December 26, 2008

Matrices and Pop Philosophy

One of my favorite nerdy podcasts that I've come upon is "Pop Philosophy" by Open Court, which I recommend you search for on iTunes. I haven't listened to many episodes, but I do like what I have heard.

An especially good episode was titled, 'Why Make a Matrix? And Why You Might Be in One." The argument therein, which they call the Simulation Argument, basically tries to prove that there are possibilities regarding matrices. They are as follows:

1. Most civilizations go extinct before becoming technologically mature
We have no reason to think we're special. We'd probably go extinct by then too.

2. No technologically mature civilization would want to build matrices.
A matrix could be used for 1) recreation/ virtual reality vacations or 2) counterfactual historical study.
If a society is technologically mature, it may have 1) more advanced ethics than us (prohibiting matrices), or 2) not need matrices for recreation or informational purposes due to the super-high level of advancement.

3. We're almost certainly in a matrix.
In a world in which matrices are created, more people live in matrices than in the original creator-world. So, statistically, we're more likely to be in a digital world than in a physical one, providing that some civilization became technologically mature and had an architect build at least one matrix.

The argument given doesn't say which of these three options is the case, but only that one of them must be the case. We need to know more about technological maturity and the motivation of potential architects for that.

Something that I liked about this particular podcast was that they discussed the problems with the movies, such as Neo's ability to control things with his mind after supposedly leaving the matrix and how it then appeared that they were merely in another level of the matrix. Then there is the problem of "glitches in the matrix" and deja vu when something is changed. It is pointed out in this podcast that such things would not occur. The people in the matrix would skip backwards as well as the things around them and thus not remember the first incident of seeing something. They would not experience the deja vu.
Also, it would be unnecessary to simulate every little feature of an object, and things that no one perceived would be extremely compressed, making it such that a tree falling when no one's there to hear it would not need to make a sound.

I enjoyed this; just thought I'd share. Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit Google Bookmark

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