Are we all just part of a magnificent computer simulation?

About a year ago I was the host of a business dinner in New York, half a dozen men and women met at a fine restaurant after a day of intensive meetings. Perfect food, some great wine and a very nice group of people from hard- and software companies, the majority from the USA, some from Europe.

The conversation focused on business, but as the night carried on, turned to other topics. We discussed politics, history… and computing. These people were all computer specialists, many with engineering degrees. At a certain point the discussion turned to the theory that was humans do not exist, but instead are just avatars on a piece of very advanced hardware. This theory is not new: Elon Musk is one its proponents. It is based on the observation that computers are becoming more and more advanced as well as that the distinction between virtual reality (VR) and reality seems to be disappear. Some time in the far future, somebody will be able to create a computer that doesn’t just simulate a human brain (which according to some estimates may be possible in 50 years or so), but the brain of all humans. It is just a matter of scale; throw in some quantum computing, sufficient hardware and real-time analytics with deep machine learning, and it should be possible to do this.

We could thus easily just IMAGINE that we are physically alive, today and here on this planet; whereas in reality we are just characters in a very advanced computer game played by a acne-faced teenager 200 years in the future. Everything that we experience; all pain and war and suffering and all love and rewards and happiness would then only be part of a simulation.

Little speaks against this theory from a technical standpoint: as long as technical progress continues (to accelerate) at the same pace it has for the last 150 years, this is easily imaginable. This is naturally also a weakness of the theory: life on Earth as well as history hardly ever were linear (although this may seem so to us: we only experience a very small fragment of all of history, yet we think it is all encompassing). For instance, about every 1000 years or so, a major volcanic eruption happens, which tend to dramatically alter the progress of humanity’s culture. Nevertheless one could argue that such catastrophes might delay the development of a super VR computer, but delay doesn’t mean that it could never be created.

So why do I still think there is no value in the theory that we are all just part of a very advanced computer simulation? At the Free University of Amsterdam where I studied biology many years ago, one of the highlights of the first year was a course in Philosophy and Methodology  of Natural Sciences. I have forgotten the professor’s name, but the man did a tremendous job at hammering home some basic scientific principles. Thus, the main argument is that although the simulation theory MIGHT be true, there is NO way to prove or disprove it; it is a theory that isn’t falsifiable. By what criteria could anyone prove that we are, or are not part of a simulation? After all, at some timepoint, the simulation would be so perfect that it couldn’t be identified as a simulation anymore. It is similar to stating that we are created by an invisible fairy living at the bottom of our garden – a theory that people may shrug at, or ridicule, but which would be very hard to prove or disprove. And, as my professor taught us, non-falsifiable theories have, from scientific point of view, no value.

My eBooks on iTunes here.

Advertisements

The Tension is Unbearable. A story of Crime and Passion (starring John and Daphne).

“John?” Daphne shook him. He didn’t stir.
“John! Oh god, what have I done? John? Please wake up.”
She shook him again, panic rising in her voice.
“I need you to wake up. John! Please. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to, I… John, oh John! Please, please!” Tears flowed down her cheeks and she swallowed hard.
John stirred and opened his eyes. “For heaven’s sakes, woman. Why this bloody theatre every single morning? Can’t you just wait for the frigging alarm to go off?”

charles-deluvio-550068-unsplash

More humor? Find it all blogposts tagged with HUMOR:

https://clemenssuter.com/tag/humor/

Pissoir joke. Skip this one, as it is slightly tasteless (and it doesn’t star Daphne, only John)

Several years ago a young man (for the sake of making him more distinguishable from the other personae in this story we will presume that he was red haired. And his name is John) went out for a night with his friends. After many rounds of beer he decided that he had to use the bar’s bathroom, in order to relieve himself.

As he stood at the urinal, a sturdy man with a crew cut entered and started using the pissoir next to him. The ginger boy couldn’t help noticing that the man didn’t just relieve himself with one stream of urine, but in fact three separate streams hit the porcelain. Due to the combination of alcohol and curiosity, he decided to overcome his usual shyness. “Tell me sir, I noticed that you do not pee with a single stream but in multiple streams. I wonder, is this an acquired phenomenon or a hereditary defect?”

The sturdy man turned to him, smiled and answered politely. ”Actually, ginger boy, I’m somewhat flattered that you ask me this. It is in fact an intriguing story. I am a veteran from the second golf war. One day we were hunting down the enemy and we formed a foot patrol to do so. Alas, next to our footpath the enemy had hidden a IED *), which went off just as I passed by. I was lucky: a piece of shrapnel damaged Mr. Willy, but through diligent surgery, the doctors managed to rescue my manhood. However, ginger boy, I have not been able to pee in a single stream since.”

In awe, the boy left the facilities, and couldn’t wait to tell his chums.

Many months later, the boy visited the same bar, and again after a long evening of drinking he needed to go to the bathroom to relieve himself. As he stood at the urinal, a powerful yet obviously drunk marine, also with a crew cut entered, and took position at the pissoir next to him. Ginger boy stole sideward glances at the man. Finally he couldn’t restrain himself any longer. “I’m sorry sir! I couldn’t help noticing that you are not peeing in a single stream but in fact you produce at least a dozen streamlets! Are you perhaps a veteran of the second golf war!?”

The other man looked down and cursed.  “Damn. I’ve… I’ve forgotten to open the bloody zipper.”

patti3

*) in case you do not know what an IED entails, make sure to read pages 130- 150 of my novel Fields of Fire

Another joke – “airplane crash” adapted to modern times

Another tale: story of the Japanese runner that finished the marathon… in 54 years.

The Experience of a Lifetime – Airtravel Back Then and Now

I just returned from a business trip Germany to Kansas City, and as I sat on the plane, it suddenly occurred to me that I must have witnessed this utterly stupefyingly safety pantomime over 400 times. That’s a whopping 1000 or so minutes shaved of my life, thank you FAA and EASA. And it doesn’t help either: just ask a colleague or fellow traveler to repeat what’s in the safety instructions and what to do if the plane must land on the Hudson River, and you will only get back embarrassed smiles. I can guess what passengers will do if a plane makes an emergency landing: I suspect some will continue to push and shove to get to the exit first – countermeasures to that are alas not in the instruction booklet.

OK, I’m exaggerating. Mostly I feel sorry for the crew that needs to go through the exercise, while the passengers are staring into their smartphones and picking their noses.

It’s not that I fly excessively, but thanks to my adventurous parents I had an early start getting airborne. I recall times when air travel was still special; reserved for a few businessmen or tourists that were a bit better off than the ordinary citizen. The countries were more exotic then: half of the world was out of bounds being communist and therefore utterly boring, and many of the other countries had no infrastructure to support any mass tourism. Nowadays, if you haven’t visited Iceland, the Arabian peninsula, Chili, the Congo or Detroit you do not count as a well-traveled tourist. And in every country you can buy exactly the same stuff these days. I know a Japanese couple that vacations every year in Tuscany, Italy, and friends of ours from Switzerland have been traveling with a camper through Yellowstone – every summer, eight years running. Get a life and stay at home folks.

But I’m getting distracted. Back then (I am talking about the seventies and eighties) if you entered an airplane, smoking was naturally not allowed. In the non-smoker section and until after take off that is, after that you could light up your cigarette, cigar or even pipe; and relax. The ashtrays in the armrests was emptied continuously by the crew, since air travel makes nervous (surprisingly very few people are aware of this observation), and together with the cheap cigarettes bought in the tax-free shop, the soothing effect of a relaxing smoke could be enjoyed intensively.
The smoky air and the lack of water offered (in those days nobody realized that dehydration is an unpleasant accompanying effect of air travel) put a terrible strain on travelers, leading to colds and coughs. My mother suffered from asthma, so we usually sat in the non-smoking section; enjoying the recycled, second hand smoke coming from the vents.
Halfway during the flight, a movie screen was lowered in the front, and a beamer came out of the overhead. One or two movies were projected on the screen to keep passengers occupied. These systems regularly crashed, so sometimes there was no movie to watch at all but in that case we could revert to six radio channels. After an intercontinental flight you knew all the tunes by heart and singing along wasn’t a big challenge.
The door to the cockpit was unlocked and even stood open sometimes (thanks, Osama bin Laden, for putting a stop to that ridiculous practice) and the captain regularly walked through the cabin to chat. if you asked the stewardess (no stewards then) you could actually go to the cockpit and the pilot would explain the instruments and the basics of aviation.
Due to security, you had to arrive at the airport early: for intercontinental flights this meant at least 45 minutes before takeoff. For domestic flights three minutes sufficed. Security checks consisted of a quick look at your passport,  hand luggage wasn’t scanned, and I recall passengers sitting on the plane with taped-up carton boxes and the like; anybody’s guess what they contained. Customs usually took those boxes apart after landing; I once witnessed the extraction of a 6 pound freshly caught fish from such a package (its freshness clearly debatable after an eight hour flight). Once, on a flight in the USA, a gun was confiscated. This didn’t upset the passengers too much, after all, in the lines for passport and customs checks we all enjoyed a relaxing smoke, ashtrays were available next to all waiting lines, so we didn’t need to flick the ash on the floor. We did throw our cigarette buts on the floor, I recall that a lady once scolded me and a cousin, stating that this practice was “frowned upon” in US airports. I was young and very much ashamed, I do recall that.
On most flights you had to pay for alcoholic beverages (but even as a teenager I could buy beer or whiskey, if my parents agreed, which they did). At the airports there was very little distraction: the tax free shop and one restaurant was all that you could visit, if those were available at all. Many terminals were rather empty buildings; a counter and uncomfortable metal chairs.
A few things didn’t change over the years: the aircrew was just as polite back then as now, which is surprising in light of the extreme stress due to higher numbers of passengers and increased security measures these days. There are a few more female pilots and a few more male stewards, but there is still a way to go on emancipation of the sexes in the transportation industry. The passengers are the same too: most compliant to the unnoticeable, a very few very obnoxious – usually explainable by higher levels of flight anxiety.

And United Airlines back then was just as ba… – but don’t get me started on that tangent.

On a apple device? Top Tip. Get Great Adventure eBooks on Your iPhone. Hey, presto!

The Author Clemens P. Suter enjoying early days air travel

The Author Clemens P. Suter enjoying early days air travel

Let me tell you a secret.

The summer was amazing: June, July and August, the sun beating on the Rhine valley like god’s anvil, temperatures hardly ever dropping beneath the thirties in daytime. No rain, the cistern ran out of water and we had to install more wine casks as raincollectors to water our tomatoes and fruits.

The local swimming pool was crowded every single day, the nights too hot to allow restful sleep and the farmers complained that the absence of rain was going to ruin the harvest.

This brought back childhood memories. Let me tell you a secret, that may proof valuable for you.

Many, many years ago, when I was a young boy, my father arrived home one night accompanied by two men carrying a big box. The box was put on the table and unpacked. It contained the very first television set that my parents had bought with their meager  income. Mind, this was the time when most people still spent the evenings listening to the wireless.

The men installed the television on a small table and left. My father switched it on. My mother, my sister, my brother and I looked eagerly at the screen.

Only atmospheric disturbance was visible: a gray soup of signal accompanied by a fizzy hissing sound. My father played with the two antennas, moving them from left to right and back again. Suddenly a voice appeared from the ether, and after some more fiddling, a human face emerged out of the signal swamp.

My father lowered himself next to us on the couch. The five of us stared at the man; the first person we had ever seen on a television.

The man wore a dirty blue cap. He was standing in the middle of a field, and obviously was a farmer. Another man, outside of view (we could only see his arm and hand) held a microphone under his mouth.

“What will happen…,” said the invisible man, “If it doesn’t rain within a few days?”

The farmer looked at the sky, at the ground and started a long explanation in an exotic dialect that we could not understand. But his facial expression and voice made clear that the end of the world, if not of all times, was closing in on us.

We watched his narrative for five minutes.

Finally, my mother said: “What’s on the other channel?”

My books: www.clemenssuter.com/books

IMG_4937

Top five ideas for your blog and self-publishing novels.

Carly, a regular reader of this blog, asked: “Why don’t you add ads to your blog? You create such great content; why don’t you monetize?” This got me thinking. I’ve been blogging for 10+ years, and here are some observations on how I’ve faired.

1. The number of visitors to my blog continues to increase month by month and year by year. Occasionally I have included ads in my blog, and in total I have made about… $13. Why is that? My blog focuses on content that I personally like. This is not mainstream content, it isn’t about gossip, sex, politics, current affairs, or even any one single topic. I’m presuming readers like to read the posts, but find ads distracting. Therefore, monetizing the blog through ads doesn’t add any value, neither for me as a blogger and author, nor for you as a reader, probably.

2. I have invested months in studying and implementing SEO, and I follow most of the rules in the SEO rule book – if that is possible (it is easy to overlook some important setting). The effort is considerable, yet Search Engine Optimization is a very intriguing topic that you will need to consider if you own a blog. In reality, 90% of the referrals to my blog arrive from my “Two_Journeys” Twitter channel, 7% from the “Clemens P. Suter” Facebook Page, and the other 3% from other channels – including search engines! By the way, my follower numbers on Twitter increase day by day, yet the number of followers on Facebook remains the same year over year.

3. Blogs compete for attention, and as more and more people are blogging, the tougher it gets to stick out from the crowd. I try to focus on content and less on the methodology and possibilities to monetize. My main purpose is to make potential readers aware of my books, and for that the blog is useful; a single site to attract people to, and bring them here.

4. Talking about selling books. I write adventure / SciFi stories (again see here) and self-publish. Here’s a very Intriguing Observation: >95% of my books are purchased as eBooks on iTunes. All other eBook formats such as Kindle, Kobo, and for other eBook readers, as well as paperbacks make up the other 5%. I suspect this skewed distribution across these channels has to do with the genre; I have no other explanation – perhaps you have an idea. Interestingly, every second person that I meet tells me that they prefer reading paperbacks: well dude, dudess; it’s not reflected in my sales😜. I am curious to hear your feedback or experience with this.

5. I’ve said it before: nowadays anyone with a laptop can be an author. Writing has been democratized, which is absolutely marvelous. At the same time, digging into to the ever changing landscape of online marketing is very rewarding too. Enthusiasm for the written word – perseverance – the motivation to try out new things – these are the ingredients that will help you be an author for a long time.

Hmm, perhaps I should add some ads to  this blog? What do you think?

img_7447

Two men reading one of my eBooks on their smartphone. Hot stuff!