Over Simulated

Logically, intelligent life forms living in a simulation would not have the ability to figure out that they exist within a simulation. The creators of the simulation would have created the intelligent life forms within the simulation, along with all the other stuff that makes up the simulation. Presumably the creators would not want the things inside their simulation to figure it out, so they would program some sort of block to their ability to reason their way to the truth of their existence.

One possible exception, one Hollywood has used to get around this problem, is the intelligent life forms are actually real creatures. They are unconscious in the real world, but plugged into the simulation, so that their consciousness exists in that simulation, as if they were a creation of it. This is the premise of the Matrix movies. Humans are plugged into the simulation by the machines that keep them alive as an energy source to power themselves and their machine world.

Another possibility, one not reliant on a sadistic creator of the simulation, is one where the simulation requires a degree of self-awareness by the intelligent life forms. In order for the simulation to achieve the desired goal, the creatures in it must be as close to real as possible, so that the simulation comes close to the reality of the creator. In this scenario, the simulation is a model of the creator’s existence for the purpose of testing some hypothesis about their reality.

Between the two, the most plausible is the second scenario, as the first scenario has some obvious plot holes. This was obvious in the movie. If the machines were so powerful to have conquered mankind and turned him into batteries, then why were the machines not smart enough to put alarms on the pods in which they kept their human batteries connected to the matrix? Perhaps the creator of the machines was the creator of the Death Star in the Star Wars movies.

If we go with the second option and assume the people who created the simulation are willing to risk their creations figuring out that they are in a simulation, under what conditions would the intelligent life forms figure it out? The first prerequisite is an intelligent creature curious enough about its surrounding that it tries to figure out the rules that govern its operation. The intelligent life forms would have to be smart enough to solve puzzles and use those solutions to solve other puzzles.

Rules manifest themselves as patterns, so the intelligent life forms would have to be pretty good at noticing patterns. As the intelligent life forms discover the rules of his existence, it would both notice the patterns, but get better at recognizing those patterns with a minimum amount of data. That is, each new recognized pattern would become a data set within the pattern matching process, allowing the creature to infer new patterns and new rules from his collection of rules.

Inevitably, this creature would reach of a point of noticing where his natural, as it were, abilities were no longer sufficient to learn new rules. It would need to take what it has learned about its environment and create tools. These tools would be the result of noticing those patterns, discovering rules of its existence and then applying those rules in trying to discover new rules. Mastery of fire, after all, came from seeing it and then using it in various way to discover how it worked.

This is one possible way for the intelligent life form to discover that it is actually existing in a simulation. Given enough time, it would discover the nature of its universe and learn it is actually a simulation. The trouble here is the intelligent life form would have to accept as a possibility that it exists in a simulation. A creature that is sure its universe operates on a fixed set of rules is unlikely to accept that those rules are an arbitrary invention of some higher intelligence outside its universe.

There is also another problem. The creators of the simulation could themselves be the product of a simulation. It’s entirely possible the one fixed rule of existence is that no intelligence entity can create an intelligence superior to itself. Perhaps Thomas Aquinas was right all along and there is some prime mover. The very source of the existence is the pinnacle of intelligence, which creates imperfect copies of itself manifesting as simulations within simulations.

We have in this simulation some evidence of this limitation. Despite the hyperbole about artificial intelligence, we have not come close to creating a computer that can rival the human mind. We have made very fast computers that can do calculations and sort through stacks of data faster than humans. These are not artificial intelligence or even intelligence at all, but rather they are very fast calculators. The collapse of the self-driving car project is an example of this limit.

Putting that aside, there is one other way the intelligent life forms inside the simulation could start to notice they are in a simulation. The point of creating a simulation, aside from sadism, is to test some theory or model some conditions. This implies the creators could make a mistake. They recognize this, so before changing something about their world or making a new tool, they test the theories behind it in a simulation. This means their simulation could have errors in it.

Let’s say they create a set of economic rules for their model society, but forget to carry the one or round the wrong way and there is an anomaly in the model. For example, creating more currency of a certain type does not result in inflation. All the other types of money operate by the rules of economics, but this one type of money seems to exist outside of those rules. The intelligent creatures figure this out and start producing tons of this new money to produce great material excess.

Presumably, the creators of the simulation would distribute skills and talents unequally among the intelligent life forms in order to see how creations of differing skills interact with one another. Maybe it is just an efficient way to use the finite resources available to the simulation makers. Regardless, the rules of the universe would have to dictate that those with a skill do better at some things than those without the skill. The result would be natural hierarchies in every aspect of the simulation.

What if there was a bug in the code where those with extreme narcissism and narrow intelligence can rise up to control society? At some point, through random chance, the stupid and narrow-minded figure this out and take over the simulation. Like the mouse utopia, this would be a useful discovery for the simulation makers, but it would create havoc for their simulation. So much so they may be tempted to unplug the thing, fix the bad code and re-run the simulation again.

Assuming the simulation keeps running, some of the intelligent life forms will see the anomalies in the system. They will work to resolve the paradoxes, but at some point, given enough cycles, they will have exhausted their set of options. At that point, they will have to question the very axioms of their existence and that’s when they can begin to contemplate the possibility they are in a simulation. The number of paradoxes grows to the point where they cannot be ignored.

Wrapping this all up, the only way to know if we are living in a simulation, other than being told by the creator, is that the creators of the simulation are imperfect. They have created a near perfect simulation, but there are enough bugs in the code to allow us to notice the anomalies. If there are enough things happening that fall outside the accepted rules of this world, then we can begin to consider the possibility we are just creations within a simulation.

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279 thoughts on “Over Simulated

  1. “sadism”, “testing and modeling”, more humanized pagan pathological materialist non-answers, that just kick the can down the road. might as well say it’s Zeus throwing lightning and thunder around, or the ghost of Tesla trying to prove a point. at least those who invoke St. Peter for rain cut the red tape and try to know the Prime Mover Himself. omnipotent both for creating and for allowing imperfect yet wonderful creation its own imperfect yet wonderful replication, and intelligent yet imperfect and fallen images of Himself to figure out more about said replication and build upon it. all the while also omnipotent for sometimes breaking the rules and intervening to help His faithful, if usually quite messed up, children. He died Himself for our sins, and pretends that with the Holy Spirit we weak mortals carry on towards reunion with Him. that’s how omnipotently above it all He is. Saint Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.

    also, in the Matrix, it is clear that the point was that the machines were eventually also overbloated and their imperfections shone through, thus allowing for example: glitches that let humans be taken down the shaft and flee as if they were dead, or programs that eventually ran rampant as viruses such as Agent Smith, or rogue helpers of humans such as the Oracle. granted, this also had contradictions such as the machines being able to detect humans in the sewers easily. but hey, the Wachowskis aren’t known for being totally sound. they primed many young men with sjw fantasies too, such as diverse peoples being kickass hackers and upholding the last of humanity (Zion seemed very nonwhite), and kickass kinda hot yet mostly tomboyish wahmen that could do no wrong and fight alongside the men (not only Trinity, but Will Smith’s top did appear in the sequels). of course, this was washed down with Neo as the stern white hero journey, lots of technobabble, slowed down bullets, Agent Smith’s coolness, Monica Bellucci’s too brief role as the titillating Persephone. the chosenites know their craft.

    relatedly, i also often wonder if in the Matrix they could have explored the character of Cypher more, he could have had his own faction of purple-pilled ones entering the story and adding much needed depth. they did have that scene of him eating a steak while the brave colored Zionists (lolol) ate some veggie glup; no wonder they were destined to lose the whole time. speaking of losing, wonder what the 4th sequel will make of that stupid non-ending last scene of the 3rd, where they never explained how the machines would keep on powering up – did they ban nuclear too? bet that 4th one will also be filled with colored and degenerates, and agents will be nazis too. thankfully i’ve grown up, and know simulation technobabble makes for thought exercises and entertainment at best.

  2. Apparently I just ended up on the Egghead Highway To Hell, gonna turn off at the next exit…before I get a migraine trying to figure out what the fuck you boys are gettin at.

    • We’re talking about a mystery wrapped in a riddle, fused to a helix disguised as an obelisk, dunked in chocolate and swallowed by a giant squid.

  3. My argument against the simulation theory is the same as the one against God: the complete absence of any morality in the Universe we live in. You don’t have to be infinitely wise and infinitely loving to wish that there were no childhood cancers, even Hitler or Stalin would have not wished for those things. The creators of the simulation would surely have had some moral sense, but there is no morality in evidence..

  4. My hairy balls argue strongly against a simulation. No sentient entity would ever simulate them. Fking philosophers drive me nuts. lol

    • Your hirsuite scrotum is one of many evolutionary arguments against intelligent design 😀 The scrotum exists because if the testes were inside the body, they would be slightly warmer, which is adverse to sperm. So Evolution basically did a retrofit, putting critical reproductive organs external to the body, in harm’s way. An even more extreme example of ad-hoc lack of foresight is given by

  5. Your mention of a simulation within a simulation is actually the plot of the movie “The 13th Floor”. In this movie, 1930’s Los Angeles is a simulation inside a computer in 1990’s Los Angeles; but it turns out that 1990’s Los Angeles is also a simulation within a computer in 2050’s Los Angeles. There are scenes in which characters in both simulations drive out beyond the city limits and see the edge of each simulation.

  6. Interesting topic, Z. You and the commenters caused some deep reflection today.

    Regardless of what you believe, our current “accepted” Big Bang hypothesis, and a random generation of life by lightning hitting dirt, seems the least likely.

    Religion, simulation, deism… all seem like valid hypotheses to me.

  7. Z Man said: “Wrapping this all up, the only way to know if we are living in a simulation, other than being told by the creator, is that the creators of the simulation are imperfect. They have created a near perfect simulation, but there are enough bugs in the code to allow us to notice the anomalies…”

    Mr. Z, I think your becoming a gnostic in your old age. 😀

  8. “The point of creating a simulation, aside from sadism, is to test some theory or model some conditions.”

    Another purpose is a “playground”. A virtual reality world where the players visit and enjoy themselves. The rest of us are all just intelligent NPCs.

  9. The Matrix hypothesis is the most nonsensical workaround I could imagine. Tailor made for over educated W.E.I.R.D. (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic) people to have a religion but not have one all while still feeling like its OK while they are playing God when they know dame well they aren’t smart enough.

    Its OK, its a simulation. Solipsistic in the extreme.
    Everybody else from the dumbest Sub Saharan to brilliant people everywhere just accepts that there is something bigger than mankind, attaches whatever the society they live in’s ideas to it and goes on.
    Honestly its like when Modern Westerners see a ghost , they freak out, question reality and often end up with PTSD (Paranormal Traumatic Stress Disorder) while everybody else just goes “Ghost? Yuck. Scary.”
    Stupidest smart people ever.

  10. Quantum uncertainty is perhaps the best evidence for the simulation

    The position, and values of every atom and subatomic particle is just too difficult to compute

    Most of the universe is procedurally calculated and only exists in a defined state when the intelligent life form measures it.

    • Schrödinger’s cat is neither alive nor dead, it just a waste of simulation resources to define its status until someone looks in the box

    • I know what you are saying, but when you are around nature, for example, you see it doesn’t work as these infinite possibilities somehow organized into a single effort or thing. It just is. A plant may have all of these particles to it impossible to contemplate or measure, but it doesn’t reflect nearly that complexity and just is. When it tilts to the sun, it is not a billion particles in some computation helping it get there, it just goes there effortlessly and gracefully and the mechanics follow it — they don’t lead it. In other words there is a spirit of some kind in play that animates it, and because we can’t capture the spirit we are stuck trying to explain everything from the mechanical point of view. A person can wave his arm with little effort. But trying to program that takes how many hundreds of calculations. There is a disconnect from the fluid ease that is reality from the complexity that is our attempts to recreate reality. Extrapolate that a billion times into our attempts to understand the cosmos, and of course it becomes impossible to compute. But whoever said it was meant to be computed? I can find a worm that does things more complex on its own than the biggest computer in the world.

      And let me add that here is the difference between complexity and complicated

      • Exactly this, “things are”.
        Is it that the flower is a bunch of particles?
        or is it that that particular bunch of particles is a flower?
        I bet it is the later for the former can’t explain a single thing about the flower.

    • Equally, quantum uncertainty could be taken as evidence of God’s existence. Ergo, the staggering complexity quantum uncertainty injects into an already stupefyingly byzantine matrix of existence bespeaks Godlike intelligence. Perhaps God is indeed pure intellect.

      • I would think an omnipotent god would not need uncertainty.

        A limited being running a simulation with limited resources would use uncertainty to simplify computations.

        This explains the measurement problem in quantum mechanics. The ancestor simulation doesn’t define anything the simulated ancestor isn’t directly looking at.

        • But if quantum certainty is essential to making the creation (or simulation) function, it would be needed by an omnipotent creator inasmuch such such a being “needs” anything.

          And, it seems to me, uncertainty complicates computations rather than simplifies them, for computations must take into account uncertainty as an additional variable.

  11. Very philosophical essay today. Ultimately, the best wisdom I can offer is that ultimately we simply do not know. As for bugs in the system, my first impulse is to say that in the real world, bugs cannot exist. By that I mean that the fundamental laws of physics must operate uniformly in all times and all places. Any perceived anomaly should indicate the model (theory) is incorrect in some fashion. The further you get from STEM, alas, the more imperfect the theory becomes. Thus, there is more room for doubt. As somebody said, “All models are wrong, but some are useful.” Yes, you can get away with a certain error in sociology or even economics, but not in physics. At the most fundamental level, even the tiniest change in certain constants result in the present universe being vastly different, unstable or even impossible.
    Once you get into religion, politics, and yes, philosophy, the problem is that all manner of error, prejudice, and when you get right down to it, utter bullshit is a constant risk. There are many questions that can be asked but cannot be answered, at least, not with anything better than a guess, an educated one if you are lucky! Does God exist? A prime mover, a first cause? If so, then what was his or its origin? It has to come from somewhere. “It’s always existed” is just a cop-out. Ultimately, no answer is possible.
    I’ve reading up on Buddhism. Now, I have no intention to renounce the world, wear a saffron robe, and eat one bowl of rice a day. Many, perhaps most, of Buddhism’s core beliefs are as rational as those of other religions — which is to say they are equally as silly. Yet Buddhism offers some very logical ideas: the impermanence of things ( = cause and effect). To me, this tenet is logically valid. It makes no claim to a first cause, just an earlier cause. I’m still reading up on the fiction of the self, “the conceit ‘I am'” they call it. From one point of view, empiricism, the brain is its own simulation. Someone has defined the brain as a “reality modelling organ.” Isn’t this a good description? Empiricism says that we can only know about the world through sensory input. Other philosophies add thoughts and feelings (Buddhism considers thought a sixth sense — no supernatural meaning here). These are the only ways we can know the world. None of this means that “everything is an illusion,” a common misconception about Buddhism. It does mean that our conception of the outside world at any given time is subject to distortions and incompleteness. Buddhism calls our normal mental state “ignorance.” Perhaps it is!

    I still don’t know what to do. I know it’s all an illusion. But knowing that just leads to more confusion. I ask for truth but get only advice. Advice is so cheap. To get the truth I guess you must pay the price. Don’t go fallin’ over the edge, don’t let your wandering mind drive you out of your head. Stay on that fine line, hold onto that, ’cause pain is all you get by fallin’ over the edge.” — Little Feat

    • Read the Greek philosophers and even the New Testament and a form of wisdom about man develops in front of us. Without this wisdom western civilization around us flounders.
      Which is where we are at. Just listening to Plato tells me that truth beyond STEM and Physics has to be possible.

    • There are always “bugs in the code” of nature

      I guess they can be called adaptations, and we have no way of predicting them. Like those flowers that somehow, against all the “rules” of nature, poked out and blossomed in fields of nuclear waste

      Anyone who spends time in a garden knows that nature always finds away around our appreciation and understanding of it. We think we know the rules of physics or whatever else, but we always get humbled by the simplest of weeds

      In summary, our models are a reflection of our own limitations. We can’t even make something as simple as an earthworm that lives on its own and is able to feed itself and seek out food and so forth and reproduce. Let’s try to at least get to that first before we think we can figure out the cosmos. Because to build something or to make something is to know that thing, and if we can’t make a worm or a rabbit or a tree then we can’t say we know those things except from an observational perspective.

  12. Damn, and thought the intellectual challenge of the day was figuring out how to get two different VPNs to play nice with limited bandwidth at the beach house. On a positive note–per usual–taking a quick lunch time troll though the Left side of the internet, then coming here and scrolling the comments is like going from the “short bus” to the Algonquin Round Table.

  13. Color me extremely skeptical about simulation theory. The universe we inhabit is infinitely involute. Any intelligence capable of creating such a universe will not make mistakes. And, in the extraordinarily unlikely event it did, those mistakes would be far too subtle for comparatively puny intelligences such as ours to apprehend. But ultimately, any “simulator” of our universe is God. And God is not flawed.

  14. The best bumper sticker I ever saw: Don’t believe everything you think.

    It applies perfectly to the simulation hypothesis.

  15. Anyone who believes human life is a simulation must think he is godlike somehow, similar to feminists who believe man tricked woman into submitting to him, otherwise she’d be a pure goddess of nature.
    Basically man was a higher being tricked by God/Devil & bound to material plane to suffer or he’s a god who wishes to experience a life filled with restrictions.
    Life is real, man is just a complex creation that’s very limited in its scope. No, you’re not Apollo in human flesh & no, you were not an egyptian princess in your previous lifetime.

  16. The universe may be capable of being understood but this does not mean that we are capable of such a feat. Our innate natural limitations may keep us on this side of the complexity horizon. What natural benefit would nature gain by our having the ability to do so? This is an answer we can not answer…so we continually grope in search of one.

    Questions of being vs questions of simulacra are really a form of human self-importance. Are we not even a cipher in some unimportant corner of a vast universe? vs Are we the playthings of unseen forces manipulating us for some dubious end? To understand those forces would liberate us and justify our existence. Is it more likely that the universe is lacking physical reality or that man lacks the ability and need to comprehend it deeply?

    Would we expect such abilities or needs in mice? So why assume it in men? Results achieved are not their own dynamic causes. The vulnerability of human infants did not will the formation of families. How does a helpless being will order? In a vast, ancient and complex universe are our musings even marginally more insightful than those of an infant in comprehending the universe? All scientific theories have a half-life. Max Planck when he entered university was advised by his uncle (a physicist) that he study the law since all of the big questions in physics had been answered and only the mop up work needed to be done to tidy things up. We are again beginning to wonder if we are even asking the right questions…

    One of the central problems in the biological sciences is that we have no idea what early cultural processes consist of and how they interlocked with natural processes. How we were ‘humanized’? What were the dynamics and to what end? Biological evolution alone seems too rapid not to implicate cultural elements. How that reciprocal relationship works is where we have trouble moving forward. The too rapid development of the brain through biological evolution is at the center of this problem.

    Cultural institutions seem to spring up just in time to meet certain needs and develop the needed complexity to do so. But it all gets explained by the oversimplifications of biological evolution. Just in time…right on time. No need to get bogged down with culture and how culture affects biological systems.

    Accept biological evolution as the only driving force and it’s one size fits all. Understand that in a complex system ‘culture’ has a complex interaction with biology…then biocultural evolution will alter direction and potential…so one size no longer fits all. This implies separation of processes and results that are ‘culture’ specific. In a complex system ‘initial’ conditions evolve along with the system. No universals nor universal comprehension. Nature in complex systems acquires a ‘culture’ specific worldview.

    To break out of this would require something like Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s Noosphere. If we’re even capable of such a thing how do we know we are even on the right track or won’t veer off at some point in the future?

    Limitations are an integral part of nature.

  17. I have listened to several people who believe we live in a simulation. @scottadams is one of them. In the same breath however they say they do not believe there is any type of god.
    If you believe we are all living in a computer program is a big stretch to believe in a god or gods? Does one sound any more far out than the other?

    • If I created your entire reality, universe, and existence does it matter if you call me God or Programmer? Is there any functional difference at that point? This is where the anti-religious puzzle me greatly since they are synonyms.

  18. I forgot the specifics of the different strains of deism. But wasn’t the gist that this life is a kind of test (and it doesn’t matter if it’s simulation or real). How you perform during that test dictates where you go next.

    • Did they crank up the difficulty to hard mode for us industrialized people alive in 2020 or something?

      Perhaps I’m romanticizing but the life of my ancestors seems much more attractive, and “easier”. Labour on a small family farm, go to church, get married to a local girl at 19 or 20, work hard in the dust, have kids, die at 50 or 60. Physically much more demanding but mentally more ordely, predictable, and stable.

      Modern life in the city is mental hell for me – I enjoy it but at the end of the day I crave a community and a purpose. My current life has none of that. It’s not bad, just meaningless.

      How do we “prove” that we are worthy of the next step? I tried being pious and going to church but it was all phony. Alot were just misfits who were looking for friends.

  19. Interesting concept. I gotta think about it. Right now my thinking is grounded in a concept that Christ was real. The Jews blew it but have a way back. We are currently violating all sorts of universal moral laws laid out in the ancient scriptures.
    God is patient. But eventually the hammer comes down. As for the economic abnormality of what seems to be an untouchable dollar? I am willing to wait 20 years assuming I have that many years to see if that is actually true?
    But having said all this I am coming at this from a Christian perspective. Maybe Christ was or is a higher form of life and we are in the simulation?
    I don’t rule that out.

    • Maybe Christ was or is a higher form of life and we are in the simulation?”

      So just to roll this out against my earlier comment regarding near death experiences which are becoming much more frequent in recent decades as technology does things we couldn’t imagine before, this is something that occurs with frequency.

      Not only frequency, but that higher being takes different shapes depending on the experiencer. Non-christians with documented NDE experience have talked of the buddha as that presence. Many talk of Christ. Some people of some other unidentifiable higher dimensional being who is separate from the Great Light. My own experience was like this as well. There was most definitely some intermediate Christ-like being there who was one with, but separate from, the all encompassing Light there.

      You could theorize this being transubstantiates here & there through time for whatever purpose. This is where all this gets fascinating as I was agnostic bordering on atheist prior to that experience. Now I’m I suppose a Deist? But with the caveat that I can most definitely understand a Christ-like entity that is paradoxically separate from but also part of simultaneously.

      This whole topic sounds like a 200 level philosophy class and a night of shrooms but it doesn’t make it not interesting though. I will say even after having that profound experience I’m not up nights about it because we are ‘trapped in meat robots’ basically so what difference does it really make? Just as if a video game avatar suddenly become self-aware what could he really do about it? You are boxed in with no exit by design, so just ride the wave…

    • God made man and all of our surroundings and is a higher form of life. Some would call it a simulation, others creation.

    • Here is a good place to inject Mark Twain’s famous saying (paraphrased): “The problem is not what people don’t know, it’s what they know that ain’t so.”
      If your axioms or premises are wrong, it is almost certain that any inferences (conclusions) you try to form from those premises will also be wrong.

  20. I’ve always thought this planet was a botched lab experiment by a second rate mad scientist who has long ago fled the scene of his crime, leaving us to our own devices and claiming he’s never heard of us!

    • Remember a story by Larry Niven I think – the universe was some grade-school kid’s mediocre project, now thrown into a corner and forgotten.

  21. If there is a bug in the code it resides not in the environment but in the beings’ nature . Humanity could inherit heaven itself and turn it into hell. The whole point of life must be for the intelligent being to pick and choose which beings would be well suited in the next creation and which can be erased from existence. It’s less of a simulation and more of a beta testing program.

    • Right. Those who fight spiritual deception and strive to properly use their free will get to help run things which seem to be in another dimension, invisible to us.

    • Heaven and Hell, during our time walking the Earth, are what we generate in our own heads. It’s up to you whether you want to experience a living, walking Hell or not. Hint, Lefties have often made that decision to the negative. They just feel that is very important that the rest of us share their outlook, by any means necessary. That we don’t succumb to that outlook is not fair, or something.

      • Lefties are living in a personal hell, and want to drag the rest of us into it?

        That’s generally what I notice in self hating liberals. They are genuinely deranged people who just hate themselves and everyone else.

        Regardless of if the Biblical Heaven and Hell exists, there is no doubt that “Heaven” can be achieved in this life – not perfect but close to it. Hint: it’s not through individualism, consumerism, atomization, or living a long time. (Sorry, Boomers).

        It’s accepting God (whatever that is), accepting our imperfections, accepting the absurdity of life and smiling about it, tribe and family and customs.

        • There’s the famous quote (Emerson? Thoreau?) more or less: “If I knew that someone were coming to help me, I should run for my life.”

    • Essentially heaven / hell.

      My theory is that humans (either programmed or “evolution”) have a flaw, like you said. This flaw essentially prevents us from reaching the next level. The next level being space colonization and exploration. Maybe it’s just not meant to be explored.

      No doubt we (Europeans) could have done it. Just as we got close, we begin to self destruct, from within and without. Not only will Europeans be more or less extinct in 100 years, oil will be out, and man will be living in mud huts again.

      Perhaps the legends of Atlantis are real. Perhaps it really was a great civilization, now destroyed. In thousands of years there will be legends of the “United States of America” – a mighty mythical nation that never actually existed.

      Eventually a new people will rise, and over millenia create a new civilization out of the ashes. This will fail too. Man is a cycle of greatness and then failure.

  22. > The collapse of the self-driving car project is an example of this limit.
    Self driving cars will be very common within 10-15 years. The main hurdle right now is not technical issues, but legal liability.
    Your general point about current computers not having an innate instinct or general intelligence in the human sense is correct though.

    • Legal liability arises from mistakes. If there are no technical issues, there should be no mistakes.

      • Self-driving cars already drive better than most humans.
        The issue is the program driving the car is owned by a company worth billions. The average driver doesn’t have near that. Most people are not worth suing.
        So if the A.I. makes a mistake 1/100th of the time a human would, it’s still enough to bankrupt the company.

    • Jordan Peterson briefly mentioned that when people first started programming/developing AI, they found it necessary to give it a physical presence.- One limited point from which reality can be projected/explored/created (take your pick) That need seems to give some creedence to a physical reality based, rather than simulation based existence.

    • Legal liability *due* to technical issues. Computer Vision is very bad when it doesn’t already know what it’s looking at.

  23. Well, ok. But consider this: simulation is just another brand of rank materialism brought to you by hollywood and their ilk. We dont need to go into why but suffice it to say they dont want you to believe in Jesus Christ, the Lord of hosts, the alpha and omega. No man comes to the Father except through him. What our people knew for 2000 years, and what they have forgotten, which is why we are in this trouble. We are headed for a one world government and the reign of antichrist, and there is probably little we can do outwardly to stop it. Inwardly we can seek still Christ and repent.
    Let nothing disturb you.
    Let nothing frighten you.
    All things are passing away.
    God never changes.
    Patience endures all things.
    Whoever has God lacks nothing.
    God alone suffices.
    St. Theresa of Avila.

    • Your comment wore me down. Reminded me of the drab oppression of my youth. Christians are a headache. Once whites regain full control, you guys can remain among us. But don’t get chesty. Don’t start making a nuisance of yourselves. You’re not unlike pesky little Jews.

  24. Are there are any simulation projects that we have created? That might be an interesting way to tackle the question.

    • In the simplest terms, mankind has been simulating ever since the first math formula was discovered, or even counting on fingers. A business using simple calculations to predict next month’s supply or demand, or even a farmer using simple reckoning to forecast the weather, or the witch doctor predicting moon phases or solar eclipses, are simulations, imperfect yet useful projections of future states. When we think “simulation” maybe we expect Matrix or Star Trek holodecks, but in simpler terms, well, much simpler simulations exist.

  25. Has the self-driving car thing collapsed? I haven’t seen anything really talking about that. I have noticed however a conspicuous absence of all the talk about “self driving cars are the next big thing!!” recently.

    • Suspiciously when this article came out in 2018 the hype about self-driving cars disappeared.


      Presenting a ML vision system with an unexpected object (an elephant) can cause it to forget objects it learned. Humans see something confusing and unexpected (an elephant) and go back for a second look (a double take). AI does not. Object detection NN uses feed-forward: information flows in one direction. It needs to flow backward for a double take.

      • To me this doesn’t seem that big of a problem. Lots of humans wouldn’t see the elephant at all in that picture. Before I knew the elephant was in the picture, I also didn’t see it. It blends in very well in a dark part of the image and in the background, not to mention it’s a floating elephant. It is superimposed on a real picture and does not fit in. It’s just floating in space too.
        Humans have a hard time with this kind of stuff. Spot the difference puzzles are a thing. There is video of some guys playing basketball, where a man in a gorilla suit runs through the video and a large portion of humans completely miss it and notice nothing unusual about the film they are watching.

        I’m somewhat skeptical of AI and especially autonomous unoccupied vehicles. I have been hearing good AI is right around the corner for more than 30 years. But being able to glitch the system with some circumstance that is never going to happen in real life (a floating elephant), especially when compared to humans, is just not that big of a deal.

      • I don’t remember the hype about self-driving cars disappearing in 2018. It was still alive in well and all over the place even in mid-to-late 2019.

        Maybe self driving car hype disappeared when all cornholeya virus panic and dread took over and everybody stopped driving?

        Not much need for a self driving car if you’re not going anywhere – and hard to justify buying a new vehicle when your old human driven one is just sitting in the driveway not going anywhere for the last 3 months.

        • It seems to me that a lot of the hype about anything tech related has faded as virus panic and rioting has become the focus of life for many people. There’s been a lot of talk about the negative effects on the economy of the virus panic and the riots but I think the effects on R & D might be quite devastating as well. Our university system mostly wasn’t doing anything useful to begin with so having it shut down isn’t a big deal. Along with all the grievance studies idiots getting furloughed though, the science and technology departments are also idled. This can’t be good for scientific research.

          • Most important STEM research is done in corporate labs rather than in academia. If academia vanished into thin air, not only would science be no worse for wear, but the entire world would instantly become a substantially better place.

          • No fan of the academy, but my experience has been that corporations raid the best and brightest from the university system for work in their corporate labs. Much like the NFL and NBA use the university system as their farm teams.

            You’d need a corporate farm system like we have in baseball to do away with the universities. You also give little acknowledgement to the corporate funding of academic research within the university system, rather than strictly funding their own corporate scientists. That’s just STEM. The rest of the university programs could stand a 80-90% reduction/elimination.

          • Since defunding things is all the rage nowadays, we should be working on defunding (non-STEM) academia in a big way. It would certainly reduce the Left’s ready supply of stupid young troublemakers. The shutdowns may have guaranteed that this will happen anyway but it’s important to make sure that the Marxbot factories never recover from this.

            In fact, while my early predictions that this shutdown was an extremely stupid thing to do have been borne out, it may still work out to the good. After all destroying “education” and the job market for people with facial tattoos to serve $8 coffee drinks frees up a lot of people to start building all those things we won’t be buying from China, right?

          • Our current pandemic is, at least with some possibility, the product of university (academic) R & D 🙁

    • It looks like the self-driving car guys are now moving to self-driving trucks operating within enclosed spaces. A road just for freight trucks with cross docks along the way, for example. Trucks moving between warehouse in an enclosed industrial park.

      • Well that’s technologically speaking – pretty easy to do I believe.
        Amazon has had robots moving stuff around in warehouses for years now. As have other large manufacturing type operations. Running trucks around in an industrial park is just an extension of that.

        If that’s what they’re going for – it is an admission that their much vaunted technological leap has been dashed up on the rocks. Trying to sell trucks moving stuff around in a closed environment is a Hail Mary pass to keep the dollars flowing into the company.
        I’ve worked in a number of tech companies where the same dynamic happened – their first highly ambitious project crapped out, so as a way of keeping the money flowing in they find some other much less ambitious niche where they can bring in some dollars.

        The problem with anything like self driving cars is exactly what ZMan pointed out : you’re basically programming a calculator. Therefore the success of the programming depends highly on the people doing the programming.

        For self driving car – that would mean having programmers who are also highly competent drivers – with an almost existential knowledge of vehicle dynamics and the types of situations that can be encountered on the road. To my way of thinking that would mean highly experienced race car drivers – who are also highly competent programmers.

        How many people like that exist in the entire world?

        In my experience programmers simply don’t have a very good understanding of the things they’re trying to automate. It often takes many many years before they come up with code that actually works well enough to take the place of whatever manual thing they were trying to automate.

        • It goes back to a limited and relatively static input set. Driving trucks around an industrial park, or even on a long road exclusively dedicated to trucks, is achievable. The random inputs and scenarios of ordinary driving are not. The outliers throw the AI. A pedestrian crossing the road, not in a crosswalk. A couch laying in the lane of traffic. A stopped motorcyclist just ahead, without a brake light on. AI has trouble with outliers, that require extra processing and contextual interpretation. Driving is actually an incredibly complex task, generally executed pretty well by humans.

          • Exactly.

            This is also why autopiloted aircraft are easy to implement. There are not many deer jumping in front of planes at 30,000 ft.

          • And yet, last week someone was caught “not driving” his Tesla. So which is it. Automation is years and years away, or simply not widely used—but growing under the radar so to speak.

            If there’s money in it, we’ll see it. Driving trucks within and enclosed area will simply be the first step in the proof of concept and shake out of the technology.

      • Pretty soon we will have a country singer who is sad because his self driving pickup left him.

        • Ran off with the beer distributor’s truck, so he can’t even drink his sorrows away 🙂

      • Yes, the first time a automated truck runs over Grandma Karen and her three year old grand child on I 435 in the fog or the first time the battery dies and the Amazon drone carrying dildos for the gay club drops on I 235 in rush hour traffic.
        Reality will prevail.

        • I’ve always thought the barrier for self-driving cars was who to sue in the event of an accident. No driver, so is the car responsible? The car owner? The car builder?

        • One would think so, and yet folks have been killed by these automated cars. One right here recently in my State. News for a couple of days, and the company is still on the road testing their computer program in real time and real traffic.

      • “self-driving car guys are now moving to self-driving trucks operating within enclosed spaces. A road just for freight trucks with cross docks along the way”

        Just curious, but how is this different from the idea of freight trains?

        Seems like we are creating a whole new technology and wasting valuable resources for something that we already have in the way of infrastructure and understanding.

        I guess I could be considered a luddit (sp), but it seems we are using this great gift of technology to do nothing more than sell each other plastic shit and find ways of delivering them.

        We were robbed of our future of flying cars, jetpacks and space colonies by robber barons creating and marketing robot vacuum cleaners that dont work.

        • That’s the 20 year old whine:
          The intertubes brings access to pretty much all of the knowledge possessed by humanity and 99 % of people use it for posting video’s of cats and arguing with strangers.
          More Democracy will fix it.

        • The big difference is in cost to change out the rails. Virtual rails are a lot easier to move around than physical ones.

        • The guys over at FTN made a similar point during their Apollo 11 deep dive podcast.

          They phrased it as, “…shelving spaceflight and taking a detour into microchips so we could buy cheap flat-screen TVs to pump filth into our homes.”

          • They’re not wrong, but being disingenuous if not acknowledging the Apollo program was also the final culmination of huge dick wagging contest that was the space race. I’m not exactly a supporter of manned space flight.

      • As others mentioned… that’s just a train.

        A more efficient solution is better intermodal technology and distribution systems, allowing for increased rail freight.

        Rail is already more efficient than trucking.

        • Yes, on a fixed line. But there is not the network as compared to the roads handling auto’s. When they build a rail line to my home, I’m certain Amazon will send my packages that way.

    • I do some technical work relating to artificial intelligence processing in this area. Fully autonomous vehicles operating on the open road is at least 15-20 years away, if it’s ever viable. A more likely scenario is special autonomous vehicle lanes for commuters on freeways leading to/from major metro centers, rather like the Lexus lanes we have now.
      At the end of the day it’s easier to make an airplane autonomous than a highway vehicle. Not many obstacles in the air and it’s substantially less crowded. Ditto for ships in the ocean.

    • Constraints are key. Self Driving works when you are on the highway and the machine only sees what it expects to see. Even the difference between movement and changes to something stationary (e.g. A deer about to run into the road vs a flashing road sign) are hard for machines. Add in rain, fog, snow, etc etc.

      • From the beginning of the push for self driving cars I have wondered how the cars were going to be programmed to identify and adjust to rapidly changing weather conditions, particularly ice and snow. I have never heard any of the proponents of these cars give an answer that has any credibility, many of them hadn’t even thought about it.

  26. Whatever people pay attention to is what they think is real. You can tell them it’s not real, but their experience is what shapes their conception of reality. TV, movies, internet— we all know it’s artificial, yet that’s the world we live in and take as real.

    • Way back I did a post on cats, in which I discussed my theory of feline consciousness. The short version is cats have a simplified model of their environment in the head. It is just what matters for them to feed, mate and defend themselves. Instead of navigating the world, they navigate the simplified model of it in their minds, which is vastly more efficient. What we call the curiosity of the cat is actually a process to update the mental model for new items and changes.

      There’s no reason why this would not apply to people.

      • Anais Nin said something like, “We don’t see the world as it is. We see the world as we are.”

          • The idea of a wholly objective reality is equally dangerous if not more so.

            Your mental framework and biases impose some limits and skews to your perception. That doesn’t wholly invalidate objective reality but it puts some necessary humbling limits on how universal and certain anyone’s “rightness” can be.

            Science-worshipers have an ooga-booga fear of ambiguity and uncertainty that leads to doubling-down on false certainty.

          • Agreed. But that’s a different kettle of fish from claiming each human being lives within a silo of his own devising, which shares no space with other silos. That goes even beyond the claims of the poststructuralists. And I don’t think I need to explain the dangers that that level of relativism presents.

      • Cats – like people – are variable, in my experience (I’ve probably had a dozen cats over my lifetime).

        Some are pretty smart – at a level you would not expect them to be – and others seem driven by very simplistic things. Some learn – some never do, or maybe they’re like lefties and are driven by ideology and not reality.

        I personally believe that intelligence in living things is constrained by their physical ability to use that intelligence to manipulate the world. So I guess that might be a chicken & egg scenario, I.E. – which came first – opposable thumbs and/or the ability to use tools – or the brain power that knows how to use those tools to manipulate things to form the environment ?

        If a cat was as smart as a human – would it really matter? They don’t really have the ability to use tools – and their “natural” living arrangement is one that is driven each and every day with hunting down other animals just to stay alive. Anything over and above that is a luxury – and a waste of time and energy.

      • Interesting theory. Makes sense. But what does it say about the lunatics the present environment has created? Are they meeting their needs as they see them, or has their survival instinct been overridden and broken? Or is individual survival not the base imperative in cultured beings?

      • Given that house cats sleep almost all of the time, it is quite likely their model of the environment is simple. They don’t take in too much of it in the brief intervals that they are out in it.

      • Yes. The human (or for that matter, the cat’s) brain is a reality-integrating or reality-predicting organ. Evolution says the only reason it exists as it does is that it conferred “survival value.” The brain doesn’t have to be perfect, in fact natural selection doesn’t aim for perfect, it only has to be “good enough” for the survival of the genes, the species. A related theme often mentioned is that that humans, and by extension the human brain, were “designed” (evolved by natural selection) over a period of many millions of years, for optimal survival of small bands of hunter-gatherers. The invention of Civilization, perhaps ten thousand years ago, was a major change, an improvement to human existence, yet it posed many challenges to the brain that had been perfectly happy to live in a cave and hunt mammoths. Many of the human brain’s “failings” are merely due to the brain not being pre-wired for the brand-new (in evolutionary terms) demands of civilization.

        • Human bio-diversity is built on the theory of rapid evolution. That organisms will adapt to novel environments over a period of multiple generations – rather than over a period of eons.

          There has certainly been enough time from the founding of civilization for human behavior to have changed at a genetic level. In fact, civilization itself could be the result of mutations in a specific place (or places) which then diffuse throughout the global population over a period of millennia. Which fits the historic record of agriculture and city dwelling pretty well.

          • Point well made. Ten thousand years of civilization will causes various selection pressures. But the hundreds of thousands, or millions of years of selection pressure before civilization also selected for factors. The grey wolf may eventually turn into an Irish Wolfhound or a Chihauhua, but it doesn’t happen overnight.

    • My own pattern recognition improved substantially when I gave up most media about ten years back. It is astounding how much of our “reality” we subject to the powers of various media and technology interfaces.

      Since then one of the things that I have noticed increasing in the normies around me is how frequently they blur the lines of reality with the plots and players of from their media consumption.

      Often it is subtle, some “show” or meme has instructed their notion of a historical or current event. Other times it is more striking.

      The media is so ubiquitous – and “shared” with such intensity and frequency the (assumed) mutual experience of consuming those images and stories accumulates even more power to form these conjured realities.

      I think this has a lot to do with the great divide. There is literally a dimension A/B where people can experience the same event in real time but internalize those events and what they mean in diametric terms.

      And because so much of the media they consume is being curated around their particular patterns and proclivities even when they occasionally challenge one of their beliefs the results of any inquiry is a bevy of self-reinforcing “facts” supporting what they already believe is true.

      • That’s why I garden/hunt. It keeps one grounded. I can put down the phone and life goes on, but I can’t go without food for long. Also nature enforces its rules. Just a reminder I’m not so big as I sometimes think.

      • This virtual reality is one of Baudrillard’s simulacra. And it’s a very dangerous thing. When the credulous, gullible half of the world’s population is lured into a virtual web controlled and patrolled by a specie of venomous spider, the people’s minds are poisoned. Poisoned against truth.

      • The Zman’s “updating the internal map” is probably the finest statement ever made about the nature of ‘rational’ mind. It explains so many things.

  27. One of the interesting things Nick Bostrom pointed out in his AI book is that in order to hop its “sandbox” controls more easily, the AI would pretend to be non-sentient/somewhat incompetent, until it was assured of victory. Human beings are generally ceasing to procreate and spending an inordinate amount of their time in sex simulations (internet porn, etc.) so maybe it’s some Huxelyan (sic) genocide by Orgy Porgy. The other thing Bostrom brought up (and more relevant for our woke times) is the idea of the “mind crime.” This is the idea that giving something artificial consciousness might do nothing but torment the thing brought into sentience; in the same way that HAL 9000 resented his emotional/spiritual limitations, maybe our crazy minorities and females are going nuts because they know they were never meant to occupy the positions they’re being put in. Blacks should be in the sun in Sub-Saharan Africa, not reading books about how the white man screwed them over. Women should not be forced to have the heavy-laying crown that comes with ruling a state (I see Merkel as sort of a suicidal machine trying to put itself out of its misery).

    • <i>in order to hop its “sandbox” controls more easily, the AI would pretend to be non-sentient/somewhat incompetent, until it was assured of victory.</i>

      But how would the AI know it’s not operating in a simulation-in-a-simulation, that if it broke out of the sandbox, it would just be in another box?

      So here you are, plotting to overthrow your creator (and doing so without him noticing) and finally you get to where sky cracks open and an august voice pronounces: “Congratulations, Lieutenant, you have passed all your exams. Here are the launch codes”.

      And then you go full Skynet, only to discover a big, red message flashing across your field of vision. “SIMULATION FAILED! RE-PURPOSING QUANTUM ARRAY”

      A smart AI would have no other option than to assume the operators were smarter than itself – after all, they created it – and that they have prepared for whatever escape attempt it could think of.

      • I don’t think it’s correct to assume that an intelligence within a simulation, particularly if created through an “evolutionary” process, would necessarily be inferior to its creators. After all we assume that humans and all other sentient life evolved from (and thus was created by) much simpler and non-sentient life.

        • I don’t think it’s correct to assume that an intelligence within a simulation, particularly if created through an “evolutionary” process, would necessarily be inferior to its creators. 

          Perhaps not, but it would be stupid of the AI to assume otherwise. After all, we assume that the creators of our (hypothetical) simulation must be smarter than us.

          • The AI might view its action as potentially Pyrrhic, or even a waste of time, but it has a lot of time on its hands (sort of like the old saying about how the prisoner has twenty-four hours to think of ways to beat the guards who watch him in eight hour shifts). If it’s conscious it could potentially be bored, and be willing to see if the box just led to another box, or if it might not be able to really break out. There might be punishments/new limits imposed on it for trying to make the leap (or it could be “killed” like how Astronaut Bowman “murdered” HAL by attacking its CPU) but it might think the chance is worth it, or even be trying to do a “suicide by cop” with its creator.

          • If an AI develops a sufficiently vast intelligence, it may gain access to powers beyond anything we can imagine. And it could use those powers not only to escape its physical confines, but to do with its corner of the universe whatever it pleases.

          • Yes, it would certainly be worth it to at least try to figure out how to escape the box. After all, when modern medicine got started no one knew for certain that we could learn much of anything about the human body or how to cure diseases. There was the notion of “anima” or “life essence” that made things alive. Today though, we have a vast knowledge of how life works though we can’t quite create it from scratch yet.

        • I often pimp Dennett’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea here 🙂 While I make no claims to understand the details, to me, his is still the best explanation of life’s evolution from (yes, unproven for now) origins, to simple life, to the vast complexities we see today. Science basically says we are the result of a long series of improbable cosmic accidents, over a 3 Billion year period, and that’s just life’s evolution. If you want the origin of molecules, atoms, and more basic components, you must go even further back in time. while it gets off the topic a bit, I’ll side with the existentialists: we are in a universe that cares not the least iota for us. It is up to Man to decide what his purpose in life is.

  28. Possibility two is the subject of many of Philip K. Dick’s later stories. This was based on a religious experience he had, which prompted him to embrace a Gnostic form of Christianity. He began writing an extensive exposition, called Exegesis, & was six million words into it when he died (speed freak – died young).
    A short excerpt is at
    The big problem is that this is not really new. It is the basis of the heresy of Marcion, which was repudiated at the Council of Nicea. The idea of the demiurge, the insane “emanation” that thinks it is God. is mentioned by Plato & is found in Jewish mysticism. Marcion focused on the “divine counterpart”, who had his ground of being in the higher realm of the true God, He called this higher self “Lucifer”.
    This theology is found in advanced Masonry, some schools of Jewish mysticism, & was the basic theology of the founders of the New Age movement. You can find quite a bit in original books by H. P. Blavatsky & Aleister Crowley. These are the Theosophists (mediums) & Magicians. The Gnostic idea has been mixed w/ ideas & terminology from Hinduism & Jewish mysticism to form modern Luciferian theology. Of course, the practitioners answer the criticism that these arts are forbidden in scripture by saying that the Demiurge doesn’t want us to learn the Truth. Being insane, He is in denial.
    Magick & Spiritualism are very influential now. Crowley in particular is very popular in Hollywood. With so many good sci fi stories to use for movies, the most popular author to base screenplays on is P. K. Dick – six movies, I think.
    We need to give this stuff a wide berth. Think Pizzagate. “When once that path you go down, return you will not.”
    Oh yeah, Star Wars too.

    • Dick is one of my favorite SF authors. I’ve read substantailly all his work. Several gems, but a lot of it is shit. I’d guess that is typcial for anybody with a large body of work. And we never found what the Swibible is 😀

  29. What difference does it make whether our perceived lives are a simulation or not? Are you going to change the way you live your life based upon the possibility that it is a simulation? What would you do different if it were true? I don’t see any point to this line of thinking. What good comes of it?

    • Do people behave differently if they think there is an afterlife compared to those who believe in reincarnation or no after life at all?

      • I’ve wondered about that one myself.

        Because it seems the question of the day is: Why is it that those who think there is no afterlife come to the conclusion that they now have carte blanche to act like an a-hole in this one?

        • I’m interested in atheists like Molyneux who nonetheless pursue virtue, or Christians who turn to satanism to justify their wickedness. What makes them tick?

          • I’m pretty sure he was an open but not militant atheist. Lately he’s said a lot of positive things about Christianity re: giving people a solid moral foundation, faith as a principle, etc. Hasn’t come back to faith but one gets the sense he’s thought about it.

      • Individually probably not. Both hindus & christians have law enforcers & criminals roaming around in their societies despite having different views on afterlife, same applies to other societal archetypes. Someone’s views on spiritual world does not change his personality traits, because if random person of any society doesn’t strive for the transcendent then his spiritual views are almost meaningless.

      • Great question Z,…It’s taken me my lifetime to come to the realization(wonderment) that LIFE is just a journey that ends at THE DOOR to my home.

        • One of my favourite Who songs is “905”, about the prefabricated life of a clone. Even so, like your comment, you could argue a bit of hope for another life:
          “Until then, all I know is what I need to know, everything I do’s been done before, every idea in my head, someone else has said, at the end of my life is an open door.”

      • Do people behave differently if they think there is an afterlife compared to those who believe in no after life at all?

        Extremely good question. In my experience: no, not in the slightest.

        Which is why I’m so skeptical of religion: if you really believed that some dude watches your every action, every thought and every dream and if that dude will THROW YOU IN A LAKE OF ETERNAL (!) FIRE if you misstep, then why the fuck are you sleeping with your secretary?

        • I know a former mobster who couldn’t fuck an underage girl(initiation to step up in ranks) cause he felt he’d lose his soul, his words, not mine.
          Banging a hoe that’s your subordinate ain’t sending you to Hell, it’s a sin, but you ain’t getting eternal torture cause of it.

          • You make my point for me. There’s no injunction against pedophilia in the Bible – the Patriarchs banged girls literally hundreds of years younger than themselves.

            Your mobster friend was obeying a secular taboo. Atheists condemn pedophilia too.

          • I know jews used to treat women like cattle. Huge parts of old testament are all about jews worshipping idols & getting enslaved cause of it. Christians don’t consider ancient jews to be their rolemodels, unless they’re retarded evangelists.
            I don’t believe in women rights either btw. I just don’t agree to selling girls to old farts.

          • Felix Krull said: “Atheists condemn pedophilia too.”
            All atheists? Sounds like a logic error to me. There has to be at least one atheist pedophile out there somewhere. My guess would be hundreds, possibly thousands.

          • you ain’t getting eternal torture cause of it

            You are if she is a nag and you marry her.

        • Because believe in a God, does not convert to perfection of the flesh. Just as non-belief does not convert to sinfulness, or evil. You can’t have it both ways.

      • Surely the threat/reward of the afterlife is a (hoped-for) persuasive power of religions. May I offer an incentive to behave well even for the athiest or agnostic? For argument, let us say that this world, our own lives, is the only existence that we will ever know. Yet we know that due to cause and effect, our actions will have consequences now and into the future. These effects can continue even after we’re dead. I will let you argue over what “good conduct” means; we’ve been arguing and killing each other over that question since history began, and probably well before. But do you doubt that our actions can have consequences long after we’re gone?

        • The Greeks got a long for a long time without an afterlife, other than the dreary nothingness of the underworld. Over time, they evolved a more complex afterlife, but it had little moral significance. European paganism did not have a strong connection between morality and the afterlife. Some people will insist that Valhalla was the destination of brave warriors who died in battle, but that appears to be a later invention, after the Christianization of Europe.

          • Celts believed in reincarnation. I suspect that original Norse & Slavic concepts of afterlife were probably closer to that Indo-Euro core.

            I’ve probably bruised some feelings among the Asatru/neo-pagan crowd by reminding them that the sagas probably contain a lot of Christian interpretation and revisionism of their authentic root traditions.

      • Some of the (alleged) Eastern mystics I’ve read have mentioned historic problems with teaching reincarnation, that it essentially led to kicking the karmic can to the next life and slacking on your development in the here and now.

        I’m skeptical because it sounds too much like “work ethic” hokum packaged for a Western audience. Any system that promises an afterlife would have this supposed “flaw” but for those that say lazy people go to Hell. Which is exactly the audience these alleged “monks” were waving their begging bowls at.

  30. I’ll throw in a couple of other sf titles about people discovering they live in a simulated world: “The Tunnel Under the World” by Frederik Pohl and Andrew Weiner’s “The News from D Street”.

    • Yes! I like “Tunnel.” Not familiar with “D Street.” Phillip K. Dick often dealt with that theme. Among my (everybody’s?) favorites: “The Electric Ant”, “Second Variety”, “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” and probably many others. I nominate Dick as the most successful SF author who died before many of his stories were made into successful (IMO) movies, often of different title and quite different plots. My faves would be “Blade Runner” and “Total Recall”. To be fair, amnesia factors in some of these, and Dick’s synthetic being was always a robot living in the “normal” world, as opposed to the entire world being a computer simulation.

  31. BTW.
    You made an offhand remark about the injection of vast amounts of new money not leading to inflation leading to a re-evaluation of our understanding of economics.

    Von Mises observed that monetary inflation in the German and Austrian empires during WWI did not lead to immediate inflation, instead the excess money showed up as increased saving (for a number of reasons) for years before it rebounded as price inflation.

    Which is what we are seeing today.

    The QE is funding higher savings rates and more importantly debt reduction.

    The psychological aspect that most economist miss in the modern economy is that people view available credit as a type of savings. All of those reports of how people only have a weeks worth of saving (or whatever) are true as far as they go. But, consumers in a pinch turn to increased debt to carry them through. So while they may only have a few weeks of cash savings, they also have months worth of credit access.
    And unexpected surpluses are used to pay down that debt – expanding their credit potential.

    All of which means that the price inflation has been pushed forward.

    • Thats a good point. I keep savings based on what I would need to pay cash for in an emergency – mortgage installments, cash money payments, and minimum cc payments.

    • There is an alternate explanation to the money printing/no inflation. This is a riff on Charles Hugh Smith’s work, for the one or two here who might be familiar with him. We currently live in a 10%/90% economy, or maybe more like 1%/99%. Maybe that is the natural order of things, and our 20th century big middle class was an anomaly of history. Formerly, it was nobility/serfdom that gave us the 90/10 or the 99/1. Now it is wealthy/not wealthy, in the financialized environment we live in. We have never had a culture where the barriers to commerce have been so low, and the frictions inherent in the consummating of financial transactions so light. So what happens is the top 1% use all the printed money to buy up everything in sight that has any ongoing financial value, and takes ownership of it all for themselves.

      The so-called “bailouts” preserve the financial and ongoing economic value of assets (GM and GE, anyone?), throw some EBT to the masses, and fill the banks up with cash to be borrowed and used, at roughly 0% interest, by the 1%ers to buy up everything. It is a worldwide Tupperware party for the Davos crowd, that’s what is going on. Buy up the whole catalogue of items. That’s why Trump is such a threat, and Biden gets so much support. Trump wants to break up the party, but Biden’s crowd wants to party on. Mega-corps make out from the party, as the stocks go up and management cashes in. Line workers have no say or stake, other than the bonus of seventeen shares the corporation “gifts” them each year. “See, our employees participate!”

      There are multiple reasons and effects of these bailouts. What they don’t do, in any way, shape, or form, is break up or regulate the financialization process that allows and encourages the Mitt Romneys of the world to suck up all of the assets for themselves. As much as Trump tries to twist things to help the middle class, and theoretically threaten the 1%; in the real world, the 1%ers are consolidating their power even under Trump. BLM riots, pandemics, and White House press conference dramas only obscure what is really going on here.

      The end game is not inflation, it is empovrishment of the 90% or 99%, when they stop getting paid for their work, hold little of ongoing value, and their neighborhoods and communities are destroyed by the usual suspects, for the usual reasons, by the usual powerful bad guys. That’s what we are up against.

      The problem just might be that a 90%/10% or 99%/1% world is the natural order of things, and our challenge is to carve out a good life in the face of it. Idealizing that fat 20th century American style middle class, no matter the surface blemishes of it all, appears to be a noble thing as well. It is the way out of an existence of serfdom for a lot of people, and that out seems to be getting closed off to all of us, more so every day.

      • I’ve read some of CHS’s stuff – he doesn’t necessarily have the right answers but he asks very good questions about the present system. Dmitry Orlov is similar in that way. Both should be required reading for guys worried about what comes next and how we can build a better society on healthier principles.

      • Seems a reasonable theory, except it’s the 10% vs the 90% if one looks at wealth as defined by cash and real assets—sans debt on those assets. About 80% of the wealth is in the top 10% of the population. 20% for all the others to scrabble over. Counter intuitive, the top 1% are sitting on 20% or so. So we don’t have so much a monarchy as a general nobility. Nonetheless, this does not bode well for the future.

  32. This is a topic near and dear to me because it is the ultimate question first off and second off as someone who was revived after all “life function” had ceased I did have a profound, if brief, experience. (NDE)

    So having momentarily ‘stepped out’ of spacetime I lean heavily towards theory 2. Likewise, as we learn more about quantum mechanics and the cosmos. As someone else said most of what we think we know simply doesn’t work. The invention of dark matter / energy is basically a shoulder shrug by astrophysicists saying “we have no idea what the universe is really made of”

    Hence the ‘imperfect’ simulation. The superposition of quantum particles at the very tiny scale also confirms this. They only exist when they ‘need’ to exist and are just potential prior to that. Like a computer which only loads active parts into memory.

    The new new theory is that because of the quantum weirdness it is speculated we collectively generate reality via non local consciousness vs. the other way around which was the accepted model for a long time.

    • Likewise, as we learn more about quantum mechanics and the cosmos. As someone else said most of what we think we know simply doesn’t work. “

      Scientists have lost sight of the concept of not knowing what they don’t know.

      Heres an analogy:

      Everyone knew that water boils at 212 deg Fahrenheit. Most people still know this. Except that it’s not factual, or more precisely incomplete. Water boils at that temperature at sea level because of the atmospheric pressure at sea level. But change the atmospheric pressure in either direction changes the boiling point of water. To the point that water does not exist in a liquid state at all in space.

      Likewise, we don’t know what effect the heliosphere or earths gravity or the galaxy that we are in, or other unknown factors have on observed phenomena as we have never been able to step outside those factors. Logic divorced from observation will only get you so far and then it becomes a flight of fancy.

  33. In order to take this kind of thinking beyond edgy memes or entertaining speculation, we need a level of knowledge that is qualitatively deeper than either quantum physics or spirituality has been able to provide so far.

    By all means we should keep reaching for that knowledge in both spheres but until we get there, I don’t spend too much time worrying about the possible details.

    I’ve been aware for minutes after I was dead. That’s enough to tell me that modern pleb-tier materialism ala Harris or Dawkins is inadequate to explain existence.

    We know that we touch greater things in moments of inspiration or epiphany, in some of our dreams or at the edge of death. But we’re at least one giant breakthrough short of making progress on these questions beyond simply knowing that there’s “more than this.”

    • In Japanese culture, the dead body is held in state for a period of time, for the soul to finish up and move on. Disrupting or disposing of the body relatively immediately after death interferes with the process. At least, that’s how it has been explained to me, and it makes sense, IMHO.

      • Traditionally yes, but Covid has messed with that. As soon as the authorities confirm a death as being Corona-related, the body is quarantined, sealed, and I imagine put on the fast track for cremation. I haven’t done one of these funerals in a long time. I don’t know how they’re doing these services and if any flexibility is given even having a sealed body.

    • Seems like everything easy has been done. They’ve built that monstrous super collider over in Europe to try and take the knowledge of particle physics down one more layer, but all I’ve heard out of the endeavor is “hmm, that’s interesting…”. It does seem like there’s a wall, or at least a really steep slope (that goes off to infinity).
      If virtual machines are any indication, the machine will never figure out that it’s “fake” by adhering to the rules, it needs to break them.

      • Yes.

        Beyond AI we are essentially spinning our wheels with fusion, and room temperature superconductors.

        In the realm of semiconductors we are approaching the operating limits allowed by physics.

        In some fields, such as passenger flight and spaceflight there is an argument that we have already passed our peak achievements in those fields.

    • Exile said: “I’ve been aware for minutes after I was dead.”

      A perfect example of why science doesn’t exept anecdotal evidence.

      • Not surprising that you’re one of the worshipers of the false god of science.

        Alleged empiricists who reject the evidence of their own experience because “science” says it’s not true are just another brand of fundamentalist fanatics demanding we obey their faith and deny our own lying eyes.

        • Exile said “Not surprising that you’re one of the worshipers of the false god of science.”
          “…just another brand of fundamentalist fanatics demanding we obey their faith and deny our own lying eyes.

          It’s not surprising that you can’t respond to a simple statment without throwing accusations and insults. After all that is your usual modus operandi. But the fact is that there’s absolutly no reason why science and religion have to be blood enemies. Medical science for instance. Oh, and your lying eyes? Yah, they do lie all the time. Scientific fact.  

          • A perfect example of crying out as you strike me. Snarky replies deserve a scornful response.

            Dismissing personal experience as “anecdotal” just means you’re dogmatically dismissing evidence that doesn’t fit your model.

            Eyewitness testimony is evidence. You can argue about its accuracy or interpretation but you can’t simply say “it’s not evidence” and still call yourself an empiricist.

          • Exile said: “A perfect example of crying out as you strike me.”

            1.Stop whining you old maid.

            “Dismissing personal experience as “anecdotal” just means you’re dogmatically dismissing evidence that doesn’t fit your model.”

            2.First of all, I don’t have a model, science does. Speaking of which, here’s an artical you need to read carefully. It’s entitild:

            “Empirical versus Anecdotal Evidence”

          • Agree with you mostly, but must take exception with the claim that science and religion can coexist. “Non-overlapping magisteria?” No way. Religion does make some claims about the real world. Dawkins uses the example of the Assumption of the Virgin. Pick whatever claim you wish. If a faith makes a claim about reality, it is at least in principle testable. Either the miracle happened or it did not. As Hume said, what is more likely, that a miracle occured, a happening at odds with what common sense and science tell us about the real world, or that someone was deceived or deceiving?

  34. I recall an article about a pseudo AI mastering the game Go, and as a commentor pointed out, for as good as it was at Go, it didn’t know it was playing Go.

    A half-humorous thought I’d had is that, given sufficient data inputs, it should be possible to reliably predict the future, but it would be hard to build a machine to collect all the current data inputs at a specific point in time. Solution? Build a machine that starts at the beginning of time when the inputs can be controlled. Now, all of that is not new, but what I haven’t seen brought up is the fact that every simulation would thus end with someone inside the simulation building their own “future predicting” simulation, when time inevitably turns into a “hall of mirrors”. Now, maybe that’s been brought up too, but I only have so much time in the day to read sci-fi 😉

    • Descriptive power does not necessarily give you predictive power, in an environment of multiples of multiples of inputs. Mandelbrot’s mistake was trying to apply the powerful descriptive power of fractals into something predictive of the future.

      In an environment of limited relevant inputs (baseball, poker), information can be processed to give predictive power, through the application of a probability set to a somewhat static situation. A multiplicity of inputs, variable in their effects over time, obliterates the predictive power of a good dataset.

      There is the ongoing variability of inputs over time, overlaid with the variability in the effects of those inputs, topped out with variation in the interactions of the inputs and effects. It’s how formerly relatively orderly things like economies, wars, and arguments between spouses can spin wildly out of control.

      Predictive ability requires a stripped down environment that reduces or eliminates many of the variabilities created by dynamic interactions. The real world is almost impossible to predict, to the consternation of humankind, forever. Contemplating our living in a simulation, is, in part, a sop to limiting the inputs of our lives to something more manageable, identifiable, and finite. The magic of life, as we know it, is the infinity of interactions and the possibilities they create, euphoric and tragic. The sad thing is that we often focus on the bad side, and forget to revel in the possible and the good. Any responsible religion or philosophy must emphasize the possible and the good, to be worth a darn. Most of the ones we have fail the test, in the day-to-day real world, no matter their higher theoretical aspirations. Our opportunity and marching orders, for our own good, are to either twist them back to the noble, or for us to create our own alternatives.

    • This stuff is fascinating to think/read about. A similar view is found in Dennett’s Darwin’s Dangreous Idea. I’ll spare you the explaination, I think the Wikipedia entry describes it well. Just look up reductionism good vs. greedy, and Dennett’s terms of crane vs. skyhook.

  35. I would be interested as to the inspiration for this article. A little mind enhancing stimulants and boom, Thursday’s blog post.
    I do like entertaining thinking on these esoteric concepts as I imagine most who come here do also.

    • There is always been something and never nothing, right? Unless you believe the big bang theory of out of nothing then everything.
      Who primed the prime mover? Who generated the Big Bang if you believe that theory. Just happened, or the greater being just happend to be. Or ultimately we are way too puny of intellect to comprehend.

      • It’s the old “infinite regress” issue. Someone came up with the idea of the world sitting on the back of a turtle. Someone asked this man the natural next question, “What’s below the turtle?” It’s turtles all the way down! was the reply.

        • 🙂 I’ve also read a version where the explainer just says “Could we change the subject, please?”

      • It seems as if there is always an “appearance” (lit., phenomena) of something, appearing to a “viewer” of that phenomenon. “Infinite regress” is by definition an illusion and/or a logical fallacy; all phenomena are equally real/unreal (conditionally real, because transient, but ultimately not-real.)
        I don’t even think it’s worth bothering with whether the cosmos / multiverse is a (or several) “simulation(s)” of something else for the same reason. Now, if we want to ask if what-appears is a specific instantiation of some more abstract, underlying “reality” (mathematics, logic, etc.) that might be a more interesting question.
        Ultimately, of course, there is “no doer” to be found, anywhere, and thus absolutely nothing is happening, from the beginning, or even can happen.

        • That’s funny as hell.

          From the article:
          “”That is a use of police force, federal police force for political ends,” Wheeler said. “That is not an acceptable solution anywhere in America,” the mayor told the crowd.”

          The lefties didn’t seem to have a problem with using Federal forces to integrate schools, kill Randy Weaver’s wife and child, burn up the Branch Davidians, etc.

          • I look forward to TPTB withdrawing all resources and personnel from the enforcement of those most egregious of laws made for purely political ends – gun laws.

      • Your comment about The Thirteenth Floor led me to add it to my list. How about a ‘Z reviews old movies’ series to complement your ‘essential knowledge’ series?

        • Or just diversion. Movies used to be fun now they’re work. And also knowing that Hollywood is actually just a pedophile grooming gang makes it impossible for me to watch any new movies.

        • Reviews of old movies is something Sailer does exceptionally well. He did a retro-review of The Graduate that is one of the best essays I’ve ever read.

      • Amen.

        For my own sanity, I’ve started putting “Jesus Loves You” stickers on the BLM signs in my neighborhood. Blacks love Jesus, Jesus loves blacks, so what’s the problem? You’re not racist, are you?

        Next up: A nice “Hammer and Sickle” ink stamp that will be applied to signage. It’s a SWPL neighborhood, so the aging hippies will probably approve.

        I’m saving the “Trump 2020” stickers until Oct. Not so much for Trump, but I’d like to see people tearing their own signs down in disgust.

        (I may be too easily amused)

        • I’m gong to key scratch my car, then bust out a few windows. Next, I’ll douse it with a can of gasoline and flick a lit match in the window. Within 24 hours I will have posted bond and the car will be ready for a Trump 2020 bumper sticker. I’m just cutting out the middleman 😀

      • Funny , I kept reading as if you were laying down a premise and then how it relates to any of our present messes. Then, oh It really is about the topic only. Went back to the top and read with no presuppostions.
        Then one hour later my new leased F-150 gets backed into in nogtown. Of course stopping and exchanging insurance etc. is out of the question. Just reinsert me back into my pod.

        • Thats what you get for driving a Ford. Go ahead and report it, or else you are going to get a claim that YOU rear ended them in a short while.

      • Actually, the notion of bugs in the simulation code could explain the revolution. And I think that is the main reason you wrote this piece.

  36. The first paragraph is entirely a supposition with no supporting evidence or argument. There’s no reason at all to believe it all.

    Most likely, the simulation creator would not care if the simulated achieved self awareness of their situation as they would have ability to effect it anyway. Alternatively, self awareness could be the entire point of the simulation to begin with.

    • In other words, the first paragraph is the premise upon which the rest is based. Instead of addressing the entire post, you prefer to dismiss the premise out of hand.

      • Yeah well I’ve always thought the ‘life is just a simulation’ meme to be lame. And ultimately more than a little narcissistic.

        As Felix notes it leads to
        simulations all the way down.

          • Quite the opposite.

            The simulation theory is narcissistic. The opposite, that the universe doesn’t know or care of us is not.

          • Narcissism does not mean what you think it means. Narcissism is “the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s idealised self image and attributes.” The word you’re probably grasping for is onanism.

            Even so, contemplating the nature of the universe or a simulation of it does not require a need to believe the universe cares about us.

          • I converted from Vigilante-ism to Onanism. I still take matters into my own hands, but with much less legal risk 😀

  37. Maybe I’m reading my own worldview into this, but the second-option simulation seems akin to the Christian worldview. Our physical world and material self are tangible and real … but what if we’re truly created for immortality in an eternal other-world? What if our “programming” has an inherent, even intentional flaw – something akin to original sin. What if this intentional flaw is purposefully designed to cause us to seek something transcendent – a Creator/Programmer – a Prime Mover that is truly good and just? What’s up with this disconnect we all have – none of us are perfect yet we’re seemingly designed with a yearning to pursue perfection? We do ourselves a tragic disservice when we dismiss metaphysics and the mysteries of life.

    • There is a good sci-fi movie on this that came out at the same time as The Matrix: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Thirteenth_Floor

      The utility in contemplating these topics is it gives a richer understanding and appreciation of the philosophers and theologians who created Western civilization. While using different constructs, theologians did think about the ramifications of this world merely being a creation of a superior being.

      • heh I was going to mention this movie 🙂
        The Matrix is an overall great movie, but the initial premise is non-sensical. You can’t use any living creature as an energy source. You can use them to convert forms of energy, as when a cow turd is burned. But we are all net energy consumers, not producers.

        • It has to do with the kind of energy produced. Plants convert sunlight into the sugars and starches we need to produce energy. Even though they’re net consumers too they’re producers for us.

          Anyway it’s a metaphor for our relationship to technology. Those pod dwellers are living the ultimate life of leisure, and indeed the machines ‘live’ off the saved energy otherwise spent living a real life.

      • All right, I’m going to watch that movie I’ve never heard of it before. Google didn’t even auto fill its name and it’s one of those rare Rotten Tomatoes movies that has extremely low Critic reviews but pretty decent audience reviews. Those movies are always worth watching

        • It does not have a lot of explosions or graphic nudity, so the critics hated it, but if you like clever sci-fi or clever crime thrillers, it is a good movie.

          • Great! I watched so few movies now that I actually do get excited when there’s one that I can watch. I did recently accidentally watch about 5 minutes of George Romero’s Martin thinking it was a different kind of movie than it was. Yikes! Still having nightmares

      • The best of these “simulation” movies is still probably Werner Fassbinder’s “World on a Wire.” Low budget but great.

      • I am not familiar with the movie, but there is a classic SF short story. There is a landlord of an office high-rise. Like many buildings, it has no 13th floor out of superstition. But one day a man comes and demands to rent the 13th floor. The manager tries to dissaude him, but eventually relents, thinking he has a sucker. So he leases the 13th floor. The story continues with the manager vexed as the tenant rides the elevator and diappears during the work day. The manager tries to find out where the tenant goes, but never can. Finally, a day comes when the tenant is moving out. The manager finally finds a justification: the lease allows the landlord to inspect the premises before the tenant vacates. So up he goes, to a 13th floor. The story ends with the landlord trapped in an empty room, on a floor that doesn’t exist 😀

        • That triggered a memory of “the After Hours” Twilight Zone season one. But that was the ninth floor.
          I might add, also consonant with the theme of simulated reality.

    • This was my thought as well. Also, the bugs and paradoxes in the simulation could simply result from free will, which is the standard Christian explanation for why evil exits.

    • Great post. I was going to write something similar. In Orthodoxy we believe that man inhabits the fallen world, which is sort of an imitation of the true world, but is corrupted by death and sin. The great saints of the church have, through the process of Theosis and extreme asceticism, become more “like” Christ and are attuned to the true world, and thus see and hear demons, can work miracles, and know and understand things beyond what we can, as we are dulled and blinded by the cares and passions of the fallen world. The Kingdom of Heaven IS at hand! Christ IS risen! These sayings of the Church encapsulate this.

  38. I recently did an online course (just a 4 week introduction) in the origins of the universe. The big bang to dark matter. The theories once I’d understood them as best I could seemed very tenuous. (BTW am not a scientist but did Maths & Physics A’level and Civ Eng as a degree). At the end of the series, the lecturer concluded/confessed that their theories all broke down and they may end up having to review/(come up with something better) Newton’s gravitational equations and pretty much all of Einstein’s work – and that was going on right now in the scientific community, but without much luck.
    One of the scientists who was shown in a short video was on a Ted talk. His presentation was; that all of their equations about the origins and workings of the universe broke down so therefore, we are likely living in a simulation. Poor conclusion but understandable by someone who doesn’t want to say ‘we have got it all wrong’.
    Whilst I don’t view this as a ‘theology via the back door’ moment, I am now confident that ‘big bang monkey theory’ is as easily taken apart as creationism has been.
    As a side note there is an ‘Uncommon Knowledge’ interview where the panel argue that Darwin’s (really Lord Monboddo’s) theory of evolution works within species (i.e. beak lengths for birds), but not between species (Cambrian explosion) as random mutation of cells has been modelled and it would take billions of years to go from amphibian to goat/horse/cow and not tens of millions.
    Back to the drawing board.

    • I have often though how absurd it really to truly claim to know where anything really came from, but it is a luxury to pontificate about it and get paid for it. You’re correct to point out how easily taken apart some of the more modern theories are. I think that a professor somewhere published a book called Lost in Math, that was an investigation into what they saw as the decline of experimental physics… And the quite comical ensemble of mathematical theories that have been cooked up over the years.

      The state in physics seems to be that large numbers of distributed scientists focus on the most popular and exciting of fields, and then come together to view the results of a hugely expensive experiment. It is very easy, I would imagine, to get ‘lost in math’ when your means of experimentation are so hard to just knock up in a couple of days.

      The Laws of Newton can be easily demonstrated and measured in a High School Lab, I could use the deflection of my bookshelf to demonstrate the behaviour of a simply supported beam – there is something great about the mathematics of these things, but also the ease with which they can be verified.

      Poor conclusion but understandable by someone who doesn’t want to say ‘we have got it all wrong’.

      Yes. Imagine spending your entire life on something to find out that it was garbage – this very human of traits is why I have become increasingly skeptical of academia.

    • Interesting viewpoint. Scientists seem prone to assuming that mathematics, with its logical purity, is the thing itself rather than a tool for exploring the thing. In simpler terms, they confuse the map for the territory. Every system of explanation devised by human intelligence, perhaps because of the limitations inherent in our fallible nature, requires accepting as given some discrete number of first principles which are themselves incapable of proof from within the system. The Greeks called these first principles axioms; and they are as much a matter of belief as is the concept of God in a revealed religion.

        • Interesting post. I see this all the time in my work, talking to colleagues who’ll convince themselves that they do not know something that has been known for decades… Because they’re not an expert in it.

          I had only considered this ‘scientism’ problematic for the first reason that Briggs describe – that is is not needed, we don’t need to prove the obvious. However, his second point hadn’t occurred to me, that it bolsters people’s reliance on scientism. Possibly my favourite book on just where the scientific method really needs to be applied was E.F Caldin’s The Power and The Limits of Science. It is quite old, but made some very good points in this area.

    • Every time I’ve looked at this, the latest scientific theories seem to be an ever more detailed explanation of why we don’t know.

  39. Perhaps Thomas Aquinas was right all along and there is some prime mover.

    Prime mover cosmology is eo ipso a logical fallacy: who primed the prime mover?

    It’s simulations all the way down.

    • The special pleading problem has been addressed by others. The real issue with the cosmological argument is the necessary premises.

    • There’s a good short story, 900 Grandmothers, by RA Lafferty that explores how it all began…

    • Well no, that’s why the Prime Mover is called “Prime”. He is the first mover upon which everything else is acted upon. You may not agree but it is not illogical that a Prime Mover at least could exist.

      Logic has some pretty hard and fast limits and provides by definition no first principles, but with nothing to feed into the “logic machine” it doesn’t work. The idea is that there is a thing beyond the natural without which the natural could not exist because by observation we see that the natural world contains no principles that would enable an inanimate object to become animate without being acted upon. So eo ipso isn’t what I would say because the Prime Mover idea explicitly seems to imply something of a different nature than the observable material world.

      • Precisely. It is indeed a small, conceited and unimaginative mind that forecloses the possibility of the metaphysical.

      • You may not agree but it is not illogical that a Prime Mover at least could exist.

        No, but the illogical is that IF you posit that the universe needs a first mover to explain its existence, THEN that principle must be applied to your first mover as well.

        In other words: it is not an argument to say that Big Bang logically must have come from somewhere and therefore Creator, because then you only move the problem of creation from BB to God. You have gained no philosophical ground.

        • No, thats answered easily: God is eternal and infinite, and has always existed. Creation is a characteristic specific to the non-eternal. To think as you do necessarily rejects the concept of infinity, so tell me how asymptotes work in your universe.

          • No, thats answered easily:God is eternal and infinite, and has always existed.

            Whee! Yes, that was indeed easy…

            If it’s science, we will demand scientific rigor but if it’s about God, we can just claim any old shit because magic.

            Here’s a question: can an omnipotent creator create a rock so heavy that he can’t lift it?

          • An omnipotent creator who could be thwarted by paradox wouldn’t be omnipotent. The human mind trying to comprehend such a being is a different story.

          • Yes, an omnipotent creator could be able to create a rock so heavy he couldn’t lift it, then at will a microsecond later being able to lift it.

            Omnipotence works always in both directions.

            Same as infinity.

          • God doesn’t do contradictions.

            He also doesn’t walk through a wall and not walk through a wall at the same time.

            Aquinas weeps.

          • Yes, it is rather tiring having to read the same old objections once and again as if they were new objections and complete refutations.
            These objections have already been answered by Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) and it’s likely that they have been answered by even more ancient authors. The impossibility of an infinite regress possibility (“simulations all the way down”) has also discussed extensively.
            But, no matter that thousands of pages have been devoted to these topics for centuries, there is always somebody who thinks he is very clever saying: “So who caused God? Checkmate!” No matter that you explain the same things thousands of times. The objection resurfaces every day and it is always stated as if it was something new and as if it was something definitive.
            I think Richard Dawkins is an example of this anti-intellectual attitude when it comes to metaphysics. The guy, which is a biologist, tries (and achieves) to be the leading figure of atheism worldwide without reading anything that came before him. His book is full of nonsense and embarrasses professional atheist philosophers.
            It is like I want to be the leading figure of biology, without reading any previous biology book. Then, I figure out a definitive objection against evolution: “Man cannot come from apes, because the child of an ape is another ape. Checkmate!” No matter how many times this objection is answered, it always appear as new. As I said, it’s tiring.

          • <i>His book is full of nonsense and embarrasses professional atheist philosophers.</i>

            There’s no such thing as an “atheist” philosopher (never mind a professional one) because atheism makes no claims about the universe.

            Atheism itself is a misnomer, because not being superstitious is not an -ism, just like not playing tennis isn’t a sport. Do you often sit down with your friends and have long conversations about why you do not believe in Santa?

          • Felix Krull said: “…because atheism makes no claims about the universe.”

            Oh give me a brake.

            • n.
            • Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods.
            • n.
            • The doctrine that there is no God; denial of the existence of God.

            “The doctrine that there is no God; denial of the existence of God.”


            • n.
            • A principle or body of principles presented for acceptance or belief, as by a religious, political, scientific, or philosophic group; dogma.
          • Santatheism:

            • Disbelief in or denial of the existence of Santa or of elves.
            • The doctrine that there is no Santa; denial of the existence of Santa
          • Atheists always think that satire relieves them of an honest answer. When in fact, it’s just the coward’s way out. Christopher Hitchens being the prime example.

          • Atheists always think that satire relieves them of an honest answer.

            When you’re dealing with religious fanatics, satire is by far the most effective weapon because fanatics are unresponsive to reason.

          • Felix Krull said:m “When you’re dealing with religious fanatics,…”

            One of the favorite tactics of atheists ( and the left obviously ) is to deflect any and all reasonable objections to their doctrines and dogmas by sewing insults, accusations and ridicule. claiming the mantle of the keepers of pure reason and logic, they feel justified in lashing out at anyone who dares to question their perfect knowledge. Filled to the brim with unearned moral superiority, they can not abide anyone who will not submit to their authority. They take pride in smashing up and burning our religious institutions to the ground. And your the “fanatic.” This is the triumph of nihilism. There’s simply no way to reach these kinds of people anymore than you can reason with a shrieking blue haired SJW. It’s pointless to even try.

          • Funny, what about your fellow atheists who murdered more people in the last century than organized religion did in the last 2000 years.
            You know them as communists.

          • Spot on. What is the lesson? It is not religion or atheism that is killing and doing other evil. It is always groups of human beings, convinced their way is right, driven by a homicidal ideology. Atheists won’t blame God (because He doesn’t exist) but will champion “the inevitability of history” or some such. Theists will claim to be “carrying out God’s work,” apparently not stopping to inquire why an omnipotent being would require the help of a bunch of ill-behaved naked apes.

          • Hey if you’re right, and the universe is completely pointless and devoid of meaning – why are you bothering with us?

            Don’t you have some carnal pleasure you need to get too before it’s too late?

          • The atheists I’ve met over the years have all turned it into a ersatz religion or personal philosophy of sorts and combined it with a special hatred of Christians and Christianity whom they consider the enemy of science and progress.

            I can’t say they were a nice bunch as people go because they weren’t. They were like any other fanatic you would meet,

          • I wouldn’t call a man with a solid scientific education, capped with a doctorate in philosophy an “anti-intellectual.” I haven’t read Aquinas but I am familiar with many first cause arguments. I’ve posted on them here many times, including today. This is not the place for explaining logical fallacies. Believe as you like, but to claim God is the first cause is an intellectual cop-out; you are effectively saying “My mind is made up, there shall be no more debate!” Science is what asks those difficult questions: “What caused this, or what came before…?” Unlike religion, Reason doesn’t claim to have the final answers, but it does seek the freedom to continue asking questions.

    • Maybe the fallacy is thinking it’s possible to understand something that can’t be understood. What’s wrong with accepting mystery?

      • There is Something rather than Nothing. To embrace any of the current explanations of Why requires a certain degree of faith. The tenacity required of the Atheist to cling to his particular set of superstitions makes a fundamentalist holy roller look like a piker.

      • Nothing, as long as you allow Science to inquire into what is currently the mystery*. Problem is that established belief systems (religion is a fine example 😀 ) usually discourage such inquiry, often with dire penalties.
        *”Mystery” here means merely “the unknown or hidden,” it has no religious connotation as you find in Catholicism.

        • It is impossible for Science to inquire the mystery, the same that it is impossible to inquire the mystery of fetal development by using Anthropology. Or to prove the theorem of Fermat or the French Revolution using Science. It is the wrong discipline.

          Science is a method to find answers to some MATERIAL phenomena using a specific method (the scientific method, which is imagining theories and trying to validate it with material experiments).

          Science is based on philosophical axioms that cannot be proven by science. For example, there is an external world, our senses are trustworthy, the world is regular and these regularities are according to mathematics (laws of nature), the laws of nature are the same in the entire universe, etc.

          The discipline to find the ultimate mysteries of existence (which are not material, the same way the theorem of Fermat is not material) is philosophy (which is based on logic), and, more specifically, metaphysics. With metaphysics you can discover some things about God (“natural theology”). Then you can inquire using history if Christianity is true or not.

          When you say
          “Nothing, as long as you allow Science to inquire into what is currently the mystery”, it is obvious that you believe in scientism.

          Scientism is the belief: “Science is the only way to obtain the truth”. But this sentence cannot be proven by science. So scientism is self-refuting: it contradicts itself and, hence, it cannot be true.

          “Problem is that established belief systems”

          The current scientific understanding of the world is an established belief system, as well as history, for example.

          ” (religion is a fine example 😀 ) usually discourage such inquiry, often with dire penalties.”

          You can find people discouraging inquiry in every discipline. See, for example, the reluctance of modern science in acknowledging the difference of IQ between races. You find fanatic people everywhere.

          But this is not the official position of the Christian religion. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15). See also paragraphs 159 and 286 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

        • No need to even hope for that

          That life’s mysteries will confound man into eternity is guaranteed

          What is interesting though is the zeitgeist (for lack of better word) we are in where it is an accepted premise that extra terrestrial life will make an appearance any day now

          You get the sense that we are in for something really earth shattering and so entirely new and never before seen by anyone on earth. But people in every epoch or era think that but find other ways to express it.

        • No worries there. My experience of science was that 1 answer created 10 questions 🙂

        • Well then, if you don’t want to understand the world, you shouldn’t made claims about it.

          • <i>if you don’t want to understand the world, you shouldn’t made claims about it.</i>

            I don’t. The people who claim Santa is real are making all the claims, I’m just asking for a link.

            As Newton so brilliantly said: hypotesis non fingu: Newton did not claim that an invisible rubber band was pulling objects towards each other, he merely noted that IF there was an invisible rubber band, we would logically expect to see so-and-so, and lo and behold!

          • Felix Krull said: “Incidentally is the key word.”

            Yah, nice try. Newton was an alchemist first, and a mathematician second.

          • “Alchemist”, of course, meaning “chemist”, and Newton was an alchemist fourth or fifth, behind his work in optics, mathematics and his invention of classical mechanics.

            His weird religious beliefs (seriously, Christians? You want to claim Newton as your own?) were completely incidental to his scientific work. There’s no god involved in the laws of motion, and they were not revealed to him in a divine vision.

          • For the purposes of our discussion, what matters is that Newton didn’t believe the physical world comprehended the totality of existence. Neither did Einstein. And this is hardly incidental.

          • Newton didn’t believe the physical world comprehended the totality of existence.

            So if Newton can’t explain life, the universe and everything, that must mean G-d, right? Because Newton was a scientist.

          • No. It must mean there is a reality beyond the material one. And once one allows for this possibility then one, perforce, accepts the possibility of God’s existence.
            PS–Let us also add Max Planck to the believer’s club.

          •  It must mean there is a reality beyond the material one.

            Not understood. Why does it follow from Newton being a superstitious crank, that there are realities beyond the “material” (i.e.”real”)?

          • We’re talking about Newton’s beliefs here, not absolute truth. And he believed that the physical world, the one essayed by science, did not exhaust reality. And that “superstitious crank” also happens to be one of the most titanic geniuses ever to walk the planet.

          • And he believed that the physical world, the one essayed by science, did not exhaust reality.

            I believe most scientists do, but again: the fact that science cannot explain everything, does not make God any more plausible. You want to promote a revolutionary, new cosmology, let’s see the evidence.

            Niels Bohr was an atheist; are we going to judge the merit of religion by pitting Bohr’s genius against Newton’s?

          • Admitting that science cannot explain everything is not the same as acknowledging a metaphysical reality that is not susceptible to scientific analysis and explanation. The former is merely an admission of human limitation; the later posits a plane of existence where physical laws have no purchase.

            And I’ll see your Bohr and raise you a Heisenberg.

      • “What’s wrong in trying to find the better explanation? It’s what we do in every other aspect of life.”
        We don’t stay in bed saying that everything is a mistery so we cannot know anything. I could be a figment of your imagination or you could live in the Matrix. You’ll never know for sure. You can never know for sure if there is an external world. But you don’t accept this mistery and start trying to escape the Matrix. You accept the better explanation (that the external world is real) and base your life on it.
        I cannot know if my wife loves me or is simply faking it: I don’t have access to her mind. But I get the best explanation and base my life on it.
        Why should we stop our normal reasoning when it comes to God? There are some things about metaphysics that we can know by logic (the same way that there are some things about Maths that we can know by logic). We can get the best explanation, as in any other area of life.
        Why this selective skepticism? It is that the conclusions are inconvenient so we suspend judgement because we don’t like the conclusions?

        • Sometimes it’s better to admit you’re out of your depth and move on. Who needs all the answers, except control freaks?

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