Simulation Hypothesis And Other Silly Religious Stuff
    By Sascha Vongehr | February 16th 2011 10:56 PM | 34 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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    After arguing against ‘higher consciousness’ or freedom evolving, let us go on to discuss consciousness inside computers. This is, maybe surprisingly so for some readers, closely connected with the non-existence of gods and in fact quantum theory.

    Ironically (given what I wrote the last time), cyberspace and its breakneck speed evolution is still the big hope for some ill-defined freedom. Since cyberspace is all about information technology, should there not be higher consciousness after all? Maybe a ‘god2.0’ develops and grants us salvation in virtual reality, in a simulated matrix?

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    The holographic universe: Wake up, we are a ‘simulation’ anyway!

    The idea that we live in a sort of dream is at least as old as the ingestion of psychoactive mushrooms ice ages ago. The little toadstools tend to provide precisely such epiphanies. As a physicist, I know that the universe is fundamentally describable as computation anyway - do I need mention buzz words like holographic universe?

    A number of popular writers however tell us that such is turned into a scientific hypothesis by introducing anthropic arguments based on ill defined statistical ensembles. The pipe dream became ‘Nick Bostrom’s simulation hypothesis’.

    What a silly idea: An advanced structure having any interest whatsoever in recreating some violent, self-important beings from way back in the old days. What a sadistic god2.0 who re-creates all this suffering. But such is not my main concern. There are enough geeks out there who love to play god. We should not confuse ‘advanced’ with ‘better’. Evolution is not a ladder upwards to some telos in the sky.

    My main criticism comes from the convergence of fundamental physics with the philosophy of mind. There is a non-mystic connection between consciousness and quantum theory. That there are deep connections is actually quite obvious – never mind the hordes of people who make a pseudo-science woo fest out of it.

    Quantum mechanics alone teaches us that it is totally wrong to count souls inside a box/lever/pulley reality. We do not reside in such a classical box! We are different perspectives, ‘cuts’ through a fog of potentialities that is partially describable via quantum physics. Probability of phenomenal experience is not frequentist but possibly based on decision theory, as David Deutsch suggests.

    Not only does a proper treatment of probability destroy the Bostrom argument’s purported rigor. 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.

    And this is only half or even less of my criticism. We are near a breakthrough in the understanding of how the phenomenal mind seems to supervene on the physical via the physical being quantum physics rather than naively existing patterns really out there. The full argument is not something I can describe here, but the relevant result is that there are only two ways in which you can try to simulate:

    1) In a classical physics simulation like the Game of Life (GOL), no phenomenal consciousness supervenes and all you have is a bunch of zombies.

    2) Inside a quantum simulation, in which case you do not need to bother, as all that you can simulate is already simulated by the universe and your choice of initial conditions hardly constrains anything happening inside the quantum superposition of the simulation.

    This may render the efforts at creating yourself via simulation in a computer look like the Egyptian pyramids: A totally misguided waste not unlike hunters and gatherers trying to get to the souls of their prey by drawing patterns on cave walls.

    Sure, this is really a physics description of the philosophically known non-existence of traditional creator deities. It is the fact that any such god is totally decoupled from its own creation, which exists relative to itself already anyway. It does not fully argue against god2.0 developing on our own level.

    People do start to live in virtual realities. They may put only their brains in there at some point, then slowly technology may replace more and more of their neurons and dendrite trees until the whole is gradually replaced and sped up by orders of magnitude. Perhaps necessary quantum calculations may also be sped up in quantum chips. Maybe one could copy all those fast hardware brains and make thus many more “people”.

    Somebody may take over control and thus become the god of everyone else, changing the laws of nature experienced by everybody, punishing anybody eating virtual mushrooms in virtual hell. God2.0scenarios are conceivable, although the souls in the just imagined scenario likely lose interest in their individuality and all that which makes us puny humans yearn for eternal life, but this will be a topic for another time.

    Note that the simulation hypothesis as supported by Bostrom for example, is basically about classical simulations like the Sims game in computers that are quantitatively much better but not qualitatively different from computers today. The quantum-mind connection may put surprisingly strong restrictions on what can be achieved via advanced virtual reality, for instance in terms of compressing experienced time into real calculation time.

    I introduced here maybe two and a half novel criticisms that should cool the high hopes of transhumanists, and I have not even addressed the main point, namely that truly advanced intellects will likely soon seek nirvana anyway. My conclusion is that those hopes for higher consciousness and heaven on earth or in the computer are fashionably sciency but also plain old religion.


    Ladislav Kocbach
    I claim that a structure that has grasped the as yet mostly as ‘multiverse’ misunderstood concept of modal realism will not bother creating what exists already anyway.
    What do we know about the playfulness of a structure that has grasped all these things? The only thing I know is that if that structure would be called Sascha, it would consider that type of playfulness childish or silly or .... I myself on the other hand, would definitely like to play with such enormous simulations (but what about the suffering - well the suffering of simulated ragdolls is - simulated).

    As many of the links show, the ideas of parallel worlds and simulations of 'reality' go back hundreds of years, usually used to argue away such possibilities and illustrate how preposterous the ideas of opponents of those thinkers possibly were. It is only in our time (or at least my time > now - 50 ) that some authors seriously base a certain type of worldview on them. 

    But are the newer thoughts on "simulation" etc really "serious"? Perhaps it is not really serious. Perhaps it is some sort of playfulness where the joke remains hidden to some of us.

    Ladislav Kocbach

    In conclusion: Transhumanists' hopes for higher consciousness and heaven on earth or in the computer are not science, however much they feel to be fashionable sciency with such, it is plain old religion!
    One could write a whole long story in place of this explosive sentence. Are you planning it? Including the study on the similarities and major differences between SCIENCE and RELIGION. 

    Also, one should not always assume that a 'simulator' is a 'computer'. (I learned to drive car in a simulator in 1965. It was not a computer! It took some time to learn away what I learned there). The original Flight Simulators were not really computers - and probably the real ones still are mainly other hardware assisted by many microprocessors.

    I do not feel like studying all the Transhumanists - but I believe that their higher intelligences are neither IBM compatible computers nor enormous iPads or IBM Watsons. They are probably automotive in more than one sense. I probably again missed one or several of your links where I could read a lot about that.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Transhumanism I doubt if it is really very enjoyable but I wouldn't mind working on testing it out.

    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at
    I would urge more than caution.  I agree with Sascha’s comment on an article about Robot Wars.
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    That article wasn't (primarily) about robot wars. It was about tropes and memes.
    This video is actually an argument against the hive mind and band wagon-following tendencies of many transhumanists.  Although, I'd say that applies to a lot of groups, not just some transhumanists.
    Sascha, your argument in this article is that consciousness cannot be simulated in a non-quantum simulator because for some reason quantum physics is required for a phenomenal consciousness. 

    But you have not actually explained why you think quantum physics is necessary for phenomenal consciousness.

    You have also denied the antecedent of something besides a computer program resulting in higher consciousness, such as a human brain that has been enhanced in some way.
    Gerhard Adam
    Perhaps a definition of "higher consciousness" is in order?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Yes.  I tried to find a definition in Sascha's previous article but there was nothing.

    But here he seems to be saying any consciousness, normal or higher, is not possible in computers unless they are running quantum simulations.
    not actually explained why you think quantum physics is necessary for phenomenal consciousness.
    This is such a difficult problem that it is hardly material for a blog.

    You have also denied the antecedent of something besides a computer program resulting in higher consciousness, such as a human brain that has been enhanced in some way.
    Well, I argued against 'higher consciousness' before, but also there, the full argument would not be suitable for a blog post. I could just give a recommendation to read up on D. Dennett MDM or "fame in the brain", though Dennett by the way would disagree with me on that phenomenal consciousness is a respectable subject at all.
    BTW: If you define it conveniently enough, like say, if you accept the viewing of a 4D color landscape after augmenting retina with UV receptors as being 'higher consciousness', then of course there is something like 'higher consciousness', however, this is not really higher consciousness rather than more diverse content. Also, I see no reason for the human capacity of having only about 7 things at once in global workspace being a fundamental limit.

    Ha ha, but seriously, how much quantum mechanics can I put into a blog on Science2.0? To explain it even in a dedicated article for an audience that is well into consciousness/quantum physics debates it would already need like at least 4 to 5 thousand words.
    "trust me, I have this fantastic theory, but it's too complicated to explain". Right.

    I will in time explain it if there should be large interest. You will forgive me I hope, since I have tried many very interesting topics that would equally need easily tens of more posts to be sufficiently scratched on, but then nobody wanted to know. Sorry, but this is a blog after all, not a book. You want to publish me, I gonna write you a book. ;-)
    It would sure make one of the most interesting books in a while, please do.

    Meaning you wanna publish it? You know - I also need to eat, and damn do I hate winters without a cozy warm bed with roof on top. ;-)
    We already have Wolfram Alpha and Google Goggles. In 2008, when Stephen Wolfram was almost 50, I saw an early demonstration of Alpha at a conference celebrating Mathematica turning 20. I fell into a reverie about how this was now the 50th year anniversary of C.P. Snow’s Two Cultures Lecture. I wrote an essay on how the world could be divided, culturally at least, into what is computable and into what is not computable. Twenty years before that, I was riding in John Wheeler’s Toyota Cressida and free to pick his mind on any topic. He was driving from Princeton to Philadelphia to a meeting of the American Philosophical Society. I questioned and challenged Wheeler about “observership”. I read the following quote to him from Max Planck and asked him if he felt if it was still accurate. Wheeler agreed with it and enjoyed hearing it. Here again, he showed how he could passionately embrace conflicting-seeming positions on the lessons of the quantum. The quote is from Max Planck in “Where is Science Going” (1932, my translation is from a 1977 paperback). I have long been fond of it. “. . . those old theories had sense and meaning for their age, as other theories will have had sense and meaning for our time . . . We do not construct the external world to suit our own ends in the pursuit of science … the external world forces itself upon our recognition with its own elemental power . . . . . measurements . . . give no direct information about external reality. They are only a register or representation of reactions to physical phenomena. As such they contain no explicit information and have to be interpreted. As Helmholtz said, measurements furnish the physicist with a sign which he must interpret . . .” At the meeting place in Philadelphia, the perimeter of the room had all sorts of original and precious scientific equipment from Benjamin Franklin. The speaker was an eye specialist or an engineer making electronic eyes for robots. The focus of the conversation quickly turned to the nature of consciousness. I was completely unprepared for that and had nothing to contribute, except this little post, twenty years later. I am still unconformable with "scientific" approaches to consciousness. Maybe we should talking about awareness. A spring is aware when it compressed … isn’t it? Anywho, I like your coining Sascha of the God2.0 concept. It’s about time we got an upgrade. What’s the catch?
    Ladislav Kocbach
    Schrödinger - What is life - 1944 - Life and all that - including consciousness - is on the next "level". All references to QM and consciousness are beyond science. Solid State devices build on Quantum mechanics, definitely. Molecular structure is strongly connected to QM. Protein folding is connected to much more than QM. Thought processes and consciousness are at the "much thicker complexity" level - so the relation to Quantum Theory is on very week level. Consciousness is nothing like superconductivity. So if you write 2000 or 20000 words about the topic, it will still remain rather disconnected. 
    Great man believed in connection between consciousness and quantum phenomena, including E. Wigner. Many great men believed in phlogiston too.
    Thought processes and consciousness are at the "much thicker complexity" level - so the relation to Quantum Theory is on very week level. Consciousness is nothing like superconductivity.
    You are barking up the wrong tree. I wrote that I do not support those who think that some quantum magic added to a zombie brain will switch on the light. That kind of consciousness does not even exist, it does not make sense, which is however best explained by philosophers rather than physicists.
    Sascha, you're not so convincing, writing about topics beyond science, like consciousness or god. But how to fix something that is not there? I'd first try to find out some characteristic features, so take a look at the religions, where one may find discriptions (or transcriptions) of god:
    Most religions compare god with light, or the sun, in the same meaning. I remember what was recited every sunday in my homechurch: "Christi du Lamm Gottes, der du bist das Licht der Welt.." - you are the light of the world. So it must be a central fact, that god can be compared with light.
    Kindly you previously figured out that light doesn't exist. So obviously god doesn't exist too. In the same meaning!
    Sure, light in this case means mental light, leading a way to higher consciousness...
    But first "the creator"-thing, which is important for so many. I think people (humans!) developing religion were trying to explain something that finds a better description in buddhismn: "There is nothing without reason" So the fundamental reason is called god. But as there is no reason for reason, god doesn't exist. Yeah, we got it again.

    And for those people, complaining about "the bad world": If it had been that, what was god's intention, it's really unpossible. But god intended the human race to reach freedom. Freedom demands consequence and responsibility - no wonder that so many don't like to pay such a high price! And consciousness. As consciousness happens in time mortality is the price we have to pay for that. (I read a precise and unesoteric article about this these days, but I'm sorry, I totally forgot where. Maybe I should think about implanting some memory extension, hahaha!)
    As you remarked, one could get unsure about reality, by taking psychotic mushrooms. So imagine, you could take the opposite direction, this would lead to evidence about even more than reality! But this needs some mental effort. And it's like higher energy state of atoms - you soon fall back to the normal level. So it's not very popular at all.

    At last: Transhumanismn? Is this anything that has to be taken serious? Making a more peaceful world by implanting chips to peoples brains? Sounds like the rasta freaks propagating the world will look better if everybody was stoned all the time!
    But one thing in favour: Digital networks may encourage people raising their minds, as you can observe in northern africa these days. But maybe in china this is not such a topic...

    writing about topics beyond science, like consciousness or god.
    No topic is beyond the scientific method. Consciousness studies are done by serious scientists all over the world, neuro scientists, philosophers, ... . Sorry, but this blog is a straight science blog and I am not interested at all in any of the baggage you still drag around.
    Sorry to be harsh, but having followed many other blogs, I plainly refuse to be bogged down in religious discussions on a science blog. You know well that I am not beyond reading the bible and discussing what it may have meant, like we once did together, but not here. Here I want to hear arguments using evolution theory, quantum mechanics, high level philosophy, ... - mention Jesus being the light once too many, I will delete it.
    Yes, I am not convincing because the main argument is missing. If large interest exists, I will write about it, but as of now, I am still surprised about how little people here on Science2.0 are interested in anything actually interesting and not just lady Gaga, Einstein, Democrats sucking Republicans, barbie dolls, Hawking, who is the most popular, who is the most sexy, ... . So, lets see how it goes, if people really want to know, I will explain it. Would be the first time people want to know anything and I would welcome that.
    Sorry, I did not want to be agressive. (So I'd better take all back and declare the opposite ;-) )
    To be honest, I really hope, people can make it without religion and pseudo-religions, specially when I take a look at things actually happening. I hope we agree at least in this point.

    Not sure why Sasha is soo against the idea of Higher Consciousness... What is consiousness other than thinking + perception + memory? Does Universe think? Sure it does: should ye drop a stone it will fall down, onto the surface of the Earth, not up, onto the surface of the Moon. Well, because the Earth is big and very close, while the Moon is small and extremely far away, and, therefore, according to the law of gravity, it should fall this way... Now, how is it different from a scouser fan, who came upon two pubs across the street from each other: one for mancs, another one - for scousers? What pub will he go to watch the game? The law of logic (and self-preservation) would make him go to the scouser pub, sure enough!
    Does Universe perceive? Well, when asteroid hits the surface of the Moon, the surface of the Moon surely perceives it! More to it, it even "reacts" - with becoming dented! (I believe, in his artcile about Non-Existence of Light Sasha even had a case about "interaction" as "perception", had I understood it correctly)...
    Has Universe a Memory? Well, beforementioned asteroid created a crater, which would stay there for long-long time, wouldn't it?
    But for sure Sasha is 100% right that there's nothing "mystical" init...

    Not sure why Sasha is soo against the idea of Higher Consciousness... What is consiousness other than thinking + perception + memory?
    If that is your definition of consciousness, than what do you add to it to make it 'higher'? Thinking more rationally, perceiving more, bigger memory, adding UV receptors for a 4D color space, enabling 'global workspace' to contain more than about 7 items? All fine, but none of those, like 10 instead of 7, seem to be what people lust after when it comes to the mostly mystic 'higher consciousness'.
    Gerhard Adam
    Well, I for one, would be curious as to your take on "consciousness".  I saw your earlier reference to Dennett and would like to see you follow up on that.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Quentin Rowe
    If that is your definition of consciousness, than what do you add to it to make it 'higher'?
    I'm not sure how to do it, but on my wish-list for higher consciousness would be freedom to choose form&locality, without the need to consume my environment.
    You can’t beat the limits to efficiency imposed by thermodynamics. I would appreciate Sascha fleshing out his vision more. I find it all to be stimulating. Now and then as Mnemosyne moves, I try to provide an historical perspective. Robert Olley’s fleeting image of a hearty meal for soccer fans was vivid … yet I was expecting a bit more from him after all the effort we have made to share good food. He never did respond as to whether he would consider physically visiting Maxwell’s old farm … in his big back yard. I am saddened to learn that our hammock physicist finds it not worth the trouble to join in Sascha’s playful posts. The more interaction, the better and the less need to duplicate the same material in different parts of Science 2.0 ~ join the revolution ~
    ... finds it not worth the trouble to join in Sascha’s playful posts.

    Are you trying to insult me again? My posts are not ‘playful’ or pseudo science with silly titles to get clicks from the masses and I do not welcome commenting by those following such strategies. This is a science blog about straight cutting edge science and philosophy of science (not philosophy of the bong, not of the establishment sipping expensive wines in their armchairs or hammocks or wherever). Although my article mentions that there is finally a scientific proof against god, the title is about the simulation hypothesis and not maybe “the gravity of god”. I am saddened that you cannot tell the difference and lump me together with the usual trifle out to get clicks and facebook friends.

    Anyway, you are yet another one who is actually interested in the fleshing out of the argument. I will try to maybe put more about it onto the blog, but it won’t be easy, so give me some time (a lot of time).
    I wasn't happy with the "playful" term either, but I couldn't think of a better one that is short. Playful as a cat is playful with a mouse. No facebook account for me. No time for that kind of playfulness. If I don't respond to specifics, it is not that I am not interested. I'm probably ... too busy to write well ... or am away ...

    Oh, and your graphics of not-a-photon, the idiot adventures seemed to be playful .... as is the girl in this blog playing with fairy dust ... everyone likes the mix of serious and playful ... not-a-neutrino adorns my recreation room ... which is mostly just storage now ... so she adds some lightness to the air.
    Sure, there is nothing silly in your title "..and other silly religios stuff"!

    "Higher consciousness" is to me just as much an oxymoron as "extrasensory perception" or "non-physical worlds/universe."
    Religiosity allows us to romantically connect with ideas and ideals at the edges of our comprehension. Some feel no need to feel anything about their existence, and that is fine for them. Conversely, I find it enormously rewarding to understand that the multiverse is fractal, and in whatever one I find myself, I am choosing to be the 'best' version of myself, with both 'lower' and 'higher' beings living all around us.

    Is a sphere smooth, or is it a polygon of infinite sides? Just because you see the sphere and call it 'dead' and I see the facets and call them 'Gods' does not mean your ideas are more functional than mine, nor mine more complex than yours. They are part of each other's existence. In the quantum multiverse, Schroedinger's cat IS both alive and dead, with no contradiction. In fact, it MUST be so; therefore, Gods must both exist and not exist. I respect intensely the perspective of intellectual atheism, so long as it does not seek to abuse the sentimentality of the faithful of any faith to crap on their perspective as worth less than their own 'sensible' one. One uber-deity, over multiple 'lesser' deities, over the various sentient species, 'lower' species, etc., fractally less aware of their own existence down to non-living matter is entirely logical to me. From my perspective, we are all part of one entity, both living and dead, at a quantum level, who is conscious of itself. If a self-conscious, unified, living, quantum organism is not God, then what qualifies? Blessed Be.