I fully realize that the moment any such analogies are encountered as includes the following, then a good many folks might dismiss everything else. I suppose that is what it is -unable to be helped, at least not without also compromising my own beliefs+personal credibility, or else significantly detracting from my fundamental points and concerns- but the reason why I still lean so very intensely on these very same analogies is their singularly unique capability of presenting these otherwise inexplicable concepts in a manner relatively easily understood by those currently unfamiliar with them, by and large.
This most certainly is not to say that I’d have anyone out there left believing that I personally think we’re all nothing more than some perverse “living video games” – believe me, nothing could be *any* further from the truth! What does matter there is the simple fact that these comparisons aren’t just the closest thing we have right now, they’re also the only similar such concept that we might hope to be able to use in order to convey this idea! As our digital age remains in its infancy -and as of now lacking even any realistic virtual reality technologies- the mere idea of having those binary ones and zeroes get used, not just to create actual worlds of any kind, but fully 3D worlds with fully realistic physics based upon ordered sets of rules? Clearly, there just aren’t a whole lot of options from which we might choose just now.
Because, at the end of the day, I do feel it all rather simple insofar as how we “mere mortals” might hope to understand such truly staggering -almost inconceivable, if not downright unknowable- sorts of ideas: As an introduction for those unfamiliar sorts of folks, the notion of simulated realities *as* a reality? Well, put all prior preconceptions aside for a moment and think about those games of ours.
Not an Atari Pong or Penny Arcade’s Pac-Man, mind you… but for a modern PS4 and XBox One title?
Take, for example, a new game going ’round nerdy ‘Big Bang Theory-types’ of circles: Kerbal. Released in April of 2015, Kerbal has its players create, operate and maintain their very own NASA-like space agency. There, the focus is on, not “Galactic Overlord 10,000”, but instead exploration first and foremost – build your own planetary probes and launch your assorted missions into space, exploring your neck of the galactic woods the most and being the most successful in any number of ways. So this isn’t some “Conquer the Galaxy” bit of nonsense as seems so prevalent over the years, but simply centered on exploring and investigating… a characteristic that’s iconic of the human spirit, if ever one existed!
Yet nor is that so much the issue I’d be raising to you here… it’s something else in the game, something most casual players of it might never even notice or have any need to pay serious attention to. Here, in a tidbit from the Wikipedia article for the title (which you may read in full for yourself here), we find this interesting aspect (and fair warning, it isn’t exactly a short tidbit, either):
While the game is not a perfect simulation of reality, it has been praised for its representation of orbital mechanics. Every object in the game except the celestial bodies themselves are under the control of a Newtonian dynamics simulation. Rocket thrust is applied accurately to a vehicle’s frame based on the positions in which the force-generating elements are mounted. The strength of the joints connecting parts together is finite and vehicles can be torn apart by excessive or inappropriately directed forces.
The game simulates trajectories and orbits using patched conic approximation instead of a full n-body simulation, and thus does not support Lagrange points, perturbations, Lissajous orbits,halo orbits and tidal forces. According to the developers, full n-body physics would require the entire physics engine to be rewritten.
The in-game astronauts, known as “Kerbals”, have some physics calculations applied to them when they are on extra vehicular activities. For example, hitting an object with only the Kerbal’s feet will send them into a tumble, which is a potential hazard in real-life spaceflight as well. While on EVA, Kerbals may use their space suit propellant system to maneuver around.
Some celestial bodies have atmospheres of varying heights and densities, affecting the efficiency of wings and parachutes and causing drag during flight. The simulations are accurate enough that real-world techniques such as Hohmann transfers and aerobraking are viable methods of navigating the solar system. Aerobraking, however, has become a much more difficult method of velocity reduction since the full 1.0 release due to the addition of a better aerodynamics model and optional atmospheric entry/reentry heating. Atmospheres thin out into space, but have finite, set heights unlike real atmospheres.
Kerbal Space Program takes some liberties with the scaling of its solar system for gameplay purposes; for example, Kerbin (the analog of Earth) is 1200km in diameter while Earth is 12,742, while the gravitational pull of Kerbin is the same as that of Earth, thus implying a planet that is about six times as dense.
I think it pretty much goes without saying what I intend of this quote, no…? Honestly, I almost think the word “simulation” was tossed around more frequently than even I myself make use of it!
But it also goes above and beyond that. I mean, hey – guess what? I could’ve had a “Roll the Bouncy Ball” simulator on an Atari or NES! Video games have been marketed as simulating this activity or that one pretty much since the dawn of video games… ‘The Sims’ is a so-called “real life simulator” – yet I don’t think a single one of us holds that as being anything like real life.
That’s fairly extreme as an example, however. Instead, another quite early simulating game was the polar opposite of such overwhelming simplicity: Air Flight Simulation. How many times have we heard whisper of some PC gamer lending a hand in an emergency, able to quickly adapt to real flight controls in order to assist based only off their admittedly extraordinary experience with Microsoft Flight Simulator of the 1990s?
There, the simulation was so very realistic that one proved able, by and large, to erase the lines between reality and simulation. On rare, extreme occasions they found themselves as able to fly in real life as they were in virtual simulations.
Likewise, countless many different professions have utilized virtual simulations -video games- as honest to goodness training in preparing their students for the real thing, or even merely making them better at doing that thing than they already were in real life. This is a trend that isn’t only *not* decreasing, it is rapidly swelling!
All too soon enough, many very difficult and demanding professions will heavily rely on virtual (gaming-like) simulations in order to do provide invaluable real-world experience… experience impossible by any other means, save only actually doing that thing in real-life. Professions… like surgeons. The aforementioned pilot is another extremely difficult skill-based profession, and yet they’ve been similarly relying on virtual approximations for *decades* already!
But see, the most critical distinction of all here is the blurring of the divide between real and fake; erasing lines separating virtuality from mere reality.
This… this is what Kerbal speaks so very, very much indeed to! Notice how constantly the previous quote mentions simulating “Newtonian dynamics this” or “orbital flight mechanics that.”
Physics, in essence. We aren’t just blurring lines with Kerbal, we are proving ourselves fully able to already (at this still extremely infantile point in both our technological and digital based capabilities+understandings) simulate very complex, extraordinarily fundamental natural physical laws to the nth degree that are the underpinnings of all reality itself -with a level of realism pretty much as good as it gets- and still having total+complete success in our translating those many different “real world things” into computer code -programming languages that ultimately exist as nothing save for ones and zeroes- that’s eventually capable of being represented as pixels on digital screens. (As one might tell, there’s a whole lot of layers and continual translations going on underneath the hood, as it were, no…?)
What is “real life” in the “real world,” then, if not something perfectly capable of existing as part of some “real world simulator”? In other words, what is our own world -where we are this very instant, just as we presently are, ourselves- if it isn’t a grand collection of various natural laws operating invisibly in the background? A bunch of software functions, instructions and routines which tell things existing inside that same reality “what’s up, what’s down… and everything in-between?”
The fact our existence holds so resolutely to those very rules -precise out to the nth degree, all whilst being unwavering and unbreakable- should make such ideas and theories hold considerable weight to us… even should we not personally accept them as an irrefutable fact of life.
Especially when being held up against many of the earlier ideas about our existence, origins and creation (being completely centered around more magical origins), in my opinion the notion hardly appears quite so ridiculous when considering things in this particular light. As we will also begin seeing for ourselves, however, by viewing our existence in this very way…? It holds numerous advantages, allowing countless benefits both from our own perspective and in relation to that divine force who Created it all. That’s something we’ll explore next time around, however!