Forget Simulations, the Earth is a Game We Can Solve
(Image: The Matrix)
It is a popular idea to think that the universe is a simulation. This is commonly known as the “simulation hypothesis”, the idea that reality is an artificial simulation running in some sort of computer. The argument is that a huge amount of computing power should be available in the future and used to run very detailed simulations, sufficiently detailed to be conscious. If that could happen in the future, then we could be one of such simulations. In this respect, we would be like the simulated people from the game The Sims, except we would be in a far more detailed simulation, and perhaps some alien would also be playing with us. You can read more about the hypothesis here.
While we can define the universe as a simulation, it is crucial to distinguish between the universe and reality. We tend to equate the universe around us with reality, but that is not exactly the case. The universe may be a simulation but reality itself is not. As a matter of fact, reality is what simulates the universe, the universe is a simulation of reality. The world around us is a representation of reality, not reality itself, and thus, reality itself is not a simulation. In this respect, the simulation is then a program that is being run through a code, and reality is that code which produces the simulation. While the simulation hypothesis is not proven, the idea that what we perceive around us, as the universe, is merely a representation of what is actually “out there” is a well-established fact. What we perceive through our senses and our brains is not mind-independent, “outside” of us, but a representation of what is there, chosen through adaptations in the process of our evolution.
(Image: A Sim is seen here drowning after the player takes away the stairs)
The Nature of the Simulation
A question arises as to the purpose of the simulation. The immediate simulation around us is clearly an adaptation that allows us to survive. We have learned, after a process of evolution, to create these representations of reality, which we perceive through our senses. Our senses, thus, are encoding and decoding machines that establish a connection between us and the environment by creating a map of the environment so that we can interact with it. Thus, our perception of the universe is one aspect in which it is simulated.
However, that is not the whole story. While the purpose of our perception is to enable us to interact with our environment, our interactions with our environment constitute another kind of simulation. A game.
A typical videogame consists of some kind of a character, a simulated environment and a set of encoded inputs which allow us to interact with the simulated environment. The objective of the game is to win. Winning a game is accomplished by inputting a series of interactions which result in certain winning conditions being satisfied, thus establishing that we have "won" the game.
Our existence is largely populated by such games. While the videogames we create are primitive compared to reality, they are simplified models of reality. For instance, The Sims is a game that simulates a typical human lifetime in the 21st century. The game is a largely simplified version of a human lifetime, but we are still sufficiently familiar with it to understand it and quickly learn how to input our interactions, thus "playing" the game.
The Planet as a Game
(Image: Age of Empires)
The planet is yet another type of game. A typical videogame representation of the planet involves factions of humans fighting against one another for control of land and resources. Strategy Games such as Civilization and Age of Empires are examples of such games. Players need to compete for land and resources in order to gain control over the planet. In this respect, the game that we are playing is very easy. We live in a planet that has plenty of resources at our disposal, plenty of land, an atmosphere that enables our survival and a climate that doesn't require too much effort to work with. These games are huge simplifications of how the planet is supposed to be played.
There is one other type of game that fits better with the planet. Puzzles. Puzzles are games that consist of decoding patterns and reprogramming those patterns in order to "solve" them. The solution tends to be an organized pattern. For instance, a Rubik’s Cube is a game that contains certain patterns of interaction that are a reflection of its structure, which can be understood in terms of a code that can be rearranged to solve the cube, establishing the organized pattern. We thus go from a scrambled, disorganized, pattern into an organized one.
(Image: Algorithms in Rubik’s Cubes)
The planet as a puzzle is harder to see because it involves patterns that lie underneath the larger patterns of the planet. These patterns are governed by us.
Everything that happens on Earth is either the result of some natural occurrence that we have no control over or the result of our decisions and subsequent actions. We have no control over the natural occurrences; therefore, they count as part of our environment, which we need to solve. In addition to that inaccessible environment, we also have no control over the decisions and actions of other humans around us. While we can communicate and reason with one another, we are unable to directly control one another. Hence, we are also a part of our environment and a part of the puzzle. Since we are the only factors we can control in the puzzle, it follows that we are the only inputs of the planet game. Solving the planet game, then simply requires us to determine which decisions and actions each one of us must undertake. If we can achieve the right combination of interactions between one another and between the planet, we solve the puzzle, just like a Rubik's cube.
Solving Earth: The Game™
(Image: Earth in Endless Space)
This may seem like a daunting task, but it is certainly achievable. We can use our nervous system as a template. Our nervous system can be divided into two main systems: somatic and autonomic. Our somatic system allows us to act and interact with our external environment. Our autonomic systems largely control our internal environment. If we take the principles that govern our autonomic system as a blueprint, we can create similar systems in the environment around us, thus creating an extended, external, autonomic system composed of automated smart systems that perform a wide range of services for us, facilitating our survival. In order to build those systems, we need to organize our somatic systems so that we can collaborate in the construction of our external autonomic environment. Once those systems are built, we are then left with the task of maintaining harmony in our relationships. Since our survival would be largely automated, it would be a lot easier to maintain that harmony. The key is, thus, to construct a system that can enable us to build the autonomic systems within the context of our voluntary interactions.
The system is essentially a code for our interactions with one another. We will thus need a way to process and deliver that code. We already have the means to accomplish this, it's a global communications network colloquially known as "the internet". That is ultimately the purpose of the internet, to facilitate our interactions with one another, thus enabling us to work together to solve the planetary puzzle. All we need to do is to encode the required patterns of interaction into the system running over the internet, thus enabling us to play the game together.
The Ultimate Game
The universe itself is a game, but this game is even more difficult to play and win. If our calculations are correct, the universe is expanding too quickly and we will “soon” enough end up isolated from the rest of the universe, eventually leading the universe into a dark cold future. According to this hypothesis, we are already in the last stage of the universe’s history. In this context, stopping the expansion seems to be the goal of the game. Given the assumption that the universe has already existed in the current state for billions of years, it is quite possible that we have emerged into existence within an old universe, after billions of years of spacefaring civilizations. If this hypothesis is correct, then either other more advanced spacefaring civilizations have already tried to solve the universal puzzle and failed it, thus the universal expansion continues to accelerate, or the solution to the universal puzzle does not involve halting and stabilizing the universal acceleration. Since we don't see other spacefaring civilizations, it is possible that they either destroyed themselves or solved the puzzle.
We have yet to find any evidence for the existence of those other civilizations. It may be that they are too small and far away for us to detect, or it may be that they are not around anymore. It is possible that the solution to the universal puzzle doesn't involve us inhabiting the universe. If we accept the hypothesis that the universe is a simulation of reality, it is possible that the solution involves exiting the simulation. In such scenario, then, old and ancient spacefaring civilizations would have found a way to crack the code of reality and exiting the universal simulation.
Life and Existence
(Image: Neo sees reality in The Matrix Revolutions)
There’s more than one way of exiting the simulation. As we have established before, the environment around us is a simulation encoded and decoded by our senses. Thus, our existence involves the encoding and decoding of reality, thus creating the simulation. The easiest way to exit the simulation is, then, to die. Once we die, no simulation takes place anymore. Thus, conscious existence is the perception of a simulated reality. But in order to perceive reality itself, beyond the simulation, we might need to preserve our ability to perceive while exiting the simulation. We, thus, need to encode the solution into our consciousness, through our brains, in synaptic form. It needs to create a path through which our consciousness can exit our bodies intact, and joining the code of the universe in its "human" form. We would, thus, be humans encoded into the code of the universe, existing as a conscious part of it. The one last possibility is that this won't be necessary because it already happens when we die.
It is hard to establish which hypothesis is correct, considering how entangled we are with the universe, though I trust that such ideas are, at the very least, food for thought.