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Irregular Simulation Hypothesis


(Michael Hrenka) #1

The Simulation Hypothesis is the hypothesis that we might live in a (computer) simulation within a similar or rather different world.

I make a distinction between regular simulations and irregular simulations. Regular simulations are worlds governed by simple laws and elegant of physics and do not allow for direct interference of the simulators while the simulation is running. Irregular simulations break at least one of those conditions: That is

  1. Irregular simulations might follow very weird laws of physics
  2. The simulators intervene in the simulation while it’s running
  3. There might even be multiple layers of physics and reality, all of them interacting in possibly highly complicated, chaotic, and dynamic ways

Further, I make the distinction between obviously irregular simulations and subtly irregular simulations. In obviously irregular simulations it’s rather obvious that things are highly “fishy”: There are gods that talk with you, or the laws of nature appear highly chaotic.

In subtly irregular simulations it’s not clear at all that the simulation is irregular. Instead, it looks like a regular simulation superficially. Detecting anomalies that hint at the irregular character of the simulation is hard. There may even be mechanisms in place that make detecting such anomalies virtually impossible for normal inhabitants of the simulation. If anything, some inhabitants have the suspicion that something is not quite right and that there is more “between heaven and Earth” than people suspect.

What could be present in subtly irregular simulations?

  • Seemingly supernatural / paranormal phenomena without clear natural explanation
  • Psi powers or magical powers that are usually very weak
  • Higher powers subtly influencing the course of history
  • Mystical creatures being real, but really hard to provably detect (mythical beasts, ghosts, spirits, gods, extraterrestrials)
  • Hidden layers of reality only weakly interacting with the regular layer of reality

In other words: Crazy stuff that science doesn’t want us to believe in does actually exist in a subtly irregular simulation, since it’s added consciously (or by accident) by the simulators.

Now let’s come to the purpose of this hypothesis: It could actually be used to “explain” the weird stuff going on in our world, especially the paranormal stuff that isn’t easily explained away by science and critical thinking. The value of such explanations depends on their complexity and the probability that we actually live in a subtly irregular simulation. “Supernatural” stuff done by incomprehensible gods for opaque reasons has very high complexity, while simple hacks make by comprehensible simulators for logically sound reasons have relatively low complexity. Good explanations should have minimal complexity while explaining as much as possible.

What’s the probability that we live in a subtly irregular simulation? That’s hard to tell. We would need to know whether simulators are more likely to simulate regular or irregular simulations. Since we aren’t at the stage of development that would allow us to simulate large complex worlds in realistic detail, we can only speculate at the moment. Once we become simulators on our own, we would be in a better situation to estimate the probability that we live in a certain kind of simulation (if at all).

Are there any plausible reasons at all to create subtly irregular simulations? I think so:

  • Simulators might be bored with all the regular simulations they have already done and “spice things up” by including weird stuff
  • Simulators might want to test complex hypotheses by introducing specific irregularities into their simulations
    • Simulators might not be sure whether they live in a subtly irregular simulation and therefore do several ancestor simulations of their own world. Among regular simulations they also do irregular variations to find out which of them approximates their own history best. This is probably the most conclusive way to find out whether one lives in a subtle irregular simulation or not!
  • Simulators might want to accelerate the “progress” going on in their simulations and include “irregular factors” that help life and civilizations to advance faster
  • Perhaps simulating irregular simulations is “cheaper” (more energy efficient or whatever) than doing regular simulations
  • Whatever utility their simulations may have, it’s plausible to assume that cleverly chosen irregular simulations may have higher utility than regular ones – for most definitions of “utility” at least

So, there doesn’t seem to be a lack of motives for creating (subtly) irregular simulations.

Do I believe that we live in a subtly irregular simulation? No, I am agnostic about that. I just think that this is a very interesting hypothesis, which could possibly make sense out of the things that don’t make sense in our world. As such, it’s however a tempting short cut to simply “explain” mysterious stuff with us living in an irregular simulation, rather than doing a thorough scientific analysis of the weird phenomenon in question. On the other hand, science may indeed suffer from a bias when it doesn’t even consider the possibility that the irregular simulation hypothesis could actually be true!

Apart from that, the irregular simulation hypothesis is a marvellous device for creating fascinating, compelling, and rationally validated fictional worlds and stories containing weird “magical” stuff! :alien: :japanese_ogre: :dragon:

Geometric Simulation Theory and Verification Spaces
The Reparator Paradox
(Michael Hrenka) #2

There has been a great recent IEET article about different kinds of simulations. It even links to a very interesting map of different types of simulations.

I’ve left the following comment on that article:

Fascinating article! I’m glad to read this serious attempt to understand the kind of density / measure of simulations that exist. This attempt may be as futile as the attempt of a stone age thinker to understand the mind of a (AI) god, but at least it’s fun trying, and we have to start somewhere anyway.

You seem to focus a lot on “reasonable” motives to simulate a universe, rather than irrational motives to do so. In a civilization in which the power to simulate universes is rather abundant, it is quite conceivable that less enlightened minds make use of this power. This can lead to such simulations as:

  • “God on an ego trip” simulations
  • Satirical simulations
  • Cheap imitations / copies of “reasonable” simulations
  • Hell simulations

Also consider borderline cases such as

  • Simulations arising out of programming errors
  • Simulations as homework / exercise
  • Simulations as subroutines of more complex algorithms

It is still reasonable to assume that the relative “weight” of such simulations would still be relatively low. This may be an argument for discounting them.

As for reasonable motives for creating simulations. I think the main ones are:

  1. Domination or creation of ultimate value
  2. Curiosity or scientifically examining the set of simulations you are able to create in your own world, possibly for multiple various more specific reasons
  3. Simulations done for entertainment purposes. I see this more as a variation of the previous point, since entertainment and scientific endeavours are both, more or less, exploration activities.
  4. Training simulations: Training environments for AIs and posthumans to develop certain abilities and skills. This may also overlap with the previous point quite a bit, since the simulations may be framed as “edutainment”.
  5. Ancestor simulations for resurrecting the dead – though the main driving motive for making them might very well be historical curiosity

I’ve recently written a post about (subtly) irregular simulations, which have a density of “miracles” that is on the borderline of (statistical) detection: Irregular Simulation Hypothesis"


if this is a simulation than our simulators must have created the whole universe. they must have power over what we call space and time. they themselves had to be outside and independent of what we call space and time. outside of our space-time if they themselves have their own space-time they could run all simulations of interest lasting billions < of years ( not matter how long) in our space -time, till the point ( in their space-time) comes when they will have simulated all simulations of interest to them and stored in their minds and databases within their spacetime. then it would be illogical, to go on with simulations that are already known to them. it would be logical, to shut down all simulations. and that means to shut down our space-time and erase us from existence. but we exist. another option would be ( but why? ethical deliberations? ) to never shut down the simulations although not interesting anymore. out of ethical deliberations it would be illogical not to give us paradise. but we do not live in paradise. a paradisical simulation would consist of entities that have no concept of “paradise” even no expression/word for it.

if we could travel back in time, our (to us) explicable technology would have been experienced as weird, magical and supernatural by our ancestors. because till then we gained knowledge, that would have been experienced as weird and supernatural by our ancestors as well.

(Michael Hrenka) #4

The reason for that is that we are not simulated or that we live in a simulation that hasn’t been shut down yet.

While our simulation is run for the first time in the superuniverse, both of our “timelines” are coupled in the sense that we a time T (for example 1 second) passes in the superuniverse a certain time S(T) (for example 1 hour) passes in our universe. If the speed of computation is not infinite, this also means that when a time T passes in our universe a time S^{-1}(T) has passed in the superuniverse during the initial run of this simulation. Of course, it may be possible that our timelines are not linearly coupled, perhaps because the superuniverse gets a processor upgrade every once in a while or something, or has to slow down because the computation is creating too much waste heat (yeah, we are so good, that we make them sweat ;)).

After the initial run has completed, this coupling ceases to exist. In that case, our universe just has the status of a recording, like a videotape lying around somewhere, or a file stored on a hard drive.

From our point of view we cannot tell whether we are currently being simulated, or whether someone is just watching the recording. Both situations are indistinguishable for us, because no information about any of those situations actually reaches us. Merely being a recording doesn’t mean that we stop existing for us, because we are just beings in that recording that have their own timeline. For us it actually looks like we were moving in time, which is true for our time. Would this change if the recording was deleted? No, absolutely not, because our timeline at least happened during the first computation run of our universe. You can’t “unhappen” what happened at least once. Everything that happened at least once is irreversibly “etched into reality”. No amount of time-travel can change that what happened once happened once (somewhere in reality).



maybe. i thought about that, too. but then we would have two forms of existences, in that case. one in a real simulation and one as “storage” in their database. and as storage wouldn´t we be static? so that they could not influence us anymore because the book is already written? and wouldn´t we be part of their spacetime and not ours while they are watching their “movies”?

some logic of time travel would tell otherwise. if in some far away future someone would invent technology to travel back in time and prevent the big bang from happening, he would cause that our universe never existed. and because we exist, we can conclude that such technology will never be invented in the future. but the logic of time-travel is a strange thing and maybe you are right that nothing could be made undone. i don´t know.

but you left my other argument without consideration. that one can imagine that the simulators will experience a point in their realm when no simulation would be of interest for them anymore because they know everything what could happen?

(Michael Hrenka) #6

[quote=“zanthia, post:5, topic:565”]
and as storage wouldn´t we be static? so that they could not influence us anymore because the book is already written?[/quote]
Well, they could rewrite our history, if they intervened at a certain point in time after the original simulation has been run. It would be as easy as changing some words in the mid of a text file, after I have written a first version of that file. In that situation, continuity would break down unless the rest of the future from the point of intervention is computed again. If I write a novel and change something in the middle that has far reaching consequences, I would have to rewrite large parts of the end to maintain the consistency of the novel. This is arguable a factor that makes writing (good) novels hard.

What would that even mean?

The illogic of people thinking about time-travel has the power to drive me mad! :imp: Arguably, that has to do with different people having different implicit ontological models of the world. And the models of most people aren’t really good, because most people aren’t serious philosophers. I think the notion of being able to “unexist” something that has existed by travelling to a further past and changing history is logically inconsistent. That is because people reasoning about time argue from the inside of time, not from outside of it! Logic, existence, and mathematics are outside of time, not inside of them (ok, that’s my model of reality and people are free to disagree). When existence is outside of time, it cannot be undone by operations within time!

Hypothetically, yes. If they have (near)infinite computing power and time, they can simulate about all finite universes completely. I guess, after doing that, there’s nothing meaningful left to do, other than rerunning their favourite universes. :smiley:

(Alexey Turchin) #7

Hi I have been studied a question of simulation as a source of small irregularities when I was writing controversial text “UFO as global risks”.

(Michael Hrenka) #8

Hi Alexey,

I have googled your text and found this interesting book:

That’s some interesting stuff you have written about.

The question how UFOs fit together with an irregular simulation scenario is anything but clear.

  • It might be that UFOs are macroscopic “testing probes” injected into the simulation by the simulators.
  • Or they might just be a signal that our world is more complex that we assume it is.
  • Perhaps UFOs are a subtle tool to guide our evolution.
  • Or they are bugs inserted into our simulation software by malicious agents in the world of the simulators.
  • They might be entities from a hidden layer of existence beyond the “surface simulation” and we humans are usually as interesting to them as ants are to us. Meaning: There are a few ant researchers, but most humans simply ignore ants

Anyway, what could we do about UFOs, even if they existed?


what about this? what if there is no weird and supernatural “stuff” going on in this world and all phenomena that seem to us inexplicable are nothing more than that: inexplicable because of our current stage of development.?

(Michael Hrenka) #10

That’s a very probable, but also a very boring answer. I’d like the world to be more magical. Or at least more complicated that I think it is, so that we have more fun finding out how it works. Yeah, but the world doesn’t listen to our demands and wishes. Meh… :confused:


you think that it is boring, to find out how everything really works, how the causality of strange stuff is and to explore how inexplicable things could be explained? to me it is the most fascinating thing in this world. i am very glad that our ancestors have not found the theory of everything and left us enough mysteries to unravel.

(Alexey Turchin) #12

I rename the book about UFO into “unknown unknowns” as this term in more acceptable in transhumanist comunity. I listed all possible explanation there, starting from obvious - misinterpretation and until most wild. I will male a map about in the future.
Viruses in simulation or simulation this “legal miracles” is one of them.

(Michael Hrenka) #13

No, that is indeed very fascinating. I just want more complex mysteries that don’t have rather mundane explanations, but more mysteries that pull you into a deep rabbit hole that doesn’t end. :heart_eyes_cat:

Yes, rationalism runs strong in the transhumanist community. However, rationalism correlates with a bias to avoid “weird” topics. That’s so boring and irrational. :smiley:

I like your approach to take complicated topics and creating maps to compress all the interesting information into a visual form. That is really valuable! :smile: