EPISODE RELEASED 1st MARCH 2022
HOW LIKELY IS IT THAT WE LIVE IN A SIMULATION?
ARE VIRTUAL WORLDS 'REAL'?
In this first episode of the 2nd Series we delve into the fascinating topic of virtual reality simulations and the extraordinary possibility that our universe is itself a simulation. For thousands of years some mystical traditions have maintained that the physical world and our separated ‘selves’ are an illusion, and now, only with the development of our own computer simulations and virtual worlds have scientists and philosophers begun to assess the statistical probabilities that our shared reality could in fact be some kind of representation rather than a physical place.
As we become more open to these possibilities, other difficult questions start to come into focus. How can we create a common language to talk about matter and energy, that bridges the simulated and simulating worlds. Who could have created such a simulation? Could it be an artificial intelligence rather than a biological or conscious being? Do we have ethical obligations to the virtual beings we interact with in our virtual worlds and to what extent are those beings and worlds ‘real’? The list is long and mind bending.
Fortunately, to untangle our thoughts on this, we have one of the best known philosophers of all things mind bending in the world, Dr. David Chalmers; who has just released a book ‘Reality+: virtual worlds and the problems of philosophy’ about this very topic. Dr. Chalmers is an Australian philosopher and cognitive scientist specialising in the areas of philosophy of mind and philosophy of language. He is a Professor of Philosophy and Neuroscience at New York University, as well as co-director of NYU's Center for Mind, Brain and Consciousness. He’s the founder of the ‘Towards a Science of Consciousness Conference’ at which he coined the term in 1994 The Hard Problem of Consciousness, kicking off a renaissance in consciousness studies, which has been increasing in popularity and research output ever since.
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What we discuss in this episode:
00:00 Short Intro
08:27 The science of knowing the nature of reality
11:02 The Simulation Hypothesis explained
15:25 The statistical probability evaluation
18:00 Knowing for sure is beyond the reaches of science
19:00 You’d only have to render the part you’re interacting with
20:00 Clues from physics
22:00 John Wheeler - ‘It from bit’
23:32 Eugene Wigner: measurement as a conscious observation
27:00 Information theory as a useful but risky hold-all language tool
34:30 Virtual realities are real and virtual interactions are meaningful
37:00 Ethical approaches to Non-player Characters (NPC’s) and their rights
38:45 Will advanced AI be conscious?
42:45 Is god a hacker in the universe up? Simulation Theology
44:30 Simulation theory meets the argument for the existence of God from design
51:00 The Hard problem of consciousness applies to AI too
55:00 Testing AI’s consciousness with the Turing test
59:30 Ethical value applied to immoral actions in virtual worlds
The difficulty of simulations within simulations