Friday, April 08, 2016

Ah, Shit, Now They Tell Us !!




You know him. You like him. Neil deGrasse Tyson - astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, TV celebrity and director of the Hayden Planetarium.

According to Dr. Tyson and a load of eggheads like him, there's a 50/50 chance that you and I (but especially you) don't even exist. They're giving even odds, 50/50, that our entire existence is really just some sort of programme on some other entity's hard drive. We're just characters in some extra-planetary version of Sim City.

Sit down, take a load off.

“I think the likelihood may be very high,” [Tyson] said. He noted the gap between human and chimpanzee intelligence, despite the fact that we share more than 98 percent of our DNA. Somewhere out there could be a being whose intelligence is that much greater than our own. “We would be drooling, blithering idiots in their presence,” he said. “If that’s the case, it is easy for me to imagine that everything in our lives is just a creation of some other entity for their entertainment.”

I don't know but is Tyson making the case for the existence of God or gods and maybe we're just creatures on the laptop of some indolent teenage deity with skin problems, hygiene issues and a bad attitude.

A popular argument for the simulation hypothesis came from University of Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrum in 2003, when he suggested that members of an advanced civilization with enormous computing power might decide to run simulations of their ancestors. They would probably have the ability to run many, many such simulations, to the point where the vast majority of minds would actually be artificial ones within such simulations, rather than the original ancestral minds. So simple statistics suggest it is much more likely that we are among the simulated minds.

And there are other reasons to think we might be virtual. For instance, the more we learn about the universe, the more it appears to be based on mathematical laws. Perhaps that is not a given, but a function of the nature of the universe we are living in. “If I were a character in a computer game, I would also discover eventually that the rules seemed completely rigid and mathematical,” said Max Tegmark, a cosmologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “That just reflects the computer code in which it was written.”


This would explain the whole "God as Loki" notion, just hovering overhead trying to get us to screw up and then squishing us like bugs before discarding us to the eternal "deleted" file.

Furthermore, ideas from information theory keep showing up in physics. “In my research I found this very strange thing,” said James Gates, a theoretical physicist at the University of Maryland. “I was driven to error-correcting codes—they’re what make browsers work. So why were they in the equations I was studying about quarks and electrons and supersymmetry? This brought me to the stark realization that I could no longer say people like Max are crazy.”

I'd like to say that all this pisses me off except I'm no longer sure that "me" exists except as a few thousand lines of really advanced code in some spoiled kid's game console.

20 comments:

Dana said...

I've often wondered if we aren't all characters in a cosmic holographic massive multi-player game that's coming to its conclusion and anything we ourselves do, anything at all, is meaningless to the outcome.

Troy Thomas said...

Sounds almost Buddhist, which for a religion allows for Multiverses and differing planes of existence.
I like Descartes' famous proclamation, when it comes right down to it, though. It's enough for me.

Northern PoV said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Northern PoV said...

The best theory ever from the great Jack Chalker ...
our universe is the by-product of the engines propulsion from a spaceship on a much higher plane/dimension

my memory being a bit sketchy I googled up this snippet from another site:

"I read a book series years ago that was based around God and Devil being the captain and first mate on a cosmic ship and our universe being the by-product of the engines start-up. The book series was called the Quintara Marathon by Jack Chalker. In the books they figure out that 666 was actually vav vav vav in Hebrew and that it spelled out the first mates name."

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Dana - I think you've touched on something a lot of us sense but simply don't mention in polite company

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Troy - Descartes? Please, enlighten me for you surely have me at a disadvantage and I do yearn to know.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ NPov - I had to Wiki "Jack Chalker" but found out he was a sci-fi writer. Tyson and his gang are evidence-based scientists. For me that means, when they dig down to scientific knowledge and proclaim this a 50/50 proposition, that's a lot more telling than sci-fi. I don't say this to dismiss Chalker, merely to point out this isn't the sci-fi community but the upper echelons of the science community.

astone said...

JAck Chalker !!!! Among the greats, Heinlein, Asimov, And my favorite, Larry Niven. There are so many ideas. But I personally hate GOd. And I hope he knows it!!!! My facebook acct changed to spanish or portuguese a day or two ago. I can't tell. it wont let me change or delete anything. I am done . Try to delete anything on yours. let me know. I will be annonymous 1313 from now on. I will never use facecrap again. i can't even delete pictures.!!!!

The Mound of Sound said...

Astone, how can you hate anything without a belief in its existence?

Steve said...

I have sorta believed this for a long time. Just the way events in my life seem to perfect.

Northern PoV said...

Mound - that was SciFi?

Geez, thanks for spoiling my illusions.
Now I suppose you'll question the existence of Santa Claus?
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BTW, I also read another SciFi back around 1990. It was about rapid sea level rise due to the 'methane bomb' from a melting Arctic. hmmmm
.................................................................
I'd posit that Dr. Tyson's science (in this case) is so theoretical that it aligns well with SciFi - and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

Anyong....4:50pm ....

It is neither a religion in the sense in which that word is commonly understood, for it is not "a system of faith and worship owing any allegiance to a supernatural being."
Buddhism does not demand blind faith from its adherents. Here mere belief is dethroned and is substituted by confidence based on knowledge, which, in Pali, is known as saddha. The confidence placed by a follower on the Buddha is like that of a sick person in a noted physician, or a student in his teacher. A Buddhist seeks refuge in the Buddha because it was he who discovered the path of deliverance.
A Buddhist does not seek refuge in the Buddha with the hope that he will be saved by his (i.e. the Buddha's own) personal purification. The Buddha gives no such guarantee. It is not within the power of a Buddha to wash away the impurities of others. One could neither purify nor defile another. The Buddha, as teacher, instructs us, but we ourselves are directly responsible for our purification. Although a Buddhist seeks refuge in the Buddha, he does not make any self-surrender. Nor does a Buddhist sacrifice his freedom of thought by becoming a follower of the Buddha. He can exercise his own free will and develop his knowledge even to the extent of becoming a Buddha himself.
The starting point of Buddhism is reasoning or understanding, or, in the Pali words, samma-ditthi
Having lived in South Korea where Buddhism is practiced...I was often reminded Buddhism is not a religion but a way of life.

Troy Thomas said...

Descartes?
"I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am." from Discourse on the Method.

Anonymous said...

My ontological conundrum revolves about evolution from "what?"
Formation of a first living organism, capable of evolution, is so improbable that is mind boggling. Fellas peddling science, as an answer to everything, do not mention those astronomically small odds. Possible, yes; probable, no.
To visualize such odds: imagine 2 half inflated balloons connected by a straw. IF, somehow, velocities and directions of ALL gas molecules/atoms in one balloon change from random to aligned towards the straw, one balloon suddenly, for a very short moment, would inflate to full size, while another will become empty.
Billions and billions of the lifespans of the universe is not enough for it to occur...
A..non

Anonymous said...

We talked about this way back in 1960 in Grade 9 Science class, you know, whether it was all an illusion, whether each individual was surrounded by a dream that contained the world and other people, whether when you turned around quickly enough you might just see black until it all filled in. The old "does a tree fallng in the forest make a noise if nobody's there to hear it" saw.

And the computer simulation part came along twenty years later. Tyson is hardly new in wondering this. Me, I wonder whether the stars are just atoms and galaxies are molecules, part of a larger living entity. The scale distances seem about right.

Anyway, if you doubt your existence, remember what old Arnie MaCallum the teacher said way back in 1960: Anyone ever had to pee in the middle of the night? And you finally crawl out of bed and don't turn the lights on so as not to disturb your family, relying on touch and memory to navigate to the bathroom in the dark? And then you really, really stub your toes badly? That's when you know it's real. Owww!

And he's right so far as I can tell. Arnie went off the next year and became a big deal in the NWT or Yukon, can never remember which. Nice guy.

BM

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Troy - thank you sir.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ A..non. I disagree. A recent experiment to produce an artificial comet or at least the component ice ball produced a surprising effect. It was found to contain ribos, the building block for RNA, precursor to DNA. Connect that to other building blocks such as amino acids and you're on the path to creation of organic material. Earth wasn't as we know it when those processes began but they essentially geoformed our planet including the creation of our atmosphere.

In the 'observable' universe there are believed to be 10-billion galaxies each of which is estimated to 10-billion stars. Multiply all that and you get 1 billion trillion or 100 octillion stars with each solar system containing several planets and moons.

That's 100 octillion opportunities for the creation of life, carbon-based perhaps, like us, or something else.

Those are astronomically large odds for the creation of living organisms capable of evolution. Which is why all those science types with their giant brains keep telling you what you don't want to believe.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ BM - this is why I've always had trouble accepting religion. It is possible that there is a greater intelligence. It's actually quite likely. Yet man decided to cast that higher power as a deity made in "our" image even though they claim that we are made in His image.

Has our biological reality, life on Earth, been shaped by higher intelligence? I can't see any reason why that can be ruled out. That's not to dismiss the likely course of evolution either. We're in a constant state of evolution - biologically, culturally and in many other ways. Now we're replicating nature, perhaps displacing nature, by getting into genetic engineering. Who knows what we'll be even a hundred years from now?

Anonymous said...

I read the article you have mentioned Mound.

They zappped mixture of water, ammonia and methanol with light and radiation and produced various organic molecules, including a ribose, a sugar which is part of RNA. The formation of plethora of organic molecules during photocatalysis is nothing new, though. The catch is in the assembly. Imagine throwing all car parts stripped into simplest components into a giant box and shaking it until a working car emerges. With a tank of gas and crankcase full of oil, filled in that order. As an organic chemist I am aware of many theories of chemical self-assembly, but I do not buy them. Perhaps my Ph.D. brain is not big enough. In any case, I do not buy any deity involvement either...
A..non

Peter said...

maybe we're just creatures on the laptop of some indolent teenage deity with skin problems, hygiene issues and a bad attitude

Eww, wouldn't that give our scientific sages food for thought! It reminds me a bit of science/sci-fi fantasists who imagine extraterrestrial contact is inevitable. The cosmic visitors are often imagined to be either advanced hyper-progressive rationalists who have abolished war and will teach us how to save our planet or bloodthirsty monsters who will eat or enslave us. But what if they turned out to be nerdy, geeky types with thick glasses who just followed us around everywhere and kept asking "Can I be your friend?"?