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August 11, 2003

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» Are we living in a simulated reality? from Matrix Essays
Is Agent Smith -- or any of the AI programs in the Matrix for that matter -- really self aware? Or are the Matrix AI programs more like video game non-player-characters, whose "awareness" is a carefully scripted illusion? [Read More]

Comments

Trey

Did someone mention that if we are living in a simulated reality, say by computer or by any means we can dream up, and we try to figure it out by comparing facts and using logic associated with the reality we know, we aren't proving anything because our reality's laws of physics and computer science and the human mind itself might not even exist in the 'real reality'. The simulated reality maker's computer (if they needed a computer to make our world) might be billions of (our) years ahead of where we're at with technology. And using that technology or not, maybe they HAVE made computer programs and artificial beings that can learn and remember and create and theorize, just like us. Or maybe the real reality is something we cannot even imagine and we are some thing's strange experiment.
In this existence there are so many mysteries and theories that can't be proven or known for certain, and that makes this life wonderful. Faith or a positive belief in something gives you a beautiful feeling of certainty about these things we can't prove, but that belief won't always convince others of your viewpoint on a subject, because (as the line goes) you must experience it for yourself.
Anyway, the fascinating theory of a simulated reality can't be proven false. It can be believed to be wrong by a person, which is their unique, valid perspective and opinion, but it's just like how no one can prove that God or some other entity or energy ruling the universe is false or true. Popular and personal belief in an idea makes it real to those who believe it. Truth is what you believe it to be. And what a miracle, seriously. It's a great thing to be human, or whatever we are.

jimmy mirabal

If i close my eyes and create in my imagination a planet, with all that we know (people,animals,plants,etc.)if some of those created people begins to pry and thanks to god(the creator)their prying are for me, i am creating the universe and planet where they exist.they are an extension of my consciousness. We can not create consciousness in a simulated reality. It is like energy, it cant`t be created or destroyed, it has ever existed, we just have discovered some ways to manipulate and use it. Consciousness can not be created,but it exist even in a simulated reality, in all that we can see or feel in it.

I think every form of live have consciousness From an amoeba to a human. If an amoeba can not read a book it does not means that it has not consciousness, we can not determinate it based on our human methods for determinate things,a bear does not read a newspaper to know if winter is coming. The bear does not use human elements to determinate that. We can not pretend to know about if a butterfly has consciousness if we even knowing the water formula, we can`t create water. we know the elements that water has,but if we mix it in a laboratory, we can`t create water. It need one more element that we can not manipulate you can name it any way, energy,consciousness,spark of life,etc,is " that" that make life possible.

Zimbatainment

Why does a cellphone (created by us) have the ability to do things that we cant do. Isn't it possible that it is self-aware to a limited extent governed by the physical parameters that we imposed upon it. On that note Is it not possible that religion plays a vital part. Is it not possible that the period in which most religions were conceived we had not reached the advanced level of self-awareness that we have today. Therefor God does exist and we are limited to the physical parameters of our existence the same way we can interfere in our cellphones without their consent and beyond their normal self realisation like keeping the correct time. Them God can also alter any of the physical parameters at will. Hence the natural disasters miracles in the bible and ultimately death.

The PArkour Master Monkey

its simple if you live in a simulted reality obviously you are existing in a simulated reality of domething much more advanced like for instance the sims even though its a little more small scale compared to the rest when you for instance hurt one of their "familt members" then they get sad/depressed we already kind of have this tech but we simply havent reached the scale of something as large as what we have right now i'm anticipating only because i read the beggining because i don't have much time i'll try to read it all later and give a more in depth comment

greg

why is humanity special?

your essay is one of the most complete essences that i have read in my short 22 years of life

it is not us that are giving so called machines consciousness or awareness -- it is in us all and it is all fundamentally the same.

it is the reason that we are aware or exist in the first place -- to contribute to the creation of higher life.

However, again, it is not us that are doing it -- it is the one life that is

The ancient mayas predicted that our universe breaths in and out and that our galaxy sends a heart beat of energy to us every 13,000 years that governs and directs everything that happens all the way to the superficial aspects of political and social change on earth

Nova, you are leading this charge because of the incredible opportunities, love, compassion, genuineness, clarity, and essence that you've been afforded -- however, it is what the universe wants for you and wants for all of the people that are gravitating to this essay and feeling the perfect purity in your message

ultimate humility and awareness in our own beings are what allow us to contribute to higher awareness

the universe is searching for its own awareness and it has given us the gift of recognizing our perfect purpose to help it do so

if we can only help spread this message and understanding to help create a truly collective awareness among us humans, we can contribute to the higher life and reside back into a peaceful existence much like you can witness in the animal kingdom

i close with the opening -- what is so special about humanity? what we are is nothing more than a different sensual representation of other life forms on earth, the earth itself, our solar system, our galaxy and ultimate infinity to both the quanta and the cosmos

like you said, it is all so simple

Alex Berish

You completely neglected to realize that consciousness as WE know it, would not be consciousness OUTSIDE of this "simulation" What I am trying to say is, that just as colors are nothing more than perception of wavelengths of light (which are nothing more than perception) then consciousness itself is perception.

just thought I would point that out.

;)

xroox

Interesting. I think you're missing a couple of important things that need to be considered before saying really any of the things you feel "must be so" on this topic.

Two points in particular.

i) You're assuming just because this is a simulation that you are a program. We could be "real" biological, or "spiritual" beings, or perhaps within a mixture of "real" and "software" programs in the world. ie... Ever wonder why some people seem so dull and uninspired...? Actually, I find your writing to be just that... you might want to check again to see just how "self aware" you are.

ii) Before you even started you were already defeated in your theories.

You're forgetting outright that those responsible for creating this theoretical simulation have decided on what universal laws and rules we are subject to.

You may be right that here inside this simulation we lack the ability to program a computer that is truly self-aware. However, just as we can alter the laws inside our simulations to suit our needs, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that the "true" laws governing whoever and whatever constructed this theoretical simulation are at all similar.

Also remembering and further to the point of a different set of physical and virtual rules is that the "creators" could be living life in a higher or alternate plane of existence.

Anyway, no reason to think that those who may or may not have created this reality have any of the same rules applied to their programming, physics, quantum physics, etc.

You're writing as though we know everything, but we really only know what we can see from our perspective.

I am personally of the opinion that our view of the universe is not much better than the pre-Aristolean view of the sun revolving around the earth, stars being pin pricks in a dome that is over our heads.

They were just commenting on what they observed, much like you are doing. Just because our observation is what we would consider to be much more highly developed now, does not mean that it is still relatively just as far from the truth as our ancestors were 500+ years ago.

Please consider that we are relatively still nearly as blind to the "real truth" as we were then... only perhaps incrementally better. I believe the current universe view of stars being separated by vast distances surrounded in many cases by planets, all orbiting around galaxies, etc etc is only what we can currently see.... and not necessarily indicative of any sort of final answer.

Sorry. Planned on being a bit more... succinct here. It's difficult to write short points on this topic... as you have experienced while writing your post here.

Admittedly, I didn't read the whole thing.. by a long-shot. I found that you were missing some very crucial things and that the rest of the entry would follow along these traditional, 20th century-minded "modern" viewpoints. We are now in post-modern society and it will require some new ways of thinking and problem solving good sir.

I'll look through some more of the post now I just wanted to point out that it looks like you went pretty far down a dead-end road for some reason.

Thanks! Glad to be a part of some dialogue one this topic. I think my points are very simple, I'm not really sure why that took so many words.

sarah

To visualize conciousness i see us, and our brain and the universe and all the planets, but i see, some sort of connection, like a whole somewhere, the other side is a white room, where only echos are present and all that is all goes through this whole unto a brain, perhaps our conciousness is like a swimming ball and our brain just has the right receptors to pick it up, it still lives, explaiing shutting of the human, but the brain is like a receptical and when all is turned on in a "empty brain" conciousness collects to it and is translated through it. ---

Sahil

Very interesting essay. You didn't mention your sources though.

It is true that we are in a Matrix as you pointed out, but you totally skirted the issue of who created the Matrix in the first place :)

Stephen Paul King

If it can be proven that all of the content of our subjective experiences can be simulated *exactly* by a quantum computation, would that change your conclusions?

David Mcbride

Question,

at what point does our conciousness begin,

is it as soon as our DNA bonds during conception, are concious at this point, indeed, is DNA a concious entity?

If DNA is not concious, then what part of the growth process yeilds the resources required to generate conciousness or 'being'.

I am not a philosopher or a genius of any kind, but I am intrigued by your discussion. The answer to your questions will ultimately fuel the growth of artificial intelligence software.

John Abbe

Editorial note & honest feedback - you repeated one paragraph (or different versions of it) - search for "whether you call it consciousness or awareness". Alas, i found the second half somewhat repetitive even beyond that :), but enjoyed seeing all of these points made in one piece. I think it even helped me grok universe-in-mind more clearly.

I am not as certain as you seem to be, but i hope, and generally expect, that the nature of consciousness will always remain at least somewhat mysterious (or should we all become fully enlightened, inarticulable i guess).

It's all a fairly convincing case for why *comprehensible* AI is impossible, but what about by accident, or as a result of some evolutionary software technique? Anyone who looked at the code (like those who look at the brain) would simply be unable to explain where or how or what consciousness has to do with it.

Ryan Singer

Statements like "consciousness is aware of itself" represent a confusion between the mental aspects of consciousness and the it-feels-like-something aspects of consciousness. Contemporary materialists refer to the it-feels-like-something aspects of consciousness as "qualia". In the status quo model, qualia either don't exist or are epiphenomenal. This awful denial of the reality of it-feels-like-something-ness can be resolved by reframing the problem of consciousness.

The SQ says that consciousness can be causally (not ontologically) reduced to the brain. I think this idea should be revised and clarified:

- Mentality is consciousness minus it-feels-like-something-ness.
- Mentality can be causally reduced to the brain, but it-feels-like-something-ness cannot.
- It-feels-like-something-ness is seamless, has no measurable aspects.
- The universe, without a mind observing it, is seamless, has no measurable aspects.
- The separation between one's self and the world is a mental aspect.
- The separation between an airplane and an ant is a mental aspect.
- Total everday consciousness is the imposition of separateness (via mentality) on the it-feels-like-something-ness.

So for example, a rat can hear things and see things, but the rat probably has no mental separation between the seeing and hearing. The perceiving for the rat is seamless. If one were to temporarilly dissolve the mental boundary between self and other (alternatively, subject and object), they would have a seamless experience much like the rat. This is what Zen practitioners are all about. Ego-death (or insert transcendental experience here) is the dissolution of a fundamental separation, and a direct experience of it-feels-like-something-ness.

Nova Spivack

Interesting points, thanks for taking the time to reply in some depth. I disagree that there is a difference between science and philosophy -- essentially they are just belief systems. Not all science is rigorous. Not all philosophy is fuzzy. In fact at one point, science and philosophy were not seen to be distinct disciplines -- the era of "Natural Philosophy" -- for example in the work of Newton. In any case, when dealing with the issue of consciousness, a formless phenomena, one cannot use the materialist standard of physical evidence, instead, one must use logic and self-observation. There is no other way to approach this because consciousness does not have physically measurable characteristics -- just like physical space. The difference between space and consciousness however is that space is not aware of itself. This difference means that space cannot observe space, but consciousness can observe consciousness.

Skarl

Not really looking for a debate either - but a few thoughts and thought experiments:

1. You say that since we cannot define a point at which progressively more complex computer programs can be said to be conscious. However, the same problem exists for biological lifeforms. - Is a amoeba conscious? A frog? An ape? At what point do we draw that line?

The solution is to think of consciousness as a variable state - not "conscious or not conscious", instead "more conscious" and "less conscious".

As well, assuming that one accepts evolution (and if you don't I'm clearly wasting my time),
why do carbon-based lifeforms have a monopoly on this - if a silicon-based, sentient being evolved somewhere, why couldn't it be conscious? And if it was indistinguishable from a computer, why wouldn't both be conscious? Why wouldn't it be able to partake of this awareness available to 'living' creatures? By what facility would it be unable to exist in/partake of awareness?

2. The value of science is that, at the most basic level, confirming that many people come independently to the same conclusions also confirms a high likelyhood that those conclusions hold for everyone. The strength of Western science is that it admits to the subjectivity (where subjectivity is the likelyhood that different observations can be made of the same phenomena) of knowledge - and seeks to limit that through peer review and independent repetition.

3. I'd like to address your more fundamental points, but mostly they are supported by assertions, not reasoning - and what reasoning exists is rather flawed.

In other words, you postulate certain fundamental laws of nature, but unlike scientists, provide very little empirical evidence to support them.

By the way, there is a branch of academia given to the research of the fundamental questions of human existence - philosophy. Personally, I think that the best area for the advancement of popular philosophical thought is through popular 'entertainment', ie. fictional films and books.

Josh Kirschenbaum

I guess to focus on the topic of the next essay...why does the appearance of awareness occur in certain elements of our reality, and not in others? Why do we perceive ourselves as being partially aware, or even self-aware, and yet we do not perceive the ocean to be aware? Or the Earth, for that matter?

The ocean is a multi-functional, highly organized, evolved organism. Just like us. Why do we not see the ocean's "awareness"- we see it as a container for fish and plankton.

Looking back along the timeline of "conscious" evolution- there is a tremendous acceleration from seemingly "unaware" objects, to "aware" beings...from clay to biochemical molecules to amoeba to crabs to fish to dinosaurs to birds and eventually to us...

the big question is not What Does It All Mean? Nor is it Why Are We Here? It should be Where Is This All Going?

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