So the topic was pretty catchy…well, to be honest the direct translation of the topic is :’Are we in a simulation?’ and NPC is the acronym for non-player character, which basically is a video game character that is controlled by the game’s artificial intelligence (AI) rather than by a gamer.This topic has been beaten to pulp now but the concept of simulation just intrigues me even now and I hope I can intrigue you too. I will be explaining some generic facts about the simulation concept and venturing into some dark territories.
The simulation concept has been popularized in the modern media in the form of movies – ‘The Matrix’,’Ready player one’ and video games -‘VR chat’,’Sims’, etc. But “Are we all part of a video game stored on somebody’s hard drive in their mother’s basement?”, as silly as it sounds, this is an engaging topic discussed all around the world by physicists and engineers like Elon Musk and Neil deGrasse Tyson. Musk, the SpaceX founder and CEO explained during a long, wide-ranging and ‘very entertaining’ appearance on comedian Joe Rogan’s popular podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience.”- “If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then games will be indistinguishable from reality, or civilization will end. One of those two things will occur,” Musk said.” Why would you make a simulation that’s boring? You’d make a simulation that’s way more interesting than base reality,” Musk said, citing the video games and movies that humanity makes, which are “distillation[s] of what’s interesting about life.”
The technological advancements in ‘simulation like’ software has drastically improved in the past decade. The Virtual Reality platform has taken off like a storm. Virtual reality is showing some effective industry use-cases as well, from real estate applications to tourism. In Israel, the Jerusalem Visitor’s Bureau use VR to immerse tourists in how the city looked 5,000 years ago. These types of innovative VR experiences are unveiling in industries worldwide. Devices such as DAQRI’s smart-glasses are already starting to bring overlaid simulations into industrial settings, using AR to guide users safely through complex manufacturing procedures and industrial processes. When Google’s AlphaGo crushed Lee Sedol, one of humanity’s best Go players, it made a case for AI simulating the human brain as it is or even better with more efficiency and speed. Winning a chess game – and especially the game of Go – is a hard problem to solve. The AlphaGo’s victory means that AI can be set to analyze any type of situation. Generative models estimate an entire probability distribution so that new content can be generated such as images, text, or speech. Predictive models learn some classifier to predict the probability of an output label given inputs. For example the probability that an image is of Donald Trump given the raw pixels, pr(Trump|pixels). A generative model instead learns the entire probability distribution over the inputs for some desired output pr(pixels|Trump), allowing entirely new Donald Trump images to be generated upon request. Similar concepts like deep fake which can generate animated facial expressions from just a single image. Recurrent neural networks have been generating text for some time but only recently have advances in deep learning improved enough for images to be generated.
With all these technological advancements the one thing that we are trying to do is “mimic” what naturally the humans and environment around it is.With AI we are trying to create a replica of the human brain, with VR and gaming, we are trying to simulate the environment we are living in, with movies and TV, we are trying to trigger the happy or dramatic feelings that we have in real life. Our obsession with ‘mimicking’ technology is exponentially increasing day by day. So why can’t we consider a future where we cannot identify what is real, where ‘we’ create the reality in the form of advanced computer graphics and mechanics, artificially intelligent beings to interact with and a virtual space where everyone can join and live a favorable interesting life. And yes, I am saying that your close friend ,your soulmate and everybody you see might be just a non-player character in the ‘Game of Life’.
Now the dark territory I was talking about, imagine an infant that is connected to a VR headset with hyper-realistic simulation and the associated hardware to provide nutrition and other life sustaining activities… I had warned you… So the infant would be connected to it from birth and his/her’s only reality would be the world that is inside the simulation. As it grows with the simulation, it reacts to different positive or negative triggers in the simulation. But what level of technology do we need. At our current stage of technological development, we have neither sufficiently powerful hardware nor the requisite software to create conscious minds in computers. But persuasive arguments have been given to the effect that if technological progress continues unabated then these shortcomings will eventually be overcome. Some authors argue that this stage may be only a few decades away. The amount of computing power needed to emulate a human mind can likewise be roughly estimated. One estimate, based on how computationally expensive it is to replicate the functionality of a piece of nervous tissue that we have already understood and whose functionality has been replicated in silico, contrast enhancement in the retina, yields a figure of ~10^14 operations per second for the entire human brain. An alternative estimate, based the number of synapses in the brain and their firing frequency, gives a figure of ~10^16 ‐10^17 operations per second. Conceivably, even more could be required if we want to simulate in detail the internal workings of synapses and dendritic trees. However, it is likely that the human central nervous system has a high degree of redundancy on the micro scale to compensate for the unreliability and noisiness of its neuronal components. One would therefore expect a substantial efficiency gain when using more reliable and versatile non‐biological processors. If the environment is included in the simulation, this will require additional computing power – how much depends on the scope and granularity of the simulation. Simulating the entire universe down to the quantum level is obviously infeasible, unless radically new physics is discovered.
But in order to get a realistic simulation of human experience, much less is needed – only whatever is required to ensure that the simulated humans, interacting in normal human ways with their simulated environment, don’t notice any irregularities. The microscopic structure of the inside of the Earth can be safely omitted. Distant astronomical objects can have highly compressed representations: verisimilitude need extend to the narrow band of properties that we can observe from our planet or solar system spacecraft. On the surface of Earth, macroscopic objects in inhabited areas may need to be continuously simulated, but microscopic phenomena could likely be filled in ad hoc. What you see through an electron microscope needs to look unsuspicious, but you usually have no way of confirming its coherence with unobserved parts of the microscopic world. Exceptions arise when we deliberately design systems to harness unobserved microscopic phenomena that operate in accordance with known principles to get results that we are able to independently verify. The paradigmatic case of this is a computer. The simulation may therefore need to include a continuous representation of computers down to the level of individual logic elements. This presents no problem, since our current computing power is negligible by post human standards.
What we have considered reality, has changed throughout the course of history, ‘The heliocentric theory’ , ’The Big Bang’ and even the concept of “the higher being”. The simulation theory could answer many questions like ‘the purpose of life’, ‘evolution’ and even “GOD”. But this is just being over-dramatic and I would ask you to consider reading and researching more on the subject matter. A good place to start would be the research paper “ARE YOU LIVING IN A COMPUTER SIMULATION?” by NICK BOSTROM.