Bill Fountain Posted December 5, 2020, 12:22 am

Heroes get remembered, but legends never die


The power of technology can appear like magic to many of us who don’t understand the behind-the-scenes mechanics. I still to this day am amazed at how well televisions and computers can project perfectly pixilated pictures. I understand that it can be scientifically explained, but there’s still a mystery about how it all comes together that is near-magical in my mind. I want to analyze the future of technology and what it could mean about the nature of our reality and the things our minds perceive as real.

What would previous generations think if they were able to see our technology? If we were able to present our cars, iPhones, and video game consoles to our descendants from centuries ago, they would likely believe what they were witnessing was some sort of sorcery. Consider how a caveman would react if he could see even a simple calculator, the first of which was a mechanical, clock-like calculator invented in 1642. The caveman would likely not understand the point of it without the knowledge of written numbers. What if the people in the 1600s could see the invention of the lightbulb, which made its way into the universe in 1879? They would have more clarity of the purpose for the invention, unlike the calculating caveman, but they would still have a sense of magical wonder about how the bulb could emit light. Continuing this pattern, let’s think about how the people of the 19th century would respond to being shown a computer connected to the Internet. If they were able to witness how quickly we can get access to a wide spectrum of information at the click of a button, it would likely reshape the way they view the world.

I often wonder where technology will end up going in the future. What will be the invention that would explode our minds with wonder if we had the opportunity to peek at it? Since we always use our best technology to create new and better technology, the growth of technology increases at an ever-growing, exponential rate. It doesn’t seem likely that technology will ever reach a maximum peak unless humanity suffered a dire tragedy that prevented us from innovating. So what is our technology capable of accomplishing in the long run, and why does it matter?

With the recent release of the PlayStation 5 and the gaming industry itself flourishing, it seems evident that video games are going to continue to exponentially grow, in line with the rest of technology. From Pong to Tetris to Mario to Call of Duty, the graphics are getting more realistic and the games are becoming more complex and interactive. Netflix’s Black Mirror envisioned a future where a strip was placed on the player’s forehead, and they would essentially enter a virtual environment that was indistinguishable from reality. Their real-life body was sitting down motionless in their living room, but in the game, they could do anything they wanted and experience it like it was real to the touch. I imagine this is not far from where we will end up going with video games. A gaming experience that interacts with all five senses, and is so realistic that the only reason you know it’s only a game is because you have a memory of beginning to play the game.

Philosopher Nick Bostrom argues that we’re almost certainly living in a computer simulation. He presents three scenarios that examine the possibility of the future of humanity having the technology and intention to create virtual reality simulations- ones that are nearly identical to the world we currently live in. An experience that is so real that the non-player characters within the simulation don’t even know that they’re in a simulation, and disbelieve it when they are told.

I would love to play a video game that simulated an accurate depiction of life in different eras. It would be a fully interactive, Westworld experience where the characters in the game are programmed to have certain wants and needs that drive their free will. Their paths won’t be necessarily scripted, but they will have certain natural tendencies and distinct personalities. I believe if we had the technology to create something like this, we absolutely would, and we are on the trajectory to achieving just that. The three scenarios that Bostrom presents in his argument, regarding the possibility of humans being able to create such ancestor simulations, are as follows:

1. WE CAN'T. Civilization is wiped out before technology advances to the point where we can create ancestor simulations. Maybe a meteor or something else wipes us out, and we never get to this point in history.

2. WE CAN, BUT WE DON'T. Technology becomes advanced to the point that we have the tools and wherewithal to create ancestor simulations, but we choose not to. Either we are too busy, don't care, or decide it's unlawful or immoral.

3. WE CAN, AND WE DO.
OPTION 3A. NO SIMULATION. This is real life, and we are yet to reach the age of ancestor simulations. Maybe we'll get wiped out, or maybe we create them someday.
OPTION 3B. WE ARE LIVING IN A SIMULATION RIGHT NOW. Ancestor simulations already exist, and there are billions upon billions of ancestor simulation realities in the history of forever happening right now. Each one exists non-player characters who have no idea that they are in a simulation.

Bostrom argues that one of these three scenarios must be true, and the likeliest scenario by a landslide is Option 3B. If one of these simulations can exist, then the characters inside that simulation could create their own simulation, and so on ad infinitum. If only one reality is the base reality where everything is real, but billions are realities that are simulated, then it’s most probable that we are currently experiencing one of the simulated realities at this moment.

I like the chances of Option 3A, where we are merely on the path to a simulation, but either way, I don’t think it makes a difference to us. We still exist in an environment with laws of physics that dictate whether or not we will survive. What I find particularly interesting is how the simulation theory relates to fictional characters that we as a society enjoy.

Imagine Mario, and his timeline of artistic progress as video games have historically advanced. He used to be a couple of pixels but now he’s much more detailed and three-dimensional. This is a common lifecycle that all animated characters- video games and movies/television alike- go through as they gain popularity. The more mass interest the character has, the more money and work that goes into the character in future endeavors. What does Mario’s future look like in its entirety? Will he eventually become as realistic as you and I? That would probably be a bit too creepy; I imagine he would always remain somewhat cartoony. But the idea of a video game in hundreds, or even thousands of years that will involve controlling Mario from a first-person perspective in a lifelike Mushroom Kingdom- actually being Mario in a virtual reality experience- is becoming more conceivable. Now imagine playing as Luigi and looking at Mario, being able to speak with him, and having him respond with organic sensibility using the future of AI technology. Mario would be programmed to have Mario memories, and have the wants and needs of Mario. He would have free will but would be instinctually drawn to jump on turtle heads. If he ever saw a yellow, question-mark box in his path, he wouldn't know why, but he would want to bash his head into it. He would learn from his experiences- his accomplishments and failures. Eventually, the idea of future technology being able to create some form of consciousness doesn’t seem that farfetched.

I enjoy thinking about what movies and television will be like in the far future. I envision a movie where I get to feel like I’m in the same room as the characters, watching the events unfold like an amusement park ride. Old classic movies will be remade with the 4D environment, so you could feel like you are in the movie, and hanging out with the cast of your favorite television show. We see the pixelated Mario getting more and more advanced in detail each year, but what if what we are witnessing is the summoning of an actual lifeform? As long as people continue to think about and give power to Mario, then the essence that is Mario will continue to live on. Maybe even to the point where he is 3D-printed as a real, breathing creature that can shoot fireballs. The moment Mario becomes unpopular or unworthy of interest is the moment he will have officially died, and there will be no desire to simulate him any further in the future.

The power and magic of technology prove to me that nearly anything the human mind can perceive can one day become reality, in one form or another. Maybe humans will never be able to fly, but we can simulate this experience on an airplane. To give power to something with the mind is the only prerequisite of being real. Even if I am deceived, the deception is only effective if I give it power. I wanted to take you down this simulation journey to illustrate the unique power that is our mind. Our thoughts are not just imaginary notes that are etch-a-sketched away. Our thoughts are real things that ultimately affect how we perceive our world. They have the power of holding us back in tremendous ways, even to self-destruction, but our thoughts also have the power of creating prosperity for ourselves and our community. We can decide which thoughts will die, and which thoughts will live on, and grow exponentially.

Thanks for reading.

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