Numerical simulation by Bruno Giacomazzo & Luciano Rezzolla (Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) Scientific visualization: Michael Koppitz (Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute)/Zuse Institute Berlin)
Back in 2003, British philosopher Nick Bostrom published a paper that proposed the universe we live in might in fact really be a numerical computer simulation. Simulated Reality is the hypothesis that reality could be simulated—for example by computer simulation—to a degree indistinguishable from “true” reality, and may in fact be such a simulation. It could contain conscious minds which may or may not be fully aware that they are living inside a simulation. This is quite different from the current, technologically achievable concept of virtual reality. Virtual reality is easily distinguished from the experience of actuality; participants are never in doubt about the nature of what they experience. Simulated reality, by contrast, would be hard or impossible to separate from “true” reality. So for example the above ‘numerical simulation’ is a recognizable scientific visualization of the theory rather than an actual numerical simulation.
Let us suppose for a moment that these predictions are correct. One thing that later generations might do with their super-powerful computers is run detailed simulations of their forebears or of people like their forebears. Because their computers would be so powerful, they could run a great many such simulations. Suppose that these simulated people are conscious (as they would be if the simulations were sufficiently fine-grained and if a certain quite widely accepted position in the philosophy of mind is correct). Then it could be the case that the vast majority of minds like ours do not belong to the original race but rather to people simulated by the advanced descendants of an original race. It is then possible to argue that, if this were the case, we would be rational to think that we are likely among the simulated minds rather than among the original biological ones.
Tom Estes Estes’ floor piece EARTH, displays The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything as a scrolling digital numerical text ’42’. So in a sense what Estes has done is to represent the entire world, everything we see around us, as a numerical simulation incorporating living beings into a “computational matrix”
But before you dismiss this idea as completely loony, the reality of such a Sim Universe might solve a lot of eerie mysteries about the cosmos. Gematria is an Assyro-Babylonian system of numerology later adopted by Jews that assigns numerical value to a word or phrase in the belief that words or phrases with identical numerical values bear some relation to each other or bear some relation to the number itself as it may apply to a person’s age, the calendar year, or the like. The best-known example of Gematria is the Hebrew word Chai (“alive”), which is composed of two letters that (using the assignments in the Mispar gadoltable shown below) add up to 18. Though gematria is most often used to calculate the values of individual words, psukim (Biblical verses), Talmudical aphorisms, sentences from the standard Jewish prayers, personal, angelic and Godly names, and other religiously significant material, Kabbalists use them often for arbitrary phrases and, occasionally, for various languages. Some identify two forms of gematria: the “revealed” form, which is prevalent in many hermeneutic methods found throughout Rabbinic literature, and the “mystical” form, a largely Kabbalistic practice.
Many works of science fiction as well as some forecasts by serious technologists and futurologists predict that enormous amounts of computing power will be available in the future. And of course in recent years science and technology have begun to catch up with science fiction. So many of the fantasies and illusions of the past are no longer a contradiction of reality, but instead an integral part of our everyday lives.
In his work EARTH, artist Tom Estes represents the entire world, everything we see around us, as a numerical simulation. Through his practice artist Tom Estes directly references the surreal wit of Sci-fi and horror and their related ideological fictions. Estes’ floor piece, EARTH at the exhibition Big Deal Marvellous Mix Ups, displays The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything as a scrolling digital numerical text. The work was inspired by The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a comic science fiction series created by Douglas Adams that has become popular among fans of the genre(s) and members of the scientific community. Phrases from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy are widely recognized and often used in reference to, but outside the context of, the source material. In the book a group of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings demand to learn the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything from the supercomputer, Deep Thought, specially built for this purpose. It takes Deep Thought 7½ million years to compute and check the answer, which turns out to be “42”.
EARTH by Tom Estes at the exhibition Big Deal Marvellous Mix Ups interprets the entire world, everything we see around us, as a numerical simulation.
Deep Thought points out that the answer seems meaningless because the beings who instructed it never actually knew what the Question was. When asked to produce The Ultimate Question, Deep Thought says that it cannot; however, it can help to design an even more powerful computer that can. This new computer will incorporate living beings into the “computational matrix” and will run for ten million years. It is revealed as being the planet Earth.
The simulation hypothesis and it’s bizarre Twilight Zone twist, was first published by Hans Moravec in 1988. Moravec outlines Moore’s law and predictions about the future of artificial life. Sir Arthur C. Clarke wrote the following in review of this book: “Robot is the most awesome work of controlled imagination I have ever encountered: Hans Moravec stretched my mind until it hit the stops.” David Brin also praised the book: “Moravec blends hard scientific practicality with a prophet’s far-seeing vision.” On the other hand, the book was reviewed less favorably by Colin McGinn for the New York Times. McGinn wrote, “Moravec … writes bizarre, confused, incomprehensible things about consciousness as an abstraction, like number, and as a mere “interpretation” of brain activity. He also loses his grip on the distinction between virtual and real reality as his speculations spiral majestically into incoherence.
Sub atomic particles may be pixels in a simulated reality. However, images like the one above are only a depiction of what a numerical simulation might be like rather than a real one.
As off-the-wall as this sounds, a team of physicists at the University of Washington (UW) has since announced that there is a potential test to this. Ironically, it would be the first such observation for scientifically hypothesized evidence of intelligent design behind the cosmos. If we are living in such a program, there could be tell-tale evidence for the underlying lattice used in modeling the space-time continuum, say the researchers. This signature could show up as a limitation in the energy of cosmic rays. They would travel diagonally across the model universe and not interact equally in all directions, as they otherwise would be expected to do according to present cosmology. If we are living in such a program, there could be telltale evidence for the underlying lattice used in modeling the space-time continuum, say the researchers. This signature could show up as a limitation in the energy of cosmic rays. They would travel diagonally across the model universe and not interact equally in all directions, as they otherwise would be expected to do according to present cosmology.
Gematria is an Assyro-Babylonian system of numerology later adopted by Jews. Gematria is a system of recognizing a correspondence between the numbers or the ten sefirot, or fires of God, and the twenty two letters in the Hebrew alphabet. This system is elaborated in many mystical Jewish writings such as the Zohar.
Observable consequences of the hypothesis that the observed universe is a numerical simulation performed on a cubic space-time lattice or grid can be explored, using the historical development of lattice gauge theory technology as a guide. The researchers assume that our universe is an early numerical simulation with unimproved Wilson fermion discretization and investigate potentially-observable consequences. The simulation scenario is first motivated by extrapolating current trends in computational resource requirements for lattice QCD into the future. With such results measured, physicists would have to rule out any and all other natural explanations for the anomaly before flirting with the idea of intelligent design. (To avoid confusion with the purely faith-based creationist ID, this would not prove the existence of a biblical God, because you’d have to ask the question “why does God need a lattice?”). If our universe is a simulation, then those entities controlling it could be running other simulations as well to create other universes parallel to our own. No doubt this would call for, ahem, massive parallel processing. If all of this isn’t mind-blowing enough, Bostrom imagined “stacked” levels of reality, “we would have to suspect that the post-humans running our simulation are themselves simulated beings; and their creators, in turn, may also be simulated beings. Here may be room for a large number of levels of reality, and the number could be increasing over time.” If the parallel universes are all running on the same computer platform could we communicate with them? If so, I hope the Matrix’s manic Agent Smith doesn’t materialize one day.
Artist Tom Estes will be presenting a paper on his work at The University of Greenwich, DRHA 2014 (Digital Research in the Humanities and Arts). The conference dates will be Sunday 31 August 2014, 5pm – Wednesday 3 September 2014, 2pm GMT. http://www.drha2014.co.uk/
EARTH by Tom Estes is currently on show at MIX-UPS, Loud & Western, 59-65 Broughton Road, Fulham SW6 2LE
The exhbition Runs 11th > 25th July 2014 Open daily from 12pm until 6pm Info @ 07587454613
Curated by Vanya BALOGH & Danny POCKETS