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What Does It Mean? And Does It Matter?
One of Eszter Brhlik’s recent articles discusses the possibility that science proves that we live in a simulation. In the end, she concludes: “Even if the simulation argument will turn out to be true someday, nothing would really change.”
Well, I’d agree with this. I remembered one of my professors, Professor Preston Greene, discussing the nature of the simulation hypothesis. He believes that the argument is a metaphysical hypothesis and not a skeptical hypothesis.
A metaphysical hypothesis merely informs us about the nature of our world. An analogy we could use here is learning about the nature of water. Suppose that humanity thought that water is an atomic and indivisible chemical element for a long time — which it did. Then, someone came along to prove that water is actually a molecule composed of simpler elements: hydrogen and oxygen.
In this sense, “nothing would really change.” We simply now know that water is composed of simpler elements. And we develop from there onwards.
A skeptical hypothesis is vastly different. It’s a hypothesis, if true, then everything we know thus far is wrong. Fortunately, thus far, there has been no skeptical hypothesis proven true. An example of a skeptical hypothesis would be to say, “1+1 doesn’t equal 2,” which, when proven true, will lead us to reevaluate the foundations of our knowledge.
Greene believes the simulation hypothesis to be a metaphysical hypothesis. It will change how we understand certain things about our lives, but it will do minimal damage to the foundation of our knowledge.
Thus, in that sense, it doesn’t really matter if we indeed are living in a simulation.
Professor Greene takes this one step further. He argues that we shouldn’t go out of our way to prove that we live in a simulation.
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