Embracing Virtuality

In 2009, a Japanese man married a woman named Nene Anegasaki on the island of Guam.  The curious thing was that Nene was a virtual character in the Nintendo videogame LovePlus.


In 2013, Spike Jonze directed the highly acclaimed (and Academy Award nominated) film “Her”, in which the protagonist falls in love with an OS (operating system) AI (artificial intelligence).


Outrageous you say?

Consider that for centuries people have been falling in love sight unseen via snail mail.  Today, with online dating, this is even more prevalent.  Philosophy professor Aaron Ben-Ze’ev notes that online technology “enables having a connection that is faster and more direct.”

So it got me thinking that these types of relationships aren’t that different from the virtual ones that are depicted in “Her” and are going to occur with increasing frequency as AI progresses.  The interactions are exactly the same; it is just that the entity at the end of the communication channel is either real or artificial.

But wait, what is artificial and what is real?  As Morpheus said in “The Matrix,” “What is real? How do you define ‘real’? If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.”  This is not just philosophy; this is as factual as you can get.

As a growing number of researchers, physicists, and philosophers come to terms with the supporting evidence that we already live in a virtual reality, we realize that there is no distinction between a virtual entity that we think is virtual (such as a game character) and a virtual entity that we think is real (such as the person you are in a relationship with).  Your consciousness does not emerge from your brain; its seat is elsewhere.  Your lover’s consciousness therefore is also elsewhere.  You are interacting with it via the transfer of data and your emotions are part of your core consciousness.  Does it matter whether that data transfer is between two conscious entities outside of physical reality or between a conscious entity and another somewhat less conscious entity?

As technology progresses, AI advances, and gaming and simulations become more immersive, falling in love or having any other kind of emotional experience will be occurring more and more frequently with what we today think of as virtual entities.

Now, it seems shocking.  Tomorrow it will be curious.  Eventually it will be the norm.

Rewriting the Past

“I don’t believe in yesterday, by the way.”
-John Lennon

The past is set in stone, right?  Everything we have learned tells us that you can not change the past, 88-MPH DeLoreans notwithstanding.

However, it would probably surprise you to learn that many highly respected scientists, as well as a few out on the fringe, are questioning that assumption, based on real evidence.

For example, leading stem cell scientist, Dr. Robert Lanza, posits that the past does not really exist until properly observed.  His theory of Biocentrism says that the past is just as malleable as the future.

Specific experiments in Quantum Mechanics appear to prove this conjecture.  In the “Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser” experiment, “scientists in France shot photons into an apparatus, and showed that what they did could retroactively change something that had already happened.” (Science 315, 966, 2007)

Paul Davies, renowned physicist from the Australian Centre for Astrobiology at Macquarie University in Sydney, suggests that conscious observers (us) can effectively reach back in history to “exert influence” on early events in the universe, including even the first moments of time.  As a result, the universe would be able to “fine-tune” itself to be suitable for life.

Prefer the Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI) of Quantum Mechanics over the Copenhagen one?  If that theory is correct, physicist Saibal Mitra from the University of Amsterdam has shown how we can change the past by forgetting.  Effectively if the collective observers memory is reset prior to some event, the state of the universe becomes “undetermined” and can follow a different path from before.  Check out my previous post on that one.

Alternatively, you can disregard the complexities of quantum mechanics entirely.  The results of some macro-level experiments twist our perceptions of reality even more.  Studies by Helmut Schmidt, Elmar Gruber, Brenda Dunne, Robert Jahn, and others have shown, for example, that humans are actually able to influence past events (aka retropsychokinesis, or RPK), such as pre-recorded (and previously unobserved) random number sequences

Benjamin Libet, pioneering scientist in the field of human consciousness at  the University of California, San Francisco is well known for his controversial experiments that seem to show reverse causality, or that the brain demonstrates awareness of actions that will occur in the near future.  To put it another way, actions that occur now create electrical brain activity in the past.

And then, of course, there is time travel.  Time travel into the future is a fact, just ask any astronaut, all of whom have traveled nanoseconds into the future as a side effect of high speed travel.  Stephen Hawking predicts much more significant time travel into the future.  In the future.  But what about the past?  Turns out there is nothing in the laws of physics that prevents it.  Theoretical physicist Kip Thorne designed a workable time machine that could send you into the past.  And traveling to the past of course provides an easy mechanism for changing it.  Unfortunately this requires exotic matter and a solution to the Grandfather paradox (MWI to the rescue again here).

None of this is a huge surprise to me, since I question everything about our conventional views of reality.  Consider the following scenario in a massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) or simulation.  The first time someone plays the game, or participates in the simulation, there is an assumed “past” to the construct of the game.  Components of that past may be found in artifacts (books, buried evidence, etc.) scattered throughout the game.  Let’s say that evidence reports that the Kalimdors and Northrendians were at war during year 1999.  But the evidence has yet to be found by a player.  A game patch could easily change the date to 2000, thereby changing the past and no one would be the wiser.  But, what if someone had found the artifact, thereby setting the past in stone.  That patch could still be applied, but it would only be effective if all players who had knowledge of the artifact were forced to forget.  Science fiction, right?  No longer, thanks to an emerging field of cognitive research.  Two years ago, scientists were able to erase selected memories in mice.  Insertion of false memories is not far behind.  This will eventually perfected, and applied to humans.

At some point in our future (this century), we will be able to snort up a few nanobots, which will archive our memories, download a new batch of memories to the starting state of a simulation, and run the simulation.  When it ends, the nanobots will restore our old memories.

Or maybe this happened at some point in our past and we are really living the simulation.  There is really no way to tell.

No wonder the past seems so flexible.


Quantum Entanglement – Solved (with pseudocode)

I am always amazed at how such bright physicists discuss scientific anomalies, like quantum entanglement, pronounce that “that’s just the way it is” and never seriously consider an obvious answer and solution to all such anomalies – namely that perhaps our reality is under programmed control.

For the quantum entanglement anomaly, I think you will see what I mean.  Imagine that our world is like a video game.  As with existing commercial games, which use “physics engines”, the players (us) are subject to the rules of physics, as are subatomic particles.  However, suppose there is a rule in the engine that says that when two particles interact, their behavior is synchronized going forward.  Simple to program.  The pseudocode would look something like:

for all particles (i)
for all particles (j)
if distance(particle.i, particle.j) < EntanglementThreshold then
Synchronize(particle.i, particle.j)
end if
next j
next i

After that event, at each cycle through the main program loop, whatever one particle does, its synchronized counterparts also do.  Since the program operates outside of the artificial laws of physics, those particles can be placed anywhere in the program’s reality space and they will always stay synchronized.  Yet their motion and other interactions may be subject to the usual physics engine.  This is very easy to program, and, coupled with all of the other evidence that our reality is under programmed control (the programmer is the intelligent creator), offers a perfect explanation.  More and more scientists are considering these ideas (e.g. Craig Hogan, Brian Whitworth, Andrei Linde) although the thought center is more in the fields of philosophy, computer science, and artificial intelligence.  I wonder if the reason more physicists haven’t caught on is that they fear that such concepts might make them obsolete.

They needn’t worry.  Their jobs are still to probe the workings of the “cosmic program.”



Here’s to Space Invaders

This is a nod to the 30th anniversary of the release of the arcade video game Space Invaders, which came out in 1978.

Running on an Intel 8080 microprocessor at 2 MHz, it featured 64-bit characters on a 224 x 240 pixel 2-color screen.  There was, of course, was no mistaking anything in that game for reality.  One would never have nightmares about being abducted by a 64-bit Space Invader alien.  Fast forward 30 years and take a stroll through your local electronic superstore and what do you see on the screen?  Is that a football game or is it Madden NFL ’08?  Is that an Extreme Games telecast or are we looking at a PS3 or Wii version of the latest skateboarding or snowboarding game.  Is that movie featuring real actors or are they CG?  (After watching “Beowulf”, I confess that I had to ask my son, who is much more knowledgeable about such things, which parts were CG.)

Where will gaming be in the next 30 years?  For more on where that is going, feel free to check out my article “Is Our Reality just a Big Video Game“.