How to Build a Computer Model of God

Like most people, questions about the existence of God and all things spiritual plague me frequently. I want to believe in such things, especially when it comes to continuity of my consciousness. I don’t like the idea of disappearing when I die. I suspect most other people don’t either, which is what makes belief in systems like Heaven, reincarnation, or even Hell an attractive prospect to our minds. Despite my desire to accept religious teachings, I am constantly prevented by a simple fact: no one has found any physical evidence of something like a soul, or any mechanism which might enable a persistent consciousness beyond our current brain. The lack of physical evidence coupled with the strong benefit of believing in life after death, leads to strong doubt in my mind.

My assumption has always been: If something like a soul exists, and it affects our consciousness in any manner, then it must be detectable by some scientific device. I find it difficult to imagine that something can interact with my physical body without leaving any physical trace. But though I find it hard to imagine, is it possible for something like a soul to interact with me without leaving any physical trace?

I chose to test this hypothesis using a thought experiment, and ended up formulating a computer model to simulate our souls, the afterlife, and a spiritual model which requires no visible physical component.

Can Souls Exist Without a Physical Component?

I normally hate it when people use Physics principles or Mathematical theorems to justify something unrelated and not intended. That said, my thought process started with the wonders of Gödel’s incompleteness theorem. It says, in a nutshell:

Any sufficiently complex mathematical system will contain truths which cannot be proved using that same system.

It is much more complex than that of course, but it basically means that, at least in Math, some truths will always be out of grasp in the current system. What if the system we live in – Earth – has similar properties? Of course, moving from a Math system to life is a bit of a stretch. Instead, I thought, could I build a real life computer system which has these properties??

Building a Computer Model – Background

I want to give some background for those unfamiliar with systems design and computer science, and to make the concepts accessible to everyone without requiring much technical expertise. Please forgive me for glossing over some of the more technical aspects of these systems, and if you are sufficiently versed in virtualization, it is safe to skip ahead to the next section.

Starting with a basic computer, we have a few key components – Physical hardware, Operating system, and programs running on the operating system. It is possible to abstract out the physical hardware from the operating system by using something called virtualization – essentially you can have one computer which thinks it is a whole computer, but is really just a wholly contained slice of a larger computer, also known as a virtual machine.

It is possible to build a virtual machine which has no way of knowing whether it is, in fact, a virtual machine or not. A user or program running on this virtual machine can run as many tests as they please, but will never find any evidence of whether it is virtual or physical. It may even share the same physical hardware with multiple other virtual machines, but will not be able to find any evidence of those virtual machines existing on the same physical hardware. Granted, in reality most virtual machines do not work this way, but they could.evolution of virtualization

So far, I have described two distinct systems – The physical hardware and the virtual machine. There must also be a third layer – the Operating system which runs on the physical hardware and controls the virtual machines. This operating system, known as a Hypervisor, has incredible power. Today, we use these systems in IT departments to dynamically allocate system hardware resources to virtual machines. This is the conceptual framework around which we can build our model of God.

Programming Life on Earth

I want to create some computer code in this system which represents life on earth. Forget actual intelligence for a moment – the programs only need to act in some way similar to a life form. For this, I recognize a few properties that represent our existence in this life: we use up resources to survive, and when we die our resources return to the earth for consumption by other natural systems and processes. So far as we know, nothing happens outside of this natural process. Said another way, we allocate resources to live from our environment, and return 100% of them when we die. We have observed nothing that leaves us to live on after death.

So, in the model system described above, where earth is represented by a virtual operating system with no knowledge of any other possible systems, I represent life with a simple process which runs in a loop for some specified time, after which it ceases to function. The programs are allocated a certain set of memory when they are initialized, which will never increase until they stop running. This represents the space we take up physically in the world. The program has internal states, which are never saved to disk, but are stored only in memory, and represent our changing mental states. When a process is killed or dies of its own accord, its memory is returned to the virtual environment for use by other programs, and nothing is ever saved about it’s existence. This process represents death in the real world.

As a result, we now have a simple, layered model of life (processes), the universe (virtual machine), all sitting atop an unknowable God (Hypervisor).

Approximating Life after Death

The Hypervisor I created controls and monitors virtual machines on a server without any knowledge, but I want it to do more than simply allocate resources to the model universe – I want it to manage virtual souls and influence the virtual world without leaving any physical trace as well.

To achieve this, I introduce a new function to the Hypervisor. This new function allows the system to look at any process running in a virtual machine by accessing (reading) a given memory location. In this way, the Hypervisor can view any processes state that it wishes. It may also store a copy of that state to disk without notifying or having the virtual machine environment have any evidence that it is happening. When a process dies, the Hypervisor can save the state of the process to disk, and still 100% of virtual machine resources are given back to the system. No evidence of this saving is left behind for the virtual machine to notice, since all of it happened outside the virtual machines scope and view.

It is now a simple matter for the Hypervisor to do some interesting things with the saved process states. It could, for instance, reincarnate the saved process into a new process in the same virtual machine by copying the saved contents into a new process, or perhaps only certain segments of the saved process state. It could also take the saved process state and insert it into a new process in other virtual machines, which could be completely different operating environments than the one the process originated in. In this way, the Hypervisor could approximate a process flowing through states of reincarnation or travel from Earth to Heaven or Hell, all without leaving a trace in the original environment.

Mutliple universes represented by virtualization

Conclusions

As you can see, this model is flexible enough to account for all major religious beliefs on earth today, and creates a cohesive thought model by which souls could interact with the human world without leaving a trace. Furthermore, it can actually be implemented on earth with some approximation, allowing a program to exist as if it had a permanent soul, even if the environment it was created in was completely destroyed (say, by shutting down a virtual machine). It does not say if any major religion is right or wrong, it simply shows it is possible that observation may miss certain things which are unobservable from where we sit, but does not completely exclude them from the realm of possibility.

I would apply a caution to those who want to use this to explain other religious phenomena, or even when talking of the afterlife. Simply because no physical observation or cause and effect chain have been established for certain phenomena, does not mean that no observable events exist. It would be preferable to search for physical evidence rather than take something on faith alone, keeping in mind that absence of physical evidence may not mean absence of phenomena.

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    56 comments… add one

    • Nicely written, I thoroughly enjoyed reading that.

      Reply
    • Ask God. That’s the only way to uncover truths.

      http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+14&version=NIV

      10 i = i + 15

      15 PRINT “Bible, Line:”, i

      20 IF i > 99999 THEN i = 0: GOTO 10

      30 IF INKEY$ = “” THEN 10

      40 PRINT “Line:”, i

      http://www.losethos.com/text/BIBLE.TXT

      God say line: 92175

      after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 1:27 But
      God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise;
      and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the
      things which are mighty; 1:28 And base things of the world, and things
      which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to
      bring to nought things that are: 1:29 That no flesh should glory in
      his presence.

      1:30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us
      wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 1:31
      That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in
      the Lord.

      Reply
    • Very cool… but unfortunately I feel you’ve just created a new religion believing in computer overlords. Oh wait, they already had this in the Matrix. Hmm…

      Reply
    • An incomplete thought experiment I’m sure. But the very idea of applying Godel to a computer simulation of “soul” seems uncouth to me. That you gleam and simplify such complex systems to VM’s and such seems like a struggling attempt to find the gap where your god seems to reside.

      Hume also noticed that systems, or rather our model of them, is always a priori incomplete. And yet, the notion of a soul falls quickly to his intellect.

      Hofstadter also took great pains to understand the themes of Goder’s work showing through careful thought that from the interaction of very simple things like neurons, we can have a sense of a coherent mind (even one with meaning) but this meaning is an emergent property not an inherent one.

      The soul, then, we are seeking is the mathematic dance of rather meaningless elements. And to me, that seems like the greater discovery.

      Reply
    • In your model, the only way a process (soul) could discover it was in a VM, is if the hypervisor chose to notify it. Similarly, if there is a God, surely He has the ability to leave no trace, _except_ where He choses to notify (reveal) Himself. Thus the question becomes how to perform the search — it has to be on His terms, and not ours (ie we probably can’t build a physical device that will detect Him).

      Reply
    • “In your model, the only way a process (soul) could discover it was in a VM, is if the hypervisor chose to notify it.”

      Correct in the model. False in reality. VMs share resources of the host like (GPU) memory and I/O to be useful to “the outer world”, i.e. the surroundings of the host system. Without that, the host system would be useless. But does it have to be?

      Reply
    • Pascal Bourguignon November 17, 2011 10:57 pm

      There’s no “outer world”. There’s only God, and His creation, which runs inside Him. Hence total control and support of the creation on the part of God, and since He seems to have choosen so, obliviousness of God on the part of His creation.

      Reply
    • The problem is that it is irrelevant wether or not there is something if it can never be observed/reached/it doesn’t have any impact on reality.

      If it does have an impact on reality, it or it through it’s impact can be observed.

      Reply
    • The impact might be observed but not understood. Why do particles interact like they do? Why/how does gravity exist? What came before the Big Bang, and what started it? There are lots of observations and questions, but until we have ALL the answers, it doesn’t seem irrelevent.

      Reply
    • That was exactly the issue I was trying to figure out for myself. I had always assumed that if something affected the world, something must be observable about it. I tried thinking of systems where effects were generated, but not observable, focusing on the idea of a soul interacting with body. It could just as well be some other phenomena.

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    • It does have an impact on reality. Billions of people around the world are impacted through the effect on their behavior.

      Reply
    • I know that you are writing a thought experiment, but for the sake of those who might not be familiar with Buddhism I must note that your model of reincarnation is not representative of what the Buddha teaches in the Pali canon. A central teaching of Buddhism is that there is _no persistent self_. Indeed, it is the attachment to selfhood that causes suffering.

      The Buddha explains reincarnation with the image of one candle lighting another, and then the first being extinguished. As there is no persistent self from moment to moment, why must there be a persistent self from life to life? So Buddhism claims not to fall into this trap in the first place. :)

      Reply
    • But reading out a bit from memory DOES have a detectable effect.

      Using the metaphorical analogy, it would be on the level of quantum interactions, but that’s still detectable effects. Saying something can effect physical reality… without effecting it… that’s tautologically contradictory.

      As well, is a basic formulation of the simulation hypothesis. And it falls prey to one simple refutation that the simulation hypothesis does as well. Occam’s Razor. You’re tacking on a number of assumptions, that simpler models don’t have.

      Reply
    • So, what’s the assembly or C code for determining the quantum effects of a memory copy?

      That’s one of the points: just like the processes in a VM are restricted to a certain system – the operations they can do – which is not affected by the Hypervisor (and therefore its actions are undetectable), a “God” could have effects in some meta-physical level which are nevertheless undetectable at our level.

      Reply
    • The soul also falls to Occamian reasoning. I can (theoretically) construct a computer model of a mind alone in much fewer lines than a computer model of a mind + soul.

      Reply
    • Despite my desire to accept religious teachings, I am constantly prevented by a simple fact: no one has found any physical evidence of something like a soul, or any mechanism which might enable a persistent consciousness beyond our current brain. The lack of physical evidence coupled with the strong benefit of believing in life after death, leads to strong doubt in my mind.

      The Society for Psychical Research certainly collected a lot of experimental data. The work of Crookes was quite noteworthy.

      If you are aware of that work, but you think it didn’t prove anything, then I don’t know if you and I will be able to find much common ground for debate.

      If you had not been aware of William Crookes, you can now expand your horizons.

      Reply
    • I’ll have to do some reading, I hadn’t heard of him. I am aware of several scientists who have done some very interesting work, notably Dr. Ian Stevenson.

      Reply
    • Philosophy is worthless–use mysticism. Establish some language and look for meaning. Jesus predicted a cock crowing. Omens are a form of communication.

      Tea leaves, or cracking-open a book randomly, or a ouija board, or the Oracle at Delphi.

      http://www.losethos.com/text/BIBLE.TXT

      God says line: 2640

      my brother to Haran; 27:44 And tarry with him a few days, until thy
      brother’s fury turn away; 27:45 Until thy brother’s anger turn away
      from thee, and he forget that which thou hast done to him: then I will
      send, and fetch thee from thence: why should I be deprived also of you
      both in one day? 27:46 And Rebekah said to Isaac, I am weary of my
      life because of the daughters of Heth: if Jacob take a wife of the
      daughters of Heth, such as these which are of the daughters of the
      land, what good shall my life do me? 28:1 And Isaac called Jacob, and
      blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a
      wife of the daughters of Canaan.

      Reply
    • Proverbs 16: 33 The lot is cast into the lap,
      but its every decision is from the LORD.

      God controls dice, randomly cracking-open books, pressing a stop-watch button at a certain time… anything like that. The Christian “tongues” thing is where you speak the first sound that pops in your head. Apparently this works. Tongues is a harder thing for a spirit to do than dice! It has to manipulate the brain to make words.

      People get uneasy about minor details like what technique you use to speak with the Holy Spirit. It makes no difference. The goal is to get sensible communication. Be a scientist. Tesla was not dumb.

      http://gizmodo.com/5390059/build-the-spirit-radio-that-creeped-out-tesla-himself

      Holy Spirit says (stop watch for random numbers.):

      own contrite mentioned associate misdeeds Electronic toward
      likest sweeter retaineth strengthenedst inanimate indicate
      resting assail insolently precious giant precedest Lord
      cleansing The Tully’s socalled reputation Afterwards murdering
      remained pluckest rebel ascertained entrance respective
      did delete delightful cheered upheldest shoot strive scraped
      Euodius Whether amiable Anaximenes Whose even dryness
      revelations right States Hope referred belongs grave wallow
      Had subtilty authority capital yielding pitiest solve
      cross nought bemoaning taunted inasmuch infants sayings
      camp sixteenth alternatively Let’s unsuitably thunder
      much consume acknowledge Carthaginian satiated distribute
      fields lusting FITNESS messengers hers teeth touched Knows
      elsewhere lord pertained AD trials prefer inebriated higher
      availed impute distractions pupils hurt truths nowhere
      gulf sufficed wanted parties dejectedness preferable put
      modulation embarrassments III distances followest despisest
      lewd Cross smiting held youths accustomed out start built
      disengage persevering admittest something desiring falsely
      DOMINE quit punctuation

      Reply
    • God controls dice, does he? And yet the casinos still make a profit and there is no discernable pattern of winners and losers. In fact, the outcomes of dice rolls can be statistically predicted.

      Given the two hypotheses, that there is no god and life is entirely due to chance, or that there is a god whose actions entirely mimic chance, it is generally preferable to assume the one which does not require the existence of god.

      What the original post has done, so far as I can tell, is construct an elaborate rationalisation of his preferred beliefs. Which is fine, but not particularly helpful unless you want to feel good about your faith while believing yourself rational.

      I would point out that some considerable time ago a man dreamed he was a butterfly. No system yet devised would tell you if your dreams are more or less real than reality, and indeed it’s logically probable that we all exist inside a giant simulation of reality, constructed in a never ending chain of simulated realities. None of that is particularly useful in making decisions about this life.

      Reply
    • Ummm… so how does the OS/Hypervisor decide who should uses CPU next? Seems that not all of us are taking action simultaneously. If everyone’s soul(process) is actually executed by one single centralized ruler (CPU), can we still say ourselves are individuals?

      Interesting post, really enjoy it.

      Reply
    • You first posit:

      If something like a soul exists, and it affects our consciousness in any manner, then it must be detectable by some scientific device.

      The key here being “and it affects our consciousness”.
      If something can affect our consciousness, then it must be detectable. Right? That’s the hypothesis you’re trying to disprove.

      You start your attempt to disprove this with:
      To achieve this, I introduce a new function to the Hypervisor. This new function allows the system to look at any process running in a virtual machine by accessing (reading) a given memory location.

      Ok, that’s fine. But this function does not *write* to the virtual machine, it only reads from it *without affecting it’s state*. This alone is insufficient to test your hypothesis. You need to *affect* the virtual machine (“our consciousness”) in an undetectable way to disprove your hypothesis.

      So, then you say:
      It could, for instance, reincarnate the saved process into a new process in the same virtual machine by copying the saved contents into a new process, or perhaps only certain segments of the saved process state.

      Ok, these are things that it could do to affect the virtual machine. You don’t even *attempt* to prove that these changes it makes are unobservable from outside the virtual machine. You show that a god or a soul could affect the universe, but don’t show that it could happen without anyone noticing.

      It couldn’t.

      Pretend I am a process that runs inside of this virtual machine named “scientist”. I am a very curious process, constantly observing the state of my virtual machine and making notes about it. In fact I constantly make checksums of the various parts of my virtual machine, and then go back and check that they were correct. If you start injecting new data into places where it previously wasn’t, I will be able to detect that something strange is happening, because I remember what it was supposed to look like, and I’ll be able to say “Woah, that’s weird, where did that data come from?”

      Now, if the hypervisor is smart enough, it can alter my table of checksums as well, such that when I go to look one up and check that everything matches, the newly modified part of the world reflects my table, and I don’t notice.

      Except, in the real world our checksums are the laws of physics. Scientists watch the world and verify that everything they see conforms to the laws of physics. If hypervisor god wanted to try this in the real world, he’d make a change to the world incompatible with the laws of physics, but he’d pause the whole world while he did it, and he’d change the laws of physics to match, and he’d change everyone’s memories such that they all remembered these new laws of physics, and he’d change the color that leaves turn in the fall, or the constants of gravity, or whatever else needed to be changed to fit this new physical definition of the world.

      Basically he’d be building a whole new world over from scratch with a few things in common with the existing world, and that whole world would be different at the fundamental level where physical laws are defined.

      If you wanted to violate physics at just a small level, such as just enough to affect a single person’s decision, then it would be detectable. If you wanted to make that decision not physically impossible, you have to start over and rewrite physics.

      Reply
    • Very interesting, but I don’t get something: How can a virtual machine have anything like a hard disk to write to?

      Reply
    • Very interesting, but there’s one thing I don’t understand: How can a virtual machine have anything like a hard disk to write to?

      Reply
    • Charlie you say “Simply because no physical observation or cause and effect chain have been established for certain phenomena, does not mean that no observable events exist.”

      see Russell’s Teapot:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell's_teapot

      Russell wrote that if he claimed that a teapot were orbiting the Sun somewhere in space between the Earth and Mars, it would be nonsensical for him to expect others not to doubt him on the grounds that they could not prove him wrong.

      Reply
    • very interesting post. I enjoyed it a lot. thank you !!

      Reply
    • Lots of stuff is happening with humans that we call random fluctuations, f.ex. in the field of epigenetics and gene mutations. We call it random, because we cannot detect a reliable pattern. So, when we say that we are not observing God’s/Hypervisor’s influence we assume that our detector modes are appropriate. One commenter suggested an influence from above would violate physical laws and make the scientist go “wtf!”, but there seems to be plenty of room available in the randomness of nature for an influence to work undetected.

      Reply
    • I really enjoyed reading that, thank you for writing it.

      Reply
    • Observing is an act of consciousness. Mystic descriptions of the “soul” describe it as a unit of consciousness.

      Observing mental and physical phenomena is a function of the soul. To detect a soul, you must effectively “observe the observer,” which requires a categorically different method of observation. Hence the various mystical practices of meditation.

      Reply
    • Why stop there? Why not have the hypervisor be a member of a hyper-virtual machine ‘universe’? The hypervisor is governed by a hyper-hypervisor and it is

      Reply
    • …turtles all the way down.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turtles_all_the_way_down

      (Sorry the html got truncated during posting)

      Reply
    • how can you claim to have all this proof and beleive so much in science when it is simply observing and predicting yet by definition a higher power would be beyond your ability to comprehend or proove it because your laws of man dont apply to something that is more ethereal and cosmic than you can understand.

      you keep saying the word imagine, and thats one thing i find athiests or a higher power denier lacking, any sort of imagination of possibilty. to you unless its infront of your face it doesnt exist yet all your “proof”, “evidence” is all just based on a best guess. thats why its called scientific “theory”.

      Reply
    • MadGastronomer November 16, 2011 2:03 am

      Your starting point baffles me, as this starting point always does when I encounter it. Why assume that, if the soul exists and is detectable, that it is detectable by means currently available to us? Why assume that it is an object and not a process? Why assume that it is not a pattern we haven’t noticed yet, because we don’t have the theory to frame the pattern, like chaos theory gave us the frame for chaotic patterns?

      Examine your assumptions. They are not scientific.

      Reply
    • The idea of a soul as a process neatly echos what muraiki says above:
      November 15, 2011 at 8:01 AM. I am arts-based, not a scientist but this perspective appeals to my innate sense of logic.

      Reply
    • …it simply shows it is possible that observation may miss certain
      things which are unobservable from where we sit, but does not completely
      exclude them from the realm of possibility.

      I agree.

      But I’d say that brute possibility doesn’t really mean that much.
      Brute possibility is hardly grounds for believing that some specific
      scenario exists. To reasonably believe that that scenario exists you
      need some sort of positive evidence that favours that scenario over
      all of the other brute possibilities.

      …this model is flexible enough to account for all major religious
      beliefs on earth today…”

      I’d suggest “account for” is not an appropriate choice of words. It
      doesn’t account for them in any way.

      …at least in Math, some truths will always be out of grasp in the
      current system. What if the system we live in – Earth – has similar
      properties?

      could I build a real life computer system which has these properties??”

      Actually, that’s not how it is in Maths. It’s not the truth that’s
      out of grasp, it’s the _proof_ of the truth. Just because the proof
      of 1 + 1 = 2 is out of reach in a system doesn’t mean that system
      can’t profitably make use of 1 + 1 = 2.

      Reply
    • Reply
    • “it’s existence” => “its existence”

      Reply
    • The brain is a mushy file of electrical impulses.
      How are those bio files transfered to spirit at death?
      Once the body rots,the original file is gone forever.
      Most of our memory files are created by the stimulus of our envirement throughout our life. We learn to like some things and hate other things. Is that worth saving?
      Maybe bits of us return to a collective greatness that we call God. Maybe it is our own vanity that insists that we go on as the individual we believe we are. All else is dross that burns off. Scripture says love remains. Americans want to drive their car to heaven! Maybe God is so big that a humanity who has only had computers for a nano-second of time, can’t build a model yet that figures it all out? (Just an old cowboy’s thoughts)

      Reply
    • I think your opening statement summarising Godel :Any sufficiently complex mathematical system will contain truths which cannot be proved using that same system.Would be more correct by saying Even the very simplest mathematical systems will contain truths which cannot be proved using those same systems.Godel showed it was true even for the Natural numbers and arithmetic and propositional calculus as I understand it.

      Reply
    • Continuity of consciousness is certainly a concept many of us yearn for when facing the fear of death. Unfortuntely, as others have said, we lose this consciousness when our brain stops functioning. Consciousness is merely an orchestra of atoms which we have been given through the evoloution of our ancestors. Any such continuity of this neural activity only seems possible through human scientific intervention. Brain transplant? No thanks. Encoding a replica of our brains into a computer? That’s more likely but still far away in he future. For now, stay healthy and live long.

      Reply
    • isn’t this just a modern version of Spinoza’s “Deus sive Natura”?

      Reply
    • jeff campanelli November 18, 2011 5:35 am

      There’s lots of evidence for a soul. Look at multiple near death experiences people report out of body experiences and are able to describe things they never saw consciously. Look into it tons of examples

      Reply
    • Totally stupid. You geeks need to take a chill pill. To spend you time trying to replicate life and/or afterlife in a computer program is impossible (and a massive waste of time). Your partner will probably become frustrated and eventually bored. Good luck paying the mortgage.

      Reply
    • Who ever said we were working on this? YOU need to chill and realize that dreamed up concepts often DO become reality despite naysayers such as yourself. If you seriously are in touch with the modern world you would never use the word “impossible” to describe a technological feat. We innovate at an amazing rate. Hater.

      Reply
    • You’re all basically missing a larger point, a real point. We are not ‘wired’ to understand the REAL world… quantum mechanics makes no sense to use (uncertainty, duality, probability, symmetry, etc) yet is more real than the ‘flatland universe’ we comprehend and live in. Anything and everything may be possible and we’ll never, ever know, because we are, our math is, our sciences are, our theology is ALL bounded by the “knowable universe” in which we are trapped and which we now know, with scientific certainty, is incomplete. To wit… where did the framework allowing the Big Bang to come from, come from?

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    • Salvation = Faith + nothing

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    • I am not able to add to the theological implications of all this, but it does get me to thinking about some issues with respect to the Fermi Paradox: the apparent contradiction between the expectation that life should be not only fairly common, but that any intelligent life should long ago have permeated our galaxy, against our supposed failure to have observed any interacting with us here on Earth.

      One of the solutions frequently advanced to resolve the Fermi Paradox is that since it is easy to demonstrate that statistically any intelligence we encounter is likely to be millions of years in advance of ours (not to mention the self-selection for such an advanced state by virtue of having them gotten here) it is possible that “they” simply do not wish to be observed, and have the capability to prevent us from doing so. Recall the assertion by Authur C. Clarke (?) to the effect that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

      On a bit of a tangent, I should explain my phase “… our supposed failure to observe…” above. It is not that I am a “believer” in UFOs, but that I am a believer in Occam’s Razor! Of the millions or reported observations of aliens and alien crafts, only a single one need be valid to destroy the Fermi Paradox, yet many popular and even academic treatments of the paradox treat it as axiomatic that no such observations have ever occurred, often without bothering to mention any mechanism or phenomenon that could account for their abundance!

      I like to think of this as the “Fermi Paradox Paradox”. I state it as the apparent contradiction between the pervasive a priori assumption that supposed observations of aliens and their vehicles cannot have actually occurred, with the complete inability of any “authorities” to advance any scientific hypothesis (testable or otherwise) concerning why this must be so. In other words, the contradiction inherent in the fact that mainstream science simultaneously asserts that advanced intelligent life, capable of interstellar travel is perfectly possible, even if improbable according to some, with the absolute denial that we have ever observed the phenomena that would follow naturally from such assertions: aliens and alien spacecraft visiting Earth!

      The Fermi Paradox Paradox also deals quite effectively with the nostrum “Extraordinarly claims require extraordinary evidence.” It is not the claims that some people have observed aliens and their vehicles that is extraordinary: the extraordinary claim is that despite the fact that such observations do not violate any mainstream scientific theory, and that literally millions of such observations have been reported, not a single valid observation has ever actually occurred!

      No, I have never seen a UFO, but I can recognize psuedo-scientific puffery when I hear it.

      ps. Great article

      Reply
    • An interesting idea – reminds me a lot of John Dunne’s “An Experiment with Time” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Experiment_with_Time (1927) in which he postulates that prophetic dreams, along with various other phenomena, may be accounted for by layers of observer viewpoints. In effect, the viewpoint beyond “thinking about thinking about things” is the shared mind – the Akashic Records, or the mind of God. Also compare and contrast with Neale Donald Walsch’s “Conversations with God”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conversations_with_God (1995) which postulates “God” as a shared overmind of humanity.

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    • I never thought it was difficult to accept that our “soul” and all the physical matter we are formed of will be eventually recycled organically…

      A mental exercise I can recommend is, try to remember your “soul” back when you were 6 months old… Could you remember how you saw the world, how you interpreted things, using your ideas, opinions and beliefs, your core values, the intellectual and emotional stuff that supposedly now in your adulthood you consider your soul… I am sure you cannot remember a thing.

      Why? Because all that ethereal that defines your non-physical self, didn’t exist at all. You were just like any other baby animal (Even more defenseless). You learned so many things, understood complexity in so many ways, formed opinions, learned to interact with other fellow humans… All that that you may call a soul. The thing is that, you learned it, through interactions with other humans and your environment. Some basic circuits were there (nature vs nurture), but the rest was acquired in a long process we often tend to forget/ignore.

      Our self-awareness is truly disturbing, I agree on that sometimes.

      The only thing that will remain of you, is that invisible imprint you will leave in other fellow humans, both the good and bad. Your soul, if anything, is what remains in the others as they saw you.

      Some friends say it’s not easy to let go, maybe nature of belief is hardwired (And some of us simply don’t have the circuits for that kind of belief…)?

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    • It is scary to think there is nothing when we die. It is comforting to think we will live on after death. The preverbial pie in the sky is comfort food. Suffering here is trivial compared to the rewards later, be it virgins or the warm hug of Jesus. You have a terminal illness? Don’t worry, pie awaits. Religion exists to comfort us. Your hypervisor is your own meal of comfort food. Eat it while you are here. If you find peace in such mental masturbation then a second article on what made the hypervisor would no doubt give you plenty to ponder and would be a great follow up story.

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    • The hypervisor is not God. God is the IT guy who set up the system. So
      this is God

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    • Charlie, just a couple of quibbles and comments, and I hope it’s not niggling because I like where you’re aiming:

      1. You seem to be conflating spirituality, souls, the afterlife, and Religion (all of them in one, it seems). Your intro paragraph (“I fear, and suspect everyone else does too”) and concluding statement “This model is flexible enough to account for all major religious beliefs on earth today” are over-reaching in that sense. (But: just a few word changes without any overall thematic change would fix all that.)

      2. Have you read any of, e.g., Larry Yeager’s stuff on Artificial Life?

      3. Very neat thought / computational experiment you’ve done here. I might put it mathematically like this: just replace {(thing), properties of thing} with {(thing, soul), properties of thing} and voilà, you’ve got an undetectable soul.

      I’m not sure it addresses some complaints that a, erm, “measurable-ist” might claim. Like who says it’s physically possible to have an undetectable soul? An Ockham’s razor type objection might also be raised: sure, it’s possible that I’m a brain in a vat in a brain in a vat in a brain in a vat, but … is that really likely?

      4. Regarding the separate questions of soul – intelligence – consciousness kind of stuff, derived from electronic brain signals — maybe there’s another interesting computer experiment to be done there? Mathematically there are ways for the whole to be more than the sum of the parts, and … well, I’ll send you on another interesting goose chase: google for “neural correlates of consciousness”.

      Have fun! Thanks for sharing your cool idea.

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    • Thanks for the thoughts! Very interesting and useful stuff.

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    • I do not even know the way I finished up here, but I believed this put up was once good. I don’t understand who you’re but definitely you are going to a famous blogger if you happen to aren’t already. Cheers!

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    • “If something like a soul exists, and it affects our consciousness in any manner, then it must be detectable by some scientific device.”

      Maybe.

      Think of mental poise vs. the “slack” state. That is, to use a more accessible example, think of when you first learned to drive a car vs. what it’s like to drive one now. In the first case, you are very alert, almost apprehensive, planning your every move, testing what each little muscle motion applied to the pedals or wheel will do, etc. In the second case, your brain is basically driving the car for you. How can it do this? Through the structures you created while working through the first case.

      Mental poise is an inherently creative process. Probably not creative as in “violates conservation laws”, but certainly creative in a subtle sense, directing the flow of matter and energy in your brain to constructive purposes.

      The question is, is this predetermined? Mental poise certainly feels like something I can turn on and off, and when it’s on, it certainly feels like free will, and it is in fact creative as we have shown.

      As neuroscience advances, we will see either one or two things: in one case, the brain is shown to be totally deterministic and even the mental poise phenomenon is something that can be shown to be caused absolutely by physical process. In the other case, we discover an neural analog to the Uncertainty Principle: in other words, we discover the theoretical limits of our knowledge and prove, like with physics in general, that we cannot know whether or not the laws are fully deterministic. We can see all the neuron firing patterns, but will forever remain in the dark as to why the growth of new connections proceeds in one way versus another way.

      Great article, I had fun reading it.

      Reply
    • Bài của bạn thật hay.
      Cảm ơn!.

      Reply

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