Is Life a Computer Simulation?

Updated on March 12, 2018
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Mario Buildreps is a graduate engineer. Become aware of topics in a way you have never heard before.

Life seems to be so abstract, as well as the laws that govern the whole universe, that ideas it might be a computer simulation has great appeal to scientific materialists.
Life seems to be so abstract, as well as the laws that govern the whole universe, that ideas it might be a computer simulation has great appeal to scientific materialists. | Source

What do You Think?

Is Life a Computer Simulation?

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Is Life a Simulation?

The answer is: no. And I will explain why not.

Elon Musk, you know the founder of Tesla Motors, thinks to have found the answer to life; it's a computer simulation. The idea is not new; it was proposed by Nick Bostrom long before and leans heavily on the fuzziness of the Chaos theory. Defining something as "chaos" is not understanding the complexity.

Musk is so certain about his seemingly own invented claim that he added even a probability to his claim. It would be 1 to billion(s) that life would not be a simulation. That doesn't leave much space for doubt. But is that true? And where is the claim based on?

Musk is not the first one who thinks life is a computer simulation. Many techie guys who spent much time playing computer games might have thought about it too. The contemporary games look so real, that if you forget most of the important aspects of real life, you might start to believe it could become real...some day.

But what is life actually?

Is Life a Video Game?

the period between birth and death, or the experience or state of being alive

— Cambridge Dictionary

Violent Video Games

One of the countless violent video games that look dead real. Is it a good idea for a public figure to promote the idea that life is "just" a simulation?
One of the countless violent video games that look dead real. Is it a good idea for a public figure to promote the idea that life is "just" a simulation?

But What is Life Actually?

The idea is simple and probably based on Ray Kurzweil's ideas of the "singularity", or maybe by looking to movies like The Matrix.

If you extrapolate the development of about forty years of computer technology that lies behind us into the future, let's say a few thousand years, you might become convinced that in some distant future computer technology is so advanced that we couldn't distinguish computer life from real life.

But proponents of the idea that life is a computer animation can't even define what consciousness is. They label this whole idea behind "artificial intelligence" extrapolated into a fuzzy future. The idea is superficial, unscientific, undefined, and contains arbitrary extrapolations.

Successful businessmen who suddenly stand in the spotlights with their fashionable high-tech merchandise often don't realize the responsibility that has descended upon them. Millions of people stare at them and believe every word they utter.

But how can you say what life is when you haven't even defined it? How to define consciousness? And how can Musk claim the odds are 1 to billions when he hasn't made one single analysis of the thing itself, called life? Because Musk can build a good car doesn't mean he is suddenly right about everything.

The claim might even be dangerous, especially when many people start believing this. It devalues life to something which is produced by a thing. Why not kill a few millions like in a video game? We live in dangerous times with increasing global tensions, and these ideas do not shed more light on our world.

All is Number. Number rules the universe.

— Pythagoras

What is Consciousness?

In 1994 published David Chalmers a paper in which he attempted to explain consciousness. Chalmers is believed to be the first to categorize consciousness into two types of problems: “easy” problems and the “hard” problems. You can read his paper here: Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness

The easy problems of consciousness include those of explaining the following phenomena

  • the ability to discriminate, categorize, and react to environmental stimuli
  • the integration of information by a cognitive system
  • the reportability of mental states
  • the ability of a system to access its own internal states
  • the focus of attention
  • the deliberate control of behavior
  • the difference between wakefulness and sleep

The really hard problem of consciousness is the problem of experience. It hasn't been sufficiently defined up to this day, at least not to the public eye.

It is crucial to start here first before finding out whether life is a computer animation. But Musk just skipped the unsolvable, hard problems and dropped a dangerous idea into the public arena. He hasn't even spent a single thought on the philosophical aspects of consciousness, and simply neglected what the Greek philosophers or Eastern religions had to say about the issue.

Neglecting so many well elaborated ancient teachings, as well as neglecting contemporary studies as to what consciousness could be, is a serious bad call.

A Few of the Overconfident Predictions

When
Who  
What  
1900
John E. Watkins jr.
"Strawberries as large as apples will be eaten by our great-great-grandchildren"
1912
Guglielmo Marconi
"The coming of the wireless era will make war impossible, because it will make war ridiculous"
1955
Alex Lewyt
"Nuclear-powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality within 10 years"
1955
Arthur Summerfield
"Before man reaches the moon, your mail will be delivered within hours from New York to Australia by guided missiles. We stand on the threshold of rocket mail"
1964
Isaac Asimov
"The 2014 World's Fair will have exhibits showing cities in the deep sea with bathyscaphe liners carrying men and supplies across and into the abyss"
1997
Nathan Myhrvold
"Apple is already dead"
1999
Ray Kurzweil
"By around the year 2020 a $1,000 personal computer will have enough speed and memory to match the human brain"
2004
Bill Gates
"Two years from now, spam will be solved"
2007
Steve Ballmer
"Right now we're selling millions and millions and millions of phones a year. Apple is selling zero"

Extrapolations and technology predictions appear to be in almost all cases completely wrong, whether they are negative or positive.

Artificial Intelligence Predictions

In 1956, a group of top scientists believed they could crack the challenge of artificial intelligence within one year. Sixty years later, the world is still waiting. We're still waiting because they had then no idea what consciousness was, and it's still undefined.

According to a well-performed study, published in 2012 of Stuart Armstrong and Kaj Sotala, is Artificial Intelligence always at least 20 years away, and keeps shifting like a dangling carrot in front of a donkey. They conclude that: "The general reliability of expert judgement in AI timeline predictions is shown to be poor, a result that fits in with previous studies of expert competence."

The Chinese Room Experiment of John Searle shows at a philosophical analytical level why computers can become intelligent but will never develop consciousness.

The Source of the Error

The universe is 100% mathematical. This makes many people think we could live in a simulation because computers can only handle mathematical code; 0 and 1. So they think because 1+1=2 hence must we be simulations. Problem solved!

All the stars in the sky, the planets that revolve around the Sun, the ancient mysteries are all encoded to make us believe it is real? And at the same time believing there is no global banking conspiracy to enslave the population? Of course.

Why worry about Man-made Global Warming? Finally, it's just a simulation.

Is life a computer simulation? No. It is exactly vice versa. Because of the fact that computers can handle only mathematical codes they are able to simulate the phenomenal world so well. Computers simulate the so-called Noumena, which is the underlying reality but only very measly.

The secret society of the Pythagorean Illuminati solved the problem as to what life and consciousness exactly are already many centuries ago. But these teachings are unfortunately completely beyond the reach of the masses, and apparently also for Elon Musk.

The Basis of REAL Life

A materialist will never understand what life and consciousness are. Yes, the physical existence is an illusion. But not the kind of illusion generated by a computer. Just a tiny amount of people are able to grasp reality.

Have you ever seen a successful scientific theory without mathematics in its core? They all have. It's because the underlying driver is math, and math only.

Matter → Energy → Vibration → Math → Numbers → Zero

All numbers arise from zero and zero alone. Why zero? Because 00 is "something". Zero, which is nothing else than a singularity, is the number of the soul and out of reach of any computer. We don't even need "real" numbers.

  • 00+00 = 2 (positive numbers)
  • 00/(00+00) = 0.5 (real numbers)
  • 00-(00+00) = -1 (negative numbers)
  • 00/0 = ∞ (infinity)
  • 6-5+1-4+2 = 0, hence zero equals to five "somethings"
  • 0/0 = undefined. Why? Because it delivers ALL numbers in one operation.
  • etc.

What is the Noumena?

A vast amount of information is transmitted across the internet every second. We never encounter the transmission of this information – the information in itself, so to speak, the information as noumenon. What we encounter is the information we receive on our screens, the information represented to us – information as appearance, as phenomenon.

Thus it is with all information. We don’t see the mechanics of information moving around the universe; we never encounter information in itself. All we know about is our experience and interpretation of information; the receipt of information in a form we can grasp.

Just as we encounter music and not the mathematical sinusoidal waves that convey the music, so we encounter sights, sounds, tastes, touches, smells, feelings, desires and not the mathematical sinusoidal waves transmitting them. We have to transcend our senses in order to see behind the scenes of the information world.

Just a few people are able to grasp what reality is. It's not a simulation.

What is a Stage Play Without Preparations?

Imagine life as a stage play. There’s an enormous amount going on off-stage that we never encounter. We get nothing but the performance on stage, which is the result of all the work we never see. So it is with information. We get the “performance” of information, and never the mathematical mechanics of how it was all put together.

Science, disastrously, has concentrated on the observed performance in order to understand reality, and has ignored the “hidden variables” that must rationally exist in order to put on the show. Scientists are irrationalists, obsessed with phenomena. Science behaves as if performances happen by themselves, as if they jump out of nothing, fully formed. Scientists are simpletons, opposed to reason. Musk and all his followers belong tot the same kind.

Any process of reasoning – divorced from the sensory performance – arrives backstage and finds nothing but mathematics.

The Mathematical Universe

Who Created the Programmer?

Without a philosophical approach, virtually no question can be answered satisfactorily.

With the assumption that life is a simulation, we end up at exactly the same point as with Abrahamism. Who created God? Who created the programmer? And if the programmer was the result of natural evolution, how would that relate to the idea of an alleged simulation? Because evolution has become again one of the probabilities. Why would you then propose a simulation in the first place?

And if we cannot solve these questions first, any probability calculation would tumble from 1 to billions down to 1 to 1, which results in not a single chance it's a simulation.

And what could be the motive of the computer simulation in the first place? The only real meaning of life as it is taught to me is to grow in consciousness. Consciousness is everything and everything has a certain amount of consciousness.

Life is a thought, or a dream, and not a simulation. But because it is ultimately only an abstraction it is for a materialist very appealing to think it is a simulation, generated by a thing, something material.

Now, if you still believe life is a computer simulation, it is probably caused by loss of religion. Have you become an atheist who worships the senses as organs of truth and the resulting materialistic "evidence" the judge of ultimate truth? Have you started to believe that everything we see is generated by a "thing", and so has a materialistic cause? In that case, that thing replaced your deep desire for a new kind of "god".

We are all gods in the making, and we will never be able to simulate life in all its aspects. The odds are 1 to many billions we ever will.

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    • profile image

      Shawn 

      7 months ago

      You do realize that this is not Musk’s theory, and he rarely even discusses the topic, right? It’s been around since before Elon’s time, and he will rarely even discuss it because he realizes that it’s a rabbit hole that people will latch onto.

      If you’re going to go down that path, you should probably try taking down the other reputable scientists that weigh this as a real possibility — it would be much easier take seriously than stringing up one man who mentioned it in an interview.

      I personally believe that it’s unwise to put trust in anyone who has more answers than questions. I really wanted to get more out of this article, too.

      Also, your math has an error. Double-check?

    • Buildreps profile imageAUTHOR

      Buildreps 

      14 months ago from Europe

      I noticed recently that strawberries indeed grow to absurd sizes. So that prediction might even be accurate!

      Like you say, the future's AI programs will be awesome but will never be really alive. Thanks for your comment, Besarien.

    • Besarien profile image

      Besarien 

      14 months ago

      I once got a strawberry that was as big as a small apple. It had no flavor at all though. There was no real strawberry in Watkin's predicted future, just something that looked like one.

      I don't think there is a computer program in Elon's future, just something that looks like one. Time seems very digital, though. A simple fractal formula can produce near infinite complexity. That said, I am worried about Elon and the people he wants to stuff into rockets. He doesn't have anything to lose if he is playing the video game in his own head.

    • Buildreps profile imageAUTHOR

      Buildreps 

      16 months ago from Europe

      Thank you for your comment, Brink. I'm not sure I can follow what you're saying. Mind your tricky math here, because your statements that infinity in infinity equals one to one might not be supported by most mathematicians. I think it's undetermined similar as zero divided by zero. Why is zero divided by zero undetermined? Because it delivers ALL numbers in one operation.

      Nevertheless, I can be easily wrong, so I welcome your comment very much as all of the other ideas posited by everyone!

    • profile image

      Brink 

      16 months ago

      Nice article. I'd like to weigh the probability of multiple lives.

      Just with the idea that over an infinite timeline, the probability of our existence in 2017 - right now - is one in infinity. In other words, basically a zero probability.

      If we have infinite lives, the probability of our existence is infinity in infinity, or one to one - a 100% probability of existence right now.

      It is my personal belief that thinking, reasoning people have to come to terms that we experience multiple lives, their origin or the substrate they reside within notwithstanding.

      A single, linear experience may encompass immense quantities of lives and their subsequent deaths.

    • Buildreps profile imageAUTHOR

      Buildreps 

      18 months ago from Europe

      Thanks for your interesting comment, Glenn. We sure have some interests in common when it comes to science and religion. I will surely read your Hubs, you're in to interesting topics.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      18 months ago from Long Island, NY

      You gave me something to think about with "Zero to the power of zero." I do remember reading that it equals 1, but I need to see it as a formula. I'll try to find where I read it.

      The human brain has difficulty with the concept of infinity. This is why some people need to imagine everything has a beginning and an end. I came up with the idea of an "Infinite Eternal Recurrence of the Universe" as a way to rule out that time ever had a beginning or will ever end. I'd love to hear your thoughts on that concept if you want to check that hub out.

    • Buildreps profile imageAUTHOR

      Buildreps 

      18 months ago from Europe

      Glenn, there are two numbers that caused much debate and headache among mathematicians: infinity and zero. Zero to the power of zero is one. There are not many mathematicians doubting about that.

      Ask a physician about imaginary numbers and why they are used in so many equations. If they are truly imaginary what are they then doing in the equations? To support an illusion? No, imaginary numbers are also real but the human brain is unable to grasp what it might be in a materialistic, sensory way.

      Zero and nothing are definitely two different things. Zero is not nothing. Nothing is like non-existent. I believe that Descartes and Spinoza, two well established mathematicians, wrote very intriguing dissertation about nothing.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      18 months ago from Long Island, NY

      The question I have trouble with is this:

      Isn't zero to the power of 2 the same as saying zero times zero? You say you agree that zero times zero is zero. So wouldn't you also agree then that zero squared is zero? It's saying the same thing.

      I realize that the problem comes into existence when we try to consider zero times itself NO times. You say that would be one.

      At first thought I would think it is still zero since zero times any value is zero. But as I talk about in my own hub on "nothing", there is a difference between zero and nothing. So for that reason I think I will have to agree with you.

    • Buildreps profile imageAUTHOR

      Buildreps 

      18 months ago from Europe

      Thanks for your comment, Glenn. I must agree it is quite a difficult terrain, and you can easily twist arguments the other way around, but I certainly do not agree with how you explain zero to the power of zero. When you say zero times zero is zero, I agree, but you raised zero to the power of two, which is something else than raising zero to the power of zero - it is one. Another interesting argument I mentioned is that if the creator of the simulation is the product of evolution, how would that relate to an alleged simulation in the first place? It, in fact, weakens the argument being a simulation so much that it would be harder to argue for it than against it, and therefore weaken any probability calculation to "very unlikely".

      Interesting, your hub on "nothing", when I have time I will read it!

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      18 months ago from Long Island, NY

      I read your explanation very carefully and I did not get from it the absolute proof of your argument that you proposed at the beginning that life is not a simulation.

      On the contrary, the way you explained it in the section under "The Source of the Error" actually seems to prove that life IS a simulation. You described how the universe is mathematical, and I agree with that, because everything about the way the universe functions under physical laws can be clearly represented mathematically.

      So I lost where you were headed with this. Besides, I thought of one other idea that can be thrown into the puzzle. What if the simulation is simulated? Mathematically, I'll call that "Simulation Squared." or "Simulation^2"

      I'm not saying life IS a simulation, for I don't know either. All I'm saying is that the proof, either way, is still faulty because we can always throw another element into the puzzle that disqualifies a prior theory.

      On another note, sorry to say that I don't agree with your mathematics where you claim zero to the zeroth degree is something. Zero times anything is zero. So zero times zero is also zero. Therefore zero times zero repeated zero times cannot be something. See my point?

      I wrote a hub where I talk about what "nothing" is in physics. It's kind of along the same lines of thought.

      Anyway, I did enjoy reading your article, but I'm not sure if I was just consciously imagining a simulation.

    • Buildreps profile imageAUTHOR

      Buildreps 

      21 months ago from Europe

      MizBejabbers, why would a "real hologram" solely be a computer simulation?

      I understand you might have some troubles in separating noumena and phenomena. Virtually all people have this problem. The math part is the noumena, the "unknowable" driver of everything, and the simulations and AIs, no matter how advanced, are still a result of that. They are still "just" phenomenal. They can simulate "life" because they simulate the noumena, and appear as real. But because the "thing" that simulates life is still only present in the phenomenal world it therefore is no real life, and will never be. Most people will never grasp this difference.

    • Buildreps profile imageAUTHOR

      Buildreps 

      21 months ago from Europe

      Thanks for posting this, Nadine. Best wishes.

    • profile image

      Mizbejabbers 

      21 months ago

      To get back to Jacklee who says that if life is a computer simulation, "it would have crashed because a computer program crashes." Jacklee, it has crashed, in fact, several times. Our modern day civilization is about the seventh try at a human civilization on earth. It is on the verge of crashing again. Will we make it this time? It all depends on us because we have free will.

      Buildreps, a hologram is a computer simulation. That may be what Musk was basing his hypothesis on. He is just using the industry technical terms rather than the metaphysical. But this brings up the question, If the universe is all math and we are computer simulations, then what the heck are AIs?

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 

      21 months ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      I have just posted your article link as a comment under an article from http://www.collective-evolution.com titled How You Can Start Preparing For UFO & ET Disclosure Right Now..

    • Buildreps profile imageAUTHOR

      Buildreps 

      21 months ago from Europe

      I enjoyed writing this article as well as reading your comment, Nadine. The part of the soul that we call the "Ego" is unaware of his higher self, and that it is part of unlimited consciousness. The quote of Teilhard du Chardin, who was a Jesuit, and became a "persona non grata" in the Catholic church because of his advanced ideas: "we are not humans having a spiritual experience, but we are spirits having a human experience", expresses that perfectly. Many people haven't even had any spiritual experience, and have a long way ahead. But that's oke, because we have infinite time.

    • profile image

      NadineMay 

      21 months ago

      Great post, especially about that consciousness is (or must be) linked to our human experience.

      Then the question must come up for people like: what is having a soul, or and a spirit.

      I Loved reading your table about overconfident predictions.

      I'm a vivid Science fiction reader for pleasure as well as other topics on human consciousness in order to research for my visionary fiction novels. I do realized that the physical existence is an illusion, generated by our own evolving consciousness, so we must be unlimited spiritual beings chosen to have a human experience.

    • Buildreps profile imageAUTHOR

      Buildreps 

      22 months ago from Europe

      Hello Alicia, thank you for your kind comment. I am glad it was helpful.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      22 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This article discusses topics that interest me very much and that I've been reading about for some time. Thanks for writing this interesting hub, Buildreps. You've raised some good points.

    • Buildreps profile imageAUTHOR

      Buildreps 

      22 months ago from Europe

      Excellent! Thank you, Jackclee. I've looke it up: https://papers.harvie.cz/unsorted/Jeff%20Hawkins%2...

      Like you say, Musk is a brilliant businessman, and I think it's a tragedy he doesn't feel any responsibility for his words and views. Let's hope he will recall his ideas in front of the cameras.

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 

      22 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Buildreps, there is actually a great book by Jeff Hawkins called "On Intelligence", it is free to download. It describes what the latest thinking on AI and how far off we humans are from understanding our human brain and how it works...

      Elon Musk may be an intelligent guy and excellent businessman, but he is no philosopher. I am not impressed by his vision of colonizing Mars in the near future.

    • Buildreps profile imageAUTHOR

      Buildreps 

      22 months ago from Europe

      It's because I'm an old slow guy, jacklee! :) Plato and especially his predecessor almost solved the questions already sufficiently thousands of years ago. Thanks for your comment.

    • Buildreps profile imageAUTHOR

      Buildreps 

      22 months ago from Europe

      Thanks for your comment, Blond Logic. I think the simulation hypothesis is a tempting idea because it seems to solve so many questions, but it is just one of the many possibilities there are. Like you say, the carrot is just out of reach for the donkey!

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 

      22 months ago from Yorktown NY

      This is old news. Didn't Plato the philosopher posed question similar to this? What is reality? Thousand of years ago...

      Personally, I don't buy it. If it was a simulation, it would have crashed sometimes over the course of human history of 5000 years. How many games do you know that works perfectly without glitches? None.

      Also, a game or simulation has to have a purpose and a "player" or designer of some sort.

      Life is not a simulation but a real experience. The real question is why are we here, is it an accident of nature or intelligent design? If the latter, who is the designer? Is it a supernatural being like God or an extraterrestrial intelligence that are experimenting with our DNA?

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      22 months ago from Brazil

      I have often pondered the same thing, are we just part of a large game being played by 'beings' we can't even imagine? Beyond that, are they merely tokens in another's game.

      When something occurs unexpectedly it's like someone has drawn a card which says, "your pawn receives a life threatening injury".

      I agree with you, people who are in the public eye, need to be informed before throwing down wild claims especially if they are being coated with an air of authority.

      The age old question of, 'where did we come from and why are we here?' is the carrot which is just out of reach for the donkey (us).

      I think most people feel secure thinking "it was God" or "it was through evolution", beyond that things tend to sound wild and impossible. I think people fear discussing it too much thinking there is a chance of the men from a lunatic asylum coming for them.

      Interesting ideas to ponder, nonetheless.

    • Buildreps profile imageAUTHOR

      Buildreps 

      22 months ago from Europe

      Technology advances more rapidly every year. I'm sure it will go even faster and more mind blowing than we can imagine now. It is though a fundamental mistake to confuse technology with life. Thanks for dropping by, Bill!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It may not be life but it's pretty darned cool. I'm 68 years old, and the advancements we have made in technology, over my lifetime, are mind-blowing. Who knows what the ceiling is? I wonder what it will all look like in just ten years from now? I hope I'm around to see it.

    • Buildreps profile imageAUTHOR

      Buildreps 

      22 months ago from Europe

      Thank you for your comment, John. I think Nikola Tesla would have wondered where the spirituality of the modern people has gone to.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      22 months ago from Queensland Australia

      An interesting article as always Buildreps. Elon Musk is entitled to his out there theory, but I wonder what the real Tesla would have thought of this idea. I think he would have debunked it. Thank you for sharing though.

    • Buildreps profile imageAUTHOR

      Buildreps 

      22 months ago from Europe

      Thanks for your great comment, as always, my friend. In my view to add even more labels like stating our universe is a hologram would possibly overcomplicate this specific Hub. I have a tendency to write lengthy articles, and once in while I try to break that habit. :) Thanks for your visit!

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James-MizBejabbers 

      22 months ago from Beautiful South

      Food for thought, Buildreps, but a little analysis here. Your quiz asks whether we believe life is a simulation, but it doesn't echo your actual thoughts in the hub that it is a "computer simulation" as thought by Elon Musk. Modern metaphysics teaches that our universe and our earth (and all the life on earth) are holograms, that we are merely holograms in the "as above, so below". Despite what I've been taught, my experience is that a hologram sure can hurt. Migraines are painful to this hologram, a broken leg was painful to this hologram; childbirth is painful, appendicitis is painful, etc. This hologram can experience joy and love, too. So in our little 3d trying to ascend to 5d brains, all that stuff is too difficult to really understand. Again you have done a good job of making us think, my friend.

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