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Jonathan Bartlett on Why We Do Not Live in a Simulated Universe

Bartlett: I can make a model of atoms moving around, but it actually requires entire computers, which are all made of trillions of atoms, to make that simulation.

In the third installment of our top 12 AI hypes of the year (the Dirty Dozen), Jonathan Bartlett offered some thoughts on why he thinks we are not living in an intelligent alien’s giant sim universe, as many believe (Elon Musk) or at least think the claim is reasonable ( Martin Rees, Nick Bostrom). Here’s what Jonathan, of the Blyth Institute says about it, in conversation with Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks:

Robert J. Marks: I think there’s three reasons that we can have this complexity that we observe. One is an intelligent creator. The second one which is purported is panspermia, that all of this complexity was planted here on earth by some aliens. Elon Musk actually put forward a third hypothesis of intelligent design, which is that we are all simulations. We are all computer simulations. We live in a big SIM world. And I wonder how his Neuralink ties in with his theory that we are all simulations? Any ideas? …

Jonathan Bartlett: There’s kind of a faulty logic that goes to why a lot of people think we live in a simulation. Let’s say that there’s only one actual universe, but then we figure out how we can simulate a universe. Well, as soon as we can simulate a universe, if we successfully simulate that universe, that means that in that universe that we’re simulating, there are going to be creatures who figure out how to simulate a universe. And as soon as that happens, we’re going to have more simulated universes than we have actual universes, and therefore, your chances of winding up in a simulated universe are actually much higher than your chance of existing in the actual universe.

And that’s the logic that’s oftentimes used. The problem with that is that it always takes more stuff to simulate something than the thing that you’re simulating.

For example, I can make a model of atoms moving around, but it actually requires entire computers, which are all made of trillions of atoms, to make that simulation. And so you actually wind up with a space problem that you can’t simulate as much as you have reality. And so even if you could make a perfect simulation of reality, it would have to be a smaller reality than what you’re simulating it with.

That sound like a serious practical problem for a “bottle universe” that contains everything the real universe contains.


You may also enjoy: How we can be sure that we are not just an ET’s simulation. A number of books and films are based on the Planetarium Hypothesis. Should we believe it?


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Jonathan Bartlett on Why We Do Not Live in a Simulated Universe