Why we could be alone in the universe

A bit of a philosophical post today.

First I’ll start with a belief of mine, it’s highly probable we’re living in a simulation.

This is because:
1. We’re reaching the stage where  we can create more and more complex simulation worlds. Our artificial intelligence agents, while still very primitive, are getting a lot better. Once we can simulate a human brain and also scan a living brain we will very likely be able to digitize people. In addition, quantum computing will allow us to simulate every atom of the universe. These simulations tend to be simplifications of our current universe, but as computing power increases the effort required to create a simulate tends towards being trivial.

2. If creating a simulation is trivial, then so long as the civilisation creating them survives, it makes sense to assume an infinite number of simulations would spring up. If infinite simulations exist, then the probability of us being in the one true (non-simulated) world would tend toward the trivial also. That is, there’s almost no possibility that we are currently in a non-simulated universe.

I was doing some thinking on evolutionary computing and how it could be used to create an ecosystem of agents that compete to complete tasks on the Amazon Mechanical Turk. Sure they’d only make a few cents, but it might be enough to cover their hosting/computing costs, which could essentially make those agents completely independent.

Then I got to thinking, once evolutionary agents start being created (by us and by other agents), most agents will exist to solve a problem, they’ll have a purpose. The probability of being an agent created purely for academic no-purpose observation would be next to nothing. The academic agents will be created and observed, then shut down, while the agents with a purpose (even if it’s just ‘making enough money to live another day’) will carry on indefinitely.

If you take these two concepts together; it’s highly likely we live in a simulation, and it’s highly likely this simulation exists for a purpose!

This creates another answer to the Fermi-paradox, the question of where are they? If we’re not alone in the universe, why haven’t we made contact with extra terrestrials?

If you assume that it’s highly likely that this universe exists inside a simulation, and that just as in nature, all agents or simulations are created to fill an evolutionary niche, ie they’re created for a purpose, it makes sense that we would be alone.

If something has created this universe to gain an information output, assuming that human calculations are the output, it makes sense that they wouldn’t want to contaminate it with other life forms. And so it would seem probable that no matter how far we spread through this universe, we will never find others like us, because this universe was created for a purpose and that would only mess things up.

As an analogy, imagine a computer program designed to classify clothing. You give it an item of clothing and it has to classify whether it’s a shirt, pants, socks or a hat. It has to work out whether it’s for a man or a woman, what colour the item is, and what size person it will fit. The point of the program is obviously to classify the clothing so it’s more convenient for shoppers to find the items they want based on their needs. This is a task commonly sent to the ‘Mechanical Turk’ for humans to do, because computers are currently very bad at it.

So imagine a program designed to complete this task instead of humans, earn a few cents in the process and pay for it’s own hosting. Firstly, it would likely have some form of evolutionary computing. Instead of just trying to ‘exist’, it would spawn many instances of the same code with a few variables tweaked. Then it would let each program try to work out the correct answer, and assess each program against the actual answer (‘it’s a blue, male shirt’). These agent-candidates would all be insulated from each other to avoid contamination of their answers, much like how in an exam you can’t talk to the person next to you.

From the perspective of each agent, the world is made up of four dimensions (colour, gender, size and clothing type). It has a model of the world consisting of objects that track the dimensions, and the successful agents have worked out that they need to correctly classify the clothing to be ‘fed’ (or continue existing). The agent lives and breathes these concepts and doesn’t understand anything outside of them, because the clothing and the reward are the only input it has. Just like we live in a world with four dimensions, we live on rocks and breathe air, we compete against each other for ‘energy’, what if the entire universe we live in, our entire model of the world, was simply the input for a program? And the actions we perform are the output, from which we are ‘fed’ (survive).

In such a scenario, assuming our current actions are the intended final output of the program, I can’t imagine ever coming into contact with extra terrestrials, it’s possible the universe isn’t even simulated to that level of complexity outside of the solar system until we get there. This would satisfy the Fermi-paradox question of, if they’re out there, why haven’t we heard from them? It’s not that all civilisations destroy themselves after achieving the ability to communicate and spread through the universe, it’s just that those civilisations are insulated from each other and will never be able to communicate.

What do you think?

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