I Thought He Came With You is Robert Ellison’s blog about software, marketing, politics, photography and time lapse.

Have we Already Proved that the Simulation Hypothesis is False?

Updated on Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Despite a spate of press to the contrary there is no proof that the simulation hypothesis is false. It just might be too hard for a classical computer in our universe.

A couple of years ago a spate of articles claimed that there was proof that the simulation hypothesis was false, like Sorry, Elon. Physicists Say We Definitely Aren’t Living in a Computer Simulation in Futurism:

"A recent study by theoretical physicists from Oxford University in the U.K., which was published in the journal Scientific Advances just last week, definitively confirms that life and reality aren’t products of a computer simulation."

Strong statement. This is because they determined that running a simulation of a small quantum system was intractable:

"To store information about a couple hundred electrons, they noted, one needs a computer memory that requires more atoms than what’s available in the universe."

This might have something to say about what we can simulate on a classical computer in our universe, but it has no bearing on if our universe is itself simulated. If it is we have no idea what kind of computer is doing the simulating, nor what the physical laws are of the universe where that computer is running, nor even how many atoms it has at its disposal.

It's okay Elon, you still might be on to something.

(Read the full simulation hypothesis series: Part 1: Can I move to a Better Simulation Please?, Part 2: Have we Already Proved that the Simulation Hypothesis is False?, Part 3: Life, Non-locality and the Simulation Hypothesis.)

Can I move to a Better Simulation Please?

Updated on Wednesday, August 14, 2019

A risk free simulation

In the New York Times last weekend Preston Greene has an op-ed piece on the simulation hypothesis where he argues that we shouldn't check, because:

"If we were to prove that we live inside a simulation, this could cause our creators to terminate the simulation — to destroy our world."

But let's back up. To start with he trots out Bostrom:

"In 2003, the philosopher Nick Bostrom made an ingenious argument that we might be living in a computer simulation created by a more advanced civilization."

Am I living in a simulated universe where I am the only person to have ever consumed any science fiction, or spent late nights discussing the nature of the universe in a bad simulation of a kitchen? For some reason Nick Bostrom is now almost universally credited with the simulation hypothesis. Every article on the topic seems to starts with this revelation. In 2003! Like right after he finished watching The Matrix Revolutions. Have no newspaper editors ever read any Philip K. Dick? Descartes? This is not a new idea, and Bostrom's ancestor simulations are a rather tortured special case of a much wider set of possibilities.

And then:

"Professor Smoot estimates that the ratio of simulated to real people might be as high as 1012 to 1."

Sounds specific. It could be 1016 though. Or 7. Not really subject to numerical analysis at our current level of knowledge (which Greene would not increase).

And given that we don't know this invalidates the whole point of the article:

"In much the same way, as I argue in a forthcoming paper in the journal Erkenntnis, if our universe has been created by an advanced civilization for research purposes, then it is reasonable to assume that it is crucial to the researchers that we don’t find out that we’re in a simulation."

That's one possibility, sure. Reasonable to assume? No. Equally possible is that the researchers are trying to find universes that figure out that they are simulated. They keep the ones that manage it within 13.773 billion years or so and discard the others.

I think it's even more likely that simulated universes are a commodity and the number running as screen savers vastly outnumbers those used for serious research projects. Our fate depends on whether the entity that installed us is having a three martini lunch or heading back after two.

(Read the full simulation hypothesis series: Part 1: Can I move to a Better Simulation Please?, Part 2: Have we Already Proved that the Simulation Hypothesis is False?, Part 3: Life, Non-locality and the Simulation Hypothesis.)

Material Design 3

Material Design 3

Material Design brought bland consistency to the Android ecosystem. Every app had some sort of bold header and a floating action button. There is some value in consistency and at least some personality was retained. It's red, it's probably Gmail. Yellow, I must be in Keep. Boring but tolerable.

Material Design 2 solves mainly for the problem of knowing which app you're looking at. Colors have gone. Every Google app is now an oppressive black list with some oppressive black icons. To add to the misery the icons have a shade of stock-library amateurism and are just a little too heavy. Unless I look really closely or the what-icon-did-I-just-click region of my brain is on top form there is no longer any way to tell the difference between Google apps.

I'm pretty sure Material Design 3 is just going to be a command prompt. What Android customers really want is telnet or wget and some raw JSON.

What can I do for Brown?

For the service of telling UPS that I'm not in today and so they can save a whole bunch of time and money by not failing to deliver a package they want to charge me $5? This is UPS My Choice.

I just want to get rid of Windows 10 Notifications with one click

Updated on Thursday, May 3, 2018

I just want to get rid of Windows 10 Notifications with one click

910 days ago I vented my frustration at Windows 10 notifications.

Well someone in Redmond must be listening. They 'fixed' it.

The problem was that dismissing a notification did not actually get rid of it. Clicking the little x in the corner just sent it to the Action Center where you could enjoy reading it and dismissing it again.

Like some kind of cargo cult Toyota, Microsoft asked the one why, and changed the little x to an arrow. Now it's more obvious that you're just shuffling the notification around the desktop. Ticket closed. But I still have to handle every fucking notification twice.

Which makes the announcement of the April 2018 Update especially ironic:

"With this update, available as a free download today, you get new experiences that help minimize distractions and make the most of every moment by saving you time. Our hope is that you’ll have more time to do what matters most to you whether that’s to create, play, work, or simply do what you love."

I'm guessing they're all on Macs?

How does the Nest Learning Thermostat work?

Nest learning thermostat, learning

Not only does it know when you're home but the Nest Learning Thermostat also knows when you're nearby. Here's how it works.

You crank up the heat to 70 and walk away. Nest then immediately returns to 62 degrees.

Thinking there must be something screwy with the algorithm you turn it back up to 70. Nest knows that it's in trouble so it displays a comforting message like 'Heat set until 10pm', waits for you to leave and then sets the temperature back to 62 degrees.

Giving up on the learning part you use the app to manually program it to keep the heat on. Nest now uses its WiFi connection to phone the gas company and disconnect your service.

Die PDF Die

Adobe Acrobat Reader DC needs a reboot after updating

If I need to reboot to view a PDF then you must be doing something very badly wrong Adobe.

Important to you

Important to you

Facebook, I spotted a typo. I think you might have meant to say important to us.

Why Microsoft is Likely Doomed Based on one Email Folder

Close up of the useless Junk folder in Microsoft Outlook

When you get a piece of spam in Outlook you move it to Junk or block the sender. And then, even if that junk mail is marked as read, the Junk folder has a BOLD MESSAGE COUNT. It's the only folder that does this. I cannot do any other work while I have a bold message count and so I have to switch to the Junk folder and delete the message to get rid of it.

Regular email: read, file, done.

Junk email: recognize as spam, click block sender, confirm that I really want to block the sender, switch to Junk folder, mark as read, delete.

Something is really wrong with this workflow. It's a lens through which you can view the ultimate demise of the company. Sure, Office isn't going away soon and Azure is growing like crazy and SQL Server runs on Linux. But somewhere in Redmond 5,000 people designed a Junk email folder that is the MOST IMPORTANT folder in Outlook. The rest were presumably too busy making Windows Update worse to stop this.

My Google experience is that I really don't get much spam. The spam that I do get is hidden from me unless I actually need to rifle through it for some reason. On the occasion I actually get legitimate junk I just flag it as such and never have to touch it or it's ilk again.

As a courtesy

As a courtesy to the next passenger

I'm on a recently built A340-600. This sign is about as useful as the ashtrays. This must be a weird tradition that gets handed down from airplane to airplane from one sign author who got grossed out by the thought of a moist sink but has never squelched around in piss on the lower deck stink fest that is installed on this particularly strange airbus.

It's like someone loved the whole elegant spiral staircase up to a bar motif of the 747 and thought wouldn't it be a giggle to do the exact opposite.