Minecraft, Tron and the Singularity

Posted by on January 15th, 2011

Over at CrunchGear they have a nice overview of why Minecraft matters. For the uninitiated, Minecraft is a fun sandbox game that lets you build things out of virtual blocks. The blocks have different properties and can be made into materials like glass. Think of it as the Matrix meets Legos. The game is hugely popular and shows how much we like to build and create. Some folks have gone as far as making deck by deck replicas of the starship Enterprise and actual working mechanical computers. Think about that one for a second.

One of the fascinating premises of movies like Tron and the Matrix is the idea of a computer powerful enough to simulate life itself. Although some process (like protein functions) are way beyond our current capabilities, replicating them virtually is an engineering problem and not an insurmountable scientific one. Sooner or later we’re going to see a research paper about a virtual bacteria that behaves precisely like its real world counterpart. From there it’s all a matter of scale before we’re creating virtual Olivia Wilde’s that have cellular chemistry every bit as complex as our own.

Aside from creating super intelligent AI, imagine if you took the 100 smartest people in the world and made virtual versions of them – and then you overclocked the computer. You’d be able to compress 100 years of scientific discovery into minutes. This is why concepts like the singularity give people the willies. It means that all those things we think of as being 1,000 years off in the future could be really just weeks away once you reach a certain level of computational ability.

Games like Minecraft and Sim City are the starting point to a very interesting journey. I hope we’re part of it.

A brief explanation of why Minecraft matters
Building mega objects in Minecraft

3 Responses to “Minecraft, Tron and the Singularity”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    This is awesome.

    I’ve never heard about Minecraft. It definitely does seem like another piece of the foundation for a truly virtual world being put into place.
    And as a child of the 80’s, I can say that things like this were science fiction concepts to me (to put it into perspective, my early gaming experience was Atari and Commdor 64). Seeing them become reality within my lifetime just amazes me sometimes.

    I can definitely see big, unbelievable advances in science and technology come faster and faster in the following decades.

  2. no Says:

    If you could overclock a computer that was simulating our universe, would that mean we could predict the future? Is predicting the future possible? The computer would have to simulate itself faster than real life to be able to get past the moment when the simulated computer was sub-simulating a universe. Being able to predict the future MUST be impossible because we would create an infinite loop of creating sub-simulations creating sub-sub-simulations, which would lag or crash the computer doing the simulation.

    Although, if you were simulating a small room containing a human so he could generate new ideas seems more possible, but not by much. We will have to wait for quantum computers I guess and find out. What if our entire universe is just a computer simulation (as suggested here http://xkcd.com/505/)? Would it be possible to come in contact with the entity simulating our universe and interact with it? Would this open the possibility to predict the future to some extent? Any predictions made would become false the moment we learned of them, but we could learn valuable information like when our solar system is destroyed.

    Just some food for thought…

  3. mcsween.david Says:

    Everyone raves about the singularity, blah blah blah. Back in the 30s peolple dreamed of flying to the moon, but they chuckled at Dick Tracy’s watch phone. Now which one has changed the world?
    Moon? Phone?

    iphone beats Nasa!

    So forget the starry eyed dream, and look around for something banal, something that could change the very fabric of our society without anyone really noticing.

    It seems to me that while the Singularity is an OS change, the world actually moves by addons or apps to incrementally upgrade us.