At 7 pm the American Museum of Natural History will host the 2016 Asimov Debate, with this year the topic Is the Universe a Simulation?. You can watch a livestream at that site.
I confess that if this were a few days earlier, I would be convinced it was definitely a joke. But, it seems not, that instead this “has become a serious line of theoretical and experimental investigation among physicists, astrophysicists, and philosophers” and that it’s a “provocative and revolutionary idea”. One thing this is not is new. Nearly nine years ago it got a lot of media attention, and I wrote about it here More.
We hazard a guess that the non-joke will go on until someone asks whose simulation it could possibly be. Can’t be God’s or anything, so maybe an infinite regress of simulations? But then they aren’t simulations, right? The point of a simulation is that someone is non-regressively simulating it.
He’d also been invited, then uninvited (“a rather mystifying situation”), to a conference on the limits to human knowledge, and gives his view for readers,
I’d make the point that there’s no way to know what the limits will be to human understanding of physical laws. It has however become all too clear what the danger is of what will happen when we reach those limits. Instead of prominent theorists frankly admitting “we don’t know”, there will be an attempt to sell the story to the public that theorists have a wonderful, successful theory which describes everything, which sadly has the unfortunate feature of not making any falsifiable predictions. The string landscape/multiverse scenario now is being very aggressively sold as exactly this kind of endpoint to physics, to a large degree by people unwilling to admit the failure of string theory-based unification. There’s a very real danger that this will enter the textbooks, and that we will in our lifetimes see the end of fundamental physics as a human endeavor. The limit we will have hit will be due not to the nature of our minds, but instead the nature of our sociology. More.
We fear he is right, and his update on what people are saying is telling: “The multiverse hypothesis is no more speculative than the universe hypothesis.”
Consider the fact that few heeded George Ellis’s warning about the fantasy element that dominates fundamental physics; it’s as cool and rewarding as ever. Especially if all that matters is what the Cool people think, not what Newton, Planck, Bohr, or Einstein would think.
Yes, that’s because of the times we live in. But the outcome looms all the same.
See also: Multiverse cosmology: Assuming that evidence still mattered, what does it say?
In search of a road to reality (the road not taken)
The war on falsifiability
Follow UD News at Twitter!