Bartle talks (virtual) religion

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Mar 282011
 

If you "play god" is it blasphemous, or is it fulfilling the notion of being created in god's image?Dr Bartle has uploaded slides from a recent talk that is for “those who wish to see a definition of hubris incarnate” as he puts it: a disquisition on how creating virtual realities opens up religious questions. It’s quite interesting.

The basic premise is that realities are realities — just because one is a relatively crude construct doesn’t mean it isn’t a full-blown reality. Therefore, those who create said realities are gods.

By the time it gets to creating AIs that are self-aware but not knowing whether they are creations, we’re into fairly familiar territory. But it goes beyond that into the notion that perhaps you could create afterlives for these AIs, or allow them to visit your plane of reality using “waldoes” of a sort — a notion that resonates with Ted Chiang’s wonderful novella “The Lifecycle of Software Objects.”

 

  121 Responses to “Bartle talks (virtual) religion”

  1. I use the term god within my world mostly to avoid falling into the caretaker role in the eyes of the community.

    The, we made a mess and now its your job to clean it up sort of interaction.

    Which is not so good.

  2. Blasphemy is what some religionists call that which personally offends them, not their gods. To claim blasphemy is itself arrogance, false pride, and hubris. To claim blasphemy is to presume that we lesser beings could possibly know the mind of a god, that we could possibly achieve empathy with a god, that we could know how they feel about our activities.

    If we approach god beliefs from the perspective that we are only human and that we cannot transcend our nature, then we should recognize that as lesser beings, we absolutely do not have the capacity to understand or even describe our relationships with deities. Our human ideas and words are simply not up to the task.

    Therefore, we cannot know how one of the thousands of gods throughout human history will “feel” about us lesser beings attempting to imitate its handiwork. If I were a believer and I had to view virtual worlds in a religious context, I’d opt to see the creation of virtual worlds as a flattery of the gods. It’s a positive approach that’s much better than harboring negative feelings toward fellow man for the rest of my life.

  3. Morgan Ramsay:
    If we approach god beliefs from the perspective that we are only human and that we cannot transcend our nature, then we should recognize that as lesser beings.

    The whole point of believing in a God is that you can transcend your nature. It’s atheism that cuts off “rising above” yourself — there’s nothing to rise above to. You have no soul, only a brain created by the chance and necessity of evolution.

    we absolutely do not have the capacity to understand or even describe our relationships with deities. Our human ideas and words are simply not up to the task.

    Not according to most religions in the history of the world. The ancient Hebrews did a pretty good job of describing their interactions with the deity over 2000 years. These words were good enough to survive in oral and written forms for another 2000 years and transmit the core ideas and message to billions of people.

  4. One point in rebuttal to Dr. Bartle.

    The smartest NPC’s would not be atheists, they would be theists. They would reason that since we are able to reason (that is have a true perception of our reality), a higher being must have given us that reason. If our ability to have perceptions had arisen simply from the chance and necessity of our evolution, we have no reason to trust them. If we want to trust them, we must be theists.

    Overall, the model in this presentation appears to be Gnosticism (early 1st-century heresy popularized in the Da Vinci Code). I understand that Gnostics believed we live in a flawed reality was created by a lesser God who was himself created in turn by the supreme uncreated God. Human beings had to perceive and overcome the flawed reality to reach the divine state that was the true reality.

    Perhaps Gnostics were the original theorists of virtual worlds?

  5. Simon: The whole point of believing in a God is that you can transcend your nature. […] You have no soul, only a brain created by the chance and necessity of evolution.

    That’s not transcendence. Believers in the metaphysical soul posit that such a soul is part of a person during the entirety of his or her physical life. When the person dies, the soul floats away from his or her body like a balloon to some eternally distant plane of existence. Again, that’s not transcendence. That’s substituting the physical existence with a metaphysical existence. Also, not every religion necessitates belief in a metaphysical soul. Furthermore, there are at least a dozen types of souls, only one of which most Western religionists can even point to as their soul of choice.

    Transcendence involves the transformation of one thing into another. In the sense that I was using the word, few religions suggest that the human being can be anything other than a human being. The body is a shell that we supposedly cast away when we’re done using up its life force, or rather, when some deity is done with it. (We’re effectively pollution that Nature has to clean up.) Also, I guess that implies metaphysical souls are parasites, but I digress.

    Simon: The ancient Hebrews did a pretty good job of describing their interactions with the deity over 2000 years. These words were good enough to survive in oral and written forms for another 2000 years and transmit the core ideas and message to billions of people.

    Their interactions clearly refers to human interactions with a deity and human interpretations of that deity and its behaviors. When religionists claim that some god is infallible and humans are fallible, one has to wonder. Also, the most serious religious scholars recognize that the so-called “word of God” in Christianity and Judaism were penned by men hundreds of years after the supposed events occurred. Some Christians claim that these authors’ hands were controlled by the deity, but honestly, you know what that’s called? Possession. And we all know what God-fearing men and women did to practitioners of witchcraft, and still do today.

  6. This is a fun idea. But my understanding of blasphemy is limited. Is it blasphemous to even consider alternate realities – let alone bring them to life through words (written or spoken) and/or pictures (static or moving)?

    Interactive digital realities are no less illusions (regardless of the fact that the more physical ones can be more plausible as realities), so is making them really playing god? At what point does the illusion become reality?

  7. Morgan Ramsay>If we approach god beliefs from the perspective that we are only human and that we cannot transcend our nature, then we should recognize that as lesser beings, we absolutely do not have the capacity to understand or even describe our relationships with deities.

    Except that now we can ourselves be deities. We can create our own realities, for which we are gods. So we do, in fact, have the capacity to understand what being a god is. That’s kind of the point of my talk.

    >Our human ideas and words are simply not up to the task.

    Therefore, we cannot know how one of the thousands of gods throughout human history will “feel” about us lesser beings attempting to imitate its handiwork. If I were a believer and I had to view virtual worlds in a religious context, I’d opt to see the creation of virtual worlds as a flattery of the gods. It’s a positive approach that’s much better than harboring negative feelings toward fellow man for the rest of my life.

  8. …damn, hit the tab and then return … sorry for the above partially-written reply.

    It was meant to continue:

    >If I were a believer and I had to view virtual worlds in a religious context, I’d opt to see the creation of virtual worlds as a flattery of the gods.

    It’s certainly safer for those of us who create them if they’re sacrament rather than blasphemy.

    I should point out that the sacrement/blasphemy dichotomy isn’t mine – I got it out of Kevin Kelly’s book, Out of Control.

    Richard

  9. Simon>The smartest NPC’s would not be atheists, they would be theists.

    Nah, they’d be atheists.

    >They would reason that since we are able to reason (that is have a true perception of our reality), a higher being must have given us that reason.

    No, see, they wouldn’t have done that because that would be a circular argument. That argument could then be applied to the higher being, therefore there is an even-higher being, and so on ad infinitum. Believe in one god based on that argument and you believe in an infinite number of them of greater and greater power, and you still get no explanation as to where they all came from.

    >If our ability to have perceptions had arisen simply from the chance and necessity of our evolution, we have no reason to trust them.

    We don’t have reason to trust our perceptions. We have reason to believe they’re right most of the time, but we also have reason to disbelieve them when they are at odds with what we know to be true. Evolution has got us so far, but we can go further.

    >Perhaps Gnostics were the original theorists of virtual worlds?

    Check out the book TechGnosis by Erik Davis if you’re interested in this kind of thing (it has it own web site).

    Richard

  10. Richard Bartle > No, see, they wouldn’t have done that because that would be a circular argument. That argument could then be applied to the higher being, therefore there is an even-higher being, and so on ad infinitum. Believe in one god based on that argument and you believe in an infinite number of them of greater and greater power, and you still get no explanation as to where they all came from.

    I guess we can call this the “Gods all the way down” argument? A created god, however, is not God, only like God. This point made in the presentation — the developers are not God themselves, only like God.

    Richard Bartle > We don’t have reason to trust our perceptions. We have reason to believe they’re right most of the time, but we also have reason to disbelieve them when they are at odds with what we know to be true. Evolution has got us so far, but we can go further.

    Without a bedrock God, however, who upholds reason, there is nothing that we can “know to be true”. The chance and necessity of evolution does not necessarily produce a true picture of the world.

    For example, imagine a primitive hominid in Africa whose favourite hobby is hugging lions. This hominid also believes the best way to hug a lion is to run away from one as soon as he sees it. Such a world view bears no connection to reality, but it would certainly allow him to pass on his genes.

    It is interesting to speculate on the beliefs of the atheist NPC. Perhaps he believes that there was an uncreated computer with no agency behind it that kicked off his universe — just as real atheists appear to believe in an uncreated particle at the beginning of the big bang.

    Such fun to think of these things while playing World of Warcraft.

  11. We can create our own realities, for which we are gods. So we do, in fact, have the capacity to understand what being a god is.

    We really don’t though. We’re still using our human imagination to conceive of a deific existence. Our conception of such existence is therefore human, so what we have the capacity to understand is not actually what being a god is but rather what we think being a god is. (Ending a sentence with is… Argh!) That’s very different, supposedly. Unless, of course, we pretend that a god is whatever we say a god is because we assert that god is manmade. That is an atheistic proposition though. However, in a strange twist, our perception of gods is human, so our very idea and understanding of and belief in gods is ultimately fallible.

  12. Perhaps Gnostics were the original theorists of virtual worlds?

    Socrates -> Plato -> Aristotle beat the gnostics to it by a century or two, I believe (and most gnostic thought is influenced by them). Their contention is that this world is an imperfect reflection of a world of true, ideal forms. (The Persians may have had the same concept earlier, but I’m fuzzy on the timeframes).

    If this is the case, then it would follow that for each of us there is an idealized counterpart in the higher reality — a player-character relationship rather than non-player characters. However, we’ve become so immersed in the game that we’ve (mostly) forgotten that we’re characters rather than players.

    Actually, thinking about games as religions and designers as gods goes a long way towards explaining the ceaseless board wars between the fanbois and the trolls. I wonder whether we armchair designers and part-time content creators are demi-gods, or merely overreaching priests and priestesses?

  13. Hi Richard, congratulations on a great presentation! I have independently come to some very similar conclusions in the last few years, but you’ve explained some of these things much better than I would have. The point on ‘Ascending’ is also very intriguing. I’ll be sure this link this aplenty in the future 🙂

    One key point I’ve thought about which you didn’t consider is the implication that the SAME reality can be computed identically in MULTIPLE different higher realities. If the output is the same in every way and it is completely impossible to tell any difference from inside the reality, then these realities are essentially one and the same.

    To take an even simpler example, I could simulate the same reality twice by sending the exact same input (bit for bit including manual interactions) to two clusters, one based on Intel CPUs and one based on AMD CPUs, and the result should be the exact same. They’re the same reality. But the very instant that a single output bit in one of the two clusters becomes different (e.g. because of a cosmic ray which caused an error in the DRAM of one of the two clusters despite all the precautions to the contrary), then they become two distinct realities.

    This has several interesting consequences. Probably the most interesting one, philosophically speaking, is that it suddenly becomes absurd to imagine a single ‘God’ or ‘creator’ for our reality. An infinity are possible, and even if they interacted directly into our world, they might still have very different reasons to do so. And if we asked such a God about one aspect of his reality and they both answered the exact same thing bit/atom for bit/atom (if they didn’t the realities would diverge at that point), one might be telling the truth and the other might be lying or just mistaken. There is no way to tell.

    This also seems to make it inevitable that there are an infinite number of realities, each with an infinite number of ‘higher’ realities. This also means that a reality being ‘switched off’ would not truly destroy that reality, because it would keep existing as part of an infinite number of other realities (infinity minus one is still infinity). There is also no necessity for one reality to be ‘at the top’; infinite nesting or recursion seem perfectly viable to me.

    However, this does NOT explain the origin of these infinite numbers of realities, or tell us anything about what the ‘average motivation’ of any reality’s creator, or at least of the creators of our reality? Even if there is no single god, might that ‘average motivation’ have any practical effect? I do have a promising answer to that, but it’s tentative and a bit rough around the edges so I’ll keep it to myself for now.

    Sorry for the ridiculously long post, but hopefully this was at least somewhat interesting! 🙂 Once again, congratulations and thanks for the great presentation.

  14. Ah, one more thing: you say that it’s unlikely anyone designed this reality because its design isn’t very good. So surely my proposition that an infinite number of entities designed it is even worse!

    But here’s the point: good for who? It’s a big universe (and therefore probably a big reality unless you somehow managed to only compute part of it) so it doesn’t have to be about us, or at least not about our enjoyment. If it is an experiment, you can’t say whether it’s a failure if you do not (and cannot) know what is being tested.

  15. Ah, just realised my original (very long) comment is still awaiting moderation, don’t bother trying to make sense of my second one on its own!

  16. you say that it’s unlikely anyone designed this reality because its design isn’t very good. So surely my proposition that an infinite number of entities designed it is even worse!

    Design by infinite committee?

  17. Unnamed Newbie>you say that it’s unlikely anyone designed this reality because its design isn’t very good. So surely my proposition that an infinite number of entities designed it is even worse!

    Design by committee is bad enough, but design by a committee with an infinite number of members has to be even worse.

    >But here’s the point: good for who?

    Good for us, good for the designer.

    >It’s a big universe so it doesn’t have to be about us

    But it should be. Anyone who creates a world with sentient beings in it and doesn’t make it about those sentient beings (whether as denizens or visitors from the designer’s reality) is doing those sentient beings a great disservice.

    >or at least not about our enjoyment.

    It’s not the enjoyment that matters so much as the degree if misery. If everything is pleasurable then ultimately nothing is pleasurable – you have to have the downs as well as the ups. However, the design mistake is to make some downs have no ups. “Mmm, I really appreciate that sunset now I have bone cancer” doesn’t really work.

    >Ah, just realised my original (very long) comment is still awaiting moderation, don’t bother trying to make sense of my second one on its own!

    Heh, but if we’re talking about religion, sense doesn’t have to come into it!

    Richard

  18. My reply to Richard was held for moderation. Raph! 😉

  19. Bartle>But it should be. Anyone who creates a world with sentient beings in it and doesn’t make it about those sentient beings (whether as denizens or visitors from the designer’s reality) is doing those sentient beings a great disservice.

    Unless we are missing something (let’s call it Meta-Sentience) that without which our creators don’t think we are worthy to be considered autonomous life.

    We could be NPCs that are designed for the players to encounter in some future time when they’ve leveled up or explored this part of the virtual reality.

    It will be a question that will come up as we start building AIs that I’m not sure the Turing Test will cover very well. How human-like do you have to be before you can’t be destroyed for moral reasons?

    Just as how much designer-like do we have to be, before we are considered worthy?

  20. Hah, infinite committee is a scary thought indeed! But I was probably too vague because I meant just the opposite: an infinite number of different entities in different realities designed it independently and possibly with very different reasons in mind.

    From the POV of one creator in his reality, he is the God of his creation. But from the POV of any entity inside that lower reality, it is completely impossible to tell anything whatsoever about that specific creator or his higher reality because there are an infinity of possible ones. And those other creators are just as real, which is why ‘switching off’ the reality wouldn’t destroy it in an important sense.

    As for a reality with sentient beings having to be about sentient beings to be morally acceptable… that’s a very good point. Of course, nothing tells us that the average creator is Good; for all we know, he could be True Neutral. I’m not sure that’s the right answer, but I can’t do any better right now. Anyway we shouldn’t be looking for the answers that comfort us best; we should be looking for the truth.

    And true about religion, but don’t worry, I’m practically a radical atheist (RIP, Douglas Adams) – I’m just not afraid of trying to get to the same conclusion in a different way. Or discarding the whole thing if it turns out there’s some critical bit of evidence I missed. Anyhow, thanks for the discussion and the thought-provoking presentation on this subject and ones further away from religion/philosophy!

  21. I find it interesting that whenever religion is discussed, the debate almost always boils down to proving or disproving the existence of God. It seems to me that debate is missing the point!

    The other question is that is it even possible to create sentient AI? After all, AI is a program that someone writes, an AI can only be sentient if it can exceed the bounds of that program and think for itself.

    Dr Bartle states that reality is a bad design and therefore a deity can’t exist citing three examples: permadeath, telepathy and teleportation. Permadeath is described as being a good thing in his book, Designing Virtual Worlds. Telepathy and teleportation deal with the passing of time. If all travel and communication were instantaneous, people would lose appreciation for the significance of taking time to do things. In a game, these things are instantaneous to aid the purpose and function of the game. In reality, there is a different purpose and part of that requires taking time.

  22. Unnamed Newbie>One key point I’ve thought about which you didn’t consider is the implication that the SAME reality can be computed identically in MULTIPLE different higher realities.

    It depends what you mean by “same”.

    I can run the same program on hardware or on an interpreter executing on hardware. Likewise, a god could run the same reality specification on their reality’s hardware or in a sub-reality. As an example, there is presumably no reason why a god of our reality couldn’t take the code for World of Warcraft and run it native in their reality.

    What’s the same here is the program. Whether that means that worlds created by executing the program are the same or not is more debatable. People can talk about different runs of the same program, even if those runs always, provably, do exactly the same thing.

    >then these realities are essentially one and the same.

    From within the reality, yes; from outside the reality, no. “Hey, come and look at the way this universe unfolds – it’s beautiful!”. It’s the same program, but the first time it’s run is different to the second time. If you watch a movie now that you last saw as a child, what appears on the screen is the same but to you, the movie is different.

    >it suddenly becomes absurd to imagine a single ‘God’ or ‘creator’ for our reality. An infinity are possible

    So is a finite number. In particular, the number 0 is a good fit.

    Also, you’re arguing for an infinite number in one direction – up. Unless people on other planets have been infinitely busy over the finite amount of time that has elapsed since the big bang, there is not an infinite number of realities below us. Gee, aren’t we the lucky ones? Out of an infinite number of increasingly higher realities, we just happen to be right at the bottom.

    >This also seems to make it inevitable that there are an infinite number of realities, each with an infinite number of ‘higher’ realities.

    I don’t buy that argument. Mechanically it could be like that, but from a design point of view the realities that a higher reality creates are abstractions of that reality; furthermore, they are generally abstractions that improve on that reality. This means the realities above us have ultimately to be infinitely complex, whatever that means.

    >This also means that a reality being ‘switched off’ would not truly destroy that reality, because it would keep existing as part of an infinite number of other realities

    Only if it were indeed running in an infinite number of other realities. Just because it can be run in all of them, that doesn’t mean it will be.

    Richard

  23. Jeffrey Kessler>Unless we are missing something (let’s call it Meta-Sentience) that without which our creators don’t think we are worthy to be considered autonomous life.

    In that case, they couldn’t visit our world any more than we could visit a world we constructed that had trees as the highest life form. You visit, you’re a tree, now what? Well nothing, so you don’t visit. A meta-sentient being would have to have the same kind of relationship to us as we have to life forms we don’t think are sentient, such as trees. They come here, they’re a human, now what? From their perspective, nothing, so they don’t visit. If they never visit the world, that means that from the perspective of that world they don’t exist.

    >How human-like do you have to be before you can’t be destroyed for moral reasons?

    If it can put forward a persuasive argument that it’s sentient, that’s good enough for me.

    Richard

  24. X2>I find it interesting that whenever religion is discussed, the debate almost always boils down to proving or disproving the existence of God.

    Strictly speaking, my talk was about the existence of gods, not about religion. Gods do exist – as I say on my opening slide, I’m one myself. I was basically arguing that from what we know about being gods, any god of our reality would have to be so incompetent at design that they couldn’t have created our reality in the first place.

    >It seems to me that debate is missing the point!

    What point is that?

    >The other question is that is it even possible to create sentient AI?

    Right now, no. However, as I say in the talk, how long do you think it will take before we can? Is 500 years enough? 5,000? Have half a million – have as long as you like! We have until the heat death of the universe to do it.

    >Dr Bartle states that reality is a bad design and therefore a deity can’t exist citing three examples: permadeath, telepathy and teleportation.

    Three of many I could have cited.

    >Permadeath is described as being a good thing in his book

    Permadeath is fine when you lose your character from being killed. Reality has you lose your character even if you play perfectly.

    I do like permadeath in principle, from a design point of view. The trouble is, the vast majority of players don’t like it. No-one creating a virtual world nowadays is going to put permadeath in it, it just wouldn’t get the players. I myself wouldn’t put in permadeath. What we know now, that we didn’t know when MUD1 was written, is that given a choice between a world with permadeath and a world without, the one without is going to win almost every time. There is the possibility that a well-regulated world with a player base of mature players who appreciate the idea could survive and be a success. It would be a niche product, though.

    Richard

  25. >The other question is that is it even possible to create sentient AI?

    Right now, no. However, as I say in the talk, how long do you think it will take before we can? Is 500 years enough? 5,000? Have half a million – have as long as you like! We have until the heat death of the universe to do it.

    I’m guessing ~50 years, with the ability to imprint our personalities on self-directed agents to the extent that it will be impossible for an untrained observer to tell our virtual clones from ourselves. What good is being a god without immortality?

  26. It is no blasphemy to daydream.

  27. Of course we visit worlds all the time where NPCs don’t have sentience. And it’s true that most of them act exactly like trees. Quest givers are either barren or ripe and ready for the quest harvest. Mob NPCs are hardly a serious threat.

    Most NPCs are no more useful than trees for most players in MMOs. Since we already visit worlds where NPCs aren’t sentient, I’m not sure why you think people wouldn’t visit a world where the NPCs didn’t have “Meta-Sentience.”

    It’s just like Flatland after the sphere showed the Square the 3rd dimension and the Square began to postulate the 4th, 5th and greater. Its true we’ve been building better and better dimensions to NPCs. Interesting is that for an NPC to be able to become sentient it would have to write it’s own code or realistically be supernatural in it’s existing environment. Otherwise it’s just following it’s programming.

    Most MMOs have Mobs that don’t bother to re-act to their environment. Mobs that find dead bodies of their kind fail to re-act in any rationale way. Economies of the games make little sense and are run for the benefit of players not NPCs. (I do enjoy the economy play in Puzzle Pirates though).

  28. What’s the same here is the program. Whether that means that worlds created by executing the program are the same or not is more debatable. People can talk about different runs of the same program, even if those runs always, provably, do exactly the same thing.

    Actually, what must be the same is every single bit of output. This normally requires the exact same program and the exact same input, and if I run the same program with different input (e.g. different starting point, different interactions by ‘players’, etc.) then these are obviously NOT the same realities.

    This is why I said that realities with identical deterministic laws could effectively diverge when a God had a direct interaction on that reality. But there would still exist Gods in other higher realities who made the exact same interaction with that lower reality (maybe for very different reasons!) and infinity divided by any finite number (even a trillion trillion trillion) is still infinity.

    Also, you’re arguing for an infinite number in one direction – up. Unless people on other planets have been infinitely busy over the finite amount of time that has elapsed since the big bang, there is not an infinite number of realities below us. Gee, aren’t we the lucky ones? Out of an infinite number of increasingly higher realities, we just happen to be right at the bottom.

    Right, I’m definitely only arguing for an infinite number upwards. But remember you said yourself that our reality (at the very least because of you and MUD1, possibly because of what’s happening on other planets) is no longer the ‘lowest’ reality in a sense. The exact same must be true for any finite reality: it can only have a finite number of lower realities, and at one point in its history that number must have been zero. I don’t think that’s a very controversial point.

    I don’t buy that argument. Mechanically it could be like that, but from a design point of view the realities that a higher reality creates are abstractions of that reality; furthermore, they are generally abstractions that improve on that reality. This means the realities above us have ultimately to be infinitely complex, whatever that means.

    From a computational POV, the higher realities need to be ‘bigger’ than the ones it creates. In theory you could create a reality with the exact same physical laws as ours but with a much much simpler starting point. You could even come up with more complex laws if you wanted! The only fundamental limitation is scale. And you don’t need to ultimately have an ‘infinitely big’ reality above us, every single one simply needs to be bigger than the last. It is tending towards infinity, but it is never infinite. There’s a big mathematical difference between the two.

    However you make a very good point here, which is a bit similar to the one you made about a reality has to be about its sentient beings to be morally acceptable. I admit I still don’t have a satisfying answer to that, although I’m skeptical it’s a fundamental limitation. Hmm…

    Only if it were indeed running in an infinite number of other realities. Just because it can be run in all of them, that doesn’t mean it will be.

    Absolutely. So just to be clear: the probability that two random realities A and B are both computing the exact same reality C is unbelievably low. It’s as close to zero as you can get; it’s tending towards it. But it’s NOT zero, and any finite number multiplied by infinity results in infinity. I don’t know, maybe that’s not very intuitive, but mathematics doesn’t lie. It can be misused pretty easily though, and obviously my premises could be wrong.

    Sorry again for the long reply! And on the question of AI, there’s a fair bit of inefficiency in the brain, so if we truly understood the principles of general-purpose intelligence, I think we could probably do something very impressive in much less than 50 years. However, that’s a very hard problem, and it might take us a very long time! I certainly hope it’s less than half a million though.

  29. Strictly speaking, my talk was about the existence of gods, not about religion. Gods do exist – as I say on my opening slide, I’m one myself. I was basically arguing that from what we know about being gods, any god of our reality would have to be so incompetent at design that they couldn’t have created our reality in the first place.

    The realities that we design, for which we are gods, are designed for players and, consequently, are different to the reality in which we find ourselves. In terms of a virtual world, we are equivalent to a sentient AI. If you were to design a virtual world for a sentient AI, rather than a player, would you not design it differently?

    >It seems to me that debate is missing the point!

    What point is that?

    My issue here was that debating the existence of God of our reality in the context of religion seems to be missing the point. Since we are discussing it out of the context of religion, the issue here is moot!

    Permadeath is fine when you lose your character from being killed. Reality has you lose your character even if you play perfectly.

    Permadeath is part of playing perfectly. The difference is that in a virtual world, you leave the world when you are ready to leave. In this reality, most of the time, you don’t get that choice (although there is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that some old aged people have an uncanny knack of choosing when to die, one could possibly consider some of those as having played perfectly).

    Ultimately the difference between this reality and a virtual world is Purpose. A virtual world is designed for the entertainment of the players or to enable them to complete their own personal Hero’s Journey, both within the world and outside of it. Perhaps a God of this reality, rather than being incompetent, simply has a different purpose in mind.

  30. I was talking with a co-worker and tried to convince him to bring his POV here, but he declined but said I could.

    One good reason for permadeath is to make things matter and provide drama. Games where there is no permadeath do not often have serious consequences for failure. When there is no permadeath, the drama in guilds (at least the the Puzzle Pirate’s guilds I’ve participated in) is about fairly minor things. When you add permadeath you get serious drama and serious consequences to your actions. Actions matter.

    We also touched on the presence or lack there of a god/admin for the reality. Has there been a game/world/reality that ever was created without a god? Is the concept of a god/admin inherent in human thinking so all of our virtual worlds have them? With apologies to Voltaire “If the superuser did not exist it would be necessary to invent him.”

    I’m with X2 on this, just because we perceive Reality to be flawed/poorly designed doesn’t mean we understand what the purpose is.

  31. Hey, Richard. Check out comment #11. It was held for moderation, so I don’t think you saw it.

  32. Unnamed Newbie>Actually, what must be the same is every single bit of output.

    Well now we’re getting into programming language semantics. Is a program that lists The 12 Days of Christmas iteratively the same as one that lists it recursively? They’re functionally equivalent, but functional equivalence is not the same as identity.

    >But there would still exist Gods in other higher realities who made the exact same interaction with that lower reality

    Say who? Just because there’s an infinite number of them, that doesn’t mean they have to make the same interactions in lower-order worlds. They could make a finite number of interactions in every world except the one where they make the infinite number of interactions.

    >you said yourself that our reality (at the very least because of you and MUD1, possibly because of what’s happening on other planets) is no longer the ‘lowest’ reality in a sense.

    That’s right, but there aren’t an infinite number of universes below us. You’re saying that there are an infinite number above us. That puts us in a rare and privileged position. The chance that we’re the second-lowest reality is (literally) infinitesmal.

    >you don’t need to ultimately have an ‘infinitely big’ reality above us, every single one simply needs to be bigger than the last.

    I wasn’t arguing about “big”, I was arguing about “more complex, in bad ways”. We make our virtual worlds to be less complex in good ways. That’s something we’ve learned in the 30 years since making them. Any person who created our reality would have discovered the same principle, and so would anyone who created theirs, and so on all the way up. Those higher realities must be absolutely awful places to exist if ours is the best that can be created from an infinite number of abstractions.

    >But it’s NOT zero, and any finite number multiplied by infinity results in infinity.

    What point are you trying to prove here?

    Suppose (as physicists put it) that a reality is represented by a pack of cards. There is a large but finite number of ways the cards in a pack can be arranged to give different universes. You seem to be saying that there are many techniques for shuffling cards, but if two shuffles of two different packs of cards result in the same arrangement, they’ve both created the same universe. From the perspective of the people in that universe, I agree; from the perspective of the shufflers I disagree, but let’s go with the simple case and say the universes are identical. Now, you’re saying that if we shuffle the packs an infinite number of times, we’ll get an infinite number of copies of each universe. I don’t believe you can say that, because the most you can say is that you’ll get an infinite number of copies of at least one configuration. In theory, tossing a coin an infinite number of times could get heads the first toss and tails every other toss.

    So, back in levels of universes, there could be an infinite number of universes above us but a finite number of copies of our universe. All it takes is for there to be an infinite number of copies of some other universe.

    Richard

  33. X2>The realities that we design, for which we are gods, are designed for players and, consequently, are different to the reality in which we find ourselves.

    Well yes. Our reality wasn’t designed at all.

    >In terms of a virtual world, we are equivalent to a sentient AI. If you were to design a virtual world for a sentient AI, rather than a player, would you not design it differently?

    If I made it so that no-one (including myself) from my reality was able visit it, then it would be different, yes. I’d make it event-driven rather than time-driven, for a start, because there would be no requirement to step through time ticks during which nothing happened.

    That said, I personally wouldn’t want to create a world with actual sentient AIs in it, because then I’d be responsible for killing them when I switched the system off, or if it crashed.

    >The difference is that in a virtual world, you leave the world when you are ready to leave. In this reality, most of the time, you don’t get that choice

    Well, you can kill yourself; it’s a one-way trip, though. The point I was making is that there’s permadeath for unnecessary reasons. Every NPC in our reality (ie. all of us) is going to experience permadeath, quite probably as a result of an extended period of suffering. Yet there’s nothing to be gained from that either for the NPC or the world’s designer. If our universe were designed, the designer could have stopped that. No designer stopped that.

    >although there is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that some old aged people have an uncanny knack of choosing when to die

    It’s more than anecdotal. A read many years ago of a study of the death rates of elderly Jewish people throughout the year. Most of the time, the rates were the same as those for non-Jewish people – they changed seasonally, but in keeping with the rest of the population. However, there’s a particular Jewish festival (no, I don’t know what it is, sorry) in which Jewish families traditionally come together from wherever they are. Just prior to that festival, the death rates among elderly Jewish people drop. Immediately afterwards, they spike. Then, they return to normal. The conclusion was that elderly Jewish people (and therefore probably elderly everyone else, too) can “hang on” to life to meet their relatives one last time, then they let go.

    >Ultimately the difference between this reality and a virtual world is Purpose. A virtual world is designed for the entertainment of the players or to enable them to complete their own personal Hero’s Journey, both within the world and outside of it.

    That’s true of our reality, yes. Why, therefore, wouldn’t it be true of any reality above ours?

    >Perhaps a God of this reality, rather than being incompetent, simply has a different purpose in mind.

    One that involves the deliberate tormenting of sentient beings? Don’t they have laws against that in meta-reality?

    Richard

  34. Jeffrey Kessler>One good reason for permadeath is to make things matter and provide drama.

    Indeed. That’s not a reason to have intelligent NPCs drop dead after at most 120 years, though.

    >Has there been a game/world/reality that ever was created without a god?

    Not in our reality.

    >Is the concept of a god/admin inherent in human thinking so all of our virtual worlds have them?

    No, that’s not why; it’s a purely practical matter.

    To create a virtual world in our reality, someone actually has to program it. That someone is, by definition, a god for that reality. I suppose we could write sophisticated but mindless world-generation programs, so rather than being gods of the realities so created we’re merely the creators of reality-creating machines. Those realities wouldn’t formally have gods unless we chose to take on that role.

    Richard

  35. Morgan Ramsay>Check out comment #11. It was held for moderation, so I don’t think you saw it.

    Yes, sorry, I must have missed it.

    >We’re still using our human imagination to conceive of a deific existence.

    No, we actually are gods for the realities we create. There’s no need to use our imaginations to conceive of what it is like: we actually know what it is like. We are the gods of our virtual worlds, because we control the physics of those worlds. Or do you have a different definition of what a god is?

    >Unless, of course, we pretend that a god is whatever we say a god is because we assert that god is manmade.

    I’m not asserting that gods are man-made. I’m asserting that virtual worlds are man-made, and that’s what makes the people who made them gods for those realities.

    It may be you have a different definition of what a god is. The one I’m using – someone able to change the physics of a world – is fairly neutral, but if you think I’m missing some other essential property, just say.

    >That is an atheistic proposition though.

    Why the “though”? You make it sound as if merely being atheistic makes it wrong.

    >However, in a strange twist, our perception of gods is human

    No, the strange twist is that we don’t actually perceive gods, it’s just that large numbers of us act as if we do.

    Richard

  36. As much as I love computers, virtual reality is something that’s been with us since BEFORE we were human.

    The brains of humans (and of many other mammals) construct models of reality so continuously that we’re barely aware of it happening. The most obviously useful application is imagining the outcome of a potential action before we undertake the action. Dreams, daydreams and schizophrenia all involve constructing virtual worlds.

    And since the advent of language, we’ve been able to share our virtual worlds with other people.

    Perhaps the reason that the concept of ‘god’ or ‘gods’ has such resonance in the human mind is that we have extensive experience in creating universes in which everything is under our conscious or unconscious control.

    I submit that our creations will have achieved true sentience when they start telling each other stories and designing games of their own.

  37. >Perhaps a God of this reality, rather than being incompetent, simply has a different purpose in mind.

    One that involves the deliberate tormenting of sentient beings? Don’t they have laws against that in meta-reality?

    If this world/reality were perfect, Richard, why have it at all? Just have Heaven. Whatever the reason for it, it must involve it’s imperfections.

    But then, you don’t believe that there is anything above our world…

    Well yes. Our reality wasn’t designed at all.

    Just by chance. An infinite number of Big Bangs, and ours happened to form laws that allowed for this existence. Or whatever. And whatever that force is behind this infinite number of Big Bangs (or whatever), it just is. You refuse to allow, in your own mind, that that force has any intelligence behind it, any “being” to it. But then, if it did, why have an infinite number of Big Bangs at all? Yet, if there were, could there not be a reason for that?

    Whatever the reality is, lets be clear that there is but one reality of it all. Ours is simply a part of that reality. What you create, those “worlds”, are just mock-ups. They are not realities in themselves. Would they become “realities” if the NPCs were somehow given the ability to think on their own? Is that really possible? Or would they just be more mock-ups coded to simulate thought based on what you were to code?

    Same thing for computers, artificial life. Could they ever really think on their own, or would they simply be “artificial”? It seems to me that it’s entirely dependent on what the reality is. If we are simply highly advanced mechanisms created by this happenstance of our universe created by pure chance, then I suppose they might think on their own just as we do. But if there’s a God, and we were created and endowed with the ability to think on our own, maybe not. I don’t know one way or another.

    It all boils down to that same question. Is there a God? No matter what you or I think, there is only one answer and one reality. And none of us will ever know until, and if, we pass on to what is called Heaven, and if even there we are able to learn the whole truth of what the reality is.

    In conclusion, no. I don’t think you are a god.

  38. Silly season in gamerland.

    People have been inventing religions for aeons. Some call it idol worship.

    “Let us worship Aphrodite
    In a silky sea through nightie
    She’s a mighty righteous sighty
    And good enough for me.
    Gimme that ol’ time religion..”

  39. Heh, Len, it’s a game we all get to play.

    So, you really believe the world is round? People used to believe it was flat, and they were wrong, so they must be wrong with this too. And please spare me the “it was religion that did that”. It was everybody until God’s science was able to overcome man’s law.

    It is fun though. The debates by fallible man over what can’t be known. Or maybe some day it can. From what I understand, the Masons require that members believe in one God. It doesn’t matter which. If that’s so, I wonder why, and think it might be to do with the math seen as laws of the universe and so there must be some almighty creator. Of course, that once again leads us back to belief. But I wonder if there isn’t some way, through the math and the physics, to prove that must be.

    I also wonder about the whole theory that in infinite possibilities, there will eventually be any certain outcome. I wonder if there’s an undiscovered principle that would prevent that. The infinite deck of cards, as an example, laid out. It’s aid that eventually the same layout will occur twice, and more. But the fact is, there are a set number of possibilities, and all of these will eventually be laid out in unlimited quantities. But there will never be a deck laid out with an ace of pickles anywhere in it. It would become a predictable result, within a range of possibilities.

    Well, excuse me for now. Our world is about to go down for maintenance. When we come back up, I do hope this was saved.

  40. Amaranthar>If this world/reality were perfect, Richard, why have it at all?

    Why not? Why does it have to exist for a reason?

    >Just have Heaven. Whatever the reason for it, it must involve it’s imperfections.

    We make worlds to be better than our own. We make heavens. If we made hells, few people would play them.

    >>Well yes. Our reality wasn’t designed at all.
    >Just by chance. An infinite number of Big Bangs, and ours happened to form laws that allowed for this existence.

    Oh, I don’t know that it came about from an infinite number of big bangs or whatever. I do know, however, that anyone who believes in a higher reality has to have an explanation as to how that reality came about, and that the principles of whatever explanation they come up with could equally well be applied to our reality.

    >You refuse to allow, in your own mind, that that force has any intelligence behind it

    No, I do allow for it – I just don’t see any evidence for it. More to the point, I see that some of the basic design points we now know having written virtual worlds for just over 30 years do not apply to reality. Furthermore, some of those principles were obvious from the very beginning. If someone did design reality, not only must they have been an absolute utter newbie, but they didn’t think things through, either. Given the balanced way the physics hangs together, though, anyone capable of designing the physics would have had to have been capable of doing a better job of designing the content that the physics implements.

    In short: I don’t see intelligence in the design of the universe, I see stupidity.

    >Whatever the reality is, lets be clear that there is but one reality of it all. Ours is simply a part of that reality.

    So this person who you posit created our reality is part of it? They self-created? But the universe couldn’t have self-created without them? That makes no sense.

    >What you create, those “worlds”, are just mock-ups. They are not realities in themselves.

    Yes, I agree – that’s why we call them virtual realities. They’re not real, but they have the form and effect of being real.

    >Would they become “realities” if the NPCs were somehow given the ability to think on their own?

    From the perspective of those NPCs, yes, they would. Reality, like existence, is a relative concept.

    >Is that really possible? Or would they just be more mock-ups coded to simulate thought based on what you were to code?

    You could say the same thing about people. We’re only combinations of atoms that happen to be in a type of configuration that gives rise to an interaction we call “thought”.

    >Could they ever really think on their own, or would they simply be “artificial”?

    There’s nothing about being artificial that rules out being able to think.

    We could, in the future, have nano-machines that can assemble large and sophisticated objects atom by atom. We could use those machines to build atom-exact copies of people. Would those people be able to think? Why wouldn’t they – they’d be exact copies of things that can think. Therefore, we’d be making artificial thinking objects.

    It’s probably going to be easier to make computer-based AIs than atom-perfect copies of people, but as I said, take however long do you want for this. Would, say, a million years be enough? Have ten million, just to be sure. Unless there is something that prevents in principle the idea that we can create thinking machines, we will eventually get thinking machines. That’s because we ourselves are just a particular kind of thinking machine.

    >But if there’s a God, and we were created and endowed with the ability to think on our own, maybe not.

    Then you have the problem that the god is simply a highly advanced mechanism created by the happenstance of that god’s universe. Some reality, at some stage, has to have come out of nothing. Either that, or it has to have existed forever. You can’t say that neither of these applies to our universe without explaining why one of them nevertheless does somehow apply to a creator’s universe.

    >In conclusion, no. I don’t think you are a god.

  41. Damn, hit tab-return again…

    >In conclusion, no. I don’t think you are a god.

    You would if you were a sentient AI in MUD1.

    Richard

  42. I think… I do want to reply in longer form than before, but…

    Well, first thing would be the ontological discussion about what is meant by “reality” and “universe”.

    Then would be the theological discussion about the divide between God(s) and Man, and about the prohibitions/consequences for attempting to cross that divide, as expressed in multiple religions.

    And only then would I be able to discuss the specific question of whether we play God when we build sandcastles.

    But, the TL:DR version would end up being only that the nested boxes we may create are not attempts by us to break taboo and bridge the divide between the sacred and profane. We are not Promethean invaders; we do not pretend we aren’t more than mortal when we decide to build our castles up and knock them down.

    Were we to create virtual peoples, and were we to lie to them claiming that we are Gods, in that lie is blasphemy, but not in their creation.

    But, having said that, there are taboos in many religions that extend to what can be depicted in art. What can be drawn, woven, photographed. Even artificial duplication can be sin. It is a different sin than blasphemy, but that may be a mere technical/semantic point.

  43. I don’t want to go in circles too much, so for right now I’ll limit myself to this.

    >>Whatever the reality is, lets be clear that there is but one reality of it all. Ours is simply a part of that reality.

    >So this person who you posit created our reality is part of it? They self-created? But the universe couldn’t have self-created without them? That makes no sense.

    If time is a part of creation (the Big Bang), and that’s what many say, then wherever God comes from has no time. Well, that’s an assumption, but quite possible and even likely when trying to considering what God is.

    But it’s interesting that you think it’s possible that the universe, reality, created itself out of nothing. I can’t conceive of that. Nothing, and then with no cause or other existence of anything, creation of reality just springs forth? If there was just nothing, then how, what would cause the change? What would have birthed the existence of reality?

    >>In conclusion, no. I don’t think you are a god.

    >You would if you were a sentient AI in MUD1.

    Perhaps I am.
    Perhaps I was the one you toyed with when playing with AI….
    and then thought you deleted. Discarded. Destroyed.
    But you cannot destroy energy.
    Perhaps I have a score to settle?

    Heh, that would make a hell of a movie, wouldn’t it?

  44. No, we actually are gods for the realities we create. There’s no need to use our imaginations to conceive of what it is like: we actually know what it is like. We are the gods of our virtual worlds, because we control the physics of those worlds. Or do you have a different definition of what a god is?

    I’m not asserting that gods are man-made. I’m asserting that virtual worlds are man-made, and that’s what makes the people who made them gods for those realities.

    It may be you have a different definition of what a god is. The one I’m using – someone able to change the physics of a world – is fairly neutral, but if you think I’m missing some other essential property, just say.

    The premise is flawed. People who believe in gods say that we can’t understand the minds of gods because we’re human; they’re just too complex and wondrous and otherworldly and otherdimensional for our little single-plane brains to handle.

    To say that you are a god because you can make a virtual world assumes that your definition of a god is correct and so your assumption is that you can understand what is a god. (As I say at the bottom, we don’t even understand reality, so we create our own. So, what we understand is not really a god, but what we make a god out to be.)

    You can’t know real godliness because real godliness is beyond the realm of human understanding, so you can’t really be godly. You’re human. Creating a virtual world makes you an effigy, not a god.

    Why the “though”? You make it sound as if merely being atheistic makes it wrong.

    It doesn’t? You of all people should understand culture, communities, and communication. An atheist is an outsider to a theist community. Insiders are better positioned to understand the unique qualities of a community, such as the language. For example, many atheists will interpret The Holy Bible in the most literal fashion possible, but many theists will not. Atheistic propositions not only lack god beliefs, they lack perspective, too. (The reverse is also true. Theists have a lot of trouble understanding atheists.)

    No, the strange twist is that we don’t actually perceive gods, it’s just that large numbers of us act as if we do.

    Perception is an interpretation of reality; we don’t really know what’s real and we don’t really know what reality looks like, sounds like, feels like, tastes like. We filter “whatever reality is” through our senses (i.e., our very narrow perspective) and make “whatever reality is” into our own unique “reality”, which we call our perception.

    We use concepts and models to inform our interpretation of reality, whatever that might really be. A “god” is one such concept, a model of behavior that some people use to help them understand their perception of reality. Effectively, everyone is actually insane; we’re just too crazy to admit it. What we perceive is our own truth. We own that truth. It’s ours and belongs to nobody else.

    The red we see is not the same red that others see. Our blue is not their blue. We like this pastry and they like something else. Our perceptions of reality are countless, unique to each individual. True empathy is impossible, so we use communication to try to share our perceived realities and to try to come to an understanding that will help us cooperate for our mutual benefit.

  45. X2>The realities that we design, for which we are gods, are designed for players and, consequently, are different to the reality in which we find ourselves.

    Well yes. Our reality wasn’t designed at all.

    I disagree. I’m sure you will ask me to qualify that, however I’m not proposing to. As these sorts of debates go, one ends up with the situation of saying: I see what you’re saying but I disagree with it. We have a fundamental difference of opinion here that will not be altered by any amount of discussion!

    On other points though, I will carry on 🙂

    A read many years ago of a study of the death rates of elderly Jewish people throughout the year. Most of the time, the rates were the same as those for non-Jewish people – they changed seasonally, but in keeping with the rest of the population. However, there’s a particular Jewish festival (no, I don’t know what it is, sorry) in which Jewish families traditionally come together from wherever they are. Just prior to that festival, the death rates among elderly Jewish people drop. Immediately afterwards, they spike. Then, they return to normal. The conclusion was that elderly Jewish people (and therefore probably elderly everyone else, too) can “hang on” to life to meet their relatives one last time, then they let go.

    I don’t suppose you would be able to easily find a reference to this study? I would be rather interested in reading it.

    The point I was making is that there’s permadeath for unnecessary reasons. Every NPC in our reality (ie. all of us) is going to experience permadeath, quite probably as a result of an extended period of suffering. Yet there’s nothing to be gained from that either for the NPC or the world’s designer.

    >Perhaps a God of this reality, rather than being incompetent, simply has a different purpose in mind.

    One that involves the deliberate tormenting of sentient beings? Don’t they have laws against that in meta-reality?

    Suffering drives compassion, which encourages selflessness, which brings communities together and helps them grow. Suffering, and the causes of suffering, provides challenges that, in overcoming, lead us forward. Blitz Spirit came from The Blitz. Certain advances in science and technology have come from a drive to cure deceases. Many quests, in and out of games, come out of challenge to conquer suffering somewhere. Suffering is as necessary to this reality as death in that as much as the threat of death allows us to appreciate life, suffering challenges us to appreciate the lives of others.

  46. Richard Bartle>One that involves the deliberate tormenting of sentient beings? Don’t they have laws against that in meta-reality?

    Should they? If sentient AIs ever become possible, I would hope they would be the sole property of their creator. He freely gives them all they have, including existence. Why shouldn’t he be allowed to take all of it or part of it away again if they abuse their freedom and disobey his commands?

  47. I don’t suppose you would be able to easily find a reference to this study? I would be rather interested in reading it.

    Never mind, I’ve found it: Death takes a holiday: mortality surrounding major social occasions published in The Lancet in 1988, although, it seems, as with many academic papers, the full text is not freely available.

  48. twex> He freely gives them all they have, including existence. Why shouldn’t he be allowed to take all of it or part of it away again if they abuse their freedom and disobey his commands?

    By that logic, parents should be entitled to kill their children when they are disobedient.

    (I already regret getting involved in this discussion…)

  49. By that logic, parents should be entitled to kill their children when they are disobedient.

    This probably was morally acceptable at some point in human history.

  50. Even required by law, in some societies. Based on religion, using the fear of God. It doesn’t jive with love and forgiveness, but there it is anyways.

  51. X2>I’ve found it: Death takes a holiday: mortality surrounding major social occasions published in The Lancet in 1988

    Yes, that’s the one. 1988, eh? When I said I read about it many years ago, I didn’t realise it was quite that many years ago! Time flies…

    >the full text is not freely available.

    Yes, I didn’t read the study myself, I read a paper that referenced it. It’s incredible that even 23 years after it was published in The Lancet, it costs $31 if you wish to read it. So much for the free exchange of ideas…

    Richard

  52. Interesting read, the original lecture.

    I don’t see the “realities are realities” premise as anything more than a premise taken for the purposes of having the discussion, though. That seems to me to be more disputable in itself than pretty much anything you extrapolate from it. I’d have thought it wouldn’t last five minutes in a first-year Philosophy seminar, but then I did English Lit.

    Skipping to the conclusion, I’d also have issues with the assumption that because you see the reality that we live in as a very poor attempt it therefore is unlikely to have been “designed”. Surely it could just have been designed by someone that doesn’t think like you do.

    I don’t believe it’s at all self-evident that there’s unanimity, or even majority agreement, on what would constitute an improved reality. You could certainly construct one that you’d be more satisfied with, but it wouldn’t necessarily have any wider approval than the one we have now. That doesn’t invalidate your “being god” argument, of course. The idea that a god has the best interests of his creation at heart seems to me to be quite an unrepresentative view of gods as we have known them, anyway.

    Lastly, I’d have to agree with Yukon Sam above that “virtual worlds” aren’t much more than a variation on the same processes we’ve had for tens of thousands of years. It’s more a reflection the improvement of our technological ability to record “realities” that we have created than any newfound ability to create them.

  53. I think “virtual” here is the operative world.

  54. Something just hit me….

    Richard said >One that involves the deliberate tormenting of sentient beings? Don’t they have laws against that in meta-reality?

    Yet, you see the benefit of perma-death in what you create?
    (Maybe you’re not a god, but I think you’ve stayed in a Holliday Inn Express.)

    By the way, I think X2’s reply to that was worth thinking about and relates quite well.
    Quoting that reply for convenience…

    X2: “Suffering drives compassion, which encourages selflessness, which brings communities together and helps them grow. Suffering, and the causes of suffering, provides challenges that, in overcoming, lead us forward. Blitz Spirit came from The Blitz. Certain advances in science and technology have come from a drive to cure deceases. Many quests, in and out of games, come out of challenge to conquer suffering somewhere. Suffering is as necessary to this reality as death in that as much as the threat of death allows us to appreciate life, suffering challenges us to appreciate the lives of others.”

  55. Either..OR?..
    how very binary of you….;)

    i look over the other stuff later.. but the last assertion on the comic sans card…is kinda comic.

    i though religion was an issue of “faith” not binary opposites?…truth does not always require a false…. but that is a matter of faith.

  56. gamerz..game designers…as “new gods” ?. i assume theyll wear Kirby hats and schmocks….

    new god makers.. same as the old god makers… and of course, the issue of common reality is the ethics of how deep you all will want to plant the plug into the baby borgs brain….– btw- speaking of virtual worlds… ever ask yourselfs “why” the trek virtual world did away with borg babies/in nurseries..and followed them up only with “assimilated” meat beings?

    food for machine thought?…

    demi gods/ and humans have been full of hubris in mythology as well.

  57. Bhagpuss>I don’t see the “realities are realities” premise as anything more than a premise taken for the purposes of having the discussion

    Reality is a relative concept. We might regard our virtual worlds as being virtual, because to us they are. However, to an intelligent NPC they would be real.

    >I’d have thought it wouldn’t last five minutes in a first-year Philosophy seminar

    Then again, what would last five minutes in a first-year Philosophy seminar?

    >Skipping to the conclusion, I’d also have issues with the assumption that because you see the reality that we live in as a very poor attempt it therefore is unlikely to have been “designed”.

    That wasn’t an assumption, it was a deduction.

    >Surely it could just have been designed by someone that doesn’t think like you do.

    It’s not just me. If you were to sit down and design a virtual world, would you create one as crocked as reality? You only have to think about what you’d put in and what you’d leave out to figure that a reality like Reality would be unplayable.

    >I don’t believe it’s at all self-evident that there’s unanimity, or even majority agreement, on what would constitute an improved reality.

    There doesn’t have to be. All we need is the general trend. If you accept the idea that there’s a reality above us (which I personally don’t), then you’d have a hard time explaining where there isn’t an infinite number of realities above us. An infinite number of realities all trending to be an improvement on the one above, with us as the (now second-to) bottom in the pile should mean we’re pretty well perfect by any definition of “improved”.

    Richard

  58. i read the full slide show….

    the problem is designers who think theyre gods, the answer is designers who know theyre human.

    back to the campfire…..

  59. Still trying to write haikus, c3? Oh, boy…

  60. i never try.. i just do.

    joker or yoda…i forget which.

  61. Game gods…this is news?

    What matters isn’t so much that you create pantheons or theocracies but that you create worlds in which you impose your notions of culture and economy.

    Richard, you know where I’m going with this!

  62. Prokofy Neva>Game gods…this is news?

    Why should it be? This isn’t a news site.

    >What matters isn’t so much that you create pantheons or theocracies but that you create worlds in which you impose your notions of culture and economy.

    That’s not what matters, that’s just how it is. Designers impose notions of culture and economy and everything else on their worlds, whether they want to or not. That’s intrinsic to being a god, irrespective of whether the individuals who are gods wish it to be or not. I did have a couple of slides on this that I left out of the talk because of time pressure, but if you’re interested you can see a basic outline of my argument here (from a 2005 talk, slides here).

    >Richard, you know where I’m going with this!

    I could write a piece on birthday cakes and you’d find some way to go there with it, Prok…

    Richard

  63. Well, I suppose to believe in this it all, you actually have to believe in God… and a growing number of people simply don’t. It’s a bit of a silly, superstitious concept to be taking into the 21st century, honestly.

  64. Well, I suppose to believe in this it all, you actually have to believe in God… and a growing number of people simply don’t. It’s a bit of a silly, superstitious concept to be taking into the 21st century, honestly.

    An article of faith is neither provable nor falsifiable. If you posit the existance of supernatural entities, they exist outside the framework of rational science.

    My personal belief is that the gods and spirits are personifications of the collective unconscious, and as such they are useful symbols of human truths, fears, drives and desires. Do they literally exist? “Exist” has fuzzy edges. Concepts “exist” as long as they have use and relevance and we believe in them.

    I agree with Richard to this extent; if reality is a board game, RPG, MUD, or MMO, it is a singularly bad one. It’s overly complex, has excruciatingly bad class balance, is filled with unavoidable deathtraps and irresolvable conflicts and dilemmas, and ships with no rulebook (or if you belive in divine texts, multiple conflicting rulebooks in archaic languages subject to differences in interpretation and translation).

    On the other hand, if reality is a studio backlot, all bets are off.

  65. Richard, you know where I’m going with this!

    Gee Brain, what do you want to do tonight? ;D

  66. enough blaiming gods for being an ass human…;)

    humans do shit to each other…they can also “not”…

    and no “law of nature” forces anyone to make realife society into “virtual gamez” just as no law of nature forced humans to “split the atom”– we did it because we “wanted” to.

    this “better design” kaka is only the delusion of those infected with MIPS…

    stay with entertianment– even Arnold (hubris of the gods) found realife politics/civics not to be as fun as making movies…and CA is a bigger mess than before his coming down from Olympus.:)

    Design is a method and process than defines and instructs artifacts. Including governments…. but “virtuality” is not a truth. but an attribute of reality, a medium. and thus dosne not have to be used to design our real world interactions…. we decide if or when to use the medium.. or you let some other ass decide it for you…. just because they made it sound all unreachable and shiny….

    and it isnt.. its just another “thing”… deal with it as a human.

    and popular culture still has “architects” and “movie directors” pegged as out of control meglamaniacs…:)lol

  67. how do gods die?.. lets hope from embarrassment.. but in todays “web media” culture i doubt it….

    http://www.aintitcool.com/node/49136

    even ronald reagan wouldnt have made a toon/deal like this with “stan lee”… “fuck great power and responsiblity- its all disneys now”;)

    so i assume, gid like game designers like “will wright jr.” will soon in the future have the same treatment?.. but of course in rt3d immesive media that hs game mechanics as core…..? oh joy.

    anyhow- im wanted back in hades.later

  68. http://abstrusegoose.com/115

    That is all.

    /popcorn

  69. The computer that simulates the universe could be more capable (theoretically) than the unviverse, hence the comparison of game-gods and “real” gods fall apart. It’s kinda like comparing time with a point. (I can elaborate on that if needed.)

    Of course, the power of belief does not rely on the existence of what you believe in. Just beieving brings inherent advantages. A local actor-grand-old-lady stated recently in an interview that her talks with God had helped quite a lot over the years, and if he does not exist it wouldn’t really matter much becaues she did benefit from those talks anyway. This has no bearing on NPCs whatsoever.

    Only atheists start these religious meta-discussions… They are jealous. They feel left out. They are missing out on something that is deep and meaningful. And they know it, and they long for this depth, but cannot take the leap. (Kierkegaard’s) That’s the only reasonable explanation for why they are so obsessed with this theme.

  70. Ola Fosheim Grøstad>The computer that simulates the universe could be more capable (theoretically) than the unviverse

    What do you mean, “capable”? So long as it can run a universal Turing machine, it’s no more capable than any other computational machine.

    >Of course, the power of belief does not rely on the existence of what you believe in.

    No, but it does rely on your belief that it exists. Otherwise, you don’t get to use the word “believe”.

    I agree that some people can benefit from talking to imaginary friends. That’s irrespective of whether they believe their imaginary friend to be real, or whether they know it’s an imaginary friend that they created as a rhetorical device (“Dear diary” etc.).

    >Only atheists start these religious meta-discussions…

    You’re saying that religious people never question their own faith, and never mention their doubts to other people?

    My presentation was to an audience consisting mainly of atheists and agnostics. It wasn’t about religion, it was about what it’s like to be a god, and what we can deduce from it. I could have given the whole talk minus the last 5 slides to a religious audience, and they would have been able to pick up the discussion and talk about it in terms of their own religion just fine. They might even have come out of it with a stronger faith than they had when they started.

    Besides, I’m sure when religious speakers are invited to attend meetings of religious people to talk on about religion, the topic of religion will often come up. By definition, a discussion on atheism is going to be meta-religious – how could it not be?

    >They are jealous. They feel left out. They are missing out on something that is deep and meaningful.

    I don’t intend to get into a religious argument here in response to remarks you only made because you’re trying to reaffirm your own personal beliefs as a way of countering inner doubts about your faith. Find some other way to persuade yourself you haven’t spent years speaking to yourself in the belief you were speaking to some deity.

    Richard

  71. Richard, your conclusions show your purpose with that presentation. Why do you feel the need? I’m not saying that I agree with Kierkegaard’s claim, not all atheists are like that. Nor are all religious people not like that. But why do you feel the need to make such a statement?

    You seem to have it out for religion. You blame religion. I think what you should really be blaming is a more human problem of the same thing you seem to be guilty of. An arrogant and condescending intolerance.

    Your entire argument is flawed from the get go. We already have the power to “create”. It’s called procreation and we’ve had it all along. If mankind were to be able to create new life through science, is that just another means to procreate? So what if that life were different? If we clone human beings, are they not human beings? If we clone and change them to something else, say a cow with a brain like ours, I’m not sure what to call that form of life but is it still not a sentient living being? Are animals existing today really not sentient? Is the lion wrong to kill? Lots of questions. Lots of moral judgments to make if one wants to.

    I’d suggest you get off your high horse. I suggest you listen to the words of Bubba. Bubba wasn’t the brightest light on the tree, but every once in a great while Bubba said something profound and insightful. And one of those things was: “You ain’t shit.” I think Bubba pretty much nailed that one for all of us.

  72. The incarnate mind, the tongue, and the tale are in our world coeval. The human mind, endowed with the powers of generalization and abstraction, sees not only green-grass, discriminating it from other things (and finding it fair to look upon), but sees that it is green as well as being grass. But how powerful, how stimulating to the very faculty that produced it, was the invention of the adjective: no spell or incantation in Faerie is more potent. And that is not surprising: such incantations might indeed be said to be only another view of adjectives, a part of speech in a mythical grammar. The mind that thought of light, heavy, grey, yellow, still, swift, also conceived of magic that would make heavy things light and able to fly, turn grey lead into yellow gold, and the still rock into a swift water. If it could do the one, it could do the other; it inevitably did both. When we can take green from grass, blue from heaven, and red from blood, we have already an enchanter’s power—upon one plane; and the desire to wield that power in the world external to our minds awakes. It does not follow that we shall use that power well upon any plane. We may put a deadly green upon a man’s face and produce a horror; we may make the rare and terrible blue moon to shine; or we may cause woods to spring with silver leaves and rams to wear fleeces of gold, and put hot fire into the belly of the cold worm. But in such “fantasy,” as it is called, new form is made; Faerie begins; Man becomes a sub-creator.

    An essential power of Faerie is thus the power of making immediately effective by the will the visions of “fantasy.” Not all are beautiful or even wholesome, not at any rate the fantasies of fallen Man. And he has stained the elves who have this power (in verity or fable) with his own stain. This aspect of “mythology” —sub-creation, rather than either representation or symbolic interpretation of the beauties and terrors of the world—is, I think, too little considered. Is that because it is seen rather in Faerie than upon Olympus? Because it is thought to belong to the “lower mythology” rather than to the “higher”? There has been much debate concerning the relations of these things, of folk-tale and myth; but, even if there had been no debate, the question would require some notice in any consideration of origins, however brief.

    At one time it was a dominant view that all such matter was derived from “nature-myths.” The Olympians were personifications of the sun, of dawn, of night, and so on, and all the stories told about them were originally myths (allegories would have been a better word) of the greater elemental changes and processes of nature. Epic, heroic legend, saga, then localized these stories in real places and humanized them by attributing them to ancestral heroes, mightier than men and yet already men. And finally these legends, dwindling down, became folk-tales, Märchen, fairy-stories—nursery-tales.

    That would seem to be the truth almost upside down. The nearer the so-called “nature myth,” or allegory, of the large processes of nature is to its supposed archetype, the less interesting it is, and indeed the less is it of a myth capable of throwing any illumination whatever on the world. Let us assume for the moment, as this theory assumes, that nothing actually exists corresponding to the “gods” of mythology: no personalities, only astronomical or meteorological objects. Then these natural objects can only be arrayed with a personal significance and glory by a gift, the gift of a person, of a man. Personality can only be derived from a person. The gods may derive their colour and beauty from the high splendours of nature, but it was Man who obtained these for them, abstracted them from sun and moon and cloud; their personality they get direct from him; the shadow or flicker of divinity that is upon them they receive through him from the invisible world, the Supernatural. There is no fundamental distinction between the higher and lower mythologies. Their peoples live, if they live at all, by the same life, just as in the mortal world do kings and peasants.

    J.R.R. Tolkien. Author, philologist, Catholic.
    On Fairy-Stories

  73. yeah..lol
    i liked it better when “virtual worlds gurus” called themselves “shamans” rather than “gods” in their PR material and speeches;)

    i saw this star trek episode, it dosent end well for Sally Kellerman.;)

  74. Amaranthar>Richard, your conclusions show your purpose with that presentation. Why do you feel the need?

    I was invited to talk. I wasn’t hawking a talk around looking for somewhere to give it. My daughter was head of the Bristol University AASS last year and she asked me to give them a talk, so I did. My conclusions did not show my purpose in giving the presentation: I knew I would be speaking mainly to atheists, agnostics and secularists so I had no need to evangelise.

    I certainly feel no need to talk to religious people on this subject. It’s not something you can reason with them about anyway so there’s little point.

    >why do you feel the need to make such a statement?

    Which statement do you mean?

    >You seem to have it out for religion.

    Everybody has it out for religion. The only difference is, atheists have it out for one more religion than religious people do.

    >You blame religion.

    Show me a statement from my talk in which I “blame” religion for anything. You’re putting words in my mouth.

    >I think what you should really be blaming is a more human problem of the same thing you seem to be guilty of. An arrogant and condescending intolerance.

    I don’t think I’m being arrogant or intolerant, but I will agree to condescending.

    >Your entire argument is flawed from the get go.

    Your understanding of it is what’s flawed here…

    >We already have the power to “create”. It’s called procreation

    Procreation creates new realities?

    >If mankind were to be able to create new life through science, is that just another means to procreate?

    I was talking about creating realities. Our reality has intelligent beings in them, therefore I speculated as to how we, as creators of realities, would need to account for intelligent beings in those realities.

    >Lots of questions. Lots of moral judgments to make if one wants to.

    Yes, and that’s what makes this topic interesting enough to bring up in a talk.

    >I’d suggest you get off your high horse.

    I suggest you stop putting me on one.

    Richard

  75. >I was invited to talk. I wasn’t hawking a talk around looking for somewhere to give it. My daughter was head of the Bristol University AASS last year and she asked me to give them a talk, so I did. My conclusions did not show my purpose in giving the presentation: I knew I would be speaking mainly to atheists, agnostics and secularists so I had no need to evangelise.

    >I certainly feel no need to talk to religious people on this subject. It’s not something you can reason with them about anyway so there’s little point.

    Ahh, forgive me. I didn’t realize that this was a meeting of atheists and like minded people. And I wondered how you could know that. That does put it in a different light.

    However, when talking about reasoning with people, that goes both ways. In your previous reply, you show that you won’t reason with this statement…
    “I don’t intend to get into a religious argument here in response to remarks you only made because you’re trying to reaffirm your own personal beliefs as a way of countering inner doubts about your faith. Find some other way to persuade yourself you haven’t spent years speaking to yourself in the belief you were speaking to some deity.”
    It’s kind of hard to “reason” with that attitude.

    >Everybody has it out for religion. The only difference is, atheists have it out for one more religion than religious people do.

    Do you believe that? I can name an entire country that was founded on the contrary.

    >Show me a statement from my talk in which I “blame” religion for anything. You’re putting words in my mouth.

    Why are you restricting me to this one presentation? But it would be fair to include all your body of work, and I’m not going to spend the time right now to dig it up.

    >I don’t think I’m being arrogant or intolerant, but I will agree to condescending.

    Hrm, seems to all go together to me.

    >Your understanding of it is what’s flawed here…

    I think we’re debating that.

    >Procreation creates new realities?
    >I was talking about creating realities. Our reality has intelligent beings in them, therefore I speculated as to how we, as creators of realities, would need to account for intelligent beings in those realities.

    You were getting into the idea of creating life within those “realities”.

    >>Lots of questions. Lots of moral judgments to make if one wants to.
    >Yes, and that’s what makes this topic interesting enough to bring up in a talk.

    True enough. However, had there been no context here, it would be questionable why you’d push this issue of trying to prove that there is no God. I don’t accept blame here for this, nor do I put it on anyone. Unless someone noticed and googled “AASS”, they wouldn’t know the context.

    >>I’d suggest you get off your high horse.
    >I suggest you stop putting me on one.

    I don’t.
    You climb up there all on your own with your self admitted condescending attitude towards others because they believe in something you don’t.

  76. @Richard: Your statements about my beliefs are way out of line. And wrong. Though, judging from your response to Amaranthar I think a philosophical discussion on the topic is wasted.

    So, let’s stick to CS, shall we? There are many questions for which there are provable answers, but the questions are of a nature such that they cannot be computed on a TM in finite time. Worse than decision problems which belong to NP, in other words. So no it isn’t sufficient that you can simulate a TM in P. Do you disagree with this?

  77. I agree that it is probably time to stop the religious aspect of the discussion as elements of it seem to be getting personal.

  78. Ola Fosheim Grøstad>it isn’t sufficient that you can simulate a TM in P. Do you disagree with this?

    What does that have to do with what you said? You said “The computer that simulates the universe could be more capable (theoretically) than the universe”. What do you mean by “more capable”? If you mean it is capable of computing things that no computer in our universe is capable of computing, that means that different laws of computability must apply. Is that what you’re suggesting? What ARE you suggesting?

    Richard

  79. Indeed, quantum computing is opening up a new field in complexity theory: Quantum Complexity Thoery. Anyway, if the premise is that God is running the universe in a computer simulation then that says very little about the nature of God, his space or his computer. His computer has to be at least as capable as the universe, but that is all we can deduce from the premises…?

  80. Ola Fosheim Grøstad>His computer has to be at least as capable as the universe

    What do you mean, though, “capable”?

    Richard

  81. Well, basically the whole issue of time. For instance, time as a single dimension is part of the simulation, but it might not apply in the same fashion in the system where the simulation is executed. Outside the universe the entire lifecycle of the universe might just as well be instantanous. What is meant by “capable” is obviously speculations, like the entire field of modern physics. Quoting from the quantum computer entry of Wikipedia:

    It has been speculated that theories of quantum gravity, such as M-theory or loop quantum gravity, may allow even faster computers to be built. Currently, it’s an open problem to even define computation in such theories due to the problem of time, i.e. there’s no obvious way to describe what it means for an observer to submit input to a computer and later receive output.

    If you remove time, do you then have life? Is the printout of a simulation that took place in an instant (think of a non-deterministic computer that evaluates all paths instantanous, or non-discrete math or something similar) a reality? If that is the case, we would have to ask authors to be careful with what they write, because they are obviously torturing their artificial life NPCs when printing books?

  82. Ola Fosheim Grøstad>time as a single dimension is part of the simulation, but it might not apply in the same fashion in the system where the simulation is executed.

    Yes, I agree with that (although I wouldn’t agree with it if anyone from the higher-order system wanted to play in the simulated world). For example, I could make a virtual world event-based rather than time-based, so that instead of advancing the clock and seeing whether any interactions between objects had occurred, I queued up interactions in the order they were due to occur and after executing one I set the time what it would have to be for the next one. This would be unnoticeable to the NPCs of that world, and it would be a different time structure to that of reality. However, if I wanted to play the virtual world, it would have to map onto
    real time while I was visiting it.

    >What is meant by “capable” is obviously speculations, like the entire field of modern physics.

    But the same computational restrictions must apply, surely? Just because it can compute things faster, that doesn’t mean it can compute more things.

    I suppose you could argue that our universe might be finite and the universe that implements it might be infinite, therefore our computational equipment doesn’t have access to any equivalent of the infinite tape in a universal Turing machine. You don’t seem to be saying that, though.

    >If you remove time, do you then have life?

    So you weren’t actually making a Computer Science point, you were raising some kind of philosophical question?

    >Is the printout of a simulation that took place in an instant … a reality?

    No. The simulation that took place in an instant is the reality.

    Richard

  83. This would be unnoticeable to the NPCs of that world, and it would be a different time structure to that of reality. However, if I wanted to play the virtual world, it would have to map onto real time while I was visiting it.

    No, you would just set the parameters differently and execute the simulation multiple times. Just like how you would exececute a program written in a functional programming language. Of course, you also have monads… Hm.

    But the same computational restrictions must apply, surely? Just because it can compute things faster, that doesn’t mean it can compute more things.

    You might be able to solve a different set of problems if you are not bound to discrete steps or discrete representations. For instance, you cannot represent all real numbers in our computers. That doesn’t mean that such a computer is inconceivable outside the universe. You are too hung up on TMs.

    So you weren’t actually making a Computer Science point, you were raising some kind of philosophical question?

    CS is a a field that is stuck somewhere between mathematics, design and philosophy.

    No. The simulation that took place in an instant is the reality.

    What happens in an instant doesn’t take place…? Only the outcome takes place…

  84. You might be interested in hypercomputation. Another interesting aspect of complexity theory is randomized polynomial time. Problems that can be solved in polynomial time if you have a probabilistic TM.

  85. I’m not following the conversation anymore. Too much jargon terminology.

    No. The simulation that took place in an instant is the reality.

    The map is not the territory. The simulation is still a map. Perception is still a map, too. What is reality?

  86. @Morgan: Well, the british bishop and philosopher Berkeley might have said that it does not matter, because whether what you perceive is real or not is inconsequential. What matters is that everything you sense and every action you take is part of a running dialogue with God. Basically, he assumed life to be an encounter with God, if that encounter takes part in reality or virtual reality is a minor detail. So you might as well assume what you sense to be real and behave, because even if what you interact with does not exist, the interaction still takes place and thereby the communication with God. Perhaps he was an early post modern thinker.

  87. Ola Fosheim Grøstad>No, you would just set the parameters differently and execute the simulation multiple times.

    I don’t know what you’re trying to say there.

    If I wanted to play a virtual world embedded in my reality (whatever that might be), I would have to make the virtual world’s time somehow congruent to my own or it wouldn’t make sense to me.

    >For instance, you cannot represent all real numbers in our computers.

    Well, not directly. You can represent them mathematically.

    If our universe is discrete and the universe above us is continuous, then I suppose there could be some form of computation that could be done there that couldn’t be done here; I don’t know enough theory of computation to say one way or the other.

    >You are too hung up on TMs.

    I was only using TMs as a shorthand for “machines that can compute anything that can be computed”.

    >What happens in an instant doesn’t take place…? Only the outcome takes place…

    What happens in an instant in a higher reality could take an infinite amount of time in a lower reality. From the point of view of the higher reality it’s an instant, sure, but for people in the lower reality it’s not an instant.

    Richard

  88. Berkeley might have said that, but I wouldn’t. I would posit that understanding that perception is not reality but merely an interpretation of reality is absolutely essential to effective communication, which is critical to being. I would say that there is a truth underlying everything (i.e., reality) that we seek to reveal yet cannot reveal just as perfection is unattainable yet everpursuable. Apparently, I’m not the only one who would suggest such things:

    http://www.iep.utm.edu/epis-per/

  89. @Richard: but one cannot claim that an equation takes time. If the “simulation” is solving an equation then it simply is? You can solve an equation with a system that takes time, sure, but there are many ways to solve the equation. And they would all be the same reality? Or…?

    @Morgan:Sure, you are not the only one. Plato said so too, more or less. As a disciple of Plato I’ll resonate with some of that, but not quite. However, is there a truth? If everything is an interpretation then you’ll have to accept multiple truths. Semiotics, the world is a mesh of symbols to be interpreted, the truths depend on the position of the interpretant. Or are you leaning towards modernism, reductionism? The problem with reductionism is that you’ll end up believing in quarks and posit that only quarks exists and what we call human beings are statistical phenomena that are of no real value… 😉

  90. Morgan Ramsay>perception is not reality but merely an interpretation of reality

    Well yes, of course. Otherwise, when I perceived there was no wall next to my car that time, I wouldn’t have scraped the car door on it.

    >I would say that there is a truth underlying everything (i.e., reality) that we seek to reveal yet cannot reveal

    Well we can’t reveal it in its entirety, but we can reveal pieces of it.

    >just as perfection is unattainable yet everpursuable.

    Perfection is sometimes attainable. It depends on the nature of the subject (and, I guess, your definition of “perfection”).

    Richard

  91. Well we can’t reveal it in its entirety, but we can reveal pieces of it.

    No, such “revelation” is physically impossible for us. We can’t escape our own perception. Scientific and rational thinkers readily accept that incomplete, provisional, and falsifiable “truths” (Gödel, Popper) are as close to Truth as we can get.

    Perfection is sometimes attainable. It depends on the nature of the subject (and, I guess, your definition of “perfection”).

    Show me perfection and I’ll show you an imperfect interpretation. (Unless there’s math involved, in which case, fugghedaboutit!)

    Also, I finally found an archived discussion that I observed long ago that informed my perception in my youthier youth. The title of the discussion was “why God cannot [logically] exist.” I’m just barely paraphrasing henceforth:

    The generally accepted definition of “God” is that it is an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and perfect being.

    Omniscience and omnipotence cannot coinhabit the same being because a being that knows the future would be powerless to change it, and a being that could change the future could not know the future in advance.

    An omnipresent being could not perceive because perception requires a perspective that is separate from that of the perceived object or entity.

    Finally, a perfect being could not think because perfection is singular and thought requires the distinguishment of prior and posterior imperfections (i.e., movement between concepts), neither of which could be entertained by a perfect being.

    The author had a gift for verbiage, too. He wrote:

    [T]his should more than suffice to demonstrate that asserting the existence of a deity, possessing the attributes that most consider essential to it and deserving deific appellation, mires one in a miasmic quagmire of irretrievable contradiction, once one journeys beyond emotion-driven faith and uses one’s noggin to divine (Luvzda pun!) the nonsensical and absurd consequences necessarily entailed.

    (I quoted the last bit simply because I enjoyed the writing.)

  92. I love the smell of Platonic epistemology in the morning.

  93. Smells like … Allegory.

  94. My reply to Richard is awaiting moderation. [This moderation system is really terrible, Raph.]

    To Sam and Brootal though, Plato believed that the philosopher could know reality, and so was there to explain reality; however, I’d say that as long as the philosopher is a human being, he cannot. Perception is fallible. We can’t truly know, but we can strive to know. We can’t achieve perfection, but we can strive for perfection. We can’t be the best, but we can be better. That’s good enough most of the time.

  95. [This moderation system is really terrible, Raph.]

    I have the option to send me email whenever a comment is caught for moderation or spam turned off, because I get thousands a day. So i check it a few times a day, when I remember to do so.

    Unfortunately, turning off the moderation would result in useless comment sections. I’ll take a look and see if there is anything i can adjust, but I don’t think so.

  96. Good Morgan. I wondered when someone was going to challenge with the triple omni. Used once upon a time to challenge the perfectability of what is now called the network singularity. Didn’t want to bring it up because it usually causes threads like these to grind to a halt or veer off into nonsense.

    Do note that a god per se that has those attributes exists at least one level above the worshippers. Also fairly mundane math as cantor sets.

    Don’t let me interupt the vigorous pursuit of idolatry, though. As said, a game some like because they get to play and set the rules in the same set.

  97. Raph, I think there are two settings in WordPress that let you a) require approval for first post by a user and b) automatically approve all posts by users who have an approved post. That’s effectively a “trusted users” list.

  98. I was merely riffing … to harmonize Yukon Sam’s pleasant busking in one of my frequent stationstops on the ‘Net.

    Without plumbing (headfirst or otherwise) the shallows of this puddle: if one cannot truly know anything, then how can concepts derived by imperfects from imperfect knowledge (e.g. language, logic and len’s triple omni) rigorously disprove the Perfect?

  99. Morgan: I have the first one turned off, which I thought meant the second one wouldn’t ever trigger. Maybe it overrides requiring approval under other circumstances though.

    I presume it is catching these posts because of the topic. 🙂

  100. @Morgan: Your 3xomni doesn’t make much sense under the premises for this thread. God is omniscient because he can stop the simulation and gain full access to all information in an instant (simulated time). The only counterargument would be that he might have trouble interpreting what he sees. God is omnipotent because he can stop the simulation at any time and change every single aspect of it. God is omnipresent because he can rewind/backtrack the simulation (or restart it with the same parameters) and investigate every aspect of it.

    Predicting the future is not a problem. God can just run the simulation twice with the same parameters.

    You could think of it this way: what if the universe is God’s brain? Just like a computer can be viewed as an extension of our brains. (Think distributed cognition! Yes, more jargon…)

    @len: No, I am not setting the rules here. Bartle did. I am following through… on the given premises. I think you should participate rather than going meta!

  101. Raph, you’re right about the former. Hrm…

  102. Raph, I’ll write a plugin that automatically approves comments made by previously approved commenters once I’m done with this website for Coronado (~April 20). I looked around and, surprisingly, nobody has done that yet. IntenseDebate has that feature though, I think.

  103. The idea of a triple omni is there is no need to stop a simulation, rewind, rerun, review. That is only required by a linear system, a VonNeumann machine. A being in a view dimension (thinking the fractal model for illustration and trying to avoid a faith-based comparison) doesn’t have the addressing limitations of the views it contains. It is an address over entropy (latency) constraint. Simulations simulate godhood; they don’t attain it.

    Again, this is a discussion of idolatry not in the negative sense of tossing babies on the fire but of construction of the worshipful. An interesting side observation: worship historically often forms around artifacts of work (for lack of a better word), thus cave paintings of animals and carvings such as found at Gobeki Tepes and stellar observations required for agriculture and other environmental relationships found in sites worldwide. It was the concept of a monotheistic god beyond it’s creation that distinguished the emergence out of panthesism to predestination-orientation and other supra-spatio-temporal divinities. Again, a revolution in the math of addressing.

    It’s fairly difficult not to go meta when the whole concept is meta by definition. I don’t want to argue faith or rehash discussions from twenty years ago unless some really novel idea is presented. I do enjoy watching the game played.

  104. Hmm… No. The Von-Neuman-Architecture is just referring to the stored program CPU/RAM “technical layout”. This is very much an earthly computer concept. It doesn’t cover hypercomputers. If you by “fractal model” mean computers that can compute the exact boundaries of fractals even though that is not possible on a von-neuman, then yes that is something some hypercomputers might be able to do if it was possible to build them. So they are different from regular Turing Machines (of which Von-Neuman is a special case).

    The simulation doesn’t stop, seen from the system being simulated. And perhaps not in the system where the simulation takes place either. Though, it is easier to explain it to human beings in terms of their own reality. Which is bound by the discrete steps of time and space. I am not sure why you think stopping the simulation weakens the argument about “triple omni”, though. The simulation is reality. The system in which the simulation takes place isn’t reality. Reality isn’t halted or restarted. You have many parallell universes of which some are similar og close to similar. The execution is halted, but that has no affect on reality, only reconfigurations will affect reality, but that would create a new reality… Only God is affected by this, and he doesn’t belong to reality. Yes?

    I don’t understand what you mean by entropy constraint or that simulations simulate godhood. Simulations create reality. Creating reality defines God. That is the premises we are working with here. I think?

  105. Morgan Ramsay>No, such “revelation” is physically impossible for us.

    Well I’m pretty sure that the fact of my existence has been revealed to me. That’s a pretty important piece of reality from my point of view. No way is it merely a perceptual trick and I don’t really exist at all.

    >Show me perfection and I’ll show you an imperfect interpretation. (Unless there’s math involved, in which case, fugghedaboutit!)

    There’s mathematics involved.

    >The generally accepted definition of “God” is that it is an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and perfect being.

    That’s not the definition I was using – I was talking about gods in general, not one proposed example in particular.

    >Omniscience and omnipotence cannot coinhabit the same being because a being that knows the future would be powerless to change it

    That relies on a meaning of omniscience that implies “knows the future” as opposed to “can know the future”. Also, it doesn’t say anything about the reality in which that state exists: a god of a sub-reality would not be omniscient of their own reality, therefore any changes to the sub-reality that were contingent on events in the god’s reality could not be predicted. The god may be able to tell what will happen in the sub-reality’s future if things are left alone, but if that god were to intervene then that could throw things out of whack.

    Hmm, there’s a Google ad at the bottom of the page as I write this saying “Does God Exist? Clear Scientific Facts Say Yes! Read this Free Booklet for Proof”. So much for keyword matching…

    Richard

  106. Hmm… The ad below reads:

    “Does God Exist? Clear Scientific Facts Say Yes! Read this Free Booklet for Proof.”

    Oh… here is anothe one: “Do you know Islam? Would you like to be a Muslim? Join us in private live chat”… Oh dear, there is more…

    “Get Twitter Followers. Get More Twitter Followers for Free. Sign Up & List Yourself Free Today!”

    “Your Name Tells it All. A Free Guide far better than Wicca and Witchcraft.”

    What exactly are you promoting here, Raph?

  107. Ack, I should have done a page refresh. I came second. Damn!

  108. That’s a pretty important piece of reality from my point of view. No way is it merely a perceptual trick and I don’t really exist at all.

    It’s an important piece of your reality, not the reality. Your existence is perceived. You perceive yourself as being in the way that you do, but you may actually be or exist in some other way. You can’t know that and science can’t study that, except in such cases as autoscopy, so we as perceivers are just satisfied with thinking we exist as we think we do. Additionally, others perceive your being differently than you do, and they may not perceive your being at all.

    I was talking about gods in general, not one proposed example in particular.

    Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a definitive list of the characteristics of deities throughout human history. So, we look at the religion market, and we see that Christianity is the dominant religion with at least a 33% share of the market. We then look at your use of the term “god” and see that your “god” is an anthropomorphic supreme being (i.e., a game world operator.) It’s not unreasonable to compare the most dominant form of a god to the god in your story. Of course, since there is usually more than one operator, there are multiple gods in your disquisition. Thus, we’re talking about pantheistic deities. In both Greek and Roman mythologies, the more famous of the pantheistic myths, each deity exhibited some sort of superhuman characteristic. Others had very human characteristics (e.g., Zeus’ sexual appetite, Hera’s jealousy.) They were also anthropomorphized, so you’re still talking about anthropomorphic supreme beings that possess otherworldly powers. Christianity’s One True God just happens to have all of them. Various studies and critiques of Biblical stories have also suggested that Christianity’s god, as well as Jesus Christ, was a compilation of a variety of ancient mythical beings. Given its dominance in today’s world market for religious ideas, and the fact that it shares many of the qualities of other gods throughout history, “God” is an excellent baseline. 😉

    That relies on a meaning of omniscience that implies “knows the future” as opposed to “can know the future”.

    Yes, it does, because omnipotens is Latin for all-powerful while omnisciens is Latin for all-knowing. There is no can in knowing.

    a god of a sub-reality would not be omniscient of their own reality

    An omniscient god would be omniscient. If said god is not so omniscient, then said god is not omniscient. A god is either all-knowing or not. I don’t think there’s an in-between, so I’m not sure what you’re trying to say.

    therefore any changes to the sub-reality that were contingent on events in the god’s reality could not be predicted.

    Where did prediction come into play? Prediction isn’t part of all-knowledge. An omniscient god has no need of prediction because the future is already “written out.” In your terms, to an omniscient god, the “intelligent” actors in the simulation have no free will and therefore the simulation will always produce the same result. They behave exactly as they should, according to the “script.” There’s no prediction, no expectation. There’s just knowing. After all, I don’t need to predict that I just wrote this because I know I already have.

  109. Now I have “Four Faces of God As recommended by Jackie Pullinger” and “Do you want to be told what to believe? Then don’t select this ad!”.

    It’s tempting to click on the ads just so Raph gets some money and they lose some…

    Richard

  110. Oh noes. Now the Adverts are increasing their presence. Perphaps because I quoted them, they now recognize that we are giving them attention. I see two adverts below:

    “Does God Exist? Clear Scientific Facts Say Yes! Read this Free Booklet for Proof.”

    and

    “Does God Exist? Is there Proof? Can You Know? Know For Sure Today – Read More At:”

    In essence Google has created AI by their keyword matching. They’ve created evangelistic NPCs that interact with us. They think we want to talk with them and now they are stuck in this belief.

    Listen you Ads! Of course we exists!!! Prostrate…

    In your terms, to an omniscient god, the “intelligent” actors in the simulation have no free will and therefore the simulation will always produce the same result.

    Yes, that’s true Morgan. There is no such thing as Free Will if the laws of physics doesn’t include true randomness, on the global level. On the global level you have “omniscience”, but on the local level you don’t. On the local level you can have “Free Will” because on that level decisions are made based on incomplete information. Or rather, “free will” is a matter of interpretation. If you choose to view human beings (or NPCSs as separate beings then you can argue that they have “free will”, because they are acting to events that to them appears to be noisy (they experience “true randomness”). However, they don’t exist as such. Only subatomic particles exists (or bits in a computer). They only exist through the interpretation of the observer. Right? Which of course is why the “I think, therefore I am” is a bit mysterious. We exist through our observation of ourselves. No bootstrap. That is unpleasant.

    People who chooose to believe in an observer external to the system have a much easier and pleasant reality. They exist through being observed on a level that cannot be attacked by science or philosophy. So in essence, one could say, human beings does not exist. Only God exists, but through his observation human beings can hope to have some notion of being…

    The bottomline is that God is that which bootstraps reality, meaning and existence. I think that is pretty universal, btw.

  111. Or to elaborate:

    Conscience is that interpreting locality which has the highest bandwidth. That area of the simulation where information flow is high. When we say that we are self aware that is delusional, of course, we are only partially self aware. We are not fully aware of our feelings, or our massive subconscious intellect. If information flow (bandwidth) between human beings had been higher then we might have said “we think, therefore we are”. Then again, people who are brainwashed into submission think so, but then again, they don’t really think for themselves and thus don’t have much internal information flow anyway.

    So in essence: “Free Will” is a concept that denotes that some areas of the computation has high flow of information and others don’t. If the rate of flow of information had been infinite then you don’t have “Free Will” in a deterministic system, because then you have “omniscience”.

    Are you with me on this, Morgan?

  112. Ola—and I suppose this is directed at Richard, too—I don’t understand how you can place limits on omniscience and still call it omniscience. All-knowledge is not some-knowledge.

  113. Ola Fosheim Grøstad>The bottomline is that God is that which bootstraps reality, meaning and existence.

    OK, so now you need to explain why the logic you just outlined doesn’t also apply to the god. If we need a bootstrap, why doesn’t the god? And if the god doesn’t need one, why do we?

    Richard

  114. Morgan Ramsay>I don’t understand how you can place limits on omniscience and still call it omniscience. All-knowledge is not some-knowledge.

    It’s all knowledge from the perspective of the inhabitants of the virtual world. Anything they want to know, the god can tell them. From the perspective of the god, though, most of it is potential: they can know it, but they don’t necessarily know it unless they work it out. There are problems, though, that arise from the god’s predicting the outcome of their intervention.

    Example 1: NPC asks “will it rain tomorrow?”. God saves the virtual world at that point, lets it run, sees that it does indeed rain tomorrow, then reloads the saved version and answers “yes”. God is correct: it does rain tomorrow.

    Example 2: NPC asks “will I be struck by lightning tomorrow?”. God saves the virtual world at that point, lets it run, sees that the NPC is indeed struck by lightning tomorrow, then reloads the saved version and answers “yes”. As a result, NPC stays indoors the whole of the next day. God is incorrect: NPC is not struck by lightning tomorrow. God has to throw a lightning bolt at the NPC to be correct.

    Richard

  115. Morgan, there is a comment “awaiting moderation”… That said I don’t think omniscience is all that important as a concept, but if it is then you can speak of omniscience in relation to the universe, but that doesn’t mean omniscience in relation to that which go beyond the universe.

    Bartle, if God is human-like, which would be odd, then maybe God does need the bootstrapping… If God is taken to be the universe itself, then maybe not. Then again, the space which the universe is being simulated in, if it is, might be of a different nature where such questions become meaningless. Exist stands in relation to time, I think. Or perhaps not, but at least the birth-death cycle brings the concept to the forground.

  116. Example 2: NPC asks “will I be struck by lightning tomorrow?”. God saves the virtual world at that point, lets it run, sees that the NPC is indeed struck by lightning tomorrow, then reloads the saved version and answers “yes”. As a result, NPC stays indoors the whole of the next day. God is incorrect: NPC is not struck by lightning tomorrow. God has to throw a lightning bolt at the NPC to be correct.

    The “hypercomputing” alternative would be to run all possible universes and halt all the universes that abuse the constraint “God is omniscient”.

    Or in your example: fork the world into two instances. Give the answer “no” in one, and “yes” in the other, then halt the universe when it is about to violate the omniscient constraint. So, God is omniscient in the running universe(s), but not outside of it.

  117. Ola Fosheim Grøstad>if God is human-like, which would be odd

    Not so odd that it isn’t part of the Old Testament – God creating man in his own image and so on.

    >then maybe God does need the bootstrapping…

    In which case, you need an infinite number of gods, each one to create the god of the level below.

    >If God is taken to be the universe itself, then maybe not.

    So you’re basically saying that nature is a deity?

    >The “hypercomputing” alternative would be to run all possible universes and halt all the universes that abuse the constraint “God is omniscient”.

    But then you get the Halting Problem. NPC asks a question that deity can’t answer, because whatever answer is given leads to the opposite result. Therefore, deity is not all-knowing (well, except they know they can’t answer…).

    Richard

  118. But then you get the Halting Problem. NPC asks a question that deity can’t answer, because whatever answer is given leads to the opposite result. Therefore, deity is not all-knowing (well, except they know they can’t answer…).

    No. Because all possible answers includes no answer. Even if whatever answer given leads to the opposite result then you simply end up with all universes halting. That’s only a problem if you think the universe should run forever. God may still be all-knowing if he knows that giving an answer leads to the opposite result, by the way…

    Anyway, I’ve seen claims that some hypercomputers may be capable of solving the haltingproblem, but I haven’t looked closer into that.

    (The Old Testament is odd if taken literally. I don’t know of anyone who does that.)

  119. Ola Fosheim Grøstad>Because all possible answers includes no answer.

    OK, so the god can be all-knowing but unable to demonstrate their all-knowingness to those who want to know they’re all-knowing. Fair enough.

    >I’ve seen claims that some hypercomputers may be capable of solving the haltingproblem, but I haven’t looked closer into that.

    I should imagine they do it by changing the meaning of “halting” so it doesn’t include the entire computational system.

    >(The Old Testament is odd if taken literally. I don’t know of anyone who does that.)

    I’m sure there are plenty of people who do. Anyway, we’re not asking that they take the entire OT literally, just the bit about God creating Adam in his own image.

    Richard

    PS: Latest ad at the bottom of the page is “100% Free Dating Site. An Oasis of singles in the UK! Completely Free – Never, Ever Pay”. They must have noticed we’ve stopped trading ad hominem attacks…

  120. “They must have noticed we’ve stopped trading ad hominem attacks…”

    oh really?

    Explain this comment and it’s reference then, Richard.

    Look, if you want to talk religion and not argue it, you need to start without the insinuations. The very claim that atheists are the free thinkers, implying that those who aren’t atheists are not, isn’t a good start. And carrying on that assumption when you talk only fans the fires.

    Be that as it may, let me make a few points.
    Perhaps God never intended to explain, to answer questions. If he did, that would sort of blow the whole idea, wouldn’t it?

    Time, the future, etc…. if God created the universe and it’s laws, then time isn’t a thing that affects God. Time was created along with the universal laws, at least our time line. To us, it’s the future. To God, it’s all part of what happened.

    Man created in the image of God…. what image? Look at us, we create through the arts. God, the great creator, and we who strive to create. Therein lies the likeness. One question seems to be, do we as individuals strive to create good or bad. Or better yet, since almost all things we create can be used for good or for bad, what does our activities show about our very souls? But not to put too fine a point on that, because I think many people do “bad” while trying to seek the good. So “bad” in this context isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just not right…yet. Part of the journey, the reason we are here.

    You want to know what I think is kind of funny? You atheists talk about us believers believing in something with no evidence whatsoever. You mock us for it in your tone. But the truth is, we have more evidence than you do.
    We have historical documents, unquestioned even by some atheists, that show that there were many people who believed they saw the risen Christ. They believed it so strongly that they suffered torture and died and wouldn’t denounce what they claimed, that they saw Jesus risen. And this includes historical evidence that Jesus did die on the cross, was put to rest in a tomb, and was under guard when his body mysteriously disappeared. This historical evidence comes from outside the faith, from diplomats and historians of the time. Yet it’s not conclusive. It’s not proof. Like anything written, it can be denounced. But it does prove that something happened, something profound enough to spring forth a faith that wouldn’t die, even under torture and death.

    You, on the other hand, have only your faith that “something” existed before the Big Bang. No evidence, only speculation. Only your belief, based on the fact that we and the universe are here. Sound familiar?

  121. […] deep stuff and as an aside I wonder if Richard Bartle is even aware of Tolkien’s theories as religion in virtual worlds seems to preoccupy him lately. (By the way,  the rest of the essay is well worth the read if you […]

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