Monday, June 6, 2016

The Simulation: Fine Detail

[Random idea I had when walking home.]

"See that wall?" he asked. "The line where the paint's been rubbed off by the back of the spinny chair?  Or look at the bottom of the tables that go with the spinny chairs, the orange ring that separates the metal base bit from the cylindrical pole bit.  It's uniformly too high on the second chair an and crooked on the fourth.

"Why would you simulate that?  Who's going to notice?"

"You," she said.

"So every imperfection in the entire world is there on the off chance that I might be paying attention to it?  Seems like a huge waste of effort."

She started to respond, but he didn't notice.

"And I wouldn't notice," he said.  "I notice those things because they're there, but I could hardly be expected to notice their absence.  So what if the paint job is as even as when it dried?  Mass produced chairs and tables are identical?  Who knew!?"

"I disagree on both points," she said.  "If paint never scratched, scraped, rubbed, scuffed, chipped, or otherwise got messed up it would be noticed.  The sculptures of antiquity would still have their paint jobs today.  This world isn't possible in a simulation where paint doesn't wear.

"What would the Renaissance be like if the people then had known that the ancients liked lifelike painted statuary instead of the time bared marble that they actually saw?

"And a simulation where things that are put in place stay in place is a simulation where civilization never invents adhesives and the entire concept of maintenance is unknown.

"The effort isn't wasted because you would notice.

"You might not notice one missing scrape," she said, "you might not notice one thing in place that should have been out out place, but if there are no scrapes, and if everything stays in place, then everyone will notice.

"They wouldn't be able to express noticing in the same words you use, because they wouldn't have those words or understand those concepts.  Their understanding of the universe would be completely different than yours."  She paused.  "Everything would be different, because people would notice."

"Ok," he said.  Then he had nothing to say.  He tried starting again: "Ok . . . you're not talking about a simulation for a person or a handful of people covering a fairly small area over a relatively short time measured from weeks to decades or centuries.  Now you're talking about a simulation that encompasses all of humanity, the entire earth, and the whole of human history."

"You're starting to get it," she said.

"That's over seven billion humans, and God knows how many animals, right this instant," he said.


"And thousands of years worth of in-simulation time simulating everything on earth and everything observable from earth."


"Why would anyone do all that?"

"That's the question, isn't it?"

"That would be why I asked."

"I've out-snarked people seventy-three times snarkier than you," she said. "Don't even try."

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