Pretty much anything made by man is not perfect. Sure, near enough to perfect that you probably can’t tell the difference – but not perfect.
Engineers marvel at how close the perfect the base of the Great Pyramid is, more accurate than the variations we allow in modern constructions. But it still isn’t perfect.
I could go on…. but what I am trying to say is that in a simulation as massive and complex as the one we live in, there are bound to be mistakes, glitches, errors and even Easter eggs.
By Easter eggs, I mean hidden messages like computer game programmers regularly place in software, usually to name the authors and thank people. They are meant to be found, but only by a few people. Where would such a message be on Earth? Under miles of ice in Greenland? At the bottom of the Mariana Trench?
Now there might be glitches that only the simulation designers would know about. For example, what if zebras weren’t meant to have stripes? Or what if rainbows were supposed to have eight colors instead of seven?
But seriously, our exploration of our planet, of nanoscopic objects, and the visible universe, combined with our scientific knowledge – verging on cracking the theory of everything – suggests that if there is a glitch to be found, we have the capability to find it and recognize it.
John D. Barrow suggests that rather than using up processor power to actually generate the laws of nature, a simulation might be easier to achieve if the laws of nature were just faked.
Firstly, the simulators will have been tempted to avoid the complexity of using a consistent set of laws of nature in their worlds when they can simply patch in ‘realistic’ eﬀects. When the Disney company makes a ﬁlm that features the reﬂection of light from the surface of a lake, it does not use the laws of quantum electrodynamics and optics to compute the light scattering. That would require a stupendous amount of computing power and detail. Instead, the simulation of the light scattering is replaced by plausible rules of thumb that are much briefer than the real thing but give a realistic looking result – as long as no one looks too closely. There would be an economic and practical imperative for simulated realities to stay that way if they were purely for entertainment. But such limitations to the complexity of the simulations programming would presumably cause occasional tell-tale problems; perhaps they would even be visible from within. Even if the simulators were scrupulous about simulating the laws of nature, there would be limits to what they could do. Assuming the simulators, or at least the early generations of them, have a very advanced knowledge of the laws of nature, it is likely they would still have incomplete knowledge of them (some philosophers of science would argue this must always be the case). They may know a lot about the physics and programming needed to simulate a universe, but there will be gaps or, worse still, errors in their knowledge of the laws of nature. These would, of course, be subtle and far from obvious; otherwise our ‘advanced’ civilization would not be advanced. These lacunae would not prevent simulations being created and running smoothly for long periods of time. But gradually the little ﬂaws would begin to build up.
Eventually, their eﬀects would snowball, and these realities would cease to compute. The only escape is if their creators intervene to patch up the problems one by one as they arise. This is a solution that will be very familiar to the owner of any home computer who receives regular updates.
If the creators can patch up our world whenever something goes wrong, presumably they could erase any of our memories so that we never knew the glitched occurred in the first place.
So either the simulation will start falling apart at the seams (making it apparent to all of us), or the simulation crashes and we cease to exist, or it is a perfect simulation and there’s no need to ever fix it. None of those are actionable.
What about mysteries? Crop circles, ghosts, UFOs, Bigfoot and so on. Could they be clues? Could they be glitches? Anything that science says doesn’t exist, but people think it does, could be the glitch we are looking for. Perhaps OOPARTs – Out-of-place Artifacts?