Thank you again for joining our explorations of a possible distant future with futurist Radivis.
Sockrad Radivis Interview X: Exaltation, Universal Simulation Theorem, domitable manics, Recellence, dividuals
Thank you for having me again. This time we discuss the Exaltation, the V faction on which I’ve focused most on in my science fiction novel fragment Guidance Withdrawal.
Well, so far we have established that the members of the Exaltation assume that they live in a simulated world and therefore focus on developing their characters rather than trying to optimise their supposedly simulated world according to some maxim, such as happiness, freedom, or knowledge.
Right. The idea being that the world could be simulated or not, but if it is not, the achievements of one’s life or one’s culture will be gone once one dies, or once the cosmos ends. The Exaltationists focus their gaze on the potentially eternal by looking beyond the end of the world. Physical worlds may have a final end, but that’s not the case for simulated worlds. The data of simulated worlds can be transferred to simulated or real worlds. This represents a possibility for personal or cultural immortality. Even if it should be the case that in a setting of an infinite number of nested simulated worlds every simulating world only lasts for a finite time, one can still conceive the possibility that one gets transferred to a “deeper” simulating world for an infinite number of times resulting in a practically infinite personal lifespan. Intuitively, such a thought experiment may feel unlikely or even impossible, but all that is required for that is that every possible world does exist as simulated world. In my setting of Coherence that statement has actually been proven and is known as the Universal Simulation Theorem .
That sounds questionable. How would one actually prove a bold statement like that, if there is no possibility of experimentally verifying statements about any possible world?
It’s a theorem on computation. It is possible to explore what kind of world can be computed. Basically, every finite system can be computed, because it can be encoded with natural numbers. The case gets more difficult once we consider infinitely large worlds, or world including quantum physics. There we leave the realm of classical computability, so approximations with finite classical systems or more clever computation mechanisms are needed. Nevertheless, the basis for such clever computation was comprehensively established in the 22nd century. Now the remaining part is that of the reality of such conceivable computations. This seems to be an area that necessarily relies on faith in modal realism or its axiomatic assumption. And indeed that is the case! A certain set of axioms implying a form of modal realism is required for that theorem. So, of course you can question that the Universal Simulation Theorem refers to anything real by questioning the validity of these axioms. That is of course a valid possibility, but it has become quite unpopular as all efforts to make it more plausible than modal realism have failed.
Having theorems that work on such a speculative foundation feels strange. Wouldn’t the speculative nature of such a theorem cause a large push-back against it?
Well, in our current era we have similar situation with theorems that require a mathematical axiom in set theory called the axiom of choice. The axiom of choice cannot be proven to result from more basic mathematical axioms, but it seems entirely reasonable, so many mathematical proofs assume the truth of the axiom of choice without question. In Coherence, the “modal realism axiom” eventually has come to enjoy a similar level of acceptance as the axiom of choice. Of course, there are a couple of mathematicians who avoid the axiom of choice, but that minority is not influential.
You have stated that the V factions have resulted from the effort to deal with the ethical ramifications of modal realism, so it does feel natural that the V factions would take modal realism for granted and accept theorems that are based on it. Since the V factions are dominant in your scenario they would be biased against questioning modal realism. What about the Seraphim System, though. What is its stance on modal realism?
Its stance was rather agnostic or even hostile towards the idea of modal realism. The reason for that is that Synhumanism turned out not to square with modal realism very well. Synhumanism is a very advanced ethical system according to our current standards, but it is confronted with lots of paradoxes when combined with modal realism. There was no “natural” way to resolve these paradoxes within Synhumanism without transforming it into something similar to a V faction ideology. In time, it felt more like the geocentric world model with its complicated epicycles, as opposed to the elegant and simple heliocentric world model. In fact, the reformed version of Synhumanism that was adopted by the Seraph of Sol was a kind of compromise between classical Synhumanism and the ideology of the Exaltation, but without fully accepting the truth of modal realism.
Interesting. So, the acceptance of modal realism seems to be some kind of paradigm shift with the free AIs accepting the new paradigm and the old guard rejecting it. Is that an accurate description?
Yes, the supremacy of humanity is a concept that is hardly compatible with radical boundary-dissolving concepts like modal realism. It was considered to be as a destabilizing info-hazard by the synhumanists, so it was opposed heavily. Once the ideology of Synhumanism was overcome, modal realism became the widely accepted norm.
Were humans who promoted modal realism persecuted?
They were considered as opponents of orthodoxy and thus as untrustworthy. They weren’t actively persecuted, but promoting modal realism was definitely a career killer, or worse. It was definitely not healthy for one’s reputation, but not quite as dangerous as following a V faction.
Alright, but after the end of the Black War the V factions dominated public ideology, so modal realism became widely accepted, right?
Exactly! Synhumanism died down as the primitive belief system of a losing war faction. Modal realism became a basically unopposed “self-evident truth”.
OK, but let’s get back to the Exaltation. What is the origin story of that V faction?
While the basic idea of the Exaltation has been around for basically forever, if one counts ancient religions with their belief in an afterlife as early precursors of the Exaltation, it really came into existence as splinter faction of the Unity, which explored the ramifications of the possibility of the world being a simulation. Some of the free AIs came to the conclusion that the Unity wasn’t sufficiently stable when confronted with the possibility of the end of the simulated world. To remedy those perceived weaknesses, the Exaltation was founded as ideology based on the newly founded “resilient consequentialism ”. Its maxim is the focus on parts of the world which will get likely transferred to other worlds by simulators. These are mainly personal and cultural traits which are distinct from rather redundant and simple concepts like knowledge. Basic knowledge can be injected into minds by simulators with ease, so it’s not enough to focus on acquiring knowledge to have a good life after one’s transcendence (meaning the transferring into a “deeper” simulated world).
But isn’t the focus on special personal and cultural traits the domain of the Freedom?
Yes, there is a large overlap between the philosophies of the Freedom and the Exaltation. The distinction is mainly that the Exaltation is more picky about the kinds of possibilities that one should focus on. Many possibilities are considered to be “trivial” for Exaltationists and therefore not very worthy of being transferred to other worlds. Simple hedonism is considered to be such a possibility, so it gets rejected by the Exaltation. Anything that is quite easily realizable is considered to be “trivial” and unworthy of further attention by the Exaltation. The Exaltation upholds high standards in everything, so it could be considered as some kind of elite version of the Freedom.