yesterday?  Otherwise it wouldn’t be today…  I had a whole year of those questioning of an unchanging realities when I was in a different state for college.  I’m still integrating all that information to this day.

....also why psychedelics over any other “Drug”, or even the awareness that everything impacts your awareness in some way?  Water is a drug, so is Oxygen…. Is your “base state” really the same as mine?  Couldn’t the “water supply” have different elements/composition depending upon where you are?

You know, what sort of excess drugs are getting recycled into the water supply from locals dumping stuff down the tubes?

Interesting indeed. This is consistent with an experience of my own a number of years ago (drug-facilitated, I acknowledge). I experienced our existence as interactions among parts of a Universe that had voluntarily split itself into largely separate components, in the interests of accumulating experiences and understanding them to the extent possible. The implication was that our fundamental purpose in this life is the accumulation of experience and the development of understanding of our lives - and that at some point we might be called on to re-merge with the universe and be able to tell our own story for the edification of others (or possibly the Universe generally).

If we are operating within a simulation framework, this would suggest that we are all essentially parallel processors, and that value (additional information) is generated by comparisons among the variety of different experiences generated by the different processors. This puts an interesting macro-spin on my own micro-vision of the Universe. Much to consider here!

First, my thanks to Eliott Edge for offering this clear presentation of this topic. Second, the purpose of this simulation thus far has been to be cruel to the simulation. This situation does not bode well for the remainder of this simulation.

It’s all just numbers in a computer. It is digital information.”

Few people seem to consider that this too would have to logically be a ‘simulation’. It’s an arbitrary double standard to question every thought, feeling, object, and event as unreal, and then give ‘digital information’ (which is nothing but a conceptual entity applied to many different sensations and perceived objects/events) a free pass. If the Moon isn’t really here, then why would we assume that ‘digital information’ is really here either?

“It’s just information [  ] It’s just data”

It’s ‘just’ easy to consider those things real because they are popular ideas at this point in history.

“1. Information input (experience)”

We should not assume that experience is information. To the contrary, information is an experience which refers to another experience. Experience is not an ‘input’, rather ‘input’, memory, pattern-recognition, and learning are types of experience.

2. Information recall (memory)

Memory is an experience of partial re-experience. It may or may not be informative in any way.

3. Information processing (sense-making; pattern recognition, etc.)

Pattern recognition is an experience of pattern recognition.

4. Self-modifying feedback loop (learning)”

Learning is an experience of learning.

No amount of information can produce a flavor or a color. This is why we use non-computational hardware to interface with computers. No program can ever virtualize a video display or speakers, just as no description of electromagnetic frequencies can cure blindness.

A lot of ideas similar to these are floating around at the moment. 

I do think that ‘informtion’ (math)  , ‘fields’ (matter)  and ‘cognition’ (consciousness) are all ojectively *real* things, and shouldn’t be defined out of existence. 

Below is the link to my ‘Reality Theory Portal’, where I attempt to summarize *all* of our explanatory knowledge about reality -  you will see that reality seems to naturally separate into 27 vocabularies (or ‘knowledge domains’).  Click on the name of each domain and it will take you through to an A-Z list of the central concepts for each, which I’ve linked to Wikipedia articles explaining them.  On average, there are about 70 core concepts needed to cover each domain, resulting in 27*70 ~ 1 800 core concepts in toal to summarize all explanatory knowledge.


The striking thing here is the sharp distinction between 3 general categories of knowledge - Mathematical-Informational (left-hand column),  Physical-Material (middle column) and Mental-Cognitive (right-hand column).  You simply can’t take-out Information, Matter or Consiousness from our explanations - they are *indispensible* to our explanations of reality.

What are we to make of this?

Either we should arrange Information, Matter and Consciousness into some sort of hierarchy (reductionism), or we should place them on an equal footing (property dualism, panpsychism or neutral monism).

If we go with reductionism, then we need to decide what the most fundamental element is: our choices are Information (Math), Matter (Fields) or Consciousness (Cognition).

The smart money is probably on *Information* as the fundamental element.  The arguments for are this are: (i) The computational nature of the laws of physics, (ii)  The unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics, and (iii) Quantum mechanics can’t be interpreted in purely physical terms - wave functions aren’t physical, but appear to reside in something called Hilbert Space, which is purely informational or mathematical. 

If Information is fundamental, then no underlying ‘computer’ is required.  Pure information can exist without needing to be instantiated on a physical substrate.  In this case, reality would be *like* a simulation, but no literal creator would be needed.

But of course one can argue the case for either Fields (matter) or Cognition (Consciousness) as the fundamental element instead.  I think these possiilities are less likely, but definitely possible.  Materialism (fields or matter as fundamental) probably is still the conventional scientific view.

The really radical and intriguing possibility is to reject reductionism, and not arrange the elements in a hierarchy at all!  On this view, Information, Fields and Cognition would be placed on an equal footing, and reality would have a circular aspect to it -  with each element some-how containing or being created by the other 2.


A quick chime in on my part in regards to mjgeddes’s response;

Instead of “God” substitute in “Universe” (or whatever symbolic representation you prefer), for these thoughts (namely “Divine Simplicity”).  In essence I’m leaning towards the thoughts your last paragraph mention.  And the notion that if the Universe was simple enough to understand, we wouldn’t be complex enough to understand it.  What if we are “The Universe” (we make it up literally as objects/material), so if we were simple enough to “understand”...would we ever be “complex enough” to do so?

Why we are being simulated is the same reason why I simulate things ahead of time, to see which simulation should be built. I endlessly simulate architectural ideas until I find the best simulation that’s ready to be constructed. If we are in a simulated reality I’d suspect the same is taking place…not endless ancestor simulations, that makes no sense. Our universe is being simulated for the purpose of finally becoming “real”, that is if it is the chosen simulation for future construction.  The old addage ‘measure twice, cut once’ comes to mind. Endlessly simulate reality until you’ve got it exactly fine tuned. Otherwise don’t bother to create reality at all. We all have our part to play in this scheme.  That’s why we’re here.  That’s the meaning of our existence.  That’s why I’m alive, to simulate reality.

I very much enjoyed this article and agree with your perspective on consciousness. I do however disagree with a line of thinking that only considers simulation where conscious beings occupy the central role and purpose. The anthrocentric perspective is an enticing possibility, however it is not the only function a universe simulation could satisfy. There is the alternate possibility that the universe is a simulation built only with the purpose of studying the “Other” reality and that we are simply its bi-products. Acknowledging this hypothetical is important as its existence presents drastically different potential outcomes to any attempts to detect or manipulate the simulation.

I argue that this alternate simulation goal of physical inquiry is an equally likely case. In our experience the vast majority of computationally complex simulations are built and ran with the goal of furthering our understanding of the universe we exist in. This is because few other problems require such in depth computation and are simultaneously deemed worthy of the considerable of resources necessary for their simulation. Certainly, this does not guarantee that our simulation would be of this type, but it does support it as a possibility.

Consideration of this alternate simulation hypothesis is important when discussing any actions to be taken probing the nature of our existence. If our reality is a simulation built to closely mimic the ‘Other reality’ for the purposes of scientific inquiry then any phenomena within that simulation that behaves in a way that is unphysical in that Other reality is undesirable. If this Other reality is itself not a simulation, then any process within our reality that stems from it being a simulation would be unphysical. Therefor if we were to “discover” that we existed in such a simulation and then where to act on this information we could then represent just such an unphysical phenomena. In this case there would be a cause to cull us from the simulation.

As you said in your work, “eventually nearly all intelligent lifeforms should discover that their environment is a computer simulation”. This, in combination with the need to remove unphysical phenomena from a simulation, naturally explains the Fermi paradox where the knowledge of being in a simulation would represent the “Great Filter”. If this is the case, exploration as a society in this direction my present risks that should be considered.

Hold on.
If everything that exists, or has ever existed is part of the simulation,
Then everything that you have ever called ‘real’ was part of it.
What then do you mean by ‘real’ ?
To what phenomenon are you referring?

“It has been my own thinking that if we’re in a computer simulation, and assuming that simulation is being monitored, then it might be a very interesting turn of events indeed if we decided to build a monument commemorating our realization of this. [...] I do imagine something strange and far out enough in the margins might indeed occur, although it will likely still be tenuous enough for the dogmatists to reject.”

I thought about that and something came to my mind. The Matrix (movie) was released in 1999, by 2000 a lot of people saw it. Well, around 26/06/2000 the human genome was finally deciphered.

In my opinion this is one of the best articles I have read on this subject.  I want to apologize for rambling or grammatical errors.  I do have something to offer and it is a way of escaping but it is by no means easy.  First I will offer up I am what would be termed a Sethian Gnostic, which in essence is more of a philosophy then a religion. Anyhow this entire simulation was described in in history thousands of years ago.  Plato, Descartes and Gnostic’s are just a few of many to put forward that this world is not right.  I think that there is no true word we have for what we exist in right now.  It is real and simulation both at the same time.
I will briefly go over some of the explanations in the hopes that it is a potential explanation.
This reality is real but an illusion also.  This world is of the lowest frequencies and consist mostly of matter.  All other realities or dimensions are not observable to us due to frequency and our inability to detect it nor see it with our eyes.  Even within the known Electromagnetic Spectrum we are essentially blind.  Our eyesight only senses a very small portion of the Electromagnetic Spectrum, with hearing being similar.  So in this thinking our reality is all within an electromagnetic spectrum.  Outside of the measurable spectrum would be other realities and they could essentially stack on top of each other and never ever have interaction because they would pass through each other.  As Tesla said who I think was brilliant beyond most people’s comprehension; ““If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”
In the oldest Gnostic explanations this planet existed in basically the dark woods of the universe, the lowest dimension as it consisted of matter.  In their explanation there are many dimensions above us until you get to the higher dimensions which were termed the Eternal Light Realms among other things.  In these dimensions there have been individual consciousness for a long time or termed as already existed before humans were modified.
Within these higher dimensions there is what is called Source or whatever you want to term it.  This source emits energy that sustains conscious life in these realms.  One of these beings whom was called Sophia left these higher dimensions in pursuit of creating a copy(termed an incomplete copy or a simulation of the real thing) of the Eternal Light Realms outside of it which is the dimension we are in.  It is the lowest or one of the lowest so she went about creating a copy where no one else would go.  This copy is illustrated by our Sun providing energy to all life on this planet, without it we would be a solid chunk of frozen matter.  It then says something came form the shadows of the Eternal Light Realms, meaning the darkness just below those dimensions.  This being which was accidental created then went and stole consciousness from Sophia which kept her trapped outside her dimensions.  Then they created consciousness that were not physical that were called the Gods in all the world myths.  These beings lacked the the light consciousness as their father had stolen it from Sophia but did not allow his offspring to have any.  Although I use masculine or feminine names none of these beings are a male or female.  All beings are androgynous.  This father is what was worshiped as God throughout alot of early history.  Oh BTW they were not Aliens as some would say but were said to be created to exist on earth’s dimension and a few above it.
They never really created humans but domesticated an already existing species.  In doing so they found someway to anchor a consciousness to the animal we call human.  This coincided with civilization.  There hopes as per the texts were to create a fence of light.  Meaning that the bodies are vessels to hold light, which is our consciousness, their source of energy.  We as humans have nothing special when compared to the rest of the animal kingdom.  There is virtually a species that is on par or exceeds humans even in brain power.  Even brain size falls flat as Neanderthal’s exceeded our brain size.  So in this explanation so far we are eternal consciousness trapped inside an physical body.
The only way to escape if this were true is via consciousness not a physical body.  So then the question becomes why no one leaves again and there are many many reasons that take a long time to explain although I am up to the challenge.  One of the biggest parts is that when our physical body dies, it releases our consciousness, which is of a higher frequency then this dimension and when released it is like letting a helium balloon go and it sails up dimensions figuratively until it finds a temporary equilibrium, which initially will be a lower dimension.  I want to also note that the point in time-space you presently occupy has every other dimension at that point but does not interact at all.  So to move dimensions would not be physical moving but just merely increasing frequency.  This is best illustrated by Near Death Experiences.  There is only one purpose for what they experience and that is to convince the consciousness to do it again.  All of the experience is a construct to deceive.  Those deceased family members greeting you are not real but merely another consciousness reflecting back the image that you will listen to or calm you down. Every means that humans can easily be influenced is used.  The end game in all these scenarios is to pick a new body in hopes that they lead a better life this time.  Anyway very few consciousness make it past the numerous illusions intended to keep us recycling on this planet and keeping their existence going.
So in the texts and I am sorry if I am all over the place there is just so much to explain, escape is only possible inbetween lives.  The first step towards escape is awareness but I can say from personal experience that if you are not mentally prepared it is not easy because you end up grasping some things that are not easy to accept as true.  It is much easier for someone to say this is not a simulation because the day you go “Oh my God, I see it now we are in a sort of simulation”, your entire outlook and understanding of reality fundamentally changes.

I am sure there are some that will disagree with what I said above but please know that I am only trying to explain how I have come to understand things and it is just my opinion ultimately.  Please if someone has questions I would be happy to answer from my perspective.

I too agree that Eliott did a good job with the article, however, I disagree with him almost at every turn - so much to the point that I wrote a paper on simulation theory and most of its proponents, using Eliott’s article as a framework.

Within it, there are many unique perspectives and counter arguments which are supported by actual evidence and experiment, that has missed the attention of the media in many cases. For anyone interested in simulation theory, no argument or debate is complete without considering the breakthrough information that I present -

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