Against the Simulation Hypothesis

The idea that we are living in a simulation, or even that we are ourselves simulations (known as the “Simulation Hypothesis”) has hit the mainstream consciousness, with people like Elon Musk endorsing the idea. Though similar arguments are old, the modern version is driven by the apparently looming advances in technical ability. For instance, Nick Bostrom frames his argument as a trilemma:

But all such arguments are necessarily flawed: they are necessarily self-undermining, because any argument that purports to show that we are living in a simulation must undermine itself by removing the premises on which that argument must lie. Our very logic is unreliable if we are merely simulations.

To see this, consider a computer program performing bitwise math, calculating the sum 2+2. This procedures is broken into multiple operation and performed over multiple cycles. A programmer could step through each operation, and the last one, change the answer to read 5 instead of 4. To the program, nothing would seem amiss: its only perception of time is the ticking of the cycles, and it could only spot a flub with another logical process that could be similarly thwarted by a programmer.

Likewise, any logical argument we can produce could be mislead if we are living in a simulation. No conclusion is reliable, because the simulators could simply intervene to change our conclusions in ways that are necessarily imperceptible to us. So the conclusion that we are in a simulation is necessarily unreliable.

Therefore, no argument can reliable show that we are living in a simulation.

Now, we can’t reliable conclude that we aren’t in a simulation either, granted. But that is the nature of deeply skeptical arguments: you can’t really proceed beyond them, because the tools of argumentation are themselves stripped away. The truth or falsity of living in a simulation is an unanswerable question, by its nature.

This reminds me of the Big Bang theory … born out of ignorance yet pushed into mainstream ideology for social/religious purposes. And it is directly related to a question that I was recently asked, “How does one measure his own sanity?”

If your mind is the only standard for your beliefs and your mind is someone else’s toy, then yeah, you’re just screwed. But then again, such would have been the definition of your life throughout your life, so … no change. What difference would it make? None. But worrying about it can make a difference. Like all philosophy, asking otherwise irrelevant and inconsequential questions is the meat and potatoes of the philosopher’s daily meal.

But, since yet another such question has been asked … sigh … into the rabbit hole we go…

Is it at all possible to prove whether we are a simulation (assuming we had any reason to care)?

My first thought is that to professors from MIT, Harvard, and other such philosophical idiots, anything is provable and also disprovable … even at the same time. Unfortunately proof is still merely in the eyes of the beholder. But the general rule for proof is the requirement of non-contradiction while comprehensively examining the details of a situation wherein there is no alternative left but to accept the conclusion. In this case, the conclusion must be either that we must be a simulation or that we must not be a simulation.

Is there any way to verify whether your mind is merely someone else’s toy?
Can you verify your own sanity?

Well, can you verify or prove anyone’s sanity? That might be a good place to start. Can you carefully examine someone’s behavior, avoid contradiction in your thoughts, and conclude that the person must be sane … or must be insane? What does it mean to be sane? And equally, what does it mean to not be a simulation? Exactly what is it that we are trying to measure and against what gauge?

The question of whether we are a simulation is merely the question of whether there is an intermediary between the objective world and our own sensations. The answer to that should be obvious enough … “The Media”. The entire point and purpose of The Media is to be that intermediary programmer of our beliefs, whether for good purposes or bad. Are they very good at it? The preferred assumption is that they are not good enough to fool anyone. But … seriously?

Even if the Media was actually trying to be totally honest (and can’t even imagine such a world), they could not avoid misleading people into false beliefs. It almost can’t be done merely due to communication issues (as are so very common on this very forum).

Does anyone, even the “idiots”, deny that The Media exists? Do they deny that The Media can’t avoid misleading people? Do they deny that many of their own significant beliefs concerning the world have come through one form or another of The Media; books, TV, Internet, school teachers, deranged university professors,…?

If the answer to each of those questions is “no”, then you have your proof: “The idiots are necessarily running a Media simulation of living, decision making people living in a artificial society wherein their perspectives and beliefs are merely programmed” … even by their own admission.

You will believe whatever you are programmed to believe.

“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts,…”

Yes, it can be proven. But can it be equally disproven?

The post human possibility rests on a differential logic, where the indiscernible limits, seem to suggest the above two conclusions. However, the functional progression to overcoming limits, extended by probability theory, again suggest the development past those relative limits, to the trans human and beyond, as more likely.

Given that, premises are not absorbed into their own seeming paradoxical tautology, but merely overcome their seeming further undifferentiability.

Therefore ‘more likely’ results in most certainly, given the admission of human development.

Science in stead of sewing up metaphysics, only changed the criterion of argument.

Did not go any deep into this, but, as you hint, it recalls something a lot older (Descartes) that was then called “brain in a vat” in the XX century.
I do not get why this hypothesis is formulated with an additional layer of a post-human civilisation - probably the influence of “The Matrix” trilogy. Anyway, whoever runs this simulation seems unnecessary burden and an ideal candidate for Occam’s razor.
As for your quote, or Wikipedia’s quote, as long as one employs ‘likely’, ‘unlikely’ and ‘almost certainly’, then all propositions may be true.
Besides, I don’t get the exact meaning of the word ‘fraction’ (like “percentage”?) and what makes him use that word.

I don’t get the “necessarily”. If you remove premises, you do that and no more, you don’t remove logic. If we ever get in a situation where 2 + 2 = 5, either we elaborate a consistent theory accounting for that, or, indeed, the ‘simulation’ thing becomes slightly more plausible.

It’s not thoroughly clear to me. Logic is not a matter of perception. Now, if the conclusions are changed and you mean that the outcome appears as it was initially expected, then the premises are not ‘removed’. Else, if by some hat-trick the conclusions are not how they were expected and yet we do not realized that, which is to say that somehow backwardly our initial prediction has been changed so that we see do not see a ‘non sequitur’, then that seems to me a game changer. If you assume that the ‘simulators’ can do that, then we are no longer living in a simulation, instead we are the simulation.

If the hypothesis is that everything it’s unreal and yet it behaves exactly as if it was, then indeed it can’t be told. A necessary consequence of the hypothesis is that ‘simulation’ and ‘reality’ are a case of Identity of indiscernibles. Or, from a different point of view, we have no sense or organ to determine what is (real).

Why does it matter?? What can be done to change it if true? Life evolves, games evolve. If life is controlled by others, well, then there must be a goal. If not then still there is a natural goal. Both goals are the same. Evolution.

Did we evolve or did a better programmer make our improvements?

Attano wrote

Why wouldn’t our real be considered a dimension of everything in existence, which would not negate our value of real while also allowing for other dimensions to be real in their own ways as well?

On another note, there are clues everywhere that exceed the limits of our sciences which dismisses its challenges by being wrapped up in the product of the sciences in a capitalistic market. I’ve already commented that science as it is acts as a distraction to keep the intelligent occupied developing more gadgetry. Am I the only one to recognize this as catastrophic?

The situation was based on the model of a “free democratic society” involving 300 million people. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton become the only candidates for President.

You don’t see the “hat-trick”, backward changing, non-sequitor in that scenario do you … or do you?

It is discernible because it is inconsistent. One cannot exactly model reality without being reality. The model would have to be much, much larger than the universe it is modeling. I ran into that problem with RM:AO’s meta-space, an emulation of the sub-subatomic world. It requires a huge computer and program just to emulate a single atom with reasonable precision. Describing the details in the program always takes more complication than the details themselves.

What that means is that no emulation or simulation can be perfect. And that means that with properly applied reasoning, the unavoidable distinctions between an emulation and a actuality can be discerned. But then again, the memory of such can also be erased as the people are sent back into the frey and confusion without any significant influence of their own (such as USA politics).

What you discover today, you will probably not remember before long … but you won’t realize it … only that something is wrong. The emulation can never be perfect.

And yes, modern day public “science” is merely a distraction.

I’m catching the discrepancies JSS and its more than disconcerting. Now trying to frame that in models of our current logica is not going to happen. It’s as if our logic runs out, ends prematurely.

“Public” science differs from private science how?

Public vs military.

… and you can deduce how and why.

Realize that by keeping technological secrets while watching the rest of the world go by, your power increases exponentially year after year to the point that you become indistinguishable from a god. And that is no secret.

Are you seriously saying that tech makes gods? I hope not.

You have a knack for twisting what is said.

To assume that reality is not just a simulation, whether of a mind or a machine, is a worldview which doesn’t put my mind or any mind or machine at the center of existence.

Let’s assume it is all just a simulation, is that simulation running in a real world or is it itself part of a larger simulation?

What this assumption of everything being a simulation does is not reveal anything but give potential meaning and change people’s behaviour.
If you believe it’s all a simulation, or if you believe there is life after death then this provides a different outlook on the meaning of your life.
Maybe life is just a ride in an amusement park, you can relax now.

JSS wrote

What did you mean then?

Is_ wrote

Rides break down.


Fruits and veggies are “needed.” Deal with my carbtasticness.

And somebody else, something else is going to fix it for you.
Maybe someone shouldn’t look at life as a ride in an amusement park.

Maybe there is no right answer.
Maybe thinking about it in terms of right or wrong answer is a bad idea.


Not that I’m against a well sung tune, but with lyrics there does need to be content baby.

The simulation hypothesis is than the possibility that we are brains-in-vats. The simulation hypothesis is the suggestion that we ourselves are simulations, we are akin to our computer programs running in a contained system within a larger reality. If that is the case, both logic and perception are suspect: not only could we be fed false information about a world that does not exist, but our own thought processes could be dissected, interrupted, corrupted by the Simulators*. We would be like the program adding 2+2: if we intervene in the program at the last step, stop it in place and swap out in its memory the answer 4 with the answer 5, it will confidently return the answer as 5 and be unable to perceive any discrepancy. Any discrepancy-detecting routine could similarly be altered at the last step, to find no problem. So long as a logical procedure depends on passing information forward from operation to operation, it is subject to having that information changed by the Simulator.

Because we can’t even be sure of the consistent existence of our world. If we are simulations, we may have begun this moment, with out memories and experiences designed for us, and with no ability to detect a discrepancy. We may be stopped and re-run over and over. We may be stopped and stored for millennia, and turned back on, with no ability to detect the gap. We have no assurance of a continued, consistent world.

Put it another way: is Microsoft Word a dimension of everything in existence? Are my copy of Microsoft Word and your copy of Microsoft Word two different dimensions of everything in existence? If I write a simple loop that outputs random digits, have I created another dimension?

Others might consider the questions irrelevant, but a philosopher should not. A truly irrelevant question is effectively devoid of meaning, and such questions are more properly the domain of religion and art.

  • I’m capitalizing Simulators not out of reverence, but to denote that it is the special term, by which I intend who- or whatever might be running the simulation of our world.