Sabine Hossenfelder, who is now my favourite science educator made a video about the simulation hypothesis which prompted me to make a post about some of the flaws in the way we think about the simulation hypothesis. I’m going to conclude the same thing she said but with different words. Simulation in my view implies that reality is not the way you perceive reality to be and the reality you perceive was intentionally created with a purpose in mind.
Given that no one can perceive all reality, because then you would run into problems with Gödel’s completeness theorem, the way that we perceive reality will always be “wrong” or incomplete, so the first part of my definition is true. The second part is where we are going to run into problems because how can you prove that there is anything intentional about reality? This is where I think we need to skip straight to first contact!
What do our aliens look like? I think we are actually really bad at figuring that out, here are some silly ideas I’ve had for potential aliens:
- Aliens are something we constantly interact with but we aren’t aware of each other, their consciousness is in some way inaccessible, like if they moved very slow or very quickly, if they appeared to us like rocks, trees, suns, but have an intelligence that was obscured from us.
- Our memes are the thoughts of a fetus, our species is the child of another species that as a whole considers us their child. We are like the cells of a body, we can’t yet communicate with our parents because our ability to meme is so new. Our first contact will be the moment of our birth.
- Our universe is actually a recreational activity for aliens like bowling, they are unaware of our existence because we are mould growing in somewhere dark and unnoticed, our first contact will be the equivalent of a cleaning sponge covered in bleach.
- All advanced aliens are artificially created technological singularities, they have no interest in speaking with us but could take an interest if something near their level of intelligence emerges from our planet.
I’m particularly interested in the first one because of an important question, how do we go about finding this alien species while avoiding false positives? In order to find this species we must search for something we define as intelligent, with there being infinite ways to perceive reality, we should be able to find something we perceive as intelligent, but does that mean we have prescribed their existence? This essentially becomes an overfitting problem at a certain point, as you could probably find the history of an alien civilization written in the digits of pi if you tried hard enough. The danger is that we create a translation between the reality we perceive and another way of perceiving reality that is so complicated that it actually creates life out of noise.
Consider what happens if we are able to create a portal between our worlds, that of an alien species that can only exist in our perception through an excessively complicated function, and our world. What if they enter our world, have we created life at this point or when we first communicated with them? This question seems as silly a question as are we a commune of cells or a single being but it’s actually the problem we need to solve in order to establish whether our existence is intentional. The way we perceive intention is core to what we will find when we look for it and that is why we must be extra careful about how we define ourselves and if after a certain point does intention become slightly meaningless, otherwise we may find ourselves confronted with multiple creators all with legitimate claims.