As you may or may not have noticed (and if you haven’t, just play along; it’ll make me feel better), I’ve been posting a science link of the week every Wednesday over on the ESN Facebook wall. Â Facebook seems like a good place for some empirical experimentation; it provides a Wall against which to throw things to see if they stick. Â By its nature, it’s a bit ephemeral. Â That’s great if something doesn’t work; before too long it drifts down the screenÂ out of sight, and thus out of mind. Â But if something was worthwhile, it doesn’t stick around very long either.
So, how about we take the best of those links every month or so and expand them into a blog post. Â Right now I imagine it as sort of a “director’s cut” version of the Facebook material.Â I’ll start with the links and comments I posted, and then expand on the discussion that followed. Â I don’t feel comfortable just cutting and pasting the comments of others wholesale, but I think it’s reasonable to summarize and anonymize that content in the interest of bring the discussion to a wider audience and keeping it moving forward. Â And since I’ve been trying to frame my links with some questions, I see the blog as a place to offer my (decidedly undefinitive) answers those questions.
Sound good? Â Here we go!
Variations on “What if *we’re* living in ‘The Matrix’?” have been around a long time. I’m not sureÂ this particular exploration would be definitive either way, but I do admire their effort to make the simulation hypothesis more concrete and testable. As I understand it, the logic appears to be that a simulated universe will be finite in certain particular ways (due to the limits of whatever platform is running the sim), whereas a real universe would be infinite/unbounded. Do you think that’s a reasonable distinction? What other criteria (measurable or otherwise) might characterize a simulation?
Well, this certainly got some conversation going. Â The response was basically “no,” it’s not a reasonable hypothesis because we can’t assume the hardware limitations of current computers would apply to a system capable of simulating the entire universe and which exists in some other universe. Â That’s a fair point. Â One could respond that the Bekenstein bound, rather than the specifics of current computer implementations, ultimately argues for a simulation which is discrete and bounded in some way, rather than infinite. Â But one could just as easily argue that the Bekenstein bound does not rule out systems of infinite size or energy which would then be capable of storing infinite information.