Fringe Existence3

You wanna get nuts? Let’s get nuts and let’s talk about the Simulated Universe theory and, if true, why an advanced civilization would create such a simulation. The first theory; An Entry to Citizenship.

I’ve been wanting to write this series for a very long time. You see, I like to be free to ponder the most ridiculous possible ideas about reality that might actually fit within the paradigm of what we know. This isn’t a series to convince anyone, this isn’t going to be laden with facts and resources, heck, it’s not even something I necessarily believe, but dangit, anything is theoretically possible when it comes to the Simulated Universe theory, so why not this?

This series will assume that the Simulated Universe theory is found correct and that we’ve already moved on to ask why an advanced civilization might engage in creating the simulation we live in.

Now with all that horrendous exposition for this series out of the way, let’s get into it with a thought experiment.

Simulated Universe Theory: The Advanced Civilization

There have been and continue to be a lot of predictions as to the trajectory of humanity. Where are we going? What is civilization going to look like? What are humans going to look like?

Here is what Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist,  says about four different types of civilizations:

He measures states of civilization advancement with the harnessing and use of energy. This helps paint the picture of the types of civilizations we’re talking about. He describes four civilizations:

Type 1

Type 1 civilizations have harnessed planetary power. In other words, not only has this civilization been able to wrangle all the energy potential of the planet, but can control weather patterns and earthquakes. Imagine the responsibility of holding that remote control!

Type 2

We may cry over spilt milk, but consider this. The sun spills out 274 million gigawatt-years of solar energy every day. Type 2 civilizations can harness that energy and control extremely volatile celestial bodies such as our star.

Type 3

The next step after controlling a star? You guessed it. Controlling a crap-ton of stars!  AKA, a galaxy. This is a bit unfathomable for our little brains to understand, but imagine an entire galaxy powering your iPhone.

Now we’re only using energy consumption as the distinction between civilization’s here. Michio doesn’t speak to the different features of these civilizations like culture, ethics, entertainment and all the other attributes that make up an entire civilization. It would be very hard to imagine what entertainment would be like, let alone how Kim Kardashian would fair in an advanced civilization, but we can come to a general prediction that this society would have vast capability, influence, and power. I could easily imagine this society being essentially unlimited in what they can do and when looking at the whole of existence, that’s a lot of responsibility for a handful of folks!

Futuristic Baby

Imagine if you were born into this civilization. What would it be like to be raised in a civilization that could just as easily create and destroy a planet as we could burn toast? I could easily make a prediction that a civilization that could survive nuclear holocaust, genetic mastery and galactic control would have come close to societal perfection. This could mean no health issues, no pain, no discomfort, no crime, no prisons.

Sounds great, right? Well, hold on. What about those incredibly important virtues that can only be learned through the now eradicated health issues, pain, crime, discomfort, etc?

Think about that for a second and read this quote:

 As we have no immediate experience of what other men feel, we can form no idea of the manner in which they are affected, but by conceiving what we ourselves should feel in the like situation.

-Adam Smith

We learn empathy from the similar pain we share with another person. We learn humility through our weaknesses. In other words, we learn the good from the bad.

How would you acquire these attributes s in a perfectly sterile society? A good simile would be the health concerns of today in our overuse of hand sanitizer. Just like in our weakening ability to fight off disease in a disease-free bubble, an advanced civilization wouldn’t be able to build character traits of empathy if not given the pain it fosters.Starship Troopers Citizenship

So there needs to be another place of learning. There needs to be a simulation of a past time when trials were every day, where evil grinned on the same street the opportunity to be charitable was.

For all we know, it could be like Starship Troopers. Citizenship requires a badge of access through some sort of duty, education or service. Maybe in order to encourage peace among it’s citizens, this advanced civilization requires that empathy be fully developed. Heck, to take it a bit further, maybe not just empathy but direct skills to help in your chosen profession.

You enter the simulation and direct foundational skills are manifested in your “life”. A therapist must go through a life of simulated clinical depression, an engineer must live a simulated life in which his flawed design caused devastation, or an alien outreach program director spends their simulated life in philanthropy outreaching to thousands of starving kids in Africa.

You can see the huge benefits in encouraging individuals to pass through a simulated life in order to learn skills, especially social behavioral skills, in an age where general experience in life just doesn’t offer those opportunities for growth.

What do you think?  What other experiences would a perfected civilization need to simulate?

  • Joao

    May 30, 2014

    A civilization thousands+ of orders of magnitude above mankind type of civilizations needs its citzens to go/start thousands of orders of magnitude bellow to be able to fully function in their original society? Sounds very bad.

    Such big difference in orders of magnitude makes man sound incredible arrogant/self centered when saying our purpose is to give birth to “gods” (as in unbelievable powerfull beeings).

    But as the author said, anything could be possible, I just don’t think that’s it. At all.

    Also, why use our-universe type of civilizations when refering to outside-our-universe types of civilizations? They may not even have stars/galaxys for all we know.

  • Adam

    May 30, 2014

    It’s a very Puritan idea (hence Adam Smith) that suffering is required for empathy. It’s actually just a Puritan idea that suffering is necessary, as it stems out of a great guilt for sin. I do like what you’ve written, and it’s a novel approach, however I do see a glaring error in your concept. You claim that if there were no suffering that we went through ourselves, we would not be able to build empathy for when others suffer. Well firstly, if nobody else was suffering, we wouldn’t need that empathy for when they are suffering, now would we? Secondly, and more importantly, is that empathy is comprised of both positive and negative emotions. You can feel empathy for someone when they are happy. We generally only use empathy in a negative connotation, but the actual ability to empathize isn’t limited to bad times. We would have empathy for all the useful emotions that we feel, happiness, satisfaction, love, but our empathy for negative emotions would be weak due to lack of use. But we also wouldn’t need them, due to lack of use.

  • Rustin Odom

    May 30, 2014

    Great thoughts Joao!

    I pondered the need for empathy and my belief is that it would still be needed when encountering other beings of a lower order, but your points do point out some more thought on the concept.

    This post does make assumptions that this advanced civilization is a future version of ourselves and the simulation is a version of their own past. In this case, it does allow for stimuli within their same frame of mind to create empathy.

  • Rustin Odom

    May 30, 2014

    Adam, you make a good point but I would assume a galactic civilization would have connections and even communications with other societies not yet advanced as they are so lack of empathy might make things difficult in their exchanges. I could also see the reason for keeping empathy alive simply through a record of what empathy not only is, but feels like. Think of it as a knowledge preservation for emotion. Obviously this is a new concept as we haven’t necessarily lost emotions in our society but if an emotion would essentially be “extinct”, would we not try to preserve it in some fashion?

  • Joao

    May 31, 2014

    Yes rustin, I also believe (hope) that a “parent” civilization makes use of emphaty. I only disagree that our simulation (assuming sim hypotesies) purpose is for them to develop empathy, sounds too simplistic to me.

    As we are on the subject I may aswell say what I think (hope) that the purpose is: parent civilization wants life after death for them, so how could they increase their odds of having it? Making sure that they create simulations with life after death increasing the chances that someone did the same with them (observer bias and all I know, but I hope :) ).

  • Rustin Odom

    May 31, 2014

    Now THAT is an interesting idea. In fact, there was a conference where a theoretical physicist proposed the idea that it’s very possible that our “parent” civilization could just as easily created a universe in which religion is correct and we’ll be expected to go through various after death scenarios and even something like the return and guidance of a deity.

  • John

    August 1, 2014

    I think we are here to evolve conceptually and that we may be able to achieve communications with other planets – likely – once we have proven that we have left behind the ideas of WAR. Too when we can achieve a level of Worldwide Brotherhood we may have spiritual awakenings that dwarf most of our religious beliefs. And about your search for truth author, one book says, “Seek and YE shall find”.

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