Archive for the ‘science’ Category

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posthuman and hardwired

August 18, 2007

or “is God a gamer?”

i read an interesting article the other day that suggested we live in a “computer simulation” – that our version of reality is nothing more than a constructed world akin to that seen in the Matrix movies or a Will Wright game.  earlier this evening, i mentioned it to my other half, zero, and we got into a rather heated discussion about the idea on the way to the supermarket (and in the supermarket… and on the way back home… and then for a while at home…).  it was only heated because i can be pretty stubborn when defending an idea – while i don’t necessarily believe we do live inside a computer simulation, i definitely believe it is a possibility.  after all, our universe is so elegant, so mathematically precise, that it’s impossible not to draw comparisons with a computer program.

outside the matrix

the basic idea behind the theory is that if we assume that posthuman civilisations achieve the potential to create “realistic” simulations, perhaps based on their human ancestors, and a great many number of these simulations is created, then logic and probability suggests that our reality could be one of those “virtual” ones.

i think the whole idea upset zero a little, and he kept asking questions like, “if that’s true, then what’s the point of living?”  which is actually a valid question.  if mankind were to discover that life was nothing more than a complex simulation and we are merely “intelligent” Sims, what would that mean for us?  sure, it might answer some of the questions that have been plaguing us for centuries (“why are we here?” “is there a god?”) but it’s unlikely these answers would be the ones we wanted to hear.

i personally see no real distinction between a world that was created as a computer simulation by posthumans, one that was constructed meticulously by God, or one that was brewed in a laboratory by an advanced alien race (apart from the obvious differences, of course).  in all of these cases, the world is merely a stage and we are the actors with no tangible connection to the director.  hell, we don’t even know if there is a director, or if we’re just running around blindly trying to figure out our next line and the meaning of that last pivotal plot point.  and would knowing which of these possibilities was the actual reality drastically alter the way we live our lives?

a reader of the Sentient Development blog commented that “we’ve now entered the realm of an untestable hypothesis.  any and everything could be ‘explained’ with this theory”.  both parts of his statement are true – it is kinda pointless debating something that can probably never be proven (by us, anyway), but i think it’s the latter part of his comment that appeals to so many people – it does appear to explain everything in our universe quite neatly.  (why are our laws of physics so? – because they were programmed that way, etc).  it removes the difficulty of actually having to explain everything.  of course, this argument is really no different from “because God made it so”, but as i said, it really makes no difference who our god is; posthuman, alien or otherwise.

so do we live in a computer simulation?  maybe.  does it matter?  probably not, although there are some implications we should consider.  if we do live in a simulation, it probably means that the human race evolved at some point to a stage where it was technologically advanced enough to create a computer simulation realistic and complex enough to fool its inhabitants.  that’s gotta be a good thing, right?  but if we don’t live in a simulation, then the opposite is probably true – that humans will never evolve to a posthuman stage.  or maybe we did/will evolve, but posthumans had/will have no desire to create simulations.  which would also be a good thing for us, ’cause it implies that our reality is probably… uh… “real”.

i doubt that we will ever know for sure whether or not we exist in a computer simulation, and, like zero, i secretly hope that we don’t.  while it might be nice to suppose that George W. Bush is just the god-gamer’s sick idea of a joke, the idea that humankind might be destroyed (or destroy itself) before it could evolve scares the shit out of me – but not as much as the idea that our thoughts and emotions are somehow…  synthetic.

update:  Keith Olbermann discussed this theory on Countdown the other night.  watch the video on YouTube here, or download a .mov version below.

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is there anybody out there?

April 19, 2007

or “moon anomalies for beginners”.

moon base?

when i recently informed my sister that they’ve found structures on the Moon (along with various other unexplained anomalies), she requested some websites where she could see and read for herself.  now, i’m sure she wants to see actual evidence of these structures on the Moon (and Mars), but to be frank, there is no “real evidence” (yet).  what i mean is, there’s nothing that you’d see that would make you go, “oh my god, that’s a building!”  when viewing images of the Moon (or any other astral body), you have to keep in mind that these photographs were taken from very far away, and that many have been censored or doctored by NASA.  in a way, you have to look at these anomalies in context with their surroundings.  for example, take the above picture of a “Moon base” – at first glance, you see a crater on the Moon.  but if you look closer, you’ll notice that although the majority of the Moon (in the image) appears “flat” and “smooth”, the area around the crater in the middle of the image is vastly different.  there are bumps and ridges and lines.  sure, it’s possible that they are natural formations, but then we have to ask ourselves – what caused this “natural formation”?  weather?  a meteor shower?  are these likely options?  and then you have to use your imagination a little – if we took a photograph of a city on Earth from high above, would it still look like a city?  or would we just notice that the terrain looked “bumpy and different from its surroundings”?  that’s often the case with these photographs – they are taken from too great a distance to really represent what they are.  we can’t see the individual streets and buildings and parks.  but we can see that there’s something there, something that’s different from what we might expect.  that’s why these are lunar anomalies, not hard evidence of the existence of extraterrestrials.  we look at these images and say to ourselves, “gee, that sure looks like a photograph of a city taken from a great height”.  the proponents of these lunar structure theories aren’t saying “that’s a Moon base” – they’re saying “that area there looks different and unexpected, and warrants further investigation”.  usually these anomalies are given fanciful names to illustrate what they resemble, or what they could represent.  if we see what looks like streets, we’ll nickname it “the freeway“.  if it’s round, we’ll call it a “dome“.  the important thing to remember is that we don’t really know what extraterrestrial buildings would look like.  we don’t know what materials the architects used, if the structures are above or below ground, if the “streets” are really roads at all.  we could even be looking at the ruins of a city, and not a bustling, thriving metropolis.  a skeptic could look at any of these photographs and state that they see nothing unusual, that the lunar landscape looks exactly as they imagined it would.  but a viewer with an open mind might think, “yeah, that does kinda look like a city from far above – maybe there is something there”.

i’ll admit that i am a “believer” – i think it’s highly unlikely that we are/were the only “intelligent” creatures to ever inhabit this solar system.  i’ll also admit that when i look at some of these images, i can’t see a damn thing.  but then there are photographs that really make me scratch my head and wonder, “what the hell caused/created that?”  as i said earlier, they could all just be amazing natural formations, but i’ll be damned if they don’t look artificial.  so all i ask of you, the viewer, is to keep an open mind, and try to put things into context.  ask yourself the right questions (ie, “how did a triangle get into that crater?”).

a good place to start is the Anomalies Network – specifically, their page on Moon/Mars anomalies.  the links under the “general information” heading contain a wealth of images and information.  the anomalous Moon images page just contains links to images, so is a good place to whet your appetite before plunging ahead.  also be sure to check out the pages about the “tower”, the “shard”, the “castle”, and the “monolith graveyard” on Mars, as these are probably the most “obvious” examples of unexplainable structures.  for a summary and explanation of what you’re seeing, make sure to read the “interpretation of anomalous structures on the Moon” page, where a geologist backs up the claims of the man who originally discovered these bizarre structures, Richard C. Hoagland.

Hoagland actually specialises in mysterious Mars anomalies, so once you’re done perusing the Moon pictures, there is much information to be found on his own website, the Enterprise Mission – and let’s face it: the stuff on Mars is often a hell of a lot weirder.  there’s a lot to wade through, and it’s not particularly well-organised, so good luck.

but back to the Moon – it wasn’t actually the supposed structures that piqued my sister’s interest in the Moon, but my claim that it is a hollow, artificial satellite.  now, i read a hell of a lot of stuff online that i often don’t keep a track of, and unfortunately, i can’t locate the site where i originally read this claim.  however, i did manage to find a number of interesting articles that follow this theme.  Strange Moon facts sums it all up rather nicely, but for further reading, check out the following articles.  if anyone knows of any good hollow moon/artificial satellite pages, please let me know – my inquisitive sister will thank you for it!