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I've recently seen a few articles like this (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/blogs/physics/2015/07/are-we-living-in-a-computer-simulation/) which entertain the possibility that life as we know it is actually a simulation in some other advanced life form's computer system. At first, I was inclined to dismiss this theory out of hand, but then it occurred to me that it may not be as far from the truth as I had initially thought.

If we consider that God is the Creator and infinite upholder of the universe of universes and that everything in the evolutionary universe is modeled after things that exist in eternity (God, Havona, Paradise, etc.), then in some sense it would be appropriate to call the evolutionary universe a simulation of eternity. God creates simulations of himself (TAs, various orders of celestial beings and other personalities such as us, etc.) in universes similar to Havona and Paradise in structure and function in order to collect data (experience) in an environment that approximates his own. Eternal survival could be a function of collecting "good" data which conforms to expected parameters and rejecting "bad" data which does not. Advanced simulations (God the Supreme, etc.) occur as a result of the accumulation of sufficient "good" data points.

I've only just begun to give this some serious thought, so I haven't really gone any further than this so far. I just found it an interesting thought experiment that others may find interesting as well.

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"If a man places a gulf between himself and God, this gulf will bring fear. But if a man finds the support of the Invisible and Ineffable, he is free from fear." --from the Taittiriya Upanishad


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Hi Tony,

I don't think that's so farfetched an idea. Each ultimaton that makes up the Master Universe could be like a silicon junction in computer hardware, or a collection of them. Some have likened life and things that go on here as a dream or thought of God.

Many years before Douglas Adams wrote his popular series "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" I had been thinking that the Earth and other planets could be analogous to a vast computer program that is designed to flush out every bit of truth, beauty and goodness that can be gotten from a limited area of the cosmos. And Adams' Earth was a 5 billion year program designed to find pretty much that, hidden in the question: "What's the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything?"

Adams' problem was of course that he had neither the imagination or research skill to find the UB. And he may not even have recognized the truth of what it told him if he had...


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Whether life is a computer simulation, or other type of simulation, or simply an opportunity to engage in experiences (which lead to growth) makes no difference to me. We exist in physical bodies on a physical plane while our identity (our true identity) has its origin on a spiritual one. That is our challenge and opportunity. To utilize this mortal experience to attain our highest growth potential and thereby to attain spiritual status that will enable us to become more and more like our Father.

That said, it is kind of fun to think about life on earth as a computer simulation. It certainly helps us take ourselves less seriously, which is always a good thing.


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The problem I have with the simulation notion is that fundamentally it presumes the entirety of this reality is mechanistic and all things are subject to antecedent causation. This is inconsistent with what we are told due to the presence of the spontaneity of mind.

I ran across this when researching mind, thought it might be relevant to this discussion:

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42:11.2 (481.6) Mechanisms do not absolutely dominate the total creation; the universe of universes in toto is mind planned, mind made, and mind administered. But the divine mechanism of the universe of universes is altogether too perfect for the scientific methods of the finite mind of man to discern even a trace of the dominance of the infinite mind. For this creating, controlling, and upholding mind is neither material mind nor creature mind; it is spirit-mind functioning on and from creator levels of divine reality.

42:11.6 (482.4) Extremely complex and highly automatic-appearing cosmic mechanisms always tend to conceal the presence of the originative or creative indwelling mind from any and all intelligences very far below the universe levels of the nature and capacity of the mechanism itself. Therefore is it inevitable that the higher universe mechanisms must appear to be mindless to the lower orders of creatures. The only possible exception to such a conclusion would be the implication of mindedness in the amazing phenomenon of an apparently self-maintaining universe — but that is a matter of philosophy rather than one of actual experience.

42:11.7 (482.5) Since mind co-ordinates the universe, fixity of mechanisms is nonexistent. The phenomenon of progressive evolution associated with cosmic self-maintenance is universal. The evolutionary capacity of the universe is inexhaustible in the infinity of spontaneity. Progress towards harmonious unity, a growing experiential synthesis superimposed on an ever-increasing complexity of relationships, could be effected only by a purposive and dominant mind.


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quil wrote:
The problem I have with the simulation notion is that fundamentally it presumes the entirety of this reality is mechanistic and all things are subject to antecedent causation. This is inconsistent with what we are told due to the presence of the spontaneity of mind.



I am not sure that it does. A computer model would do so. A computer simulation, depending on how it is designed and the outputs desired, is not necessarily that way. A simulation can be projected from a single data input, with random number generators or other spontaneous inputs into the simulation to allow for a completely random and unpredictable result, can it not?

To take another tack, all things really ARE subject to antecedent causation according to the Urantia Book -- the causation of God's will. Nothing happens without God willing it so, first, AFAIK. God granted mortals on Urantia free will, therefore, we are able to make mistakes and do stoopid stuff, which serves kind of like a random number generator in a simulation.


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Agon D. Onter wrote:
quil wrote:
The problem I have with the simulation notion is that fundamentally it presumes the entirety of this reality is mechanistic and all things are subject to antecedent causation. This is inconsistent with what we are told due to the presence of the spontaneity of mind.



I am not sure that it does. A computer model would do so. A computer simulation, depending on how it is designed and the outputs desired, is not necessarily that way. A simulation can be projected from a single data input, with random number generators or other spontaneous inputs into the simulation to allow for a completely random and unpredictable result, can it not?

To take another tack, all things really ARE subject to antecedent causation according to the Urantia Book -- the causation of God's will. Nothing happens without God willing it so, first, AFAIK. God granted mortals on Urantia free will, therefore, we are able to make mistakes and do stoopid stuff, which serves kind of like a random number generator in a simulation.


Well, the only difference between a computer model and a computer simulation is that a simulation is a model applied over time. You cannot have a simulation without a model. And the inherent implication of the simulation proposition is that everything in reality can be reduced to some type of finite model, and we know that's simply not true. There are multiple Absolutes which are the source of many reality phenomena.

I agree it's tempting to think of a mind system as a purely finite model with simple inputs and outputs. But the problem with trying to draw a parallel between random input sources and free will is that will, volition is inherently NOT random. While yes, it has elements of unpredictability, the nature of volition is purposeful and directed. Randomness, on the other hand, is well... always random.

It's also tempting to think that ALL things in reality are subject to antecedent causation. But that's not strictly true, for God is the Uncaused Cause. There is no antecedent causation of the I AM. This is important because it reveals a fundamental truth of the primacy of will. Things are because of the volition of The Infinite. The source and plan of reality is not random.

As will creatures, we share this property of volition with The Source of Reality. If our volition is random, then so is God's. But then that conclusion leads to a contradiction with the fact that God is purposeful. So the whole thing kinda implodes on itself.


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Well, true randomness can’t be implemented in a (digital) computer, only so called pseudo randomness. Any computer generated 'random' sequence of numbers is produced by a completely deterministic algorithm; although a sequence may look random, it can be reproduced exactly by the algorithm. So, even though our free will is really very limited, pseudo randomness is not a very good model of free will.

Nevertheless, pseudo random algorithms are fundamentally unpredictable; it cannot be predicted what the n-th generated number in a pseudo random sequence will be in any other way than running (iterating) the algorithm n times. And pseudo randomness can be very creative (think e.g., though not strictly pseudo random, of the Mandelbrot fractal) and pseudo randomness can solve problems that are practically humanly unsolvable (see e.g. simulated annealing algorithms).

Now, the computer has always been an interesting metaphor of the human mind and it sure can be an interesting metaphor of reality itself (God). But something will always be missing. A computer is a machine; it will never be or magically produce a single conscious living free will being.

Just some thoughts.. O:)


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Bart wrote:
Well, true randomness can’t be implemented in a (digital) computer, only so called pseudo randomness. Any computer generated 'random' sequence of numbers is produced by a completely deterministic algorithm; although a sequence may look random, it can be reproduced exactly by the algorithm. So, even though our free will is really very limited, pseudo randomness is not a very good model of free will.

I'm not disputing your claim "Bart", however, back in the day our group contracted to use random number generators, using a encrypted key fob, linked to our user ID's, which was synced up with our central security, which used the constant calculation of "Pi" based on a specific time element. It was extremely secure, as long as your key fob was not stolen and the thief did not know your ID.
Could the random numbers generation through the calculation of "Pi" (ie: http://www.piday.org/million/ ) be used to insure true, or truer randomness? Can the number sequence be placed into a three dimensional number matrix, with variable H, W and D, still be random enough and at the same time generate duplicate results when the same vector is used, and changes depending on angular direction from a fixed point.?

Just some additional thoughts? Not necessarily conclusive.


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Caligastia wrote:
I'm not disputing your claim "Bart" …
Well, since you are "not disputing my claim", I leave you to find the answers to your own questions.. :mrgreen:


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quil wrote:
You cannot have a simulation without a model.


Actually you can, which is why I was led to the idea of the universe or the planet being likened to a gigantic program in operation over vast amounts of time.

There are a couple of well known techniques: Genetic Algorithms and Neural Computing (Neural Networks). Neural Networks are a collection of simulated neurons that connect to each other and can fire impulses of various strengths into the network when they're given an input impulse. The network is "trained" by forcing an output of a known problem answer. There may be hundreds, thousands or millions of input-to-output training values given. Doing that alows you to find solutions to dynamic problems without ever knowing how the network is constructed or operating. The principle is that the network builds a certain intelligence that goes beyond providing an answer to only the one it was trained to provide.

Genetic Algorithms operate by letting populations (of simulated living organisms having whatever properties you wish to give them) grow, reproduce, die and mutate.


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Hi Riktare. An artificial neural network (ANN) is a simple algorithmic model of the brain which is defined by a network topology and a few mathematical rules/formulas and parameters. What (trained) ANNs can do is recognize static patterns. And a genetic algorithm is a simple model of biological evolution and genetics, which may be used to automatically solve (static) problems with many simultaneous constraints, such as complex planning or design problems.

It is possible to use a genetic algorithm to artificially evolve an ANN architecture that is really very good at learning to recognize certain input patterns. But pattern recognition is not equivalent to human cognition; it seems to be only the perceptual basis of cognition. For example, You cannot train an ANN to play chess. It might learn to recognize certain types of chess positions, but it cannot produce a good next move. And any chess computer works completely different from ANNs. Yet, humans are very good at playing chess; the official world chess champion is not a computer program..

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195:7.12 If universe reality is only one vast machine, then man must be outside of the universe and apart from it in order to recognize such a fact and become conscious of the insight of such an evaluation.


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Hi Bart,

I have to disagree that Neural Computing is a model. It's certainly an analog or conceptual nod to how we think the brain and neurons work. But how an ANN actually works is in the mathematics. It's essentially a weighted filter where each "neuron" stores its own weight for a given input. The output is the sum of the weighted inputs. That the brain/mind doesn't work in the same way was shown a long time ago when some gruesome investigators starting burning out large portions of the brains of various animals. They found to their surprise that the organisms functioned normally in spite of the massive damage. The living brain functions as a whole entity somehow.

I've built ANN's from scratch and while they can be extremely useful, like any machine they can be unruly too :)


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Hi Riktare,

Well, ANNs are at least 'inspired' by biological networks of connected neurons. And in much neuro-psychological literature, ANNs are proposed as a general model of information processing in the human brain. I personally experimented with various ANN architures, to model/simulate low level visual information processing, which produced some interesting results that could be related to the general architecture of the visual cortex. And damage to the visual cortex may lead to visual impairment or blindness, just as in the model. But I agree that higher level cognitive functions are much more diffusely organized than low level sensory and motor functions.

Anyway, the question was: "is life a computer simulation?" If this were the case, then someone somewhere must have build a spiritual computer. That must be the Universal Absolutes and the Universal Father, but they are part of the simulation. The question seems to presuppose that someone somewhere is simulating God, which is of course absurd. So the answer is no. Life is not a computer simulation.. :)

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195:7.1 How foolish it is for material-minded man to allow such vulnerable theories as those of a mechanistic universe to deprive him of the vast spiritual resources of the personal experience of true religion. Facts never quarrel with real spiritual faith; theories may. Better that science should be devoted to the destruction of superstition rather than attempting the overthrow of religious faith—human belief in spiritual realities and divine values.


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Ricktare,

You just conceded that ANNs are simulations of conceptual (mathematical) models. A model does not need to reflect any observed reality to be a model. I could construct a model of how flanigans doodlepop lightning bugs, run a simulation, and derive whatever meaning I want from it. The point is that no simulation can be had without the act of mind formulating its parameters and cementing what the things and relationships are in the simulation, i.e. building its model.

So the idea of life being a simulation would point to God being the mind building the model and running the simulation. But as Bart pointed out, since God is part of our simulation, He too would have to be simulated, leading to a contradiction.


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Bart wrote:
Life is not a computer simulation.. :)


That was a given of course :) But... if the computer is not a machine but a biologic entity or even vastly stacked groups of biologic entities with the topmost level being the composite "computer", then maybe we're approaching the concept of The Supreme Being :)


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