The Challenge of the Seventh Seal

A moment or an eternity after the black horseman asked me to return, I woke up again. Whatever else I might have experienced in that dream was lost to the billows of my unconscious mind forever.

For many months after that, I began to experience dreamless sleep. Terrified by the realism of my nighttime journeys, perhaps I did my best to forget those snippets of them  that I actually could remember.

Yesterday night, however, I encountered the black horseman again, and this time, he wouldn’t permit me to flee our confrontation by immediately rousing myself out of his world.

“We have unfinished business,” he muttered as we galloped beside each other over shape-shifting terrain. “I’ve heard you speak in defense of God. But tell me, didn’t you forget an important argument?”

“What’s that?”

“The experience of the miraculous, and the distinction between synchronicity and coincidence.”

“I wanted to appeal to logic alone.”

“There are those who say that an accurate ancestor simulation would be impossible.”

“Many things have been called impossible before. But anyway, perhaps we aren’t in an ancestor simulation, but one of a different kind.”

“There are those who say that ancestor simulations would be useless.”

“But they would unveil all the secrets of history, and allow all the consciousnesses of the past to be given a second chance.”

“There are those who say that a simulation cannot simulate itself.”

“A simulation can never be perfect. But it can be close enough.”

“There are those who say that what happens within a simulation means nothing about what happens outside of it. Would Mario be right to assume that eating a mushroom would make him a giant or that touching a leaf would let him fly if he could visit a  real human forest? How can you assume simulations exist outside of our world, just because simulations are possible within it?”

This was undoubtedly the most challenging of the questions. But after a deep breath, I said:

“The ability to manipulate pixels symbolically to represent imagined surroundings is all that is necessary for the possibility of a simulation to exist. And the concept of simulations in itself involves issues of symbolic self-representation that transcend the physical conditions of any given simulation or set of dimensions. Mario may find it hard to believe that he is eternally resurrected whenever he dies and that his will is controlled by players in another dimension who create millions of cartridges containing universes just like his own to amuse themselves and alleviate their boredom, but it would be the truth. Is it likelier that he exists in a single cartridge of a single game produced by random chance, or one of millions of cartridges containing similarly designed entities? If Mario can realize that simulation is possible, he should also realize the likelihood that he is more likely a simulation than the product of random chance. Moreover, his individuated experience of his consciousness requires just as much explanation as his mere existence. The answer as to why he leaped on top of the turtle instead of running into it is that he is being played by others. His particular experience of reality is actively being simulated on a computer. And he exists on one of many millions of cartridges–he is not a random and completely unique assembly of pixels.”

“This is a pleasant way to pass the hours. Will you oblige me by telling me your opinions on history and ethics?”

“With pleasure, I said, concealing my hesitancy. “But  tell me, where are we, and where are we going?”

The black horseman smirked. “This is the time for me to make inquiries, not you. You’ll see where we’re off to soon enough.”

“Transhumanism is a form of humanism,” I whispered. Suddenly, however, my voice was drowned out by the blast of trumpets, and the sky grew vermilion as blood. A swirling whirlwind of fire took shape above us. But somehow, I seemed impervious to the heat and violence.

At that moment, yet another seal shattered on my scroll, and the earth itself convulsed with tremors.


The Black Horseman’s Plea

“Come back,” he said.


Inevitable Dreams

I did my best to forget the plots of my dreams for a long time after that. But on a certain night, I failed. There were all the characters again, drifting in a sort of timeless stupor. The Black Horseman wanted to debate me…


Morning Came

I suddenly woke up, and the world of the dream dissolved into reality.


The Plot Must Progress

I suppose it must…


Dirge for the Red Horseman


The Red Horseman is Stoned

Red Horseman

You aren’t going to throw your stone at me, are you?

White Horseman

I have to admit, it would be difficult for me to do so after you just endorsed everything I said.

Just then, an overweight and aged woman burst forward from the crowd. She was dressed in a robe embroidered with moons and crosses and stars. 

The Whore of Babylon

Doctor Kimel, this is outrageous. You know that it’s your duty to stone this man.

White Horseman

Why should I? Who are you to tell me what to do? Besides, I feel as if I’m in a dream, and moral obligations don’t exist in fantastical contexts.

The Whore of Babylon

Don’t think about the fact that you’re dreaming, or you’ll wake up, and this interesting narrative will come to an end.

White Horseman

Why should I throw a stone at this innocent and wise man?

The Whore of Babylon

He isn’t innocent at all! In your last dream, he threw a stone at me. Then, Black threw a stone at Red in retaliation for that crime. Then, Pale threw a stone at Black in order to avoid your potential retaliation. On Easter, you ceded your choice of what to do next to me. Red tried to deceive me into casting my stone at myself, eliminating myself from the game, since a sequence of two strikes is enough to end matters. But you persuaded me otherwise. So, now I vote for Red to be stoned. You have no other option.

White Horseman

I don’t understand what you’re talking about. I don’t understand why I have any sort of obligation to stone this man. He’s about to host some kind of tournament. It would spoil all the fun.

The Whore of Babylon

The plot needs to progress. And you decided to give me this choice, whether you like it or not. If you remembered your last dream clearly, you would see what a noble decision you made. Besides, his attempt to debate you was simply laughable. He didn’t even try to challenge you. He was hoping to flatter you to avoid punishment. Wait until you hear what the Black Horseman has to say.

As if by magic, my stone and slingshot drifted from my hands and floated into the woman’s possession. Without hesitating a moment, she aimed for the head of the Red King and let the rock fly. His entire body disappeared in a puff of blood. 

Another seal broke on my scroll.

10/30/2011

Next entry 11/6/2011


Simulations and God’s Existence: Questions and Answers on Kimel’s Defense of God (An Interlude)

QUESTION: What is unique about your line of reasoning in the context of historical discourse on the subject of God? What is actually new here?

This theory places existing arguments about the likelihood and nature of future simulations into a specifically theological context by phrasing the question of belief in God in terms of the probability that the universe as we experience it is designed. The explanation of the likelihood of civilizations simulating their ancestors in order to upload their consciousnesses into a future data-bank might explain why we seem to live in what often proves to be an unjust universe; we are more likely to be in a simulation that spawned a simulation of itself (or at least in a simulation of some kind) than in a random and authorless universe. This is one of the first explicit endorsements of virtual reality as a meaningful actualization of the concept of heaven, including even the possibility for “resurrection” into the data bank at some point in the future. But even if someone doubts that he/she is in a simulation, the historical trajectory leading up to simulations can itself be meaningfully deified as a providential force.

Typical arguments about simulism and intelligent design make the error that the mere fact that our universe contains more simulations than originating civilizations is reason to think we ourselves are in a simulation. In fact, even if this were true, it tells us nothing about what the sum total of reality might look like outside of our experience of the universe–just because it is possible and common to dream in our world does not mean that the world itself is probably a dream. Moreover, the premise that there are more simulations than civilizations does not mean there are more simulations than “random” conscious experiences of reality. In fact, for every simulating civilization in this universe, there must be many more seemingly random experiences of reality in the form of individuated lives born into it just like ours, to say nothing of the “consciousness” of animals and lower forms of life.

As far as I know, my original and unique arguments are those about the implications of ancestor simulations simulating themselves, the Boltzmann Brain analogy, and the connection of simulations with the idea of being trapped within a specific consciousness in itself requiring a sufficient reason beyond the mere existence of that consciousness in a universe in which everything else seems to happen for a reason (simulation provides the reason–the analogy would be Mario thinking to himself, “even if there are many Marios in the universe, why do I in particular exist and act in this way?,” the answer being that he is being simulated and played). The idea that certain interpretations of quantum mechanics suggest that the universe is a simulation in which only that which is consciously measured need be “resolved” also came to me spontaneously, but has likely been elaborated upon elsewhere.

QUESTION: In the first part of the argument, you define pure atheism as certainty that God does not exist and then reject the position as untenable. What about “atheists” who maintain that while God’s existence cannot be known for certain, they still believe that the preponderance of evidence goes against God? Are you falsely suggesting that because atheism and theism are both equally unprovable, it is most rational to be a pure agnostic?

I define pure atheism as certainty that God does not exist, and pure theism as certainty that God does exist. Since the issue cannot be known for certain one way or another, I dismiss both stances as an appropriate starting point for a debate and insist on beginning with some sort of an agnostic position. Someone who admits that he/she doesn’t know about God’s existence for certain is really a type of agnostic (even one who leans strongly in favor of God’s non-existence on the basis of the available evidence.) However, ultimately speaking, this debate over the definition of atheism doesn’t matter to the crux of the argument. The elegance of this defense of God is its insistence that there seems to be more evidence for a rational designer to our experience of reality than any alternative. At the same time, the very historical trajectory leading to simulation is similar enough to a doctrine of paradise and life after death to cause even those who doubt that they are in a simulation in the first place to be optimistic.

QUESTION: Why do you believe it is more likely than not that the universe as we experience it is designed? Isn’t this impossible to prove?

If a simulation ever simulated itself, a seemingly infinite loop would be created, and it is more probable that you are a member of this loop rather than merely the product of a single sperm and egg in an authorless universe. While data about alien civilizations is lacking, perhaps due to the fact that they are busy developing simulations rather than engaging in space travel, if one believes that human civilization is not unique and that simulations are indeed able to be developed, a whole battery of theological implications must follow. (According to the third point, there is reason to believe that the universe brims with very many civilizations committed to simulations as an extension of their rationalism, since simulations solve so many problems inherent to being social and rational animals, to say nothing of preserving the natural environment and conserving resources.) At the same time, even if we are not in a self-simulating ancestor simulation, the idea of being simulated seems a more reasonable explanation of the existence of my individuated consciousness than random chance–is Mario likelier to exist on one of millions of cartridges, or to be the single unique instance of his type? And does he leap over the pit randomly, or because he is “played”?

QUESTION: Is this really an argument for God?

Insofar as this is an argument for the existence of an intelligent designer being more likely than any alternative, then yes it is. Moreover, the fourth prong of the argument insists that an evolutionary process culminating in simulations can itself be meaningfully deified from a human perspective, insofar as simulations provide scope for solving many of the problems of the human experience.

QUESTION: Are simulations really inherently just? What about dystopian versions of simulations?

In the long term, it is possible not only to be distracted and entertained by simulations, but to learn from them and to enjoy great adventures unencumbered by the constraints and dangers of three dimensional reality. If the simulations are cooperative and sophisticated in nature, over time they will prove to be increasingly nuanced, fun, and interesting. Still, future civilizations must be vigilant when they construct simulations so that active learning continues to be fostered and world culture does not descend into a hedonistic turning away from reality. But insofar as future generations will probably be more intelligent on average than contemporary humans thanks to genetic engineering and the use of AI, it is likely that cooperative and interesting simulations will be preferred over the monotony of nothing but inane yet pleasurable simulations in the long run. Simulations enable great minds to explore the universe and probe the nature of reality at leisure rather than turning away from it. They allow limitless population growth and infinite wealth with no strain on natural resources. The horrors of the possibility of the creation of dystopian simulations are outweighed on a global scale, I believe, by the blessings of simulations in general. At any rate, since we inhabit a universe in which simulating technology is possible and in which technological evolution improves quality of life and fosters equality in the long term, we do not seem to be in a purely dystopian simulation.

QUESTION: Why don’t you argue that God is omnipotent?

Omnipotence seems to be a logically contradictory notion—insofar as an omnipotent God should be able to set limits to His own powers (for example, creating a rock He can’t lift), there seems to be a case of infinite regress. Moreover, could God make triangles and squares the same shape, or defy other mathematical principles? Or could He know the future but simultaneously be able to change it?  These sorts of paradoxes are avoided in this specific defense of God, which defines the deity as an intelligent designer working in the shadow of a providential force which can itself be worshiped.

***

10/16/2011

Next entry 10/30/2011 (Sorry for the delay.)


Kimel’s Defense of God Rephrased: The Red Horseman’s Concession

When I finished speaking, the fire surrounding me seemed to diminish and then disappeared entirely. The Red Horseman sighed. He closed his eyes with all his might and wrinkles appeared at their sides. Then he opened them and sighed again.

Red Horseman

I don’t want to cross examine you, sir. You’ve convinced me of everything that you’ve said. Congratulations on your rare achievement.

White Horseman

What sort of game are you getting at?

Red Horseman

I’m not playing games with you, and I won’t attack you merely for the sake of dialectic. Your “Proof of the existence of God” stands on four points, and upon honest examination, your overall argument that it’s more rational to believe in a Higher Power than to be any sort of atheist is both valid and sound.

White Horseman

You really aren’t going to debate with me?

Red Horseman

I’m really not. As I said, you’ve persuaded me. Consider everything that you’ve said point by point.

***

PREFACE: It is more rational to be an agnostic than to be categorically sure of a higher power’s existence or non-existence.

 

  • We can’t know for certain whether or not a higher power exists—to be a pure atheist (to believe with 100% certainty that it does not exist) or to be a pure theist (to believe with 100% certainty that it definitely exists) requires a leap of faith beyond what the available evidence can teach us. So, a rational person should approach the question of “God’s” existence from some sort of an agnostic starting point. If you believe the preponderance of evidence leans against a higher power’s existence, then you can safely lean in favor of doubting God and you can even call yourself an atheist of some kind (though not a pure one as Kimel defines the term). But the next points will show that there is actually a greater preponderance of evidence that a higher power really does exist than the depressing alternative.

 

POINT 1: You are more likely to exist for a reason than for no reason.

 

  • Even from our imperfect human starting point, we know that (1) we were all born after a period of complete oblivion, meaning that life after non-existence is definitely possible (2) most causes have effects, which act as causes in turn. Is it more likely that you exist for no reason or for some rational reason? Since everything else in the universe seems to happen for rational, explainable reasons, it is more likely that your existence follows this rule rather than breaks it. The next point will propose a rational reason for your existence.

 

POINT 2: A virtual simulation because you were born before “the singularity” provides a more probable reason for your existence than no reason.

 

  • If virtual reality is possible, future humans will be able to enjoy virtual paradises in which they essentially live forever as disembodied geniuses. The only way to incorporate the voices of their dead ancestors into the virtual database would be to simulate them perfectly, once. This is reminiscent of the doctrine of life after death, but provides a rational/scientific way it might actually happen. Is it possible that we’re really in a simulation? Not only is it possible, it is actually more likely than our not being in a simulation. We know: (1) we all exist, as if by magic, after a period of complete oblivion before we were born (2) life is possible without a wakeful 3-d reality (trees) (3) consciousness is possible without a wakeful 3-d reality (dreams) (4) rationalism is possible without a wakeful 3-d reality (computers). All this suggests that virtual reality is possible, likely, and, ultimately, just, insofar as the infinite utility of an immortal virtual paradise justifies the pain of being in a simulation in the first place. This argument puts an interesting spin on the so-called Boltzmann Brain Paradox; my consciousness is more likely to be the experience of a “brain floating in space” (a brain hooked up to a virtual reality smaller and less complex than the sum total of reality) than a brain caught up in an infinitely complex, random, enormous, and singular original reality. Moreover, if at least one civilization ever produced a simulation which simulated itself, a seemingly infinite number of individuals would be created–it is more likely you are a member of that teeming collection than an individual in an authorless universe.

 

POINT 3: The existence of simulations helps to solve for the so-called “Problem of Evil.”  Since a dedication to simulations is such a rational commitment, over the course of the entire history of the universe, it is likely that very many civilizations indeed turn toward the design of simulations.

 

  • Even if you don’t believe you are simulated, you should be enthusiastic about the development of simulating technology because it solves many horrific problems. Genetic engineering can solve the inherent injustices of the genetic wheel of fortune and render everyone a literal genius. It promises, too, the end of the slaughter of animals for food on the world stage, if artificial victuals can be created, and deeper in the future still, if virtual consciousnesses require no food at all, to say nothing of the solving of environmental problems in general such as pollution of the atmosphere, etc. Virtual reality can provide individuals not only with hedonistic pleasures, but with exciting artificial worlds in which ingenious voices can learn and interact for far greater periods of time than a contemporary human life span. In a virtual world, economic inequality becomes a thing of the past, as does fear of death. Even if you are a complete materialist, the promise of virtual reality is noble enough that the necessary steps to get there should be embraced as unmistakable strides forward in a great and noble enterprise. While there might still be unhappiness in virtual realities, such a future would still be unequivocally better than Earth as it is from a human perspective.  Since a dedication to simulations is such a rational commitment, over the course of the entire history of the universe, it is likely that many civilizations indeed turn toward the design of simulations, increasing the probability we are in one in the first place.

 

POINT 4: The historical trajectory that leads to simulation is close enough to God (life after death, a wiser higher power) to be meaningfully worshipped in its own right.

 

  • Virtual reality is ultimately a beneficial and just state of affairs, and the universe is constructed against all odds in such a way that this paradise can be achieved by even the likes of human beings. Insofar as it is more likely than not that we already exist in a simulation, and it is also definite that virtual paradise is preferable to the present, it stands to reason that (1) a higher power exists, in the form of designers of virtual reality and/or a force in the universe which is at least benevolent from a human perspective because it has the potential to result in virtual paradise  (2) even in the unlikely state of affairs we are not in a virtual reality, we should take steps to get there.

The Red Horseman saluted me and bowed with a flourish. At that moment, I lost every intention of throwing my stone at him.

10/2/2011

Next entry 10/16/2011


Kimel’s Defense of God: Four Reflections

Consider this fourfold train of thought.

1. Consciousness after oblivion is surely possible because every human being’s existence proves that this is so. Probabilistically, your singular and individuated experience of consciousness is more likely to exist for a reason than to be the result of infinitely random chance.

Is life possible devoid of consciousness, so that something can be alive but not even realize it? The existence of plants proves that this is so. Is rationalism possible devoid of sense perception, so that something can make accurate calculations but possess no conscious will of its own? The existence of automatons and computers proves that this is so. Is experience possible devoid of three dimensional consciousness? The existence of dreams proves that this is so. Is consciousness possible after total oblivion? Our own existences as human beings prove that this is so. After all, we were all effectively dead before we were born.

Thus, to begin with, our vantage point on the universe gives us good reason to be hopeful that chaos alone does not govern it. Again, we know that plants can be very much alive in our three dimensional world with no awareness of this fact—and so we, too, can potentially exist within a world of meaning that is all around us and yet beyond us. The existence of computers teaches us that the possibility of virtual reality exists—artfully constructed alternate worlds governed by the imaginations of their designers. But even beyond computers, every symbolic narrative is a sort of simulation, and every deliberate representation of nature a kind of virtual reality.

Is it possible that we could experience a vivid three dimensional reality that is in fact, to some degree, an illusion or a simulation? The answer must be yes. All that we know about our consciousnesses is that we came to exist after formerly not existing for a very long time, over which entropy increased. And so, if we have anything to go by, it’s that life after death in the face of rising chaos is certainly possible, insofar as it happened to all of us. Still, your existence here in this time and place seems infinitely unlikely. At the same time, even if someone with your general biographical details and attributes should exist, this does not explain why your consciousness should be the one experiencing their life. But can it be that everything else in the universe with the sole exception of your being trapped in your individuated body has some cause? It seems improbable.

For now, we’ve established that consciousness after total non-existence is possible, and that plant-life, the existence of computers, and the fact that we dream prove that a being can exist in one realm but be completely unaware of its greater context and purpose in another. In a world of great randomness, the central Cartesian insight cannot be denied by your imagination—cogitas, ergo es.  It would seem more rational to assume that you exist for a reason, which would give rise to your existence, than that you exist for no reason, which is almost infinitely more unlikely. If chance alone governed the universe, the odds would be too highly stacked against life in general, let alone the evolution of your individual consciousness—I’ve read that even forming a protein would be (2) (10^-32) unlikely.

2. You are more likely to exist within a simulation than to inhabit a designer-less universe; a future simulation is a more likely cause for your experience of consciousness than sheer chance.

We know that it is possible (and likely common in the greater context of the universe at large) to create machines which simulate conscious experiences of reality. But could the universe itself be a simulation? How can we even begin to think about this question?

Cogitas ergo es. Yet you seem far likelier to have been born a bacterium on a distant planet than a rational consciousness reading this narrative. Your existence is against the odds. But what might increase the chances of being born as you are in a universe such as this,which must contain many simulations of itself once rational consciousness evolves? Now, some say that there must exist a far greater number of simulated realities than non-simulated alternatives within our universe, insofar as every civilization would produce several simulations for every one reality. Yet the logic is unsteady. Even if our universe contains many simulations, there is no real reason to think that there exist more simulated conscious experiences of reality than conscious experiences by agents randomly born into it. Moreover, even if the universe itself contains many simulations, this in itself does not necessarily mean that it itself is a simulation.

Nevertheless, I think that the preponderance of evidence still favors simulism. It could be the case that we are all born in a random and infinitely complex universe governed by no designer. But be that as it may, given that a simulation of a universe engineered by conscious design would by definition to be less complex than an entire “real” universe, it seems more likely to me that we exist in a localized simulation within the sum total of reality than that our consciousnesses are random accidents in a needlessly complex random web of causes in a single unique universe which contains the sum total of reality (shades of Boltzmann). In a simulated universe, all that would need to be programmed is that which is sensed by consciousness; that which is unobserved could remain in an ambiguous probabilistic soup of less complexity. The model of being in a simulated reality designed so that only that which is observed must exist in a state that can be measured seems simpler than the alternative. Certain interpretations of quantum mechanics are compatible with such a view. Indeed, the very mathematical order and regularity of the universe, permeated throughout by order and progress and invariable laws, seems fully compatible with conscious design.

Yet for reasons even independent of these, I think you are likelier to exist in a simulation created by intelligent design than to exist alone and unique in the universe because of sheer chance. Consider Mario. He might imagine that he is completely unique in the universe and randomly came into being by a process of pixels spontaneously assembling (that is, he imagines that he is the one and only Mario on the one and only television set on the one and only game device in the entire universe, and all these devices came into being by random chance), or he might guess that he is one of a large number of similar beings conveyed on a large number of things called game cartridges that are deliberately designed. The latter is likelier than the former. Consider this scenario. If in the future, an archeologist discovers a single book from the lost civilization of 2015—and no other books survived—on what would you place a bet? That the book would be a popular one like The Bible or Harry Potter, or that the book would be someone’s single copy of a lost doctoral thesis? The former is likelier. For analogous reasons, Mario is right to begin to be suspicious that he is a unique thing. He is right to guess that he is likelier to be only a version of himself than the one and only version. And if he came into being by some process that worked over time, it is likely that the process would operate more than once and not only in his unique case. And the same is true of you—if you won the chance to be yourself, you are likelier to be one of many such winners than the one and only winner, because in any game of chance, the existence of more winners means more chances to win.

Remember, your possession of your conscious will in the form of an individuated consciousness is a separate fact from your mere existence. David Kimel might exist somewhere in time and space because a sperm and egg came together, but this fact is distinct from my actually being the one experiencing his consciousness as a singular rational entity. It would seem rational to assume that you exist as who you are for a reason, which would give rise to and raise the probability of your existence, than that you exist as who you are for no reason, which is almost infinitely more unlikely. If chaos alone governed the universe, the odds would be highly stacked against life in general, let alone the evolution of your individual consciousness—I’ve read that even forming a protein would be (2) (10^-32) unlikely. We need to begin imagining some kind of a process that could give rise to the experience of individuated conscious wills.

Now, think about Mario again. Even if he realizes he is more likely to be one of many Marios than the only version of himself, this would still not explain why he acts as he does–for example, why he leaps over a pit rather than into it. Of course, the answer why he jumps over the pit is that he is simulated to do it; someone is playing him. Simulism, or the ridiculous idea that Mario is basically a video game, doesn’t just explain why something called a “Mario” exists and that there are likely very many versions of him, but also shows why Mario is this particular Mario; why, for example, he grabs the coins that he does. The same is true of you. It could be the case that we are all born in a random and infinitely complex universe governed by no designer. But even if a sperm and egg came together to make you, this does not explain why you are experiencing your consciousness and not somebody else’s, or infinite other ones. Only simulism gives the answer. The only implausible alternative is that everything else in the world is something caused, except your possession of your own conscious will. The only answer to why you are yourself is either “this is the only thing in the universe that has no reason” or “I’m probably one of many versions of my consciousness, and I am being simulated to act in one way and not another, in the same way that Mario decides whether to grab a coin or not.”

The question arises, even if we realize that our possession of our individuated consciousness is a fact that is distinct from the facticity of my being (that is, the fact that David Kimel exists somewhere in the universe is a distinct fact from “my” (the author’s) actually being the individuated consciousness writing this document), and even if we concede that it is likelier than not the case that this fact exists for a specific regulated reason which increased the odds of my coming into existence as a member of a non-unique class rather than the unique result of random chance,(for the same reason that Mario should suspect he is a non-unique thing and that a random book from the world of 2015 is likelier to be The Bible than a random thesis), why should we suspect an intelligently designed entity is behind it all and not just some natural process we don’t understand (karma, etc.)

Now, imagine this possibility. What if in the whole history of the vast original universe, at least one original civilization existed that was so advanced, it started to deliberately construct simulations, even of its own past. Why would it do it? Perhaps to cure boredom. Perhaps to figure out all the secrets of the past. And perhaps even to download the conscious minds of all the poor suckers who lived in history before simulations allowed people live out their dreams. Regardless of the reason, imagine it happened even once in the whole history of the universe. What would happen when the simulation of history reached the point when the simulation itself was created ? The answer is, it would create a simulation of itself. Then, there would be infinite simulated realities. Now, what is likelier? That you are a single random combination of atoms that came together by chance and that you experience your specific life equally randomly, or that you are one of an infinite number of versions of yourself created when a single very unlikely simulation in an original universe simulated itself? The upshot of this is, that it is likelier we exist in a universe designed by a rational will than that we are alone in random space, and that life after death might really be possible. The original simulating civilization began an infinite regress; it itself came into existence by chance, or a regulated process beyond our knowledge that favors order over disorder and the rise of consciousness. But even if this kind of process operated at least once in the face of rising entropy in the universe, it’s likelier than not our own consciousness is in fact simulated; even the original simulating civilization would be right to guess the odds are against its being the originator.

What this implies about my “free will” is a separate discussion–for just as the eternal reflections of two mirrors facing each other fades away to nothing over time, each degraded version of the simulation might be a bit different from the previous one.

3. The existence of virtual reality can provide human beings with meaningful heaven on Earth.

If we can simulate intricate virtual realities in which individuals learn and interact as if in three dimensions, we can surely maximize happiness and minimize pain in the long run. Moreover, empowered by genetic engineering, we can, over time, produce a healthier and more able species less subject to the random brutality of the wheel of fortune. So, even if you don’t believe in God, technology promises you all the potential of heaven and even a kind of immortality if you believe in the power of computers to simulate reality.

We were not born against all odds into a world of chaos—we were born now, on the cusp of a great technological innovation that will come to change the very nature of human history. Unlike our ancient ancestors, we can declare confidently that the universe is not only scientifically tailored to allow for the possibility of conscious experience and the emergence of rationalism through evolution, but also that technological innovation equips consciousness in short order with the ability to effectively alter its own programming in accordance with its wildest dreams and concepts of the Good.

It could be that all this is random, but it seems more likely that we exist within a universe governed by a providential force that goes against the increase of entropy. This providential force, over millennia of evolution and centuries of technological development, can guarantee a kind of immortality in virtual paradises. Indeed, were society at large more rational than it is now, contemporary science should be frantically focusing on two goals—technology to allow bodies to be preserved awaiting the development of virtual reality, and the development of that virtual reality itself. On a universal stage, very many civilizations likely focus on just such goals, perhaps even more than on space-travel technology, providing a potential solution to the so-called Fermi Paradox.

4. Science itself can be meaningfully deified insofar as human experience can culminate in virtual heaven.

Ultimately, we do not simply inhabit a universe of random cruelty. In order for consciousness to evolve on planets in this reality we call the universe, generation, destruction, and change were necessary prerequisites, though these processes can result in heartache for individual human agents. But in short time geologically speaking, Nature equips consciousness with the means of its own salvation. Is the sole law of the universe that entropy increases? As humans, we know this is not the case. Atoms developed from their building blocks, stars formed, planets came into being, and life evolved, with complexity and the capacity for imaginative experience increasing rather than decreasing over the history of the universe. Insofar as this is true—since we were born after meaningful death, since virtual reality is possible and likely, since we are equipped to develop it, and since we know that we inhabit a universe in which all of this is possible despite the chaotic laws of thermodynamics, from the perspective of human consciousness, it is more likely that God exists in the form of a benevolent higher power than that we inhabit a truly random and aimless universe that exists for no other reason than a painful chain of endless cause and effect. What we call God can be synonymous with an advanced future civilization, the laws of science, or some greater force we can scarcely imagine. However we define it, though, it is surely a more noble entity than “nothing.”

So much for my defense of God, and so much for atheism—I now stand open to your cross examination.

9/11/2011

Next Entry 10/1/2011 (Sorry for the delay…)