You are a Simulation & Physics Can Prove It by George Smoot (Full Transcript)

George Smoot at TEDxSalford

Full text of George Smoot on You are a Simulation & Physics Can Prove It at TEDxSalford Conference.

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Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here. They asked me if I wanted a drink before I came on and I asked for a pint but they gave me water. So, following the other speakers I have a change of pace, a little bit of a fun talk. And what I am going try and do is convince you you’re a stimulation, and that physics can prove it, okay? So, instead of a usual uplifting talk, this is a different kind of talk.

Okay, so, there’s one thing you know for certain, that is that you exist as a flesh and blood human being; my goal is to convince you otherwise. Okay? So, logic is not going to be enough, you guys are going to be simulation deniers, there’s just no way round it.

So, my actual goal will be to actually create a sliver of doubt in your minds, so that you actually think about this, and what it might mean. Okay?

So, here’s is the first check about simulations. How many of you have ever played a computer game? Just raise your hands. Ah, all right.

So, did you do it against simulated player or simulated players? Or, in fact, was it you, several people plus simulated people? Right. And what role did you take? Was it a pawn or a hero? What role do you have in life? Is it pawn or hero? Right. Are you the king, for example? I don’t see him here… but…

Now, the other thing you might ask, if you were a social scientist, or other kind of scientist like a cosmologist: Would you like to run realistic simulations to test and develop your theories? Likewise for political candidates. Right? So, I’m just trying to see there’s motivation for it.

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And then the question is: Are computation and simulation capabilities increasing over time? So, think of the HetNOS, think about Moore’s law, think about what computer you had when you were young and what you have on you now, not that you’re not all young still. Okay, that’s just setting you up for having the doubt.

Okay, so we’ll take a little journey into philosophy. Solipsism is the idea that one’s own mind is the only thing that’s sure to exist. It turns out, people have been studying this for decades, and realizes both irrefutable and indefensible at the same time, so have this point of view, and that it’s not a falsifiable hypothesis, there are people who work on this issue.

So, there doesn’t seem to be any imaginable disproof that you can have, so even if you have a Solipsan, and he dies, you can’t falsify his belief, because he’s not there to do it. So this is a pragmatic dead end, it’s kind of like what we have on TV now, which is, you know, zombie philosophy. But there is an opposite, that is philosophical zombies. There’s a slight use to philosophical zombies.

So what is the idea here? The philosophical zombie is a hypothetical being that in this thing what you all thought a normal human being, that is everybody you think you are, you know what you think you are, except that it lacks conscious experience, qualia or sentience.

So, if you take a philosophical zombie and poke it with a sharp object, it doesn’t feel any pain, however, it behaves exactly as if it does. It would say “ouch” and do all the usual kind of things. So, what the zombie is there for, is to support the idea that the world includes two kinds of things: the mental and the physical, or the concepts and the physical world around you. And so that’s the idea.

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