Friday, October 7, 2016

puppets debate

have you ever seen the matrix? chances arethat you have, it's a rather popular film. in one particular sequence the protagonistneo is presented with a conundrum. the red pill or the blue pill. a choice between learningthe absolute truth behind reality and the blissful ignorance of illusion. neo eventuallydecides to take the red pill and does indeed learn the truth, as horrifying as it may be.he learns that he's been living inside a simulation this whole time and he is now finally experiencingtrue reality. at least that is what you, the viewer, is led to believe. but an aspect thatis somewhat dismissed is that the red pill doesn't grant you knowledge of reality asmuch as it completely eradicates any distinction between real and fake. let me ask you this.when watching the movie, did you ever question

if the supposed true reality that morpheusand the gang exist within is actually true reality? what's to say that they are not insidea simulation themselves? i mean, up until this point, the matrix was just as real asthis newfound reality. if anything, the matrix only proves that knowing what reality is andis not is an impossibility. and this could potentially go on for infinity. never reachingany sort of true actual reality if that even exists. just a simulation within a simulationwithin a simulation within a simulation... yeah, and so on, and so on,and so on, and so on... this video is not really about the matrixper se, but it's hopefully a digestible introduction to the profound and intricatetopic of this video.

the idea that the universe and reality itselfcould be a simulation is not something new. we can trace similar ideas as far back as the timeof ancient greece when numerous philosophers, around the world, alluded to the idea thatreality could be an illusion. chinese philosopher zhuang zhou compared his own existence tothat of a dream in which he believed himself to be a butterfly. he questioned the distinctionbetween reality and a dream if both could seem equally real. another example is plato'sallegory of the cave. the first part goes like this. imagine a cave where people have been imprisonedsince birth. they are chained in such a way that they are forced to constantly gaze uponthe wall in front of them. they cannot look around the cave, at each other, nor at themselves.all they know is this wall and nothing else.

behind them there's a fire, and between theprisoners and the fire, there's a walkway. when people walk between the fire and theprisoners, shadows are cast upon the wall. because the prisoners doesn't know anythingelse, they believe the shadows to be real. actual entities of their own. and when a passerbyis talking, the prisoners believe it to be coming from the shadows themselves. they haveno idea that the shadows on the wall are merely lesser copies of reality andfalsely assume that this partial reality that they canperceive is the complete truth. there are many interpretations of this allegorywhich can by applied to vast range of topics. it can be interpreted as a way of understandingthe importance of knowledge and how it shapes

reality or it could be an analogy for humanignorance and our unwillingness to seek truth and could also be read like this. just like the shadows in this cave, could ourperceived reality be a shadow of something else? in physics and cosmology there's now a subfieldcalled digital physics which is a collection of theoretical perspectives based on the premisethat the universe is describable by information and as such is computable. and some of thesephysicists around the world are actually trying to find out if our universe could be a simulation.commonly referred to as the simulation hypothesis. this is done by, in various ways, comparingthe real world against our own technology. if certain similarities are found, conclusionscan be drawn. one such study titled

constraints on the universe as a numerical simulationconcludes that it is possible. a really simple analogy is to think of the pixels on yourscreen that make up this video right now. when i move this red dot across the screen,we perceive it as a smooth sliding action. but we know for a fact that this is an illusioncaused by the limitations of our sight. nothing is really moving it's just bits of informationbeing modified in such a way that, from our perspective, it's perceived as motion. ifwe zoom in and slow down, we notice that the red dot isn't sliding as much as it snapsto each individual pixel. and this is essentially what they have observed, that the universehas a finite resolution, or an underlying lattice as they call it. this could mean thatthe universe and reality is not made out of

energy or matter but is instead madeout of quantized bits of information that, from our perspective,is perceived as energy and matter. another way to imagine a computational universeis using what's known as a cellular automaton. a cellular automaton consists of a grid ofcells. in this case, each cell can either be populated or unpopulated. we then needto specify a set of instructions so that the state of each cell evolves over time basedon the state of neighboring cells. it may sound complicated but it really isn't. let'sstart with something simple. for example, we could say that each unpopulated cell willbecome populated if a populated neighbor is found to the left. we then populate a singlecell and execute the program. what happens

is that for each increment of time a new cellis populated to the right of every populated cell. so in this case, it just continues tothe right forever. not very interesting. let's make it a bit more complicatedby using the instructions of a popular cellular automata known as the game of life. these are the rules: #1. each populated cell with either one orno neighbors becomes unpopulated. #2. each populated cell with four or moreneighbors also becomes unpopulated. #3. each populated cell with two or threeneighbors remains populated. #4. each unpopulated cell with three populatedneighbors becomes populated. we populate as many cells as we'd like andthen press play. the resulting behavior is

actually quite remarkable. i mean it's notgta v or anything but still. what's remarkable is that these four simple instructions canover time produce incredible complexity. cells can live, die, or multiply and create a seaof seemingly chaotic randomness. some configurations stop immediately while others seem to continueforever. and there is no guaranteed way of telling if any specific configuration is eventuallygoing to stop or continue indefinitely. if we zoom out as the model continues to expand,increasingly complex patterns begins to emerge. but not only patterns. over time even thebehavior changes. the interactions between individual cells is overshadowed by the behaviorbetween entire blocks of cells. and this is the idea. that the universe began as somethingincredibly simplistic like a grid of cells governed

by a few simple instructions. but given enough timeit evolved into something incredibly complex. it's only natural for us to assume that thecomplexity of the universe must be very complicated. the world can often seem very confusing, random,unpredictable, and even unexplainable. what the game of life quite elegantly illustrates is thatcomplexity can actually be the result of simplicity. if you, and i, and everything around us isthe result of computable information, it stands to reason that that information can be modifiedand manipulated to an endless extent. we would be nothing morethan puppets in a theater. maybe the simulation began seconds ago andwe only think it's been 13.9 billion years because that information was artificiallyincluded upon its creation. maybe the universe

is really really tiny and all distant celestialbodies are simplistic renditions to create the illusion of enormity. maybe nothing physicallyexists until we observe its existence. perhaps detail and complexity is added when it's neededinstead of being constant and absolute. perhaps discovering that this is all a simulationis part of the simulation. perhaps this isn't the first iteration of the universe and someonecould be pressing the off switch right n- don't get me wrong. all ofwhat i just said is absolutely insane. but that's kind of my point. if we accept the simulation hypothesis,we also accept that literally anything is possible and that nothing can be determined.imagine that we somehow found definitive proof.

so for the sake of argument, let's say we escaped thesimulation. then i think we could all agree that we would know that it's a simulation, right? but westill wouldn't know if our escape from the simulation was simulated in and of other words, we could still be inside the simulation. it's a so called infinite regressissue which means that any evidence we find or knowledge that we obtain could just aswell be simulated in and of itself. including any evidencethat it's not a simulation. as the extent of the illusion cannot bedetermined, nothing can be determined. in the first draft of this script i addressedmany radical ideas surrounding the simulation hypothesis. but as it can all be nullifiedby the asking: "what if it's part of the simulation?".

it's really not that interesting. there'slittle, if any, scientific value here. it's mostly philosophical and metaphysical.and it's all very analogous to the limited reality of theprisoners in the cave. so let's change our perspective. instead ofassuming the position of the prisoners in the cave, could we be the ones who ignitethe fire to cast shadows upon the wall? a big reason why ideas related to simulatingreality has become so popular in mainstream media, like movies and video games, is thaton the surface it seems very plausible. if we look at what we could do just a few decadesago and compare it to modern technology, it's easy to imagine a future wherein technologyhas advanced far enough that it's indistinguishable

from reality itself. and while there's nothing thatexplicitly prevents that from happening in the future, there are definitelylimitations to what we can and cannot do. over the past half-century the processingpower of computers has doubled every two years which is an observation known as moore's law.but this growth won't continue forever. in fact it's already begun to slow down. it'snow closer to two and a half or even three years. the reason for this decline is dueto the physical limits of computation. computers are fantastical and can do incredible thingsbut they are not magical. the speed at which they process information and the amount ofinformation they can process is, like everything else, governed by the laws of physics. forexample we will never, regardless of any potential

futuristic technology, be able toaccurately replicate anything down to every single molecule,atom, and fundamental particle. and the strange world of quantum mechanicsis to blame. there are many reasons why quantum mechanics makes this impossible butone great example is the uncertainty principle. it states that the more precisely the positionof a particle is determined, the less precisely the momentum of that particle can be determinedand vice versa. you can think of this as a balancing board. we force the left side downto increase precision in measuring the position of a particle, but in doing so, the rightside has to go up and thus we loose precision in measuring the momentum of the be certain about both properties at the

same time would require us to break the board,or in this case, break the laws of physics. the uncertain and probabilistic nature ofthe universe makes exact replication an impossibility. so let's forget about any notion of exactreplication. it just isn't, dare i say, realistic. what we can do instead is mimic reality byapproximation. take a look at this. this is the illustris project. a giant cosmologicalsimulation with the aim of studying the formation and evolution of galaxies. it's an ongoingproject in which scientists use the most precise data and calculations currently availableto create the most precise model of the universe possible. at its highest resolution it had a volume of106.5 mpcâ³, took several months to complete on a supercomputer with 8192 cores, used 25 tb of ramat its peak, and had a particle count of over 18 billion.

of course, it's only realistic to a certain extent and from a very narrow perspective. the simulation is detailedenough that they can actually zoom in on individual galaxies, but it's notdetailed enough to simulate the birth of each individual star or planet. and certainly notthe astronomical numbers of individual molecules, and atoms, and so on. instead they have to approximatehow a galaxy behaves as a whole without actually simulating all of it's individual parts andproperties. and once the simulation arrived at present day, the result was strikinglysimilar to what we observe in the universe. and by constantly tweakingthese approximations increasingly realistic results can be achieved. never quitereaching true realism but hopefully realistic enough.

this is all well and good for all scientificendeavors. things like astrophysics, particle physics, meteorology, fluid mechanics, medicine,evolutionary biology, and the list goes on and on. but what about creating a simulationfor entertainment purposes? so far i've only talked about simulationsas self contained systems. you write some code, press execute, and hope for the best.but wouldn't it be far more interesting to create simulations that we can not only interactwith but also experience to the point of complete immersion. software like video games are greatexamples of interactive simulations and hardware like the oculus rift and the htc vive aresome of the most immersive technologies available to the public. well they will be soon at least.of course, these are only aimed at stimulating

the audio-visual senses. what about everythingelse? like touch for example. well, there's full body suits like the teslasuit, vestslike the kor-fx, and gloves like the hands omni. these will give the illusion of actuallyholding virtual objects, getting hit by bullets, and possibly even give the sensation of temperature.then there's also entire systems built to create a virtual experience, usually designedaccording to a specific game or game type. there's driving and racing simulators, flight simulators,railway simulators, etc. if you want to navigate inside a virtual environment, your best option at themoment is something like the virtuix omni. all of these technologies are fantastic butthey are not ideal. they are only the beginning of the virtual reality revolution that likelywaits ahead. they are the monochromatic tv's

before color. because the limitations of thesedevices stems from their implementation. you're always going to be aware that you're wearinga head mounted display or that you're strapped into a locomotion platform. what's eventuallygoing to replace these mediating technologies to create a truly immersive experience arebcis. brain-computer interfaces. research on bcis began in the 1970s and sincethen the technology has come a long way. so far the focus has mostly been on repairingcognitive and sensory-motor functions. as an example neuroprosthetics are prostheticlimbs that can be controlled by a persons brain. people who's lost an arm and hand cannow get a robotic prostheses that they can control using sensors implanted in their brain.bcis can also be used to allow paraplegics

to walk again and help people with many typesof paralysis. from an entertainment perspective, you can truly see its potential when combinedwith virtual reality. the emotiv epoc is a publicly available bci that you can actuallyuse to play games with your mind. i mean, it's not perfect, it's actually far from perfectbut come on. you just cannot complain when someone has quite literally invented mindcontrol. and better yet in 2014, the first brain-to-brain communication was achievedbetween two people via the internet. in other words, telepathyis now becoming a reality. but we're still missing a crucial aspect.that is cbi technology. a computer-brain interface. and this is a significantly more difficultobstacle to overcome. in a typical brain-to-computer

interface, a device receives information fromthe brain and tries to interpret what that information means. the worst that could happen is thatthe computer gets it wrong. in a computer-to-brain interface, the brain receives informationfrom a device and the worst that could happen is that you actually damage the brain of theuser. in 2002, a blind man had a device implanted onto the visual cortex of his brain whichwas in turn connected to a camera. this allowed him to partially regain his vision. the camerasent its signals to the visual cortex of his brain and his brain interpreted these signalsas if they actually came from his eyes. another example of a cbi was used on monkeys. a monkeywould control a virtual arm to touch one of several visually identical objects. when thevirtual arm touched one of the objects a signal

would be sent back to the brain of the monkeyto stimulate the sensation of touch, describing the fine texture anobject that didn't actually exist. but there's definitely a greater risk at playhere and it's gonna take a while until we perfect such technology.but once we've unlocked the mysteries of the brain, the possibilitieswill be virtually endless. if this technology continues to advance andis able to entirely escape the realm of science fiction, the world as we know it and the futurewe often imagine, will dramatically change. when we try to imagine the distant future,we often think of humanity as these grand explorers of the universe. it's often justassumed that we will continue to expand outwards

far beyond the earth and the solar system.of course, this is under the optimistic assumption that no apocalyptic events takes place andthat we steadily continue to progress and innovate. almost every non-apocalyptic futuristicscience fiction tale describes humanity as a species that will expand outwards. and maybethat's true. but when this technology turns into reality, why would you want to? a powerfulvirtual reality could allow us to do anything and everything. no fear of harm or death,no irreversible consequences for your actions, no physical limitations. the ability to customizeand manipulate the world around us to fit our personal needs and preferences. just likein a dream, maybe it's possible to manipulate the brain's sense of time. real world minutescould turn into virtual years. could that

be why the universe can seem so lifeless eventhough it's been around for such a long time? perhaps every civilization that reaches acertain technological maturity realizes that expanding outwards to explorethe universe is pointless when expanding inwards, using technology,allows you to do so much more. i've never made a video like this before.a video heavy on speculation and even touching on some philosophical questions. hopefullyyou don't think i've gone completely insane. it's so difficult to make a video about thesetopics without sounding like you have some sort of religious faith in the matrix, waitingfor morpheus to come down from the heavens. it's far fetched, highly speculative, andmostly just fun to think about.

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