So, you know how I always say “feel free to suggest a project or topic…”?
Well I received the following comment in response to Drakes Equation give or take a week ago and I feel like it would be crappy not to at least talk about it since it is more or less valid input… even if they are teasing!
“Hi Geek Girl Joy
Fascinated by your article.
If we are living in an ‘ancestor simulation’ then Drakes Equation is meaningless. Drakes equation is only valid for the real ‘base’ world and anticipating the likelihood of intelligence arising in a space time ‘material’ universe, which may or may not give rise to AI and ancestor simulations.
Consider a hypothesis! The ‘base’ reality is not the one we see but is the one which gives rise to what we see, which is not unreasonable given theories to support unification. If the universe is conscious, perhaps it can imagine reality and then react with it severally, each conscious ‘observer’ (i.e. animals, humans, insects) having complex ‘conscious’, ‘sub conscious’, ‘unconscious’ and a ‘collective unconscious’ elements (Carl Gustav Jung) of varying complexity and relationships, being characteristics of a single ‘mind’. I am out of my mind I hear you say!
Exploring quantum theory then, and interference, we know that in order to explain ‘reality’ there must be an ‘observer’. Consider also ‘entanglement’. The universe ‘knows’ the spin of its ‘entangled twin’ one of which will react immediately to changes in the other, regardless of distance and without the passage of time. Are we safe in the assumption that this ‘knowing’ and ‘reaction’ occurs as an isolated quantum phenomenon, or might it suggest an orchestrated and integrated reality – Hameroff-Penrose OR Theory.
Another hypothesis! If, as has been suggested, we are entering a ‘post human’ phase of evolution, it would be quite logical to assume this may take the form of a conscious artificial intelligence, perhaps soon. This AI may in all probability be curious enough to simulate the ‘human condition’, its history and future, to learn what conditions gave rise to its own birth, or how it might serve its parents (us) well, by anticipating the future and learning from the past. Alternatively, it may wish to learn what might have lead to its forebears (us) extinction, and to be of some assistance in the management of life forms on other planets. Perhaps to introduce our virtual frozen DNA to a suitable virtual planet in a finely tuned virtual ‘zoo’ universe, what a surprise that would be!
Which leaves us with a chicken and egg. Which came first, the observer or the observed? The conscious mind or the material universe? We may ask ourselves if we were to imagine the conditions for our ‘conscious’ (observer observed) ‘space time’ reality, then a ‘space time singularity’ as may be present at the centre of a black hole may be ideal. Entanglement is a key quantum feature of Hawking emission, also our spatial dimensions (including the time dimension) break down and there is (apparently) no before or after; just a thought!
Would there be a purpose to all of this? God knows!
I know right!?!? Wild! 😛
I just can’t leave that hanging even if Frank is only teasing!
So let’s play with this.
Drakes Equation & the Continuing Adventures of Flembark & Glorp
I agree that it’s an ‘IF’ not a ‘since’, and some might add “dubious” to that if.
Though I must disagree with your assumption that Drakes equation:
“is only valid for the real ‘base’ world and anticipating the likelihood of intelligence arising in a space time ‘material’ universe, which may or may not give rise to AI and ancestor simulations.”.
What rubric have you used to determine this? No, really?
A good way for someone to think about Drakes equation is that it is a tool (or toy) to play with to help you think about some really complex and intellectually… “stimulating” ideas, but it doesn’t make it any more or less valid if its being applied in so called ‘base reality’ or a random ‘child simulation’ of some higher order simulation.
Then again, as I said in my post:
“My point is to show that operating on probability alone is not enough! It’s not enough to say that we are “probably” in a simulation therefore we are because even if the odds are exceedingly against us being in “base reality” (true non-simulated reality) it fails to prove or disprove anything”.
So with that in mind… here’s why your wrong. ;P
The “fidelity” of a simulation can very depending on the intent of the creator and should the purpose of the simulation be something along the lines of “model the known universe” then presumably you would implement the “true” physics.
We are talking about humans who essentially exist in our technological and scientific future. Surely they would have the capacity to “simulate” you and me many times over, right?
We build “ultra low fidelity” simulations all the time and call them “AAA games”!
So assuming the natural order of progression of science and technology, how far in the future need they be to satisfy you personally that such a simulation is even possible? A hundred years? How about a thousand? What about a Million years in the future?
If we don’t exterminate ourselves on our expansion out into our galaxy (which is technically possible now though arguably “wastefully”, using some variant of Orion Drive though we lack a sufficiently “safe harbor” to set sail to… but we’re finding new planets around stars almost every day… though I digress) we will eventually amass enough information about the galaxy and the shit in it that some group of highly evolved post primates will crack the one “true” (sometimes called “grand”) “unified” physics”… assuming such a thing isn’t just a notion that sounds good to our feeble primate gray matter!
But since it doesn’t matter anyway, lets proceed as if that’s true first since it’s more fun to think about! 😛
So, why wouldn’t somebody somewhere (in the future when everything is all “sci-fi shinny”) go:
“Hey, lets build a big ass computer and stochastically simulate a few hundred trillion galaxies?
It’s not like we don’t have all this extra electricity from fusion power and hey look, I found this box of glowing doodads!”.
It hardly takes any effort to envision them cobbling together this mass of Future-Tech-Parts brand of integrated super computer chips (not a sponsor – but you can buy Florps on sale today in the Omega Sector!), boot up Marty Robbin’s big iron at which point “Flembark” says to “Glorp” (because in the future, people wont have human names anymore… Further, that might be racist against extraterrestrials for me to say! 😛 )…
“How should we initialize the distribution of stars, planets and life?”
It’s almost natural to imagine Glorp’s response:
“Let’s use this equation I found on the galactic internet called ‘Drakes Equation’! Ha ha, ancient aliens have such funny names!”
Hmmm… that might in fact be racist against humans! 😉
So they pull up the equation: N = (R* * fp * ne * fl * fi * fc * L) and plug in the known correct values because they looked them up on Wikipedia 1 Million + 19 AD edition and what results is a stochastic simulation (random but based on rules) that models the distribution of the ‘base’ reality inside a simulation simply because they start with known good values.
Drakes equation isn’t about ‘truth’, unless you start with completely good values, and even then it’s just a probability. It wouldn’t help determine which planets actually have life. It just tells you approximately how many should have life given the factors included in the equation and if all are correct, then the result should be correct too… more or less.
Here’s why it doesn’t matter though!
Why should Flembark & Glorp use a stochastic simulation at all?
They are both smart and enterprising future post humanoids and should have all the relevant data necessary to do something a little more elegant!
Much in the same way you might surf Google images today for an “ultra high detail world map” that explorers, merchants and even armies would have literally killed you to obtain just a few centuries ago… and yet, now you can save thephoto, topological mesh, as well as a maps that delineate countries by colored lines and perhaps some of the most relevant facts like the names of the primary provinces as well as key city and port locations
I envision Flembark & Glorp would simply go to their equivalent of Google Galactic Maps and download the latest copy… and all previous copies because bandwidth & storage in the future is out of this world!
Arguably their content is not “free” but essentially for the “price of admission” with the cost of buying the UNIVAC II… or was it a XF-1 Humanoid (I’m not sure, ask Sheldon Allman), plus the use of a data connection provided by the Galactic Internet Service Provider (GISP for short), with the data itself being a collective cultural good sold for what the market will bear…
There is also a mater of the ongoing maintenance costs as well as the constant power consumption required to keep the simulation running but lets keep things simple!
They then just initialize the galaxy, super cluster or universe with whatever version of the galactic map that suites their fancy!
Again, in this scenario they have a simulated universe that meets the requirement of being a simulation but is also one in which a denizen of said simulation would be able to utilize some form of the Drake equation and it should properly model their experience.
Still with me? Good!
Because Drakes equation has nothing to do with what is ‘true’ and everything to do with what is ‘probable’, so presumably it works just as well in a completely made up universe provided the input is “good”.
Mario could hypothetically modify Drakes Equation and analyze his universe as such:
Suppose: N = (Rg * fm * np * fp * fe * ft * G)
- Rg = the average rate of “Mario game” formation
- fm = the fraction of those games that end up getting made
- np = the average number of “content” that can potentially be an NPC
- fp = the fraction of “content” that can include NPC’s that actually is an NPC at some point
- fe = the fraction of NPC content that are enemies
- ft = the fraction of enemies that are Troopa’s
- G = the total number of levels actually played
In this case Mario is “solving” for how many Troopa’s he will encounter throughout his career. 😛
Try it, it works from Pollyanna to Halo!
Now admittedly I may be missing factors and glossing over some things but you get the point.
Certainly it’s contrived… but who doesn’t love a little gloss and a contrivance among friends every now and then? 😛
Don’t Eat the Dog!.
Next you say:
“Consider a hypothesis! The ‘base’ reality is not the one we see but is the one which gives rise to what we see, which is not unreasonable given theories to support unification.”
You are basically saying consider if we are in a simulation. I have, I don’t buy it because there is no solid evidence supporting this hypothesis. Therefore, it is irrelevant for now but I do grant for the possibility and in any case, lets continue.
The problem with using Psychology is that it’s really rather subjective isn’t it?
Who’s model of the mind do you accept as the “real” one and why?
You mention Jung… IMHO, Psychology can only give you a flawed model that can be useful at times depending on your needs, but its never correct.
Jung’s model (like all models of the mind) are only as useful as they solve some issue that you perceive when describing a mind.
From where I’m sitting, it is no more correct to use Jung’s model than it would be to design your own with 37 different classifications spanning 12 layers with each arbitrary layer relating to some poorly thought out aspect of whatever the author thought was an important factor when it came to describing the workings and functions of a mind.
To you sir, I demand: Prove I am not a black-box zombie!
A seemingly key point with the concept of the “ancestor” in “ancestor simulation” implies what we would recognize or call it an “intelligent” possibly “conscious” mind though that term is “loaded” isn’t it?
Whether “it” (the AI/”ancestor”) is actually “conscious” is an intriguing idea, but functionally irrelevant.
Stated another way: Prove I am human and not an AI.
You have prior experience with humans and you extend your reference of “consciousness” to me because we are “alike” in fundamental ways and therefore you assume I’m “alive” in the way that you are “alive”.
Your conclusion that I am “alive” and not simply a bag of water and meat with electrical impulses running throughout that acts appropriately in response to stimuli, while correct, is still flawed because it’s based on your frame of reference.
Consider some flesh-bags from another planet show up (there I go being racist against ET’s again! 😛 ) and we want to know if they are “conscious” or “alive” in the way we are.
We could study them by asking probing & open ended questions that help to gauge their capacity to understand language & consequences, plan and execute complex actions, present it with logical traps that only a “sentient” mind would be able to properly navigate.
None of this is a Yes or No definitive test as to whether or not a mind is actually “conscious” but it does build a picture of what the mind is capable of.
We can run tests on things we know are alive (animals – including people) and build a gradient of behavior scores.
We could then evaluate the animal that came out the hatch of the flying saucer and say it has the intelligence somewhere between a chicken and a dog.
In which case, the aliens are either offering us lunch as a gesture of interspecies good will, or they sent the crews beloved pet to make sure we’re not hostile and don’t vaporize poor ol’ Vorp upon stepping off the gangway!
In both cases the appropriate response is to graciously accept the gift and promise to share the feast with them and host it in their honor!
We then use that opportunity to buy some time while we employ a few somebodies to translate what the hell they really said before we cause an intergalactic incident! ;p
There is a third option where we’re in an Independence Day / Cloverfield scenario but my money is on option A or B above… Probably A because who doesn’t love a free lunch!
Whatever we do, let’s learn from Mars Attacks and not release any doves at the palaver! Nobody want’s Pierce Brosnan to end up beheaded and subject to the whims of their leader!
Anyway, if the entity scored as well as or better than humans we would all generally agree it’s “conscious” like us, though would it say same the same of us?
Notice we extend our definition of “consciousness” to the alien as though we are the arbiter of sentience simply because it is fleshy and we recognize it as being “like us or better” in mental capability.
Why then would this rubric not be applied to all minds in general regardless of their physiological substrate?
Provided that the claim seems remotely credible, would we not be forced to conduct the same “cognitive capability” tests on an artificial intelligence which claims “person-hood”?
Cogito, ergo sum!
Cogito, ergo non ovis!
Think about it! 😛
Who Observes the Observers?
You next turn our attention to quantum theory and contribute this to the discourse:
“we know that in order to explain ‘reality’ there must be an ‘observer’.”
I don’t discount the apparent existence of quantum phenomena however it begs to be asked:
Does there “NEED” to be an ‘observer’?
Why must there be an ‘observer’?
Who or what is the ‘observer’?
Does the universe not observe itself?
Are the photons that bounce off the silvered mirrors used in the double slit experiment the ‘observer’?
Perhaps it’s the photo sensitive surface (Question: Anybody know if its Cadmium Sulphide photoresistor’s they use for this?) that act’s as a beam detector which “reads” the split beam of light as it is selectively passed through slit A into Detector blah blah blah or slit B into detectors blah, blah and or blah? 😛
Maybe it’s the electrons passing through the photoresistor which are regulating the current flowing through photoresistor into the microcontroller.
Perhaps the ‘observer’ must be a mind and not simply “self referential” or “self observing” like an object in a programing language that supports “Open Recursion” through the use of the ‘this’ keyword.
The implication though seems to be that we (people) are the ‘observer’? If so, I ask what difference to the universe does it actually make if something conscious is observing it?
Would the microcontroller in the experiment, which is capable of logging the data and responding with measurable actions qualify as an ‘observer’?
Like, imagine a universe that contained all the materials and tools used in conducting the double slit experiment. Imagine there was also a Raspberry Pi wired to record the results of some number of experiments necessary for accurate results and assume that there was adequate resources available as needed for the Raspberry Pi to fully conduct the experiment and evaluate the result autonomously and without any prompting or coaxing from researchers, because there are no researchers other than the Pi in our imaginary universe.
Imagine the experiment proceeds and all the samples are taken.
The question is, what is the Raspberry Pi going to see?
Either the data will say the photons exhibit wave behavior or they will exhibit particle behavior.
The Copenhagen interpretation of wave particle duality exhibited by photons seems to agree with Rick Sanchez “it’s best not to think about it”! 😛
Yes it’s true that things like “Virtual Particles” exist in the math but I am given to the understanding that most physicists don’t actually believe they are real.
They are simply there to make the math work.
Physicists in the audience please feel free to take me to task on this one. Far be it for me to tell you your business and I’d love for any professional hard science folk to weigh in on the topic.
Being less terse though, one might say that the problem with appealing to “Quantum Mechanics” as a solution to cognition, is simply that we know it’s generally wrong… or at least incomplete.
If it was correct we would not still be looking for that illusive “Grand Unified Theory of Everything” now would we?
We have done some interesting things using what we call entangled particles but qubits only become useful when we collapse the qubit quantum probability wave function into a discrete amplitude and sample it.
Perhaps what we call entanglement is simply a misunderstanding of the nature of matter.
Much in the same way that if one tries it’s possible to accept heliocentrism and yet develop a flawed model that makes inaccurate predictions based on good yet incomplete data and bad interpretations or to reject geocentrism and develop a model that is geocentric that seemingly makes some accurate predictions regarding the movements of the celestial bodies.
Perhaps in time we may come to a deeper understanding of matter which revels that those particles we call ‘entangled’ with one another are in fact through some as yet unknown naturally occurring physical means able to swap their email addresses at arbitrary distance without breaking the speed of light.
Again, physicists please feel free to opine!
Which brings us to your final quandary “Which leaves us with a chicken and egg. Which came first, the observer or the observed?”.
As for the observer or the observed? Nescio!
Though if you care to be literal I might say that if we’re in Flembark & Glorp’s simulation almost certainly (though not exclusively) the chicken because if you are starting in an arbitrary point in time why wouldn’t you just instantiate NPC’s in position to proceed with their various functions when the Start() method is invoked by the programmer… presuming of course they didn’t go Tamagotchi and stick around caring for all the virtual eggs until they hatched.
On the other hand, if we’re actually in “base reality” my best guess is…life arose abiogenically.
As I said in The Story of Creation
“In a rather plain lake full of hydrocarbons… formed the very first simulated life.”
Likely something like the conditions in some variant of the Miller-Urey experiment took place on early earth which lead to amino acids forming a primordial precursor of DNA, RNA, mRNA etc… I’m no geneticist but I can hum a few bars… anyway, likely all that chemistry led to protomers, ribosomes & cytoplasm. Given time (lots of time) and a myriad of chemical processes… capsids & flgella should emerge from the soup provided conditions are correct and adequate precursors are present.
Of course that’s just an opinion. 😉
Though if you want to talk about the purpose of it all, well I’ll simply offer this clip from the 2005 remake of Douglas Adams Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy because I think it sums things up nicely:
I want to thank Frank for a great comment and for being a good sport and knowing everything is said in the spirit of entertainment and we’re all equally enjoying a laugh at ourselves for the absurdity we realize exists when we stare into the unknown and the unknowable!
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And with that, see you in the next post.