The simulation hypothesis is fun to talk about, but believing it requires an act of faith.
- The simulation hypothesis posits that everything we experience was coded by an intelligent being, and we are part of that computer code.
- But we cannot accurately reproduce natural laws with computer simulations.
- Faith is fine, but science requires evidence and logic.
Creating an afterlife—or a simulation of one—would take vast amounts of energy. Some scientists think the best way to capture that energy is by building megastructures around stars.
- In a 2018 paper, researchers Alexey Turchin and Maxim Chernyakov published a paper outlining various ways humans might someday be able to achieve immortality or resurrection.
- One way involves creating a simulated afterlife, in which artificial intelligence would build simulations of past human lives.
- Getting the necessary power for the simulation might require building a Dyson sphere, which is a theoretical megastructure that orbits a star and captures its energy.
Dyson spheres<p>In 1960, the theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson published a <a href="http://www.islandone.org/LEOBiblio/SETI1.HTM" target="_blank">paper</a> describing a peculiar strategy scientists could use to detect signs of alien life: look for stars encompassed by gigantic megastructures.<br></p><p>Why? Dyson figured that if spacefaring alien civilizations do exist, then they must have figured out a way to generate vast amounts of energy. One theoretical way aliens could do that is through harnessing the power of stars: By surrounding a star with orbiting structures that capture solar energy, a civilization could theoretically generate far more energy than they could on a planet.</p><p>That's the basic idea behind Dyson spheres. Of course, modern science is far from being able to build such a complex megastructure, and it's unclear whether it'll ever be possible.</p><p>"An actual sphere around the sun is completely impractical," <a href="http://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/about/staff/" target="_blank">Stuart Armstrong</a>, a research fellow at Oxford University's Future of Humanity Institute who has studied megastructure concepts, <a href="https://www.popularmechanics.com/space/deep-space/a11098/dyson-sphere/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">told Popular Mechanics</a> in 2020.</p><p>There are many questions about and arguments against the feasibility of Dyson spheres. Obviously, our modern engineering capabilities wouldn't enable us to build a structure that big and complex, and then transport it to the sun. And even if engineers <em>could</em> build an enormous sun shell, we don't have materials with enough tensile strength to hold together the structure once it's surrounding the sun.</p><p>Other potential problems: space debris colliding with the sphere, inefficiencies in transporting the energy back to Earth, and having to perform maintenance on a megastructure that's dangerously close to the sun. In short, the Dyson sphere is a very theoretical concept.</p>
Credit: vexworldwide via Adobe Stock<p>But some people think building a Dyson sphere is more feasible than it seems. In 2012, the bioethicist and transhumanist George Dvorsky published a blog post titled <a href="http://www.sentientdevelopments.com/2012/03/how-to-build-dyson-sphere-in-five.html" target="_blank">"How to build a Dyson sphere in five (relatively) easy steps."</a> His strategy, in short, calls for sending autonomous robots into space, where they would:</p><ol><li>Get energy</li><li>Mine Mercury</li><li>Get materials into orbit</li><li>Make solar collectors</li><li>Extract energy</li></ol><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The idea is to build the entire swarm in iterative steps and not all at once. We would only need to build a small section of the Dyson sphere to provide the energy requirements for the rest of the project. Thus, construction efficiency will increase over time as the project progresses," Dvorsky wrote.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We're going to have to mine materials from Mercury. Actually, we'll likely have to take the whole planet apart. The Dyson sphere will require a horrendous amount of material—so much so, in fact, that, should we want to completely envelope the sun, we are going to have to disassemble not just Mercury, but Venus, some of the outer planets, and any nearby asteroids as well."</p>
Credit: ALEXEY TURCHIN<p>Turchin <a href="https://www.popularmechanics.com/science/a35788050/dyson-sphere-digital-resurrection-immortality/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">echoed</a> a similar idea to Popular Mechanics, acknowledging that while humans currently can't build a Dyson sphere, "nanorobots could do it."</p><p>Still, even if scientists someday manage to create a Dyson sphere that's able to power a resurrection simulation, there's a good chance many people won't take part: <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/may/16/dying-still-taboo-subject-poll" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Surveys</a> <a href="https://quillette.com/2018/03/02/would-you-opt-for-immortality/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">repeatedly</a> <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutesvanity-fair-poll-the-afterlife/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">show</a> that most people would not opt to live forever if given the choice.</p>
A physicist creates an AI algorithm that predicts natural events and may prove the simulation hypothesis.
- Princeton physicist Hong Qin creates an AI algorithm that can predict planetary orbits.
- The scientist partially based his work on the hypothesis which believes reality is a simulation.
- The algorithm is being adapted to predict behavior of plasma and can be used on other natural phenomena.
Physicist Hong Qin with images of planetary orbits and computer code.
Credit: Elle Starkman
Are we living in a simulation? | Bill Nye, Joscha Bach, Donald Hoffman | Big Think<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b593a3858896012a05180b80b4d24bcd"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KDcNVZjaNSU?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
"Deepfakes" and "cheap fakes" are becoming strikingly convincing — even ones generated on freely available apps.
- A writer named Magdalene Visaggio recently used FaceApp and Airbrush to generate convincing portraits of early U.S. presidents.
- "Deepfake" technology has improved drastically in recent years, and some countries are already experiencing how it can weaponized for political purposes.
- It's currently unknown whether it'll be possible to develop technology that can quickly and accurately determine whether a given video is real or fake.
The future of deepfakes<p>In 2018, Gabon's president Ali Bongo had been out of the country for months receiving medical treatment. After Bongo hadn't been seen in public for months, rumors began swirling about his condition. Some suggested Bongo might even be dead. In response, Bongo's administration released a video that seemed to show the president addressing the nation.</p><p>But the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=324528215059254" target="_blank">video</a> is strange, appearing choppy and blurry in parts. After political opponents declared the video to be a deepfake, Gabon's military attempted an unsuccessful coup. What's striking about the story is that, to this day, experts in the field of deepfakes can't conclusively verify whether the video was real. </p><p>The uncertainty and confusion generated by deepfakes poses a "global problem," according to a <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/research/is-seeing-still-believing-the-deepfake-challenge-to-truth-in-politics/#cancel" target="_blank">2020 report from The Brookings Institution</a>. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Defense released some of the first tools able to successfully detect deepfake videos. The problem, however, is that deepfake technology keeps improving, meaning forensic approaches may forever be one step behind the most sophisticated forms of deepfakes. </p><p>As the 2020 report noted, even if the private sector or governments create technology to identify deepfakes, they will:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"...operate more slowly than the generation of these fakes, allowing false representations to dominate the media landscape for days or even weeks. "A lie can go halfway around the world before the truth can get its shoes on," warns David Doermann, the director of the Artificial Intelligence Institute at the University of Buffalo. And if defensive methods yield results short of certainty, as many will, technology companies will be hesitant to label the likely misrepresentations as fakes."</p>
Perspective twisting books on biology, social science, medical science, cosmology, and tech.
- The best science books push us to think, feel, and behave differently.
- This list includes new releases by authors Merlin Sheldrake, Isabel Wilkerson, James Nestor, David Attenborough, and others.
- Besides making us more knowledgeable, these books inspire curiosity, passion, and empathy for the universe in and around us.