If we are living in a computer simulation, as Nick Bostrom has argued is a possibility, maybe this is not just an ancestor simulation but an interactive computer game. In this game, some of its creators, or participants, assume various roles, such as country leaders or scientists who make remarkable discoveries, and some even cause conflict and wars. Maybe the main objective is entrerntaiment or it may be something else we do not understand and in this context some fundamental questions arise.
I have argued in a book that I wrote in 2001 but I did not publish that our world is a functional virtual reality, i.e. a virtual reality that allows local interactions within the bounds set by physical laws. This partially resolves the problem of free will at a local level at least. In a paper published in 2005, in which I argue that Newton’s Laws that purport an independent reality are a subset of a more general system of laws based on power that support the functional virtual reality hypothesis, I argued that this hypothesis of a functional virtual reality generates testable predictions. In a more recent paper in the FQXi contest, I presented an experiment that can be used as the basis for testing the functional virtual reality hypothesis.
Two of the fundamental questions that arise are:
(1) Can we determine experimentally if this world is indeed a simulation/game, or in the sense of my terminology, a functional virtual reality?
(2) Can we affect the outcome of this simulation/game from “the inside” to where we want instead of it being guided only by its creators or “outside” participants and what that could mean for our future?
I have tried to answer (1) in the FQXi paper mentioned above. I believe that we are close technologically to a point where we can get initial indications of whether this reality is virtual if we can get experimental proof that spacetime is pixelized. In my forthcoming book I present detailed arguments as to why this is the case but the general idea is that motion cannot be accompliced in a pixelized universe unless there is recreation of what we perceive as being matter at every pixel, i.e. a computer guided process.
As far as (2), any kind of “uprisal” from “within” can have negative side effects on our simulated/functional virtual reality unless we align our objectives with those of a major player and help him win in exchange for leaving our world intact after the game ends. Thus, (1) is necessary but also going one step further and getting in contact with major players should be necessary for our continuous existence.
The thing is that the players/participants will continue playing this game only if interesting enough situations arise which are complex enough to require their attention, like a world war, a global financial crisis, or even some alien invasion. It appears that this world is built based on some principles that contribute to high complexity, like the Pareto law and the inverse square law. The former creates inequalities and gives rise to conflicts, necessarily, as it affects amongst other things income distribution. The latter makes it extremely impossible for anyone escaping this world because it is manifested for example in a gravity force and makes even local travel very expensive and environment polluting.
The high complexity of this world gives rise to interesting conflicts/problems that its “outside” participants/creators like to challenge. At the same time it creates a lot of hardship for simulated entities because problems are very hard to solve. The participants take leadership roles in an effort to find solutions and/or create more problems. One solution is an attempt of getting in contact and or assisting those participants who seek to minimize conflicts and hardship for simulated entities and getting in exchange some benefits.
Regardless, the idea that we live in some kind of autonomous physical reality must be abandoned as soon a possible for the shake of the future of this world. This world cannot exist autonomously based on its physical laws and that it is some kind of simulation or functional virtual reality should be more of a common sense than anything else.
As a final note, to scientists who have been raised with the old doctrine of an autonomous physical world all these may sound like crackpot stuff. Mind you, my first profession was to design robots and automation equipment, both control systems and mechanical parts. My name is on an AT&T robot workstation patent where I worked after finishing college. I have not come to the conclusion that our word is some kind of a simulated virtual reality or what I call a functional virtual reality because I went mad. Neither Nick Bostrom came to his conclusions because he is a crank. We came to these conclusions after a painstaking look at our physical reality from many different angles while taking nothing for granted.