The Simulation Argument proposed by Nick Bostrom in 2003 remains the single most perplexing answer to the Fermi Paradox yet proposed.
The short version of these two arguments are:
- Fermi Paradox: Given how many habitable planets there are in the Galaxy and how long they’ve been about… where the hell are all the aliens? They should have over run the place with von Neumann probes already!
- Simulation Argument: Given that it will become possible in the future to simulate not just individuals but whole populations, it is significantly more probable that we are ancestor simulations being run by our future prodigy rather than real world residents who will first develop that technology.
So SA’s answer to FP is simply: You are a Sim. The simulation does not include the aliens.
HOW IS THE INTERNET CHANGING THE WAY YOU THINK? is the question posed this year by the Edge Foundation, a science and technology think tank. The question is not new and there has been a good couple of DRT* of material spewed onto the internet on the subject already. The Edge Foundation has so far received 169 articles for a grand total of 130,000 words – 0.5 DART**.
Here is how the internet has changed how I think: I have spent three hours working out that it would take me twelve hours to read the whole article. I am able to do this without directly interacting with any other human being.
Here is how you think: If I tweet about this and the concepts of DRT and DART catch on as new Internet Memes, a large number of people will put even less effort into thinking about this than I have, but will feel equally enlightened.
None of us will read the article to completion. It’s too damn long. This is how the internet is changing the way we think.
* DRT – Days of Reading Time (See also YRT***) a measurement of information volume in the subjective time it would take to read. The measurement is variable between individuals, by language and level of comprehension. Unless otherwise noted DRT is taken to mean that the reading is taking place fast enough for comprehension in English for a native speaker of university level education. This is in the range of 200-400 words per minute. One DRT is therefore 432,000 words if we take the average. In order to grasp the amount of actual effort involved in completing one DRT of information, consider that Animal Farm is about 0.07 DRT while at the other end of the spectrum War and Peace is 1.3 DRT. For a rule of thumb, Gone with the Wind comes in at 0.97 DRT, of course this assumes continuous concentration and the complete avoidance of sleep, eating or any other activity other than continuous ready, see DART**.
**The maximum Days of Achievable Reading Time (DART) is probably only 262,500 words (6 hours sleep, 5 minutes break every 25 minutes to maintain concentration and 30 miscellaneous minutes for other biological necessities) or one Ulysses. (Source Wikipedia Longest Novels and Length of a Novel)
***YRT Years of Reading Time: 1 YRT is around 157,680,000 words. Similarly one YART is 95,812,500 words – about the entirety of English language Wikipedia in July 2004. Wikipedia is now 15.7 YRT or 25.9 YART in English alone. (Wikipedia EN Stats)
Welcome to the Panopticon. Originally a concept created by a philosopher, Jeremy Bentham, in 1785 the Panopticon is a prison where every corner of the designated space is covered by a camera so prisoners feel that they are being watched all of the time and thus are more likely to behave. In the UK the principal was used to build Milbank Prison on the bank of the Thames where now sits Tate Britain – a building whose function is to provide a space for us to look at reflections of ourselves, an art gallery.
The pleasing synergy of the first UK panopticon becoming an artopticon merits further examination as we become more obsessed with the voyeuristic tendency to watch each other as a form of entertainment and march headlong into turning every inch of this benighted isle into a prison.