January 1, 2021
[Beginning of recorded material]
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: So, this is the ultimate frisbee of virtual realities. You go first, please.
Rick Rosner: Ok, so, from time to time, we’ve casually kind of discussed how it’s interesting/possibly important that the issue of whether the universe is real or a simulation. In pop culture you have The Matrix, which is a huge trilogy of movies. Blockbusters, that center around the universe being simulated and in pop culture in the future the issue’s going to be, I think, bigger and bigger because of video games. Maybe, other forms of entertainment will simulate reality with greater and greater verisimilitude.
Jacobsen: That’s right.
Rosner: The simulations will get better and better. But then I was thinking about it a little bit and realize that just saying casually say, “You can’t tell whether the universe is real or a simulation.” Or if you couldn’t tell did, what would you mean when you talk about simulation? It turns out to be. Well, I don’t know if it’s not simple, but it certainly needs pinning down. Because you have issues like, “Who is the simulation for? Is it for the video game? Is it for the consciousnesses in that world? Is it the whole universe or is it just a chunk of it?” And all those things have implications for reality. It is naturally arising, but exists in an artificial armature – well, not necessarily artificial.
That’s another issue, but our minds are supported by our brains. You’d call that a natural armature versus a consciousness that would be supported by an information processing device that’s been built by people who are built by individuals who learned how to create consciousness. And then, of course, you have the problem of the turtles all the way down thing. What’s supporting each of these worlds – the hardware world and all that stuff? And it probably leads to what you were talking about, which is you kind of like you said, ‘Who cares?” Simulated versus natural, because in the end, it was a stack of turtles. The whole thing may become moot at some point. Anyway, it doesn’t seem trivial or simple to me. What do you think?
Jacobsen: Yes, I don’t think it’s trivial. I do think it’s simple because you don’t have a lot of options. So, let’s say, you have a naturally rising universe. Okay, let’s say, you get a civilization. They perform various virtual reality simulations of their universe and other possible universes. So, there you have a virtual universe arising out of the universe. Let’s say, you have some kind of not quite existent, not quite nonexistent universe; that is very quantum mechanical, just extremely virtual in its existence, because it’s not fully manifested insofar as it can exist and cannot exist. It’s at that edge between kind of solidity and not. You have others start off natural and have an entire timeline, a world line of the entire universe. There’s no need for a simulation in the first place. So, in that case, okay, you have a natural universe running all the way through. And the first case, you have a natural universe running into a virtual simulation. You could also have this iterative effect where you have extraordinarily long-lived universes, where you start off natural or you start off kind of quantum mechanically virtual. Then it becomes natural, then that civilization in that natural universe that happens to evolve simulates a universe in which you have other little mini civilizations that then themselves do simulations and you have this kind of matryoshka doll situation of simulations.
Rosner: You have that even with the natural universe, because every armature needs to itself to be part of a material world that is made of information that’s being stored in, so the turtles all the way down. And also, there’s another issue which gets back to your point of “who cares?”; if the better a simulated universe is, the less it’s going to violate the rules of a natural universe.
Any decent similar universe? Go ahead.
Jacobsen: Or any simulation in our natural universe or another natural universe, the laws of physics that govern the computation of that computational device, doing the simulation will limit the type of simulations it can do.
Rosner: Yes, and also, the probability of discernible divergences from apparent naturalness in a decent simulation is low.
So, like, well, just doing naive math, there are eight billion people in the world and you find out. And one person is magic because it’s a simulation. The odds against that are one in eight billion. And of course, in practical and more realistic terms the odds that you see violations of natural physics revealing that you’re in a simulation are just super low because it’s just there are probability arguments to be made. For one thing, we live in a world where there’s no good evidence of the world; we live in now, being a simulation. The same way, there’s no evidence of there being time travelers visiting us, right? There have been no probabilistic arguments to be made. So, based on the evidence of our world and the history of the universe as we know it, it’s apparently highly probable that the rules of the universe are not being violated, right?
Jacobsen: Yes. I mean, for that simulation, for any simulation to exist, which is grounded on a natural universe, that simulation, the computation behind it must rely on that natural universe physics. You can’t get out of that.
Rosner: But it’s easy to imagine a series of 50 years in the future. One hundred and fifty years in the future. It’s easy to imagine video games that are convincing simulations. And you can enter into them. And it’s even possible to imagine that you can have your awareness abridged so that when you’re playing the video game, you think you’re actually living in the world, the simulated world. You can also imagine that this video game has characters like free guy that are conscious and not realizing that they’re in a video game.
Jacobsen: Absolutely. And to say, that it’s limited by the physics. That its computation is based on the virtual universe. It’s not to say it can’t have its own variables and kinds of laws. It’s just the computation behind it will limit what is possible there. And it may be such that when we talk about computers as universal computation machines, like a universal Turing machine or something; these are only limited by our experience of this kind of computation in our universe. I mean, so, “Yes.”
Rosner: Yes, it’s certainly easy to build from our physics.
Jacobsen: Yes. So, our computers might not be universal. They might be general in this context.
Rosner: Yes, but the deal is, it’s possible to imagine a future that has a whole bunch of video games that are convincing simulations. Where within the games, the rules, some of the rules of reality would be violated. You can imagine a convincing simulated world video game in which you can fly, for instance.
Jacobsen: Gravity is reversed.
Rosner: Or something, it’s easy to imagine that these kind of games will be pervasive in the future. So, yet, we live in a world. The world we live in now doesn’t have any of those violations of reality. So, what’s the deal, probabilistic? You find yourself being a conscious being in the world that you’re in. And what are the odds that it’s a natural world? We, apparently, are in or it’s a simulated world. That you’re part of a game that runs for three weeks or three hours. You become conscious. You’ve got backs in your awareness. You’ve got a history. All these issues need to be addressed scientifically and philosophically, ideally scientifically. Are there probabilistic arguments to be made about whether you’re more likely to find yourself in a natural world or a simulated world?
And, of course, the simulated world you assume is an offshoot of the natural world, and as we’ve been talking of a natural world; it’s that assumption of legitimation. We have talked about, “I think, therefore, I am.” Within the context, given the extreme complexity and self-consistency of the worlds of our minds or an individual’s mind with its memories and its ability to mentally simulate the world, given the extreme consistency in the amount of information involved, that’s a statistical argument for the existence of the possessor of that consciousness. So, analogously, are there probabilistic arguments to be built around natural versus simulated worlds? Also, the extent of the simulated world.
Jacobsen: They are, in some sense. Any evolved mind in a natural universe is running a simulation of it. And this is not digital. Like my own mind is running a simulation of my little environment here, in front of the laptop. Similarly, with you in front of your Skype machine, it’s just the way things are. So, you could say simulation is the dominant strain of quantity of computation. Although, natural is the dominant quality of it. I mean, we’re only in a finite volume. We have seven or eight billion people running all these simulations based on their own minds. But those are very small volumes in the entirety of the Universe, the natural universe. I think you make the same argument where in any other universe where they have these simulations, even massive galactic-scale simulations. Computational devices of that scale, they would themselves be limited in that natural universe, which is bigger.
So, there’s one split there. Maybe, in that argument, it’s not usually made, which is that natural universes are the ground state. They’re much bigger. So, there’s a lot more computation happening with regard to them. Any kind of simulation that’s happening within them, whether it’s what we call digital or evolved consciousness, either case evolved or constructed. They’re far more plentiful. Because once the natural universe is already set up, then you have a simpler setup to kind of run different simulations.
Rosner: Yes, so, I mean, there’s that argument that we think can be made, which is that it’s just much more likely that we’re in a natural universe.
Jacobsen: Yes. Even though, the number of “simulated universes,” are arguably much more plentiful.
Rosner: Yes, so, it’s a mess.
Jacobsen: I mean, just the human species is a hundred billion simulations at various kind of world lines.
Rosner: We intuitively think that it’s much more probable. We’re in a natural universe, but we don’t know the framework to do any kind of calculation.
Jacobsen: You can throw a ballpark even by saying one planet in one universe for one species amounts to one hundred billion simulations. So, 100 billion little tiny world lines within that one natural universe.
Rosner: At that point, I am still finding myself confused. There’s another level. There are plenty of issues around simulation. Another issue, though, is that if the universe is a vast information processing entity. It is not necessarily aware of structures such as ourselves and our planet that have originated, that are built out of the matter that is made of the information in that information process. That the information in the processor is manifest as matter and space. And the whole thing is as our universe, but that the information processor gets the information out of the process that we experience as the universe without necessarily any awareness that this universe exists. Without any specific idea:: If it’s a sufficiently sophisticated entity, if I see this is anything like true, then that entity will have a general idea that there’s a universe made of the information in processing without any specific knowledge of what happens in that universe.
Jacobsen: I mean, consider the consciousness of an ant. Who knows how many ants in the world? What I am calling simulations in a natural universe, I am including those. I am not just talking digital; I am talking evolved. And so the non-conscious, so to speak, like an ant.
Rosner: So, we’re talking about two different things. There’s another issue with simulation, which is intentional simulation for a video game, and a simulation you’re talking about, which is a mental picture of the world.
Jacobsen: So, an objective simulation and a subjective simulation. Subjective can have a lot more flavors.
Rosner: I mean, that’s another like framework that needs to be fairly well defined.
Jacobsen: Maybe, in an intrinsic simulation and extrinsic simulation? Something like that.
Rosner: Well, I mean, like the simulations I am talking about are meant to emulate a world.
Jacobsen: You mean the simulations where you have two black holes processed virtually in these massive supercomputers and trying to see what happens when two black holes collide?
Rosner: No, I am not. I am not talking about that. I am talking about simulations that lead somebody in the simulation to potentially ask the question whether they’re living in a natural world or a simulated world. So, I guess, to be more clear, I am talking about simulated worlds, simulations.
The simulation we have in our minds are not intentional. They’re not constructed worlds. I mean, just talking about it shows that there are issues that need to be pinned down.
Jacobsen: You’re talking at a high level of simulation in my mind.
Rosner: It’s not just high level. It’s something different. It’s like the simulation that makes free guy think he’s living in a natural world. But it’s just as the simulation in a video game.
Jacobsen: So it’s an as if natural universe.
Rosner: There’s external intention there. Somebody built that world with the intent of making it seem real for their own purposes. Simulations we have in our minds. I mean, we didn’t intentionally build them. They’re a product of our evolved minds. They’re not there. For nearly every organism on Earth, they are meant to simulate the real external world.
Jacobsen: So right there. So, you’re talking at three layers. You have a universe, a really sophisticated simulation. And then the subjective impression, the mental map that simulated being has in that simulated universe.
Rosner: Yes. And I want to bring up one more point. So, if the universe is a giant consciousness, it’s not aware of the specifics of the material manifestation of the information in its consciousness. You can still argue that a system that’s possibly aware of that universe that is contained within the information. And an external world, an armature could tweak the events. Within the information universe it contains, it seems unlikely. But maybe also not by that, the quantum of events in our universe, the outcomes of when an open quantum frame becomes closed. Because an event, a quantum event has happened, you would think that the outcome of that quantum event reflects something that happened. For that outcome contains information about the world that the information is about, and those things should be… anyway. I’ve done myself a whole lot of lack of clarity and would just be wasting more time to go further into it, but anyway. This discussion, at least in my mind, is that the simulated worlds and universes need a lot more clarity in pinning down what they’re about in order to discuss them effectively.
Jacobsen: And we can both agree the ground state has to be a natural universe.
Rosner: Yes, but no. I mean, the easiest universe to imagine is one that has a timeline where every quantum event that has a complete timeline representing an actual history, and that the events on that timeline… Although, all the gazillion quantum events are randomly operating, according to the rules of quantum mechanics in a natural way. That’s the easiest universe to imagine.
Jacobsen: Any simulation that comes out of that has to be based out of some processing unit grounded in that universe. I think those are two points. So, any kind of simulation coming out of that universe or any type of simulation, virtual reality, coming out of that universe will have to be grounded in the physics of that universe, which will have a particular kind of computation.
Rosner: Not necessarily video games now that have alternative physics.
Jacobsen: That’s not what I mean. I mean, the physics for the actual computation to take place. So, in our case, we have digital computers, so you can simulate any kind of physics, but that type of range of simulation is grounded in competition.
Rosner: Is actually generating the simulation, the computer’s operating in our world, which we naturally assume to be natural.
Jacobsen: Yes. So, in that sense, that’s a point of huge clarity, where the material object in our universe that is the computational unit is constrained by a particular physics. But the virtual reality that it creates can have all sorts of physics. But it’s constrained by that original physics.
Rosner: Yes, although, I don’t know if that’s a big deal.
Jacobsen: Well, I think it might clarify the difference with the armature in our universe. This sort of thing.
Rosner: So, in the armature, the whole idea of the armature and the turtles all the way down is itself a mess. In that, we’re assuming that you can have this implied infinity because it’s an infinity that is informationally moot.
Rosner: That, even though it’s implied, it’s so distant in terms of having any possible effect on our world that you can just kind of wave it away. It seems like a terrible way to reason, though they’re in like Feynman type physics. There is similar hand-waving to get rid of troublesome infinities.
Jacobsen: As far as I am aware, that’s common in physics to hide infinities in various places.
Rosner: Yes, and it’s mathematically ugly. It’s philosophically ugly.
Jacobsen: Which makes it unlikely to be true because typically the true is beautiful.
Rosner: No, I was just reading. Somebody was writing about that whole true as beautiful thing and was debunking it. When physicists like Einstein say that beautiful is true, that’s based on many years of work in physics. And so, that’s a very educated aesthetic if you want to call it an aesthetic. But it might be more legitimate to call it a scientific intuition that what Einstein would find beautiful isn’t what somebody who finds astrology, somebody who believes in astrology, would find beautiful.
Jacobsen: I see.
Rosner: So rather than call it beauty, call it educated intuition.
Jacobsen: Makes sense. Okay, that’s fair.
Rosner: So, I don’t know that any further discussion on this stuff will be productive.
Jacobsen: Well, I think a wrap up would be helpful.
Rosner: My wrap up is that there are lots of issues around what we mean when we talk about simulation and the different types of simulation we might talk about. And it would be helpful to get that stuff more pinned down before we talk about the implications of simulated vs. natural universes and worlds. Because there’s a difference between a simulated universe because you could set up a randomized quantum universe within a computer and let it play out; it would be very small and it could be a whole universe.
Jacobsen: We should make that distinction.
Rosner: What’s that?
Jacobsen: Maybe, we should make the distinction.
Rosner: Distinction between an entire simulated universe and a simulated part of the world?
Rosner: Matrix. Because The Matrix doesn’t simulate the entire universe.
Jacobsen: Yes, I mean, in a sense.
Rosner: It simulates like the surface of Earth for all the people who are imprisoned in the simulation. And it simulates the stars and the sky and everything. But it dispenses in the interest of efficiency in The Matrix simulation. Does not give a shit about what might be happening on planets and some other galaxy. The simulation, matrix simulation, you have the images of other galaxies. And they appear to behave as distant galaxies might. But beyond that level of simulation, the prison keepers aren’t going to go to the trouble. The computational trouble of fully simulating distant galaxies.
Jacobsen: Well, in that sense, I think it’d be very, very rare to come across a true universe simulation. I think in that sense. You can make a distinction. This is a placeholder. That when you’re speaking of universes; you’re speaking of natural universes and you’re speaking virtual universes. You’re talking about worlds because it’s very likely only to be part. It’s going to be very partial.
Rosner: Again, just for me to wrap up, is just to say that this whole area is something that needs pinning down.
Jacobsen: Yes, I don’t even know what the terminology would be properly set forth to limit when we’re talking about that simulation of a world versus that subjective simulation.
Rosner: And what’s kind of weird is that, probably, the people building the universe will become the accepted terminology for, at least, some of these ideas that are going to be video game makers.
Jacobsen: Also, there’s another part of this, which is, “Do we simulate agents without agency?” Like bad guys in video games, they don’t have any agency. They’re just sort of these 3D.
Rosner: Right now, in video games, the only characters with agency are the characters being played by actual people.
Rosner: There may be characters within video games that are sufficiently complicated. I don’t know, because I don’t play video games. They might have like a sub-ant like level of agency. Because it’s a question as to “How much agency?”
Jacobsen: Very little.
Rosner: OK. But even so, an ant probably has more agency because an ant brain, probably, has like a hundred thousand neurons, which is not much compared to humans, 80 billion neurons. But it’s still a shitload of neurons enough to generate some behavioral complexity. And I am sure there’s no engine that runs a bad guy in a video game that has even the complexity of an ant brain. But in the future, it’s easy to imagine video game characters with the agency of an ant.
Jacobsen: And it’s different in what we have with those videogame characters because it’s a coding around which they behave as a 3D figurine, but ants have built into them – with ants that’s built into their system. It’s unified. There’s a central processing unit in them. In the simulated characters we have now in video games, that’s not even close to what is the case.
Rosner: No, but you got me. I am sure, like some of the non-playable characters and video games have very complicated decision trees.
Jacobsen: Sure. But it’s built. It’s distributed into the whole system and then played out through that little 3D figurine. In the end, it’s intrinsic to it. It’s much more tightly closed off.
Rosner: Yes, I think one thing we can say, at least in terms of this discussion, is that agents to have agency: Yu need to have consciousness.
Rosner: I think that in general, that seems. Well, that’s right.
Jacobsen: Yes, and maybe, also, there’s that sense of agency that has to come with a certain closed offness to the rest of the universe, where the only channels of information are getting in from your own little sensory apparatuses – whatever it is.
Rosner: Alright, I am tired. My voice is raspy.
Jacobsen: Ok, yes.
[End of recorded material]
American Television Writer
(Updated July 25, 2019)
*High range testing (HRT) should be taken with honest skepticism grounded in the limited empirical development of the field at present, even in spite of honest and sincere efforts. If a higher general intelligence score, then the greater the variability in, and margin of error in, the general intelligence scores because of the greater rarity in the population. *
According to some semi-reputable sources gathered in a listing here, Rick G. Rosner may have among America’s, North America’s, and the world’s highest measured IQs at or above 190 (S.D. 15)/196 (S.D. 16) based on several high range test performances created by Christopher Harding, Jason Betts, Paul Cooijmans, and Ronald Hoeflin. He earned 12 years of college credit in less than a year and graduated with the equivalent of 8 majors. He has received 8 Writers Guild Awards and Emmy nominations, and was titled 2013 North American Genius of the Year by The World Genius Directory with the main “Genius” listing here.
He has written for Remote Control, Crank Yankers, The Man Show, The Emmys, The Grammys, and Jimmy Kimmel Live!. He worked as a bouncer, a nude art model, a roller-skating waiter, and a stripper. In a television commercial, Domino’s Pizza named him the “World’s Smartest Man.” The commercial was taken off the air after Subway sandwiches issued a cease-and-desist. He was named “Best Bouncer” in the Denver Area, Colorado, by Westwood Magazine.
Rosner spent much of the late Disco Era as an undercover high school student. In addition, he spent 25 years as a bar bouncer and American fake ID-catcher, and 25+ years as a stripper, and nearly 30 years as a writer for more than 2,500 hours of network television. Errol Morris featured Rosner in the interview series entitled First Person, where some of this history was covered by Morris. He came in second, or lost, on Jeopardy!, sued Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? over a flawed question and lost the lawsuit. He won one game and lost one game on Are You Smarter Than a Drunk Person? (He was drunk). Finally, he spent 37+ years working on a time-invariant variation of the Big Bang Theory.
Currently, Rosner sits tweeting in a bathrobe (winter) or a towel (summer). He lives in Los Angeles, California with his wife, dog, and goldfish. He and his wife have a daughter. You can send him money or questions at LanceVersusRick@Gmail.Com, or a direct message via Twitter, or find him on LinkedIn, or see him on YouTube.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen
Founder, In-Sight Publishing
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight Publishing and Editor-in-Chief of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal (ISSN 2369-6885). Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and the advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere.
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