Life, the Grand Simulation?
i just finished watching Mission to Mars for the zillionth time. btw, this essay is dedicated to Kristin, Richard, and Alicia. There are many unrealistic scenarios in MtM such as the meteor shower just before they reach Mars or reducing their velocity wrt Mars (this is just after their engines blow up) and transferring in space suits. In spite of this, it's still one of my favorite movies along with Spirited Away, Onmyoji 1 & 2, and the Matrix series. What do Siddhartha, the Wachowski brothers, and i have in common? The hypothesis that life is a Grand Illusion/Simulation.
As i was watching MtM, i became aware again of the unrealistic scenarios but also .. That, as Doug Adams likes to say, "don't worry, it'll all work out.." (paraphrased) This is the general theme of Spirited Away.. Rael, Claude Vorilhon, believes all they need is a section of our skull to reconstitute us but i propose something more ethereal .. Consider that from the systems pov, i've designed a simulation environment which equates to an agrarian society which is minimally required to establish learning/consciousness in intelligent agents (see previous papers). The epiphany delivered to me was this: don't worry, it'll all work out..
Gary Sinise's character has one at the end of MtM. He visualizes his marriage to Maggie and critical moments in his life. True, the unrealistic scenario of transferring in suits to reach a rescue vehicle and the unlikely scenario of meteors hitting the ship just before arriving to Mars were obviously created to heighten the drama and allure of the film, but in spite of this - the movie engages the viewer and provokes intelligent thought. Similarly, Contact does this. What do these two movies have in common? Our first contact with 'aliens' (admittedly, the 'aliens' in MtM are actually 'human' in that they seeded Earth with their DNA to create progeny which would eventually seek them out). (This actually goes contrary to the thesis of evolution but is an interesting concept; some scientists are looking at the hypothesis seriously.)
If you've read any of my recent papers on machine consciousness, you'd realize life on Earth has parallels to the VR i propose is minimally required to cultivate conscious agents. The fact i'm human and designed the scenario does not automatically imply that my design will follow human patterns. In fact, i've tried to assiduously apply the systems-reliability approach over following human tradition.
So the epiphany is not just: don't worry, it'll all work out.. It's also the realization our structures will be preserved (not memories - only structures). You see, using the systems approach, i've devised a system to breed conscious agents. But because of the requirements of the system, i've had to limit propagation of memories (rule-bases). This equates with erasing memories of selected individuals but retaining valuable structures. There's only two natural systems on Earth that parallel this: DNA and Better Way. (See previous papers for an explanation of the latter.) From a strictly biological/physical pov, our DNA is the system which encodes our characteristics - good and bad. But if Better Way has any validity, it's also a natural system that preserves information about us.
Don't worry - it'll all work out.. And, you will be preserved. These are very comforting realizations. Even if our memories are not preserved, it's still comforting to know our basic structures will be. i think Rael is misguided and confused. We don't need a chip of skull to reconstitute us. Anyone 'running' the universe will have the technology to preserve us without physical evidence. It's the same as my proposed simulations: i will be able to reconstitute any worthy individual with or without memories at will. It's simply in the best interest of the simulation to avoid continuing memories.
So any entities 'running' the universe must have similar objectives. This i arrive at by simple logic. They must be studying the development of consciousness / intelligence / spirituality. The fact the systems-reliability approach is a proven methodology for solving complex problems, i have conscientiously applied it to developing Acoma, and the fact human life parallels the virtual life of intelligent agents (as proposed for Acoma agents), indicates to me that human life on this planet is a Grand Simulation for understanding consciousness etc.
Again, just because i'm human and i've devised an environment for developing conscious agents does not automatically imply my creations will parallel human development. The systems approach is not species specific - meaning, the systems approach will take the most practical, expedient, functional, holistic, enduring, and simple tack to solving any problem - regardless of the sentient creature employing it. In a real sense, i'm just an intelligent agent employing the systems-reliability approach conscientiously.
.. The real 'climax of the film' (of human civilization) will be when we actually contact another conscious/intelligent species (not native to this Earth). i have proposed that three critical technologies will define us: space, genetics, and AI, but it is the contact with 'aliens' which will truly define us. Perhaps that is why they have delayed so long in approaching us formally.. When we know them, we will Know ourselves. In trying to understand them, we will Understand what it is to be human ..
One final note about Rael and ppl who believe in some kind of 'afterlife'. (Rael's 'afterlife' is reconstituted individuals in this reality - not a spiritual plane or Heaven.) Rael proposes Jesus and other significant individuals from human history are preserved by Elohim which are actually very advanced scientists from another planet. Don't ask me how they got a chip of Jesus' skull; they must have been lurking around his grave or crucifixion. ;) i'm not simply poking fun at Rael; as i stated above, i believe he's misinformed and confused. Any civilization / species / individual with the technology to observe our planet for millions of years, reconstitute human individuals at will, and whisk them away to the safety of their ships/planet - won't need a chip of skull to reconstitute us .. In the movie AI, where Osment's adorable character David gets a temporarily reconstituted mom from the advanced AIs populating future Earth, they don't need a chip of bone - a hair suffices .. But i propose not even that is required.
When we fall asleep (a deep sleep with no dreaming) or some accident causes a coma, that is not the end of our minds.. If we recover from the coma (or wake from deep sleep), our minds are preserved. Some would argue our minds are simply the accumulation of memories.. But i propose our minds are the (emergent?) products of complex structures in our neurophysiology. Those complex structures are retained in sleep and recoverable coma. No memories are required for consciousness. Strictly speaking, no senses are either (although an isolated mind has a tendency to go mad without external stimulation). So to say an advanced civilization requires a chip of bone to reconstitute us seems ridiculous. If they can reconstitute the structure of our brains/minds (and fully understand those structures), they don't need a bone to do it. They can simply scan our brains at some prime moment in our lives and use that scan to reconstitute us.
When we wake up in the morning, it takes a bit to remember who we are and where we are. If we were dreaming just before we woke up, it takes a moment to 'shake the dream' from our mind and move on with the day .. Our lives may be driven by our: memories, goals, motivations, hearts, dreams,.. but none of those are strictly required for consciousness. Again, i propose it is 'simply' an emergent property of our complex neuroanatomy .. i have spent a good number of years trying to isolate/identify the critical components of that anatomy which evince in our consciousness.
i believe i have arrived at a good starting point for investigating machine consciousness. Please refer to the following links if you've not already: