“Elon Musk has said that there is only a ‘one in billions’ chance that we’re not living in a computer simulation.”
Since all probability is conditional on the assumed premises, the natural question is what premises Musk had in mind to calculate the near certainty that he is but a computer simulation. I mean, beyond blaming Descartes.
Here is his argument, which many find, if not convincing, at least intriguing.
“The strongest argument for us probably being in a simulation I think is the following,” he told the Code Conference. “40 years ago we had Pong — two rectangles and a dot. That’s where we were.
“Now 40 years later we have photorealistic, 3D simulations with millions of people playing simultaneously and it’s getting better every year. And soon we’ll have virtual reality, we’ll have augmented reality.
“If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then the games will become indistinguishable from reality, just indistinguishable.”
He said that even if the speed of those advancements dropped by 1000, we would still be moving forward at an intense speed relative to the age of life.
Since that would lead to games that would be indistinguishable from reality that could be played anywhere, “it would seem to follow that the odds that we’re in ‘base reality’ is one in billions”, Mr Musk said.
In a fundamental sense, if we’re in a simulation, then it must be that we don’t exist. We can’t be entirely simulations, for, because our intellects are not material (explanations here), there is no material way to simulate them such that the simulations come alive and have non-material intellects. There is no free will for simulants—the indigenous populants of a simulation—but there is for us.
But that’s too easy. So let’s ignore the fatal flaw and look at why Musk, who evidently hasn’t heard this objection, thinks we’re in a matrix.
To be in a matrix implies there is a matrix builder. Now this Builder (let’s promote him with capitalization) is clever enough to have created a system which fools the simulants into thinking the bits in which they swim is the real world. If the simulants are as characters in a novel, this is problem free. The Builder simply writes a line of code which says, “The simulants think they are in the real world.” Nothing more is needed.
And, indeed, the simulants can’t be more than this. They are characters in a novel, a novel of electric potentials and silicon. They cannot be fooled into thinking they have free will. No creature that doesn’t already have free will can think he has it. It takes free will to think about free will. No matter how you look at it, the pure simulation matrix cannot work and we cannot be in one.
What about the movie version? Although it appears to the astute mind asinine, suppose the Builder hooks up genuine people to electrodes which, through superior processing power, fools people into thinking they are in Disneyland, or wherever. The Builder fed on the captives’ vibrations. Or whatever. Dumb movie. Skip it.
This “simulation”—actually reality plus code—might work, in the sense that it appears that is it not logically impossible. Not everything that is logically impossible happens, though. Thirteen-legged Spanish-speaking lava-breathing orange dragons who crap flaming gold ingots for pets are logically possible. But don’t fork over hard cash for dragon chow.
As evidence for this Demon Builder, Musk points to Pong. I am a child of the 70s: we had a set. Maybe you had to be there to realize how those of us who saw it in its infancy never thought then that it would lead to virtual enslavement. But whatever.
Or maybe the Builder allowed the prisoners these inventions to encourage them to think that they could build their own matrix in a matrix. Beware, then, of Musk minions looking for “volunteers” for this virtual reality “experiment.”
All logically possible. All equally silly.