Hawking Up Hairballs

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Simulated World

There's an interesting little article in the Science section of today's New York Times. Simulated World. It talks about an Oxford University philosopher who has proposed that there is a pretty good chance that the universe is just a simulation being run on a really powerful computer belonging to a very advanced human or post-human civilization in the future. One's first response to such a proposal is disbelief. Yeah, like that's really true. Then, if one thinks about it for a while, it becomes kind of spooky. Look at the notion of the Big Bang. Physicists agree that the universe started from a single point, a quantum fluctuation in the void. What is that but the beginning of a program, or the point at which the machine is turned on. And there's something called genetic programming that uses the principles of survival of the fitest, the principles behind evolution. Weird, huh?

As far as I'm concerned, an even more interesting point is this one. How does this explanation differ from that of traditional theism? In language certainly, but think about it. If some future human was running the universe on his, or her, computer as a simulation, wouldn't he possess all of the properties of a deity? He would be omniscient, relative to our universe, and omnipotent as well, capable of intervening and readjusting the program at his whim. Hence, we would have miracles or, even better, a human who is designated as the true son of this god, born of a virgin mother. It could be a mischievous little booger who started this simulation. He could be a post-human ten-year-old. No wonder there's so much suffering. No wonder there are wars, epidemics and famines. It makes for a more exciting game. And if it is this little Dennis the Menace who is playing, isn't a nuclear holocaust almost certain? Kind of grim, but it would take a pretty spiteful future son of a bitch to put the likes of George W. Bush in charge of things in this country.


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