Are You A Brain in a Vat?


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graphic from the January 1954 issue of Web of Evil

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Yes, i can. Thanks for asking. I have often entertained the theory that my experience may be a simulation, here's how i came to disagree with that. We have simulations today, games like Grand Theft Auto, or the Sims, attempt to simulate a sort of reality, with some of the details of our own. Of course, however, these realities are not nearly as detailed as our own. On the most fundamental level, things in these universes are made from polygons, not electrons, protons and such - as is our universe. This is an example of simplification, we don't have enough storage or processing power to build things out of individual particles like we find in real life, so we simplify them. And herein lies the problem with the theory. I have been to other countries, even other continents. I can see clouds in the sky, the sun and moon, and the stars too. This isn't news, it just serves as evidence that there's a lot of stuff. Now, if this was a simulation, for each fundamental particle you would need to store and access its position, velocities, charge, mass and many other properties - Just so i can experience it correctly. Lets assume this simulation is in a pretty advanced computer, storing 1/0 with single fundamental particles. You would need, for example, 8 bits to store a value for each property, and there are at least 4 properties. This, in a minimalist scenario, requires 32 particles to store the information for 1. Therefore, to simulate anything perfectly you would need at least 32X the thing to store it in. At any scale, this is ridiculous. At the scale of the entire universe, which is by definition too vast and complex to comprehend, we find that we need 32 universes to explain how this one is a simulation! This lead to other such thoughts. What is the most efficient way to store all the information in the universe? The answer is on a 1:1 scale, one fundamental particle, with said 4 properties, stores the values of these properties with its properties.. and what do we have then? The universe. The universe is as simple as it can be, if you try to simulate it without simplification it becomes more complex, and if you simulated it with simplification it would be noticeably so. Therefore I conclude that this reality is not virtual, that the universe knows unto itself, and that you should come up with a harder question next time ;D
Posted by Cameron Brown on 2/1/2012 7:49:03 PM
@Cameron Bell Have you personally seen these particles? Hmm? Also, who's to say the capabilities of an otherworldly storage system? They may have compacted storage of universal amounts to the size of a potato chip. This theory is impossible to disprove or prove (without waking into the 'new world') and that is basic scientific philosophy.
Posted by Richard Marx on 2/20/2012 7:46:40 PM
It doesn't matter what I can't disprove. You can't disprove that we are all just characters in an advanced Sims game. But if there is no evidence to suggest that is the case, there is no point believing that we are, or you may as well just believe anything at all.
Posted by BigGingerYeti on 3/3/2012 5:34:23 PM
this is also the most fundamental refutation of the existence to the judeo religion's god.
Posted by Thomas Thompson on 3/23/2012 9:41:06 PM
@Cameron this is not really a refutation, your brain only experiences a minute amount of the Universe, and that minute amount is generated from a combination of neural input memory analysis. So a simulation would "only" have to stimulate your nerves with the correct signals to provide you with the "experience" of reality. Obviously not a trivial task, but orders of magnitude simpler than your scenario. The human mind is capable of synthesizing information from very few clues (sight is a good example), so a clever simulation could reduce the inputs by giving the brain the cues needed to trigger the synthesis. I prefer @BigGingerYeti's argument.
Posted by Mark on 1/23/2013 1:57:03 AM
Interesting points, everyone here. On the brain in a jar topic, I have considered it, and also have realized this question, "Why must we be a brain?" It is our senses that tell us we are a brain, so if they could be lying, they could also lie about that. It seems to me we could be anything.
Posted by Anonymous on 2/25/2013 9:08:08 AM

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