If reality is a data structure, can the simulation theory hold up? | Donald Hoffman

Everything that we perceive around us — space and time, the sun and the moon, apples — are just a.


Everything that we perceive around us — space
and time, the sun and the moon, apples — are just a virtual reality. We have a headset on. It’s very similar, in spirit, to the simulation
hypothesis of Nick Bostrom and others that say we’re not seeing reality as it is. And there are many things that are similar
from my point of view and Nick Bostrom’s, but there are several things that are fundamentally
different. So first, the similarities: The idea that
this is all a simulation, that we’re not seeing reality as it is, is something that I’m saying
as well. That space-time itself is just a data structure,
physical objects are just a data structure. They’re not objective reality. So on that point, I agree with the simulation
hypothesis that we’re not seeing the truth. We’re seeing something other than the truth. Where I differ is the following: In the simulation
hypothesis, there’s some programmer at a lower level that has created the simulation that’s
us. But that programmer, themselves, could be
a simulation by another programmer at a lower level. And this keeps going. There could be a hierarchy of these different
levels of simulation until you get to some bottom level. And in the standard story of the simulation
hypothesis, at the bottom level, there is a physical space-time world where there’s
a real programmer in space and time with a real physical computer that’s programming
the whole thing. So our space-time might be virtual, but at
the bottom, there is a real space-time with a real physical world. And I’m denying that. I’m denying that at any point space-time and
physical objects correspond to an objective reality. A second difference that I have is that in
the simulation hypothesis, they assume, or explicitly state, that the conscious experiences
that we’re having right now — if I’m having a headache, or I’m smelling garlic, or I’m
feeling velvet, and so forth — those specific conscious experiences are produced by the
program, by the simulation. And that I claim is not possible. That it’s not possible from computer programs,
from algorithms that are not conscious, to boot up consciousness. This is the so-called hard problem of consciousness. How is consciousness — your experience of
the taste of garlic, the smell of chocolate, and so forth — how are those conscious experiences
related to your brain activity and to the physical world more generally? And most of my colleagues and friends would
say that somehow unconscious dynamical, physical systems like neural networks or computer circuits
and so forth will somehow give rise to the experience of consciousness. And I’m saying that that’s not possible. You can’t start with unconscious ingredients
and boot up consciousness. No one’s been able to do it. There are no theories about how to do it. And the simulation hypothesis depends on the
possibility that unconscious programs could boot up consciousness. And that’s not possible.

100 thoughts on “If reality is a data structure, can the simulation theory hold up? | Donald Hoffman”

  1. In HIS opnion. All he said was his opnion. Its important to remember that. All data points out to his opnion being wrong.

  2. So basically consciousness is fundamental and that the reality/universe we find ourselves in is being "simulated" in a mind.

  3. Now this didn't solve my Existentialistic thought processing, the way I think everytime. But just multiplied it by 10x

  4. So if he believes that we're in a simulation but electronics cant give rise to consciousness . . . he's basically sayin we exist somewhere else and our minds were transported into this realm?

  5. Wait, doesn't unconscious matter make up our brains which are conscious. Your statement that unconscious computers can't produce consciousness is fairly easy to poke holes in.

  6. I'm not sure if it's because of the editing or something else but this was pretty much just a person telling his opinions without any explanation. A short video without any explanation, pondering or food for thought. With a subject matter this interesting, a much more in depth talk should've been easy to pull off. Or perhaps this is one of those talks that gets split into a dozen different short videos.

  7. Of course it is possible to construct consciousness from unconscious units. We do it all the time with our brains and it happens every time someone borns. There was not even a point presented in this short talk. It seemed like a presentation of a new religion.

  8. From the point of view of the soul, which is using technology to navigate in Matter, it would feel like a simulation. But it is not. Through the Architecture of Nature you can discover truth and find purpose in Life. https://youtu.be/45TTPkbjk84

  9. This STILL does not and CAN NOT negate the FACT of a CREATOR. A real Creator, with perfect consciousness, regardless of whether the rest is simulation.

  10. Space needs no object other than itself to animate our subjective reality. The study of physics is not a battle between light and darkness.

  11. The last quote he mentions is wierd and i want to think it means something else because apparently he says unconcious ingredients can't create conciousness which is contrary to what we can observe with life and evolution, from unconcious ingredients conciousness is formed, unless he believes everything we see is conscious, or is this a god-like theory? I'm not sure i follow.

  12. The simulation hypothesis needs a physical universe as a source, a computer if you will. That's true. But that computer must not neccesarily live in a spacetime like ours. It could be a thinking universe where particles are thoughts. Or a boltzman-brain, all alone in an unimaginable void, that is dreaming us up in an attempt no to lose its mind. Or maybe it's supermassive black holes, tamed and put to use for data processing by the civilisations at the end of time to create a refuge in a memory of warmer times. If we are the NPCs there must be players. Think about that 😉

  13. This was terrible and misleading.. It might be the editing but still.

    It has been acientifically accepted that human consciousness appears to be affecting the physical world. (a la the slit experiment). If it works one way, it could work the other way too. Also we have absolutely no idea how consciousness specifically operates or comes about. So if we don't fully understand consciousness, how can this guy claim that it can't be created or manipulated. In fact there are LOTS of experiments studying consciousness and human behavior. This guy is a wing-nut… do the reading man. The field of psychedelic therapy alone is making leaps and bounds in treating mental disorders. either this channel or this man are struggling with confirmation bias. If you disagree, you have to qualify those statements with scientific fact arrived at through research. This video is bad science.

  14. Youtube time clock says this video is 3:31 seconds but i am saying that is not possible. I´m not going to explain why that is my opinion but it is not possible.

  15. So AI can't smell garlic? But how many of our experiences are based on belief, based on prior experiences, and not actually based in reality. I see garlic so I smell garlic because I believe that I am reexperiencing the smell of garlic? Did we invent language because we knew we couldn't completely trust our sense of reality and needed a reliable form of communication? Until liars screwed everything up? Liars reassert their narrative of reality knowing consensus of the group would disagree?🍻p.s. could the world be one hot mess because of the lack of consensus of reality? I.e. climate change believers v those ignoring what scientists are trying to convey? They don't believe in a certain danger from the natural world because they have yet to experience it? But some people get it without the experience. So then maybe the purpose of imagination is to experience realities so one can make informed decisions without needless suffering. Then consciousness can come out of simulations in one's imagination? Art, culture and entertainment are simulations that stir a conscious understanding – awakening of the mind that comes from stirring the imagination.

  16. Finally someone that understands that consciousness cannot be illusory, or , in other words, simulated. Cartesian skepticism is dead.

  17. This video is basically him describing an aspect of the simulation theory, then saying "it's not possible." without going into any arguments or putting forth any premises.

    "It's not possible." basically sums up the whole video,

  18. If you think we are not in a simulation then consider the fact that colors do not exist. This is a true statement and can be verified quite easily with instrumentation.
    Colors are generated by your brain and laid over your visual field. They do not actually exist outside your head.
    If your own mind simulates something like colors to the point you don't realize it then the idea that we live in a simulation is not that difficult to consider.

  19. "I don't see how it could be this way, therefor it's impossible."
    Three and a half minutes of an argument from incredulity.

    Next week on Big Think:
    Neil Degrasse Tyson calls everyone who disputes the age of the universe "wrong because they are ugly morons who can't get laid."

  20. You'll know when you are at the 'bottom level' by the fact that space is no longer 'pixelated' as ours is.
    There would be no Planck length or Planck time units (or at least they would be zero). SpaceTime would be homogenous.
    Similarly, the degree to which your local space is pixelated indicates if you have moved up or down through the levels.
    So forget spinning a top to determine your level of reality. Simply look up the values of the Planck constants.

  21. Any sufficiently advanced program may interpret in an un-falsifiable manor that it must be conscious- that's what we do. We self aggrandize and bestow a special heuristic to the living experience that I think shouldn't be given more weight than the unique collection of atoms that makes us up.

  22. Well not exactly.. a popular theory of consciousness in computational neuroscience is that "consciousness is the experience of computation to itself".
    In other words, every calculation is the building block of consciousness, and human consciousness is just an immense recurrent algorithm.

    I like this idea, a calculator and a single strand of DNA may be capable of similar levels of computation/consciousness. Then you may move up to a laptop and a bacteria. Eventually I'd go even as far as to say that our most complex deep neural networks, such as OpenAI's OpenAI Five, consciously experiences inputs to the same degree as a worm.

    It's a hard question in that you can't ask a worm how conscious it is. But from the lens of the aforementioned 'Integrated Information theory of consciousness', we are very much programming simple consciousnesses into existence.

  23. Hmm… Some good ideas, but poorly conveyed. For example, instead of "there's no objective reality", he should've really said 'there's no absolute or ultimate reality'

  24. This world is not a simulation and the reason why its not is very simple. There are no bugs in our world. There is no such thing as a perfect simulation where everything goes exactly as planned.

  25. being in a simulation is irrelevant
    even if we "were" you could not escape it nor stimulate it.

    It's a good topic for a little chit chat but that's about it.

  26. To be fair… one has to first define conscious. But he didn't. If one relates movie AI concept like the Skynet or Ex Machina of being having consciousness then it's very believe from our modern perspective that conscious could be developed using algorithm. But if u define conscious as a spiritual concept like realism does then conscious does not exist in a machine. (This vid is rather let-down)

  27. I'm sorry, but this is wrong on a much more basic level. You are saying that things that are not conscious cannot become conscious. Then how do you explain evolution. At some point, life was non existent. To argue your point is to ignore that fact and to inherently agree with some religious or pantheistic view. And that then wraps back to, something created consciousness. At some point, you have to accept that consciousness CAN spawn out of unconsciousness. And at that point, your argument breaks down. Unless of course you believe in pantheism, which I would argue is just another side of the religious coin. Back to humans needing something higher than themselves to give them meaning and purpose in life.

  28. Consciousness if fundamental level of reality. That appears to be the most likely scenario. One that many people believed to be the case long before quantum mechanics confirmed it.

    To be precise, QM merely dispelled the simplistic/ materialistic view that matter is the fundamental block of everything. It did so by proving that neither space nor time are real- via the "spooky action at a distance" or quantum entanglement. That and the double slit experiment and the vital role consciousness appears to play in collapsing the wave function.

  29. It would just be a different form of consciousness not as we know it. Ofc AI wldnt be able to replicate things like smells and a headache they wldnt have needed to adapt millions of years as we did. If we create consciousness it will be a whole other form of being

  30. This delusion is born from fundamentalist views on physics and reality. The tendency to allow probability to take the place of reality, results in the acceptance that "some things are fundamentally unknowable". And this delusion results in speculation about the nature of reality. These simulation theories are one such speculation. And a delusion born of willful ignorance. Realists don't rely on these delusions to "unexplain" reality. They search for the building blocks of building blocks and support the Pilot Wave theory. Because there is a real and tangible answer to every question. And just denying that answers can be found and replacing those answers with fiction, that's a delusion of religion. It's faith. The Antithesis of Science. Idiots who spread delusional nonsense should be shunned and ridiculed. Like this idiot here should be.

  31. Which part or parts of your internal mechanisms creates and observes your consciousness – as you experience it ?
    The underlying mechanisms are not entirely conscious. They produce the currents, fields and frequencies within the mechanisms of the "brain".
    "Brain" then allocates resources and distributes the energy for the varying processes which create "mind". The mind is just a concept that we have that refers to a highly complex pattern recognition system. This is the minds job and the brain’s function is to be the organ to carry out these processes. The mind then recognizes these processes as "being".
    The brain, being the mechanist or computing substrate of consciousness, is "itself" not conscious.
    Just as the "fabric" of reality is the substrate of life, the universe and consciousness…
    This "fabric" carries out the computations which generates the algorithms that spawn life and subsequently consciousness.
    Though this "fabric" is neither "alive" or self aware.
    To say a computer must be conscious to create consciousness is to say that consciousness requires a creator priori.

  32. In any case, to create a program that would simulate every atom of everything from a speck of dust to a black hole, and then account for all the variables that go on would take a computer larger than the universe itself! This simulation hypothesis is nuts!

  33. The brain is a physical object, just as a computer is. Why is it possible for one object to produce consciousness, but not another?

  34. Many holes in this hypothesis.

    Consciousness is the state or quality of sentience or awareness of internal or external existence. It has been defined variously in terms of qualia, subjectivity, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood or soul, the fact that there is something 'that it is like' to 'have' or 'be' it, and the executive control system of the mind. Despite the difficulty in definition, many philosophers believe that there is a broadly shared underlying intuition about what consciousness is. According to Max Velmans and Susan Schneider, "Anything that we are aware of at a given moment forms part of our consciousness, making conscious experience at once the most familiar and most mysterious aspect of our lives." ~Wikipedia
    Consciousness is an ill defined, emergent and subjective experience. By the definition provided, it has both been and never been accomplished.
    This man needs to speak to a mathematician to better understand what it means to be a byproduct of raw data when we know so little about the quality of data and only know a limited flavor of numbers in general.
    https://youtu.be/5TkIe60y2GI

  35. An explanation would be super sweet. Beats the hell out of this guy just saying he disagrees with parts of simulation theory without any other food for thought.

  36. Holy crap he's right in the sense that it's all just infinite levels up and down forever, not an actual simulation, which I think makes more sense. It explains Fermi Paradox, too. No aliens because everyone evolves into higher dimensional beings and leaves this 3D universe behind. We aren't in a simulation we ARE the simulation.

  37. As a programmer, this guy gives way too much credit to programmers. Displaying large lists of items on a screen is still a non-trivial problem and he thinks someone can program a perfect bug-free universe.

  38. CIA LIES, DAMNED LIES AND GOVT STATISTICS.

    WHEN DID THEY INFILTRATE THIS CHANNEL, OR HAS IT ALWAYS BEEN LIKE THIS?

  39. I have this unusual idea that objects at particle levels such as molecules and atoms could still possess some primitive form of consciousness and as they form more sophisticated connections with other particles and scale up in size, distinct degrees and levels of consciousness with differing intensities arise as a result. I wonder if this legitimacy of this notion has already been touched upon and investigated by the scientific community so far.

  40. Our mind is limited and also our experience of reality too by our sense. Why an undeterminate person couldn't be set up ? All of our experience of reality is interaction with items of space wich respond to certain rules ; that could be programmed. You say that consciousness couldn't be simulate but maybe the way it exprimes itself is, maybe there is consciousness over the life time we are experiencing but we can't tell if there is something else before of after this reality.

  41. After seeing a couple of this guys commenting on the non sense of (reality does not exist) I realize that since Computer Science, Programmers and mathematicians deal with abstraction daily in their work. (they need to). They suffer of tremendous delusional though when they try to be "Cosmologist".
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SpptYg_0Rs
    Who promotes this type or thinking…? I do not know. but I definitely thing this irrational thinking can be damaging for the sciences and civilization. I will be ashamed of tell a 5 years old. "All what we perceive is a virtual reality, we live in a {data structure}, and thus we are not seeing THE TRUTH!" This abuse of the mental imagination is more dangerous that the flat earth hypothesis, because that one is easily disproved, but this one is put from an authoritarian "Real Science" stand and so vaguely presented that is truly destructive of the rationality that distinguish the latest centuries and brought us so many benefits.

  42. It’s extremely unlikely that a program could achieve consciousness, but we can’t say it’s impossible because we don’t fully know what consciousness is yet…

    We’re pretty certain it’s materialistic brain processes, but what about data processing through organic and electrochemical means makes the difference?

  43. The reason why there are no theories is because someone hasn't thought of a way of explaining the human condition to computers. I have some ideas on how to do it but I'm not sharing.

  44. Read a few reviews on his book. Seems like he's basically taking the proven fact that we humans cannot directly experience "objective reality" and draws some very questionable conclusions from that, like the old spiritual adage "everything is consciousness". That's why one of the people heaping praise on this book is our dear old friend Deepak Chopra.

  45. So…consciousness is magic and reality is a simulation without the need for a computer to generate it. We must also assume that all those quadrillions of stars and planets out there are a perfectly sensible part of an efficient simulation.

  46. "Noone's been able to do it – it's not possible" is not a proof in itself. You lost all credibility by uttering those words. By that logic there would be no progress in science ever. GAI may be years or even decades away, but it is within our reach, our non-intelligent machines will bootstrap intelligence and you will be proven wrong.

  47. Thumbs down. I’m curious about the nature of reality and consciousness. And I’m fascinated with the idea of the simulation hypothesis. But this video is poorly presented. He might have something interesting to say. Let’s hear it.

  48. I mean, he’s saying that programming consciousness is not possible because, to date, no one has been able to do it, but what evidence is there that anyone has been able to program a viable simulation to the complexity that we see in the world around us? I don’t see how his explanation invalidates simulation theory.

  49. It is in fact possible to arrive at self-aware and conscious beings from non-conscious elements. We're made up of billions of cells and not a single one of them know we exist, nor cares.

  50. If we are living in a simulation, it might be simulated on some kind of real machinery….That is the same as saying life on Earth came from another planet…you are just moving the problem to another place…

  51. So if you believe unconscious objects or processes cannot produce consciousness then you must be a panpsychist. A strange position for someone who believes in the simulation hypothesis.

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