Cosmology Intelligent Design Physics

At Scientific American: Could we force the universe to crash?

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A Columbia astrobiologist suggests that that might help us discover if we are living in a simulation:

But the neatest test of the hypothesis would be to crash the system that runs our simulation. Naturally, that sounds a bit ill-advised, but if we’re all virtual entities anyway does it really matter? Presumably a quick reboot and restore might bring us back online as if nothing had happened, but possibly we’d be able to tell, or at very least have a few microseconds of triumph just before it all shuts down.

The question is: how do you bring down a simulation of reality from inside it? The most obvious strategy would be to try to cause the equivalent of a stack overflow—asking for more space in the active memory of a program than is available—by creating an infinitely, or at least excessively, recursive process. And the way to do that would be to build our own simulated realities, designed so that within those virtual worlds are entities creating their version of a simulated reality, which is in turn doing the same, and so on all the way down the rabbit hole. If all of this worked, the universe as we know it might crash, revealing itself as a mirage just as we winked out of existence.

You could argue that any species capable of simulating a reality (likely similar to its own) would surely anticipate this eventuality and build in some safeguards to prevent it happening…

Caleb A. Scharf, “Could We Force the Universe to Crash?” at Scientific American

Does anyone remember when science was distinct from science fiction? But in those days, great discoveries were made. Who needs great discoveries when an active imagination will do just as well?

5 Replies to “At Scientific American: Could we force the universe to crash?

  1. 1

    This is literally the plot of a sci-fi movie called “The Mandela Effect,” where the protagonist finds out about the simulation and attempts to crash it using a quantum computer and recursive generational programming.

  2. 2
    Truthfreedom says:

    But believing in God is ‘weird’.

    The West is doomed. A new Dark Age is awaiting us and our children.

  3. 3
    jawa says:

    Is this serious?

  4. 4
    polistra says:

    Not new. Remember that the LHC, the largest expenditure in all of Big Science, is aiming to create a black hole that obliterates the universe.

    Science is omnicide.

  5. 5
    Fasteddious says:

    For some interesting possibilities in a simulated universe, see:
    A lot can be explained by thinking of creation as a simulation.
    The Sci-Am article asks, “if we’re all virtual entities anyway does it really matter?” Of course it would matter! If our universe is simulated, it is still very real to us – the only reality we know. I would rather live in a simulated world than not exist at all. On the other hand, maybe we have crashed the simulation many times already! Then the simulator owner just reloads the program at the last saved point and restarts it. We would be none the wiser.
    For that matter, I read a sci-fi story recently about people “living” in a simulation generated to test out advertising strategies. The simulation would be restarted at the same time point over and over, using different advertisement approaches to compare their effect. Of course the “people” in the simulation did not suspect they were in a “Groundhog Day” environment until one “person” got missed on the reset. Lots of fun things to do with simulation thought experiments!

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