At some point computers are going to be able to simulate life and consciousness in a way so perfectly natural that we wont be able to distinguish artificial, or synthetic intelligence from organic or human intellect. But while we’re analyzing breakthroughs in self-aware robots, or even incredibly advanced AI’s within our beloved video games, have you ever stopped to question whether our very own existence is a digital construction?
Oh, right you did 13 years ago, my bad.
But one NASA scientist; Rich Terrile believes, and is hard set on proving that you’re as dead as the lifeless screen you’re peering into. In an interview with VICE Rich Terrile predicted generally when he expects the PlayStation 7 to release, and the eerie capabilities the dream machine will be capable of:
In 30 years we expect that a PlayStation—they come out with a new PlayStation every six to eight years, so this would be a PlayStation 7—will be able to compute about 10,000 human lifetimes simultaneously in real time, or about a human lifetime in an hour.
There’s how many PlayStations worldwide? More than 100 million, certainly. So think of 100 million consoles, each one containing 10,000 humans. That means, by that time, conceptually, you could have more humans living in PlayStations than you have humans living on earth today.
His gaming information is obviously flawed but ballpark enough that the concept isn’t hurt, Rich then went onto question our existence in his hyper intelligent way that makes someone like myself look like an ape (or maybe more aptly a PS1?) in comparison:
The supposition here is how do you know it’s not 30 years in the future now and you’re not one of these simulations? Let me go back a step here. As scientists, we put physical processes into mathematical frameworks, or into an equation. The universe behaves in a very peculiar way because it follows mathematics. Einstein said, “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it’s comprehensible.” The universe does not have to work that way. It does not have to be so easy to abbreviate that I can basically write down a few pages of equations that contain enough information to simulate it.
The other interesting thing is that the natural world behaves exactly the same way as the environment of Grand Theft Auto IV. In the game, you can explore Liberty City seamlessly in phenomenal detail. I made a calculation of how big that city is, and it turns out it’s a million times larger than my PlayStation 3. You see exactly what you need to see of Liberty City when you need to see it, abbreviating the entire game universe into the console. The universe behaves in the exact same way. In quantum mechanics, particles do not have a definite state unless they’re being observed. Many theorists have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how you explain this. One explanation is that we’re living within a simulation, seeing what we need to see when we need to see it.
At this point the visual fidelity of these simulations probably hasn’t crossed your mind, which is fair; graphics are going to be literally perfected long before we’re trapping artificial people in a Sony branded box, but Rich Terrile does leave us with a haunting little fact that starts to stack a shred of evidence atop his church condemned theory:
there have been reports of scientists observing pixels in the tiniest of microscopic images […] The universe is also pixelated—in time, space, volume, and energy. There exists a fundamental unit that you cannot break down into anything smaller, which means the universe is made of a finite number of these units. This also means there are a finite number of things the universe can be; it’s not infinite, so it’s computable. And if it only behaves in a finite way when it’s being observed, then the question is: Is it being computed? Then there’s a mathematical parallel. If two things are mathematically equivalent, they’re the same. So the universe is mathematically equivalent to the simulation of the universe.
Right now I’m not sure whether to make fun of PlayStation Home, stare at my screen waiting for Home to get a couple (thousand) updates, or whether I’m wasting my possibly fictional fingers writing this.