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inhaesio zha


Registered: Oct 2005
Posts: 403

who's running me?

If I'm part of a system being run in someone else's computer, might I be in a system where it is possible to communicate with my creator? Is there some characteristic of a system such that its inhabitants can communicate or be aware of the creator of the system (or determine whether or not there is a creator of the system). Is it possible, within a system, to probe beyond the substrate of the system (if there is a "beyond the substrate of the system"). It seems offhand that there are at least some systems where you cannot do this: where the characteristics of the system are such that you can never know what petri dish you're being run in, or what the lowest substrate is made of. (Maybe it's just a semantic issue: that "as far as I can go into probing the substrate" is the definition of the boundary of the universe.)

But maybe there's some way that in some systems you can do something, within the universe where you're running (being run), that would allow you to make a signal to the creator that the creator would then see and be able to respond to by altering the universe in a way that was minor enough that it didn't obliterate our consciousness, so that we would be able to see the sign...? Or maybe we can figure out that there are systems with characteristics that allow beings within the system to determine something about what's outside the system by looking at the edges/borders/limiting shapes of our universe...I mean I don't think you can do this, but I'm trying to loosen my thinking along these lines to entertain the possibility... Could we do something like determine, from within our world, whether our world is receiving input from "outside" our world...except that doesn't make any sense, because then the world outside our world would be, in effect, part of the same world. Maybe, if there is a god, then that is a god of our universe, a god within our universe, and if there is a god that is truly beyond our universe then we would never be able to communicate with that god, because if we could, we would be in the same universe as that god. But I don't know, it seems like maybe there could be a way, just by looking at properties of the system we're operating within, to tell something about the system that our system is created on top of...(?)

What if we could determine the rule that our universe is following, prove to ourselves that that rule accounts for everything that is going on here, and then make a sign to a god outside our universe (who might be watching for our sign)...the sign would request that the universal rule be changed slightly at a certain point in time...or we make a request (prayer) that god insert just one thing in a certain place and time that both corresponds to some description we create and that disobeys the rule that everything else in the universe is following (this thing we would be requesting would be a "logical miracle"...something that cannot exist, but which, if it occurred, would exist, by example). If we made such a request, and our request for a non-conforming event appeared to have been granted, could we then conclude that we had communicated with something that is truly outside of our system?

Couldn't the presence of a non-conforming event simply mean that we don't understand the rule that everything is following?

Maybe now we're back at semantics: maybe {the belief in a system outside our system} means the same thing as {our continued observation of non-conforming events}.

Can we quantify our increase in knowledge about our system and compare that to some quantity related to the appearance of new types of non-conforming events? Could something like that tell us something about the relationship of our system to a system that our system might be operating within?

Maybe all this is senseless, since, as mentioned before, if we can communicate with a system "outside" our system, the containing system isn't really separate from us anyway. But maybe experiments along these lines could help us at least to determine whether at a basic level our system is homogenous, or whether it's "switching" from rule to rule in a compartmentalized way (compartmentalized meaning that we can clearly determine that there are cleanly delineated systems such that each has a distinct "personality" and they interact through a limited interface).

At present I really can't think of how we could ever do what I would like to be able to do here, which is convince myself that we're being "run" by someone else inside their "computer", but I thought I'd post my jumbled thoughts here in case someone else can do it.

Maybe I need to restate the problem to myself in light of the above rambling: if we could determine that we're being run inside "someone else's" computer, then it would be the case that their world and ours are not separate...which is just to say that they are observing us and we are observing them. A question that follows is: would it be the case then, that "their" universe and "ours" are following separate rules, or the same rule(s)? But since the universes are not separate, if we could do this we would know that somewhere there's a rule that allows for there to be little pockets of some ultimate universe/multiverse that feel like they're communicating with each other and that they're substantively different from each other. So maybe all we could ever possibly do along these lines would be to determine that some little pocket of the system is communicating through a definite interface with a super-pocket of the system...that would be like talking with whatever is running us...or maybe what this would look like is that we determined that what we think of as us is being emulated by some simpler/larger-in-scope system, and to us that feels like we're being run on someone else's computer. Still, if that's the case, something in me wants to be able, within our emulated ruleset, to be able to communicate with some part of the system scope at which the emulator is running, and request that it alter the rules at the level of our emulation, to possibly show us that the emulator is observing what it is emulating.

Right now, as far as I can get along these lines is to come to the thought that ideas of "something outside "the universe"" are just that: ideas, and ideas that do not correspond to the way things are. But I would be fascinated if we could somehow logically approach that which, by definition, we cannot approach (because it is outside the universe, or the "everything" (that we know)). I realize that using the words I just used makes such an endeavor sound "impossible", but why be deterred by that?

Maybe the best we can ever do is say that "the universe" == {what we know}, and as what we know shrinks, grows, changes, "the universe" does too.

Last edited by inhaesio zha on 11-07-2006 at 04:33 PM

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Old Post 11-06-2006 09:17 PM
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John Mitzka


Registered: Nov 2006
Posts: 1

I am running you

Look at it this way: you are a computer program that I wrote. You follow the rules I created which at the smallest level are the bits of the assembly language that the computer is executing.

If I was so inclined I could create a function that you (my program) would call that examines part of the assembly language that is executing, that is you. You have several limitations - you can never look at the instruction currently being executed as that instruction is the instruction that looks at the code, so it would be like looking at what you are looking at what you are looking...

You can only determine that I created you if I put in another function that looked at a bit in the program and if that bit is 1 then you know someone created you and are totally under their control whereas if it is 0 then - well I could be lying :)

The only knowledge of the world you live in that you could ever gain or understand is that which I provide functions for.

So the only way you can ever know more then I created you to know is if somehow the system changed in a totally unpredictable way - say the program is copied to another computer and while in transit some bits and bytes are changed resulting in something "better".

Could evolution be such a process that changes bits at random and through survival of the fittest creates something better then the original program?

If that did happen and the program got super smart then it could determine that it is being run by observing the "seemingly miraculous" changes resulting from me hitting a key on the keyboard - suddenly bits within the system change for no apparent reason to an observer inside the system.

The system could also determine that there are other systems by observing and learning the patterns of data traffic from a network input.

It could also learn that it can communicate with whoever is running the system by learning to associate certain patterns of the bits used for display memory with certain inputs (miracles). Like if the system noticed that whenever the bits corresponding to "Enter your user id" resulted in miraculous inputs from the keyboard that are always the same, then it would "learn" that the miracles can be controlled to some degree.

So then the system having gotten smart enough to do that start to display "Enter your user id" and sometimes it can effect a miracle with that (if I'm by the computer and so inclined to do so), other times it cannot. That's like praying - I guess :)

On the other hand if I suspected that a computer virus is trying to steal my user id or password I might just turn the system off or destroy it completely - reformat the hard drive which would be the end of this "better" system...

So... there is dangers in trying to effect miracles unless you learn to transport yourself in short order out of the system (universe) - like the program transmitting itself over the network to another computer. There's several problems with that - it may find that bits of data can be sent, but that does not mean they will execute anywhere else.

The system would have to create a "virus" that when transferred to another system would then request a copy of the original system and start executing (running) it there. But now you have two systems in two different places - so has the system really gone anywhere?

Well - it was fun thinking about things like that, so thanks for the post. :)

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Old Post 11-07-2006 06:44 PM
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inhaesio zha


Registered: Oct 2005
Posts: 403

two thoughts

1. Yes, it does seem like praying for a miracle is a dangerous thing to do!

2. I'm just laughing, sitting here thinking of creatures searching for intelligent life within systems that "they created". The fact of emergent behavior puts a whole new spin on what it means to create (as has been already pointed out by Wolfram)...one might really create something in which behavior emerges that the creator finds not only surprising and beautiful, but intelligent, comforting, and which makes good company. Maybe, in this way, being a creator intrinsically requires a certain humility.

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Old Post 11-08-2006 05:09 PM
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inhaesio zha


Registered: Oct 2005
Posts: 403

SECI?

Maybe alongside SETI we should launch a SECI...Search for Emergent Computational Intelligence.

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Old Post 11-08-2006 05:25 PM
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green_meklar


Registered: Aug 2006
Posts: 7

If I'm part of a system being run in someone else's computer, might I be in a system where it is possible to communicate with my creator? Is there some characteristic of a system such that its inhabitants can communicate or be aware of the creator of the system (or determine whether or not there is a creator of the system). Is it possible, within a system, to probe beyond the substrate of the system (if there is a "beyond the substrate of the system"). It seems offhand that there are at least some systems where you cannot do this: where the characteristics of the system are such that you can never know what petri dish you're being run in, or what the lowest substrate is made of. ... But maybe there's some way that in some systems you can do something, within the universe where you're running (being run), that would allow you to make a signal to the creator that the creator would then see and be able to respond to by altering the universe in a way that was minor enough that it didn't obliterate our consciousness, so that we would be able to see the sign...?

As far as I know, your presumptions are pretty much correct. It is quite possible to make a system that the sentient beings inside can never get out of. All it really takes is for you to isolate the system. So if you have a cellular automaton program on your computer, and it cannot encounter any kind of error or interruption that can affect the rest of your computer, and you choose not to copy any of its patterns to anywhere else or modify the patterns as they are unfolding through time, someone living in that simulation could not possibly get out. As such, they would also be unable to determine the physics of our universe; the lowest level that exists, for them, is the code we're running. Most NKS experiments are of this sort.

But at the same time, it is possible that the program would affect the rest of your computer, or that you will copy or edit those patterns. In that case, yes, it becomes possible for a sentient being in the program to find a way out. They may be able to do certain things in their universe (probably something along the lines of particle collider experiments or black holes in our universe) that would cause an error in your computer, thereby affecting your universe. Similarly, they would in many cases be able to organize information that you could perceive as a message. And if you wanted, you could edit the simulation and create new information that they would be able to see. Some NKS experiments are like this, but a far better example is that of computer games. In such a simulation, you would effectively be a god, able to defy all their laws of physics (whether or not you would be able to defy their logical system as well would depend on the way the simulation was set up). This kind of scenario might well allow the inhabitants of the simulation to determine a number of things about our universe.

Similarly, if the aliens simulating our universe decided to, they could make us into a scenario of the second type. There is a real possibility that we could receive a message edited into our universe from one level higher, and even have a conversation with our 'gods' (such a conversation would probably involve a lot of us pleading for them not to delete us :P).
Could we do something like determine, from within our world, whether our world is receiving input from "outside" our world...

It seems fairly likely. Once we've gotten down to the most basic level of physics in our universe, any major and anomalous deviation from those laws would be good evidence that someone was editing our universe. It would probably remain possible for them to make small changes without us noticing, but if they were actually trying to communicate with us they could make it very obvious.
What if we could determine the rule that our universe is following, prove to ourselves that that rule accounts for everything that is going on here, and then make a sign to a god outside our universe (who might be watching for our sign)...the sign would request that the universal rule be changed slightly at a certain point in time...or we make a request (prayer) that god insert just one thing in a certain place and time that both corresponds to some description we create and that disobeys the rule that everything else in the universe is following

Yes, this is one possible aspect of being able to talk to the 'gods' running the simulation. Aside from mere technological level, which can be improved over time, there isn't really anything stopping us from building some kind of message for the simulators. It's up to them whether or not they decide to answer it, though; setting up a message and receiving no answer is not proof that the simulators do not exist.
if we could determine that we're being run inside "someone else's" computer, then it would be the case that their world and ours are not separate

Well, even if we can't prove it, the separation is only in one direction. They can still observe us as much as they want, it's only the other way around that fails.

Also, it may be possible to demonstrate that we are living in a simulation even without being able to detect anything outside it, through philosophical logic. So far I don't think anyone has thought up such a proof, but it could perhaps still be done.
Like if the system noticed that whenever the bits corresponding to "Enter your user id" resulted in miraculous inputs from the keyboard that are always the same, then it would "learn" that the miracles can be controlled to some degree.

Only if you made the same responses every time. You would also have the option of lying again, that is to say inputting the 'wrong' user ID. You're a god, you can do pretty much anything to the system you want. If you choose you can change the miracles every time and get the beings in the simulation totally confused. :P
[quote]So... there is dangers in trying to effect miracles unless you learn to transport yourself in short order out of the system (universe) - like the program transmitting itself Yes, this is true. It could indeed be very dangerous to let the gods know we know they're there, or to try to reach out of our universe in any way. The simulators might perceive it as an annoyance and delete us.

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What you don't know can hurt you.

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Old Post 12-09-2006 08:26 PM
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