Discussion #3 – Gods, Pixels and Flocking Birds – Are We Living in a Simulation?

As teenage Gentlemen Scientists, we were gods. We created little worlds and peopled them with creatures, and then watched those creatures – whether bugs, people, trees, or birds – live and die according to our rules. But the reason that we found that fascinating was not because we wielded absolute power, but because our simulations were exciting and unpredictable.

Even though we were the authors of the rules by which our little universes ran, there was never any way for us to predict the behaviour of the system a priori. From simple sets of rules as input, we observed the emergence of complex and sophisticated outputs. It was a profound mystery, and more than anything else it was running these simulations that inspired us to enter a lifetime of Gentlemanly Scientific pursuits.

Flocking Birds

Click image to play the flocking birds simulation – and shoot them down!

But what happens if the agents in a simulation run amok? Could we be living in a simulated world, one in which God has let us run free? And how could we possibly probe our universe in such a way as to investigate the question? Quantum physicists, philosophers and mathematicians have been debating these issues for decades, ever since the Computer Age began. As Gentlemen Scientists, we have added our ramblings to the conversation.

1Edge of chaos – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edge_of_chaos

2Brain in a vat – http://www.iep.utm.edu/brainvat

3COG at MIT –
http://www.ai.mit.edu/projects/humanoid-robotics-group/cog/video.html
http://www.cs.yale.edu/homes/scaz/papers/springer-final-cog.pdf

4Is the Universe a hologram? – http://www.nature.com/news/simulations-back-up-theory-that-universe-is-a-hologram-1.14328

5Anthropic principle – http://www.anthropic-principle.com/?q=anthropic_principle/primer

6Discussion of a message in the digits of PI – http://www.sciencechatforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=39&t=16736

7Turing machine implemented in the Game of Life – check out the amazing screenshot! – http://rendell-attic.org/gol/tm.htm

8P vs NP problem and NP completeness – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complexity_classes_P_and_NP

9Gauge theories in quantum physics – http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Gauge_theories

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