In the summer of 2005, still unaware of the simulation argument, I began to contemplate on the practical and technical feasibility of creating a massively multi-player online simulation of real world.
This gave birth to a project I code-named Festonia. A few people who know me actually saw the design documents for project Festonia. Unfortunately though, I soon realized the idea was way ahead of its time, conceptually as well as technologically, and thus it was down-graded and reworked into the world-wide 3dweb project.
But doing the feasibility for Festonia had an unexpected side-benefit for me.
It gave me a remarkable insight into the conceptual and philosophical issues that a designer, or creator, must contend with. But before I go into that, lets remind ourselves once again what the Simulation Argument was really saying.
As pointed out in part 1, when translated into plain english, the simulation argument essentially says:
We are almost certainly living inside a simulation unless one of the following is true:
a) The human civilization will destroy itself before our computers become powerful enough to be able to run a universe simulation.
b) The human civilization will not destroy itself and will acquire the computing power necessary to run a universe simulation, however, we will have no wish or reason to do so.
Now, considering that even today, with our primitive computers and infant 3D technology we are already running not one or two but hundreds of “virtual worlds” for various purposes, we can easily assume b) above to be false. We already possess the wish and reason. So the argument is basically narrowed down to:
Either the human civilization will destroy itself before it acquires the computing power necessary to run a universe simulation or we are almost certainly living inside such a simulation.
Thus the only argument we have against the claim that we are living inside a simulation is that we have not, as yet, acquired the necessary computing power to run a universe simulation.
And remembering from part 1, Böstrom had calculated that necessary computing power to be somewhere between 1033 to 1036 operations per second.
The remarkable realization I came upon during the feasibility study for Festonia, and about which I remarked earlier, was, that despite the infancy of our 3D technology, it is almost with-in our reach to create an entire world populated by intelligent beings to whom their world would look just as real as our world looks to us.
This is because ‘real world’ and ‘intelligent beings’ are both relative and subjective concepts. In order to judge something you need a reference point against which to judge it and if you don’t have one, you’re not able to make a comparative judgement.
For instance, let us suppose that our own world which looks so incredibly complex and detailed to us is not all that complex but rather a very crude low-detail copy of another vastly more complicated and detailed world. But, since we cannot observe that vastly more complicated and detailed world and cannot compare it to ours, we will never know and realize that our world is actually a crude lower-detail copy. Indeed to us, our universe and our version of reality seems the standard; that’s how reality should be.
Same goes for ‘intelligent beings’. Awareness or consciousness is relative. We humans ascribe a high level of intelligence and consciousness to ourselves simply because we find ourself at the top of the intelligence ladder within the world we inhabit.
Lets consider for a moment a world whose inhabitants have only 4 senses and where sound does not exist. The inhabitants of this world are similar to us in every other way except that they have no sense of hearing. Would the inhabitants of that world consider themselves any less intelligent or conscious than we consider ourselves? Could they ever comprehend that there exist a fifth sense beyond their four senses, and that the inhabitants of a different world in a different reality possess such a fifth sense called sense of hearing? Would they be willing to accept the fact that they do not possess a standard level of intelligence since they are missing out on a large amount of sensory input data, that of sounds? Probably not! And quite rightfully so.
Applying the same conclusion to ourselves, it now becomes easier to understand why, if WE ourselves were a dumbed-down copy of some other far more intelligent beings who possessed 6 or 7 or even 10 senses, we would neither come to know the difference nor consider our intelligence anywhere below standard. We would, as we do, blissfully insist on our own meager 5 senses to be the standard for possessing intelligence.
Consequently, if we were to create a simulated world far less detailed than our own whose inhabitants had far fewer senses than our own, in other words, a lower-detail copy of our universe and a dumbed-down copy of ourselves, then, all other things being equal, there is no reason why the inhabitants of that world would feel anything ‘unreal’ or consider their intelligence below standard.
The implications of these observations are that:
If we are living in a virtual world, a simulation, there is no empirical way for us to know it unless, our creator(s) wanted it to be known.
If the creator(s) wanted it to be known they could:
left us a direct message of sorts
embed some clues into the very fabric of space and reality to be discovered by us at a certain stage of our technological development.
If the creator(s) did not want us to know, the realization would dawn upon us only at a time when we ourselves create our first virtual world inhabited by intelligent beings.
In the following pages, I would argue that in the case of us humans and our universe, all of the above is most likely true! Our creator(s) did want us to know. We were most likely sent messages. There are indeed clues of the true nature of our universe embedded into the very fabric of our reality which we are already starting to discover and decipher and finally, we are indeed on the verge of creating our own first virtual worlds inhabited by intelligent beings.
This is not a trivial matter, because for the first time in entire human history we are on the verge of discovering the truth about our origin and, perhaps even more importantly, about the true purpose of our existence and that of the universe around us and answer the question: why we and the universe around us exist?