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    Open Letter To Bostrom And NASA's Richard Terrile: Evolution Wrong, Fossils Planted?
    By Sascha Vongehr | September 13th 2012 12:50 AM | 10 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Sascha

    Dr. Sascha Vongehr [风洒沙] studied phil/math/chem/phys in Germany, obtained a BSc in theoretical physics (electro-mag) & MSc (stringtheory)...

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    The idea that we are already inside a simulation is in a sense true anyway (if we define “simulation” as the possibility of being described as emergent from a computational substrate). Nick Bostrom, the director of Oxford University’s 'Future of Humanity Institute', and others became famous with such ideas, see Simulation Hypothesis on Wikipedia.


    The holographic universe: A “simulation” anyway!


    Vice magazine now has an interview with NASA scientist Richard J. Terrile, who appeared on “Through the Wormhole”, a Science Channel show, where Richard discussed that our experience is something like advanced “The Sims”.


    Richard J. Terrile


    kotaku.com compares to the matrix without criticism. Vice.com has a lot of great articles and dares to talk straight on issues like the “war on drugs” and US mass incarceration, and their interview of Richard, or at least the title of the article by Ben Makuch, suggests first-semester philosophy students’ weed-epiphanies: Whoa, Dude, Are We Inside a Computer Right Now?


    Illustration: Julian Garcia, from vice.com


    Self-defined skeptics like those on Science Blogs and Free Thought Blogs are usually all over creationists, bashing them for every tiny comment on planted fossils. Yet because Bostrom and people like Degrasse Tyson, or say anything to do with NASA, belong to the scientism team, "our team", they are left untouched. But make no mistake: The idea is not that evolution made us and thereby computers and in turn thereby our world as a simulation. The idea is that there is fundamentally no difference between simulation and evolved world, so that the world is perfectly well described as created by the simulator, which makes evolution just a story that perhaps is there to hide the creator.


    Open Letter to Richard Terrile (Cc: Nick Bostrom, Ray Kurzweil):


    Dear Richard!


    In your interview on vice.com, you defend the simulation hypothesis. There are criticisms that I as a physicist could make. For example, quantum mechanics (QM) neither proves pixilation nor a finite universe, and reducing QM to “You see what you need to see” misses the core of that physics, for example apparent non-locality (which is unnecessary and atypical in todays video game experience!). As a philosopher, I could come down harshly on the opinion that mere speed of calculation proves anything about the possibility of self-conscious algorithms.


    However, on a site like VICE and in such an interview situation, profound scientific issues easily become confused and perhaps editing also distorted your real opinion.


    I therefore read as charitable as possible, which leaves only well meaning questions and no criticism – so please do not take the following as criticism, but as a question that I think you owe an answer to [and Nick Bostrom or perhaps even Ray Kurzweil (who has slightly similar ideas but does not as far as I know fall into the simulation-now hypothesis category) may like to answer this question as it applies to them, too].


    You put forward “You see exactly what you need to see” as a support of the simulation hypothesis, because video games are programmed precisely like that. Evolution theory explains this very differently, namely by selected efficiency of the perceiving system (not the simulating system): perception and brain calculation is very resource intensive, thus natural selection ensures that they are optimized that way. In other words, you propose that the simulator (creator of our world) deceives us for pure efficiency of calculation (though that should be unnecessary with ever more speed of calculation).


    So my question is this: Do you hold the fossil record to be planted as a deception (simulated)? It has been argued that some creationists feel that this is the case since god wants to test our faith (this may be largely a strawman argument put forward by new atheists). You are also a creationist, you also hold that the fossils are planted (simulated) and do therefore hide the fact of creation, and the only difference is that in your opinion, the creator's motivation for hiding may be practical [but you do not as far as I know, for example, argue that the creator is forced to simulate evolution and quantum mechanics because of the constraints on her own consistent existence*]. So once more, the question is very simple:


    Are you holding the fossil record to be planted by a creator?


    Please do not answer about the 'sciency' nature of the creator in order to distract from the core question, because the issue here is not the simulation hypothesis, but strictly whether you support creationism in its rejection of the fossil record as planted/simulated while other 'sciency' people demand that creationists may not even be teachers. This is a simple yes or no question.


    Best regards


    Sascha

    ----------------

    *For example, one could propose that if the creator does not simulate evolution, the simulation cannot be her self-creation, because it is not indistinguishible from not-simulated evolution.



    Related on Alphameme:

    Mix Science and God correctly or Don't

    Simulation Hypothesis and other Religious Stuff

    Modest Agnostics expect Multiverse and hold Many-Worlds True

    Comments

    Gerhard Adam
    Perhaps it isn't as well thought out as it could be, but I think those guys are idiots.
    Mundus vult decipi
    vongehr
    What is not thought out (my letter, your comment) and who are idiots (those with the simulation hypothesis or those who selectively criticize)? I clearly state that:
    I therefore read as charitable as possible, which leaves only well meaning questions and no criticism – so please do not take the following as criticism,
    I revised in four other parts in order to reflect the criticism of Thor Russell (his comments below) and of Casey Luskin (Isn't it funny that the discovery institute should be the one that replies first with a rational and valid criticism via email).
    Gerhard Adam
    My comment wasn't well thought out, it was just off-the-cuff, but those with the simulation hypothesis, were the target of my comment.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Thor Russell
    I don't know that this article and the motivation behind it is well thought out either. Your QRC definitely seems better thought out. What are you trying to achieve here? 
    I don't think its intended by you just as a way to call these guys idiots. There are several ways that your letter could be answered that would seem to make this exercise backfire, that is if I understand both your intentions/goals and how you expect things to play out. What do you expect to happen next and why?
    Thor Russell
    vongehr
    How does asking a question backfire? That would assume intentions I likely do not have. I am not a "new atheist" or "skeptic" or preacher of naive scientism. If the fossil record can be described as planted in a consistent description, then great. We can all go along then.

    One motivation is: Sciency "skeptics", emboldened by their newly gained power as the establishment in a technological society, bash the new underclass with idiotically weak arguments while they hardly ever touch fashionably sciency in-crowd people. It is a power struggle - truth has little to do with it on either side. One has to decide whether one wants to join that new religion or if, in case one is forced to pick a team, the old religions offer more.

    What do I expect to happen next? Nothing. The next-level has always been there. Society's/humans' co-evolution keeps it as an inspiration source at the fringe (useful in case fast adaptation is needed, much like bacteria can actively speed up mutation rates in response to environmental stress), at least as long as no omnipotent system develops (see: Global Suicide). Skeptics do best to simply ignore or ridicule with strawmen. They already have their huge following of believers. To argue rationally is bad strategy, because allegiance to a certain team-consensus, for example token-feminism or democratic doctrine, makes a large section of rational arguments unavailable to them.
    Thor Russell
    No I never even meant to imply "skeptic" or anything similar. For the QRC your intention is to stop crackpots getting attention. Here are you trying to make the establishment seem foolish, stop them promoting the simulation hypothesis or both? 

    I can immediately see a way someone could trivially answer this letter if they can find a video game with apparent non-locality (or if one is released tomorrow), so perhaps this shouldn't be included, its hardly timeless. More interestingly though what if they say that the evolution we see has been simulated just like our current existence, BUT at a point in the past the simulation was stopped and saved so that it can then be re-run many times from that point onwards (and we don't know if we are the original, not that would matter anyway) That wouldn't be a yes/no answer. It would no-doubt make some creationists happy and cause endless arguments.


    "the creator is forced to simulate evolution and quantum mechanics because of the constraints on her own consistent existence" 
    What do you mean by this? I can't see what in the simulation article exactly corresponds to this.


    Perhaps you should clarify some other things in the article:

    "There is a non-mystic connection between consciousness and quantum theory."
    You havn't proven that consciousness does not emerge in classical simulations as far as I am aware but have reasons to suspect so that you have not fully described. Someone who regards simulation like hypothesis as credible is hardly going to be convinced by a reference to an argument not fully presented.

    "I claim that a structure that has grasped the as yet mostly as ‘multiverse’ misunderstood concept of so called ‘modal realism’ will not bother creating what exists already anyway."
    How else can it investigate the effect say of different initial conditions on something other than creating and observing it?  The fact that it already exists in some sense anyway hardly helps. Also assuming that concern for suffering will always trump curiosity in such a being/structure reflects your personal beliefs more than logic you have presented here. If you are not going to completely rigorously back this up then stop mentioning it.
    Thor Russell
    vongehr
    are you trying to make the establishment seem foolish, stop them promoting the simulation hypothesis or both?
    As I wrote right at the beginning, we are in a "simulation" anyway. We are also brains in vats (my skull is my vat). We are also nanotechnological robots, nature made us, the robopocalypse is happening already. Those "crazy new ideas" are hyped trivialities. Why would I be against them?
    if they can find a video game with apparent non-locality (or if one is released tomorrow)
    He argued from the typical video game today. I know of portals, but the only game seriously about QM non-locality is probably my QRC, ha ha. ;-)
    what if they say that the evolution we see has been simulated just like our current existence, BUT ...
    That is all I want to hear. Did you ever try to argue that fossils have been planted BUT ... on FTB or SB or anywhere like that? They don't let you get to the "BUT".
    "the creator is forced to simulate evolution and quantum mechanics because of the constraints on her own consistent existence" What do you mean by this?
    For example, one could hold that if the creator does not simulate evolution, the simulation cannot be her self-creation, because it is distinguishible from not-simulated evolution. Flawed, but that is not the point. Perhaps I should not have mentioned QM (he did, so I did, a mistake - it is only in brackets pointing out that he does NOT argue anything like that).
    Sascha: Bulls-eye! Nice one.

    I'm convinced that a determination to seriously speculate (aside from around a bong, I mean) about Boltzmann brains reveals more about the speculator than it does about the universe, and this strikes me as no different. As a courtesy to the rest of us, one would at least expect philosophers to take the time to review the thorough exploration these concepts have received in the literature of serious science fiction over the last few decades before exclaiming excitedly about such ideas as if they're the first to ever conceive of them.

    vongehr
    What serious science fiction? Egan's "Permutation City" is philosophically naive. Boltzmann brains are actively discussed in quantum cosmology. I think philosophers need to look at science more than literature.