Re: Cognution [was Re: Deep Blue - white paper]

Darin Sunley (
Sun, 05 Sep 1999 02:48:24 -0500

Spike Jones wrote:

> I was with friends today and they asked me a question that stumped me.
> Perhaps extropians can help: How do we *know* we are not *currently*
> uploaded simulations, running on some unimaginably advanced supercomputer?
> Is there any way to know? spike

I wrestled with this for a while the last time it came up here. The question came up in the context of fighting a war with the beings running a simulation. The best methods I could come up with were picking a VERY remote corner of the universe, building ENORMOUS particle accelerators, etc. Basically attempt to attain the extreme states available under physics (temperature, mass/energy densities, velocities) as we know it and if possible explore the universe's failure modes.

Note that this is not merely technology indistinguishable from magic (very advanced) but technology creating magic (magic being defined as the breaking of the laws of physics). :)

A less dangerous method of simply detecting out status might simply be to attempt to determine if, at the highest resolutions of the universe, physical processes appear to correspond to computation. I'm not sure how useful this is. Spoiler reference for greg Egan's Diaspora:
Spoiler Space:

Spoiler Space:

Spoiler Space

There, that ought to be enough.

Can the "squids" ever find out they're living in a computer formed of Wang's Tiles floating in a ocean somewhere. I doubt it. The squids live in a thousand dimensional frequency space implemented by an organic computer in a 3 dimensional space.

It MAY be possible to generalize from this example that our physics is dramatically more complicated then that of any space that might be implementing our universe. On the other hand we can implement 2 dimensional spaces easier then 3d spaces, so the "surrounding" space might be more complex then ours.

Certainly a good (and certainly entertaining) first step would be the development of the field of speculative physics. The construction of and extrapolation from dramatically different physical laws, and the impact these alternative systems have on what we describe as "computation". If we learn the various shapes computation CAN have, that may help us when we try to match our laws of physics to one of them.

Darin Sunley
"Man's reach must exceed his grasp, else what's a heaven for" :)