I wrote this a while ago and was going to send it off to a few websites, but in the end I never did, so I thought I’d update it and spread it’s cheery message here on my blog. It’s not all bad being dead, read on and discover the amazing benefits.
1. You probably died 10 million years ago
To be honest, it might not have been 10 million years ago it could easily have been 500 million or just the other day, but it doesn’t change the fact you’re probably dead.
To explain why, we need to say a few things about the immensity of the universe that you used to live in. Firstly, as we all know, our universe is 13.77 billion years old and it’s reasonably roomy in here. Within its enormity are galaxies like ours, some smaller, some bigger, some bulbous but we’ll take ours as typical.
Our Milky Way galaxy has between 200 and 400 billion stars, irrelevant facts, but it gives you the idea of the size. The main question for us is how many people live here? Here’s where everyone drags out The Drake Equation and we would be fools to break that tradition, but we’ll give it a try. The Drake Equation predicts intelligent civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy.
Drake plugged a variety of numbers into his equation and came up with the very precise figure of “probably between 1000 and 100,000,000 civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy” – did we need a fancy equation and scientists for that? This level of accuracy tells us that Drake didn’t have a clue. Because death is a serious subject and we need to be more precise, we’re not going to rely on speculation by clever people and guesswork, we’re going with what we actually know, so let’s call the number of intelligent civilizations in our galaxy 1 (us) because we’re reasonably certain about that (and it makes the calculations easy).
New Scientist magazine think the worst case is 361 so we are really erring on the side of caution here.
The first scenario assumes that it is difficult for life to be formed but easy for it to evolve, and suggests there are 361 intelligent civilisations in the galaxy.
A second scenario assumes that life is easily formed, but it struggles to develop intelligence, and suggests that as many as 31,513 other forms of life are estimated to exist.
Finally, he examined the possibility that microbial life could be passed from one planet to another during asteroid collisions, which gave a result of 37,964 intelligent civilisations in existence.
To establish whether you’re alive we need to cast the net wider than our tiny galaxy. The conservative estimate of the number of galaxies in the whole universe is 200 billion so, like The Milky Way, if there’s one clever civilization in each galaxy that’s, er, let me think, 200 billion intelligent civilizations in the universe right now.
That’s a lot of big numbers so far – is your brain in bits yet? The answer is: probably, yes. According to Ray Kurzweil and many other scientists, we are on the verge of being able to upload our dying brains to a computer and enjoy the luxury of immortality online. If we can manage this with our feeble 2018 technology, imagine what’s happening out there in the hugeness of space. What you consider to be ‘you’ is probably just a load of computer ‘bits’ stored on a planet sized hard drive somewhere in this colossal universe.
“I set the date for the Singularity—representing a profound and disruptive transformation in human capability—as 2045. The nonbiological intelligence created in that year will be one billion times more powerful than all human intelligence today.” (http://www.singularity.com/qanda.html)
How many of the 200 billion civilizations out there decided, at some point in the distant past, that Ray Kurweill’s ‘Singularity’ was a good idea and start uploading their brains before they died? Since this is about death, let’s be pessimistic and say only 1%, so that makes 2 billion societies uploading.
According to Drake (from the very accurate Drake Equation) advanced civilizations could last anywhere from 1000 to 100 million years – that guy is getting on my nerves, be specific for god’s sake. Given that ridiculously large range, we’ll have to take a cautious guess at the average duration of a civilization and 20 million years sounds good. So, each of those 2 billion societies have been potentially uploading brains for 20 million years. To estimate the number of deaths per year we’ll used the Earth’s figure of 60 million for 2012 with a population of 7 billion.
If these advance civilizations have a population of say 1 trillion and their death rate was equivalent to that on Earth today, there would be 8.6 billion deaths per year in each civilization. So the total dead brains uploaded over a period of 20 million years would be:
2 billion civilizations x 20 million years x 8.6 billion deaths per year
= 344 septillion (24 zeros)
Sounds massive but how does this compare to the number of non-dead beings in the universe today? If there are 200 billion societies each with a population of 1 trillion, that would mean there would be potentially 200 sextillion (21 zeros) beings alive in the universe today.
At this point, surrounded by a squidzilliion zeros, you’re probably not bothered whether you’re dead or alive, but we’re nearly there. The conclusion is this – uploaded dead people outnumber the living by 1720 to 1. Let’s put it another way – you have a 1 in 1720 chance of being actually alive and not dead. Those aren’t good odd, which is why you’re probably dead.
You may be wondering why you can’t remember the last 10 million years. That’s easy, once in the cloud, there is only one way to cope with the dull vastness of eternity and that’s to break it down into manageable chunks of around 70 or 80 years before trying something else out. This timescale gives you an element of urgency to your life so you can maintain a semblance of motivation. If you’re getting a bit fed up of the boring desk job plugin you stupidly signed up for this time at least you can look forward to the ‘I’m Spiderman’ upgrade on your next reboot.
‘Were you to live infinitely, for instance, you would have enough time to live not only your own life any number of times, but also the lives of others, all others’
Patrick Lee Miller discussing Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Immortal,”
2. You were never alive in the first place
This is where the odds of being alive get even worse. Professor Nick Bostrom thinks the chance of an advanced civilization creating a simulation of past events is quite probable.
“We can conclude that a technologically mature civilization would have enough computing power such that even if it devoted but a tiny fraction of it to creating Matrices, there would soon be many more simulated people than there were people living in the original history of that civilization.”
“If each advanced civilization created many Matrices of their own history, then most people like us, who live in a technologically more primitive age, would live inside Matrices rather than outside them. If this were the case, where would you most likely be?” (http://www.simulation-argument.com/matrix2.html)
Historians could create different scenarios of past events and populate them with simulated intelligences. A single civilisation could build millions of simulations for various events in their history, to test out what might have happened and use that information to make better decisions in the future. So if you are living in a technological primitive age and Donald Trump was president there’s a very good chance you’re living in simulation and someone is testing out a few unlikely situations.
If some of the 200 billion brainy societies in the universe are creating unlimited historical scenarios, then what are the chances of you being actually alive? Answer: slim.
Once you’re digital, anything could happen (or could have happened). You could be a copy of a simulation of a dead person?
“A Matrix may contain a civilization that matures and proceeds to build its own Matrices in the simulation. Realty could thus contain many levels, with computers being simulated inside computers which are themselves simulated, and so forth”. (http://www.simulation-argument.com/matrix2.html)
What if you were alive once and you were uploaded and then copied into an historical simulation to see how you’d be able to cope. How many times could that happen? How many copies of you are there? Once you have a digital mind you could copy it as many times as you like. What if digitally uploaded people created simulations within their simulations and those digital minds became mature and created more simulations.
Another possibility is that our 13.77 billion-year-old digital universe bears no resemblance to the real universe which might be 300 trillion years old and have 500 septillion advanced civilizations?
Let’s stop there. It’s all very well thinking about all these possibilities but what we need is some proof.
3. Proof that you’re dead
If we are all dead or if we were never physically alive at all, is there a way to prove we’re actually inside a digital word (apart from the ridiculous Donald Trump experiment)? Rich Terrel thinks the proof is all around us.
“Look at the way the Universe behaves, it’s quantized, it’s made of pixels. Space is quantized, matter is quantized, energy is quantized, everything is made of individual pixels. Which means the Universe has a finite number of components. Which means a finite number of states. That infers the Universe could be created by lines of code in a computer,” Terrell says. (http://www.messagetoeagle.com/creatorprogrammer.php)
The Davisson-Germer Experiment demonstrates another strange phenomenon – particles also have wave like properties
Terrell notes, “The experiment shows something really rather extraordinary, that matter, even though it behaves when you are looking at it, measuring it, as individual particles, when you are not looking at it, matter is diffuse. It spreads out, it doesn’t have a finite form in the Universe.”
When observed they are “dots”, when we look away, they lose their physical form. Is this behavior of matter similar, or parallel, to the behavior in a simulation? Terrell says this is the case!
As in a simulation, “The Universe gives you what you are looking at when you look at it.” Further, “When you are not looking at it, it’s not necessarily there”.
“Consider the double-slit experiment: if one “watches” a subatomic particle or a bit of light pass through slits on a barrier, it behaves like a particle and creates solid-looking hits behind the individual slits on the final barrier that measures the impacts. Like a tiny bullet, it logically passes through one or the other hole. But if the scientists do not observe the trajectory of the particle, then it exhibits the behavior of waves that allow it to pass through both holes at the same time. Why does our observation change what happens? Answer: Because reality is a process that requires our consciousness.”
At the University of Bonn, Silas Beane argues that in the physical world distances can be infinitesimally small but this can’t happen in a digital world. There would be a cut off if reality was digitized, at which point we could go no smaller. It just so happens there is such a cut off, the Greisen-Zatsepin-Zuzmin (GZK) cut off.
A digital world might be based on a 3-D lattice structure and the spaces between the lattice would have a fixed length controlled by the GZK cut off.
“The numerical simulation scenario could reveal itself in the distributions of the highest energy cosmic rays exhibiting a degree of rotational symmetry breaking that reflects the structure of the underlying lattice,” Beane and co. say.
If Beane can prove high energy particles like cosmic rays travel along the axes of this lattice, instead of moving around randomly, that would be the final proof that we are in a simulation. This work is on-going.