Jul 9, 2013

The Meaning of Life in a Simulated Universe

There's a theory by a physicist called Martin Savage, that our universe is in fact simulated, not even matrix style with physical forms of humans running the simulation somewhere, but entirely simulated. I will not even bother pretending to understand the physics or the mathematics behind this theory, but assuming that any of it is in fact true, what would it mean for us, and what is the meaning of life in this simulated universe?

If we are in fact simulated, we still exist, we still have a form of life or intelligence, as you may call it and at least within our universe, or within our human society, we have inalienable rights. Maybe for other life forms, who aren't simulated we are not important, and we do not have rights, but within our simulated reality we do have laws, and rights. Now imagine that a universe that is simulated creates a simulation, and that simulation creates a simulation and so forth. Maybe to us the simulation is just a simulation, but our own reality (even though simulated) is real to us.

Let's not talk about religion and soul, because that is at this point below us, and let's go to a more philosophical discussion about what life is. So far to us life is matter made of CHON characterized by cells as its building blocks, metabolism, growth, reproduction, adaptation, response to stimuli, but what if life out there in the universe, alien life form so to speak, does not have these characteristics, do we call it life? And what do we call intelligent life? To us, homo sapiens, are intelligent life forms, but maybe to other life forms more intelligent than us we are not, and we do not have the inalienable rights so to speak, and their laws of society, if they live in society, do not include us.

Now we are creating life and by creating life I am not talking about cloning, or creating a cell from scratch, I am talking about computers that run partially with living cells, or that are very complicated computers who can think for themselves, or what we may call cyborgs or Artificial Intelligence. Will we consider complicated computers, robots, AI, that are capable of thinking, learning, and capable of emotional activity, machines, or will our society evolve and call them life forms as well? After all we ourselves are computers created from stardust with the passage of time. Since the concept of life and intelligent life can be changed through time, who are we to say, that a simulated universe we may create isn't in some form real, and its simulated beings aren't alive? And who are the "beings" who simulated this universe, if this universe is in fact a simulation, to say that we are not alive. The concept of life is very complex, and once we start actually thinking about what we have in front of us instead of dreaming about the soul that we apparently, and only we have, we will start to understand that we are very prejudiced and we might hope that if we were created by an intelligent species, or if we are visited by an intelligent species out there, they are more advanced and less prejudiced than us.

Even if we are just computer data, we think, love, create music and poetry, and even if all of this is in fact a simulation, within our perspective, it is real, and in the end, that's all that counts.

Within just our own society, without bringing aliens, or the real humans or beings that created us if in fact we are simulated, there's a whole new philosophical debate in an advanced world, that our society is creating, but is not ready to deal with yet. As we create intelligent simulated, or artificial life, we are creating a very complicated future, in which the race of humans created by the earth through evolution, and humans created by humans as computer, cyborgs, machines, or AI, clash. We will have to deal with the issue of what is in fact life and intelligent life very soon, sooner than we thought, and as it always is, technology advances faster than society is capable of catching up with it. Very soon the debate will rise whether androids are in fact alive, and whether they should have the same rights, and whether they can marry humans, and whether they can be called humans. And soon, sooner than we can expect, technology might advance so that an android can procreate, and not just within its own race, but with humans. As far along the line it may seem, it is something that we will have to deal as a society much sooner than we thought. We might in fact ourselves become half humans, half computers, as nano-technology progresses, and we take the next step in computer technology and create a biological bond with our computer devices, internet and social media. We are all going to be chipped as a matter of fact, sooner than we think, either because we want an upgrade, or because the rules and expectations of society will convince us to, or because a form of law and government may force us to. What will the meaning of life be when we let our neurons synapse with a network of artificial intelligence?

From a biological perspective, we said that what we define life is matter of CHON that grows, reproduces, is organized, metabolizes, responds to stimuli, adapts, but from a philosophical point of view what do we call life and what do we call human, and what do we call a life of meaning? We will one day stop being human, we will evolve to something else, and the philosophical debate of what is life, and what is intelligent life, and what is the meaning of life, will not be comprehensible to us anymore. At this point in time, and at a near point in time, if we were to accept as a matter of fact clones, androids, and alien humanoid creatures, or interspecies humanoid creatures as humans, the definition of humanity itself will have to change, and yet there will be in this society a set of rules and limitations (how human of us), more expanded than now, but still limited, of what is life, what is intelligent life, and what is human. If we were to discuss what it means to be human, most people would come up with: free will, love, capability of learning and thinking for oneself, capability of empathy and social bonding, appreciation of art, music, literature, curiosity, exploration, change, evolution, adaptation. Any creature of nature or laboratory that would be capable of any of these qualities and more, will enter in the society of humans. Any creature that we will be able to feel empathy for will be called life. The meaning of life, the meaning of intelligent life, and the meaning of human, will expand in time, but it will most probably, always be limited. One concept that will last longer than any other concept in humanity will most certainly, even if not without a doubt, be the concept of the barbarian, that which is not like us, that which is not included in our sphere of empathy and understanding. More and more barbarians will be included in our circle as we evolve, but the prejudice will last for as long as we have human DNA, and human data.

Through this essay I have attempted to figure out the meaning of life to us humans in a world that is far different from what we are used to. With the expansion of our knowledge of the universe, and with the advancement of our technology, we may encounter ideas and concepts foreign to us now, that will be more familiar later. The philosophical debate of the meaning of life will continue and it will expand the more we know about ourselves and what surrounds us. There's no lesson to be learned from this essay, such as, we have to hold on to our humanity for as long as we can, and to our understanding of life as long as we can. If there was some kind of a lesson, it would be that our concepts and ideas aren't eternal and they change, and our prejudice also changes with time. The more we find out about ourselves the more we recreate the meaning of life. If we are in fact computer data, and if we are to ever prove it, we will have to deal with what the meaning of life is, and build this meaning around this reality. If we aren't computer data but real humans of flesh and blood and thought we will continue to build our meaning and concept of life around it. When we integrate artificial intelligence, and artificial life around us, we will again build our concept and meaning of life around it. And when we become pure energy and pure consciousness we will, or might again build our meaning of life around it. If there is a conclusion to be made in this rationale, is that we can only make an assumption and come up with a conclusive answer and result, by computing the data that we have at hand, and the more data we receive, and as the data changes, so will the final computation, calculation of the equation of the meaning of the universe and life be changed.

If we were data in a matrix of data, a simulation of a higher or similar form of being that is trying to figure out itself and its universe as Savage theorizes, we will have to build our concept and meaning of life around it. In a simulated universe, we are still alive, and we are still intelligent, as long as we compute the data and we interpret the data as real. Even in a simulated universe, and as simulated life forms, we are as a matter of fact real and the same meaning of life that revolves around a real universe, will revolve around this complicated computer.

Just think, next time when you meet an android, an AI life form, now, or in a few decades, we can all be some kind of AI too, so who's to judge what's alive, and what's not. Life, intelligent life, humans and concept of humanity, and the meaning of life itself, in a simulated universe, or in a "real" universe, whatever real means, will always evolve and transform. As we change faster than we ever did, we might as well start to expand our horizons, and to rid ourselves more of our prejudice and limitations. 

1 comment:

  1. I think you're idea of a simulation is more than than an idea it is a healthy view to have of our personal world around us. For good or bad most people will need some kind of religion to get by. Because they see all the drama and colour in their life as real and concrete, but how could it be so what they see as concrete is really just their perceptions either an aspect or just a reflection of themselves, their thoughts which are judgements and feelings betray little more than prejudice. If fact most people think reality is so real they refuse to look at it. They turn ninety degrees from this reality so it remains in their peripheral vision. the problem with this is when someone keeps something that is happening and speeding to the edge of their vision or behind them, it is even more streeful and their pain grows without them ever realising it and when a life remains unexamined it has been wasted in the living. If we realise all the good things and the bad have to happen, that both Martin Savage's and Hitler have to go through here, then you can see it like a simulation. Then you can just be here, present and integrated with your experience. Then you can look straight back at the simulation and enjoy every moment of your time good boyfriends bad boyfriends, and remember everyone else is conditioned also in the same simulacrum, everyone will hurt you sometime, the only decision you must make is which of these people you want to spend this time around with and thats rather interesting,..