ACCORDING TO an article in the Huffington Post:
Physicists have devised a new experiment to test if the universe is a computer.— from the article Physicists To Test If Universe Is A Computer Simulation, by Michael Rundle.
A philosophical thought experiment has long held that it is more likely than not that we're living inside a machine.
The theory basically goes that any civilisation which could evolve to a 'post-human' stage would almost certainly learn to run simulations on the scale of a universe. And that given the size of reality - billions of worlds, around billions of suns - it is fairly likely that if this is possible, it has already happened.
And if it has? Well, then the statistical likelihood is that we're located somewhere in that chain of simulations within simulations.
A group at the University of Washington claims that physics suggests that we are living within a simulation, which “would be a matter of looking for a “signature” in our universe that has an analog in the current small-scale simulations.” They claim that such a signature has been found.
Quantum mechanics is one of the fundamental theories of nature; the other being the theory of relativity. While quantum theory is quite successful at predicting outcomes of experiments on very small scales, it has numerous conceptual and mathematical problems. One rather embarrassing problem is that solutions to its equations tend to blow up to infinity, which requires some method of sweeping the infinities under the rug (albeit in an ad hoc way). Renormalization is one such method, and other is the lattice model, which maps space and time onto a rectangular lattice.
The researchers are using the lattice model, and are using predictions from this model to make the bold claim that we are living in a simulation.
Just the other day, I had some correspondence with a philosophy student, who is writing a thesis on quantum mechanics. Here is part of what I wrote to him:
…I do think that some of the interpretations of QM are motivated from bad philosophical thinking or ideology.Euclidean geometry, despite all of its complexity, derives ultimately from five simple axioms [later expanded, taking into account some assumptions by Euclid]. The fifth axiom, the parallel postulate, was abandoned by Einstein, and from that he derived the general theory of relativity, which posits that space can be warped. On ordinary scales that we experience, space appears to be absolutely flat and so we can use Euclidean geometry without error. Likewise, some other tweaking of the axioms of geometry ought to give us something that is closer to nature, but on the human scale will resemble Euclid.
However, I believe that one key to digging deeper into the quantum world is to abandon Euclidean geometry as a framework — it is often assumed — but as we know, both space and time are created things, and not absolute.
Renormalization is one unsatisfying way around the infinities generated by Euclidean geometry, but this directly implies that space is quantized; however, grid lattice formulations are just silly, in my opinion.
Clearly, there has to be something that looks like geometry as we approach classical lengths, but has fewer axioms on the quantum scale. Also, there needs to be something in the formulation which does not strongly differentiate 'here' from 'there', in order to derive a simple explanation of confinement and quantum entanglement. Assuming pure geometric locality has gotten physicists into trouble many times. I haven't thought of it much, but there should be similar nonlocal interactions across time. That would be stunning, but shouldn't that naturally come from the theory somehow?
Perhaps a bit of mystical contemplation is needed, for all these theories — and theology — point to an underlying unity…
The grid lattice formulation used by the researchers in their thought experiments is just silly, and the so-called signatures they have discovered could fall out naturally of a better theory, and not be a by-product of computation. Would nature actually work in such a manner? Of course not — but because the physicists use it, leads some of them to believe in the greatest conspiracy ever devised, that we are living in a computer simulation, which was the central premise of the plot of the popular film from 1999, The Matrix.
Simulations nested within simulations. This seems rather fishy, as well as familiar to those who know Church history.
Ultimately, this is a modern rehashing of the oldest heresy, that of Gnosticism, said to derive from Simon Magus, who offered to buy Saint Peter's power of healing, and it is from that heretic that we get the sin called simony, the buying and selling of ecclesiastical offices. The Gnostics disbelieved that a good God would create a cosmos with evil within it, and so they posited a series of universes within universes; the final one being created by an evil god, whom they identify with the God of the Old Testament. Jesus, in their system, is simply a god from a higher-order universe, who gives believers true knowledge (gnosis) which will save them. But even a superficial reading of scripture will disprove both ideas.
This contrasts sharply with the orthodox view that the world was created very good, and that evil is a by-product of free will which has been misused, and that Jesus saves through self-sacrifice.
Gnosticism is quite popular today, as seen in the article Rapture and the Gnostic Tendency. We must hope that this computer simulation idea does not gain traction, but knowing the perversity of academia and the media, we may be in trouble, for this type of thinking tends to have an extreme hatred for the material world. The Gnostic tendency is to be extremely violent, for the world in their eyes is evil: and modern believers may think that a computer simulation has no intrinsic value. May God help us if someone proposes that we ought to 'reboot the universe.'