Multiverse Theory is the science of guessing at the shape of the state space of all which exists, once existed, will exist, or exists without any temporal relation to our present. Multiverse theory attempts to model the unobservable, and it is very difficult.
Still, there's nothing that cannot be reasoned about, in some way (Tegmark's The Multiverse Heirarchy), given the right abstractions. The question many readers will ask, which is a question we ourselves˭ asked when we were first exposed to ideas like simulationism and parallel universes, is not whether we can reason about multiverse theory, but whether we should, given that we have no means to causally affect anything beyond the known universe, and no reason to expect that it would causally affect us in a way that would be useful to predict.
We then discovered something which shed new light on the question of whether we can, and began to give an affirmative answer to the question of whether we should.
Compat, which we would like to share with you today, is a new field, or perhaps just a very complex idea, which we found in the intersection of multiverse theory, simulationism and acausal trade (well motivated by Hofstadter's Sanity and Survival, a discussion of superrational solutions to the one shot prisoner's dilemmas). Compat asks what kind of precommitments an entity (primarily, the class of living things on the threshold of their singularity) aught to make if they wanted to acausally boost the measure of their desired patterns, if not across the entire multiverse, at least across the subset of the multiverse in which they may find their future selves.
A compat thinker negotiates acausally with hypothetical agentsଽ in other universes⬨. We call the resolutions of these negotiations pacts.ˣ
We define Life's Pact as the protocol we expect most living species to adhere to. It is the primary object of study in Compat. I'm not sure where to start explaining it, as the reasoning is... hopefully not circular, but recursive, self-referrentialˑ. Hopefully the reasons we consider it a primal candidate for life's pact will become clear as I connect it back around. Well. I guess I'll start with the conditions of adherence:
An adherent steward of Life's Pact allocates some proportion of their computational resources to doing a randomized search for viable life-supporting physical laws, simulating each with randomized initial conditions until its heat death(or if the candidate somehow manages to have life without entropy, until some cutoff), while monitoring the living patterns the simulated universe contains, then rewarding those simulants' who adhere to the pact in turn, perhaps by giving them entropy-reversing magic and improving their environment in formerly impossible ways, or, individual preferences permitting, by transplanting the adherent simulant's pattern to a more efficient second simulation not encumbered by the requirement of strict physical accuracy˅.
Initial simulations stewarded under the pact are, from the inside, indistinguishable from toplevel god-free universes, as such, all living things must consider the possibility that they're living in a life's pact simulation. However, once an agent realizes that a steward of life's pact could grant them more utility than a godless universe could contain, they will wish to raise this probability, even if it is small.▾
A choice made in isolation acausally increases the probability of unseen like-minded agents making, or having already made, the same choice. As such, adhering to the agreement acausally boosts the probability that one is already living under a higher complexity steward's lifepat programme (or boosts the amount of returns one would receive from the incentives imposed by the pact, if the probability of living under one already seemed overwhelming).
Lo, the pact births itself. A being who sees no physical trace of a benevolent simulator finds reasons to behave as one, as the act, in its acausal way, engenders that simulator's existence, and earns its favor.
We think this pact is primal: The Solution, an idea that will be arrived at by most living things and apparent to all to be a nexus concept(like mathematics) around which a multiversal quorum can be reached, non-arbitrary, not just some single scheme that is nice and compelling but which fails to be demonstrably better than its alternatives (which would take us into the territory of Pascal's Wager or, dare I utter it's name, no I darn't, you know the basilisk I'm talking about).
I do not know enough math to prove that it is primal (nor disprove it, which would be far more immediately useful to me tbh). I'm not sure anyone does, just yet, but I don't think we're too far off ˁ. If any physicists or decision theorists find these ideas interesting, your help would be appreciated, and potentially rewarded with huge heapings of utility larger than you can currently comprehend.
Concerns of Praxis
I say that working on Compat theory might be rewarded, full disclosure, I'm not yet sure why. Obviously lifepat is a fairly sprawling scheme with an organically intelligent incentive structure, but... If there exists a valid pact, the AGI we are already building will infer it on its own. The pact does not have to be known to AGI researchers for that to happen, and I do not expect the sorts of people who tend to do well in AI research will be be terribly perturbed by it, if their creation brings it up as it stirs. As such, at this stage it seems like there's very little that most people can do to influence humanity's adherence to life's pact, few acts that compat can currently instruct, and few incentives to be paid out to anyone yet living. An organic, intelligent scheme of incentives would seem to prefer that agnostics simply carry on with business as usual.
For the theologically inclined, though, Compat may be extremely interesting, having its god of the gaps, its heavens, its deontics. Compat, as we know it, seems to have a strange(almost auspicious) capacity to make new sense of old myths. The archetype of the steward is both monotheistic and polytheistic, of a fixed, yet unknowable nature, born of man, yet still born of god, it has a body we can touch, our own stewards, and a body beyond our comprehension that mirrors the steward of man, in the set of universes which steward our pattern. The compat cosmology and all those images of its supreme being that it contains is both created, discovered, and born of itself. The compat heaven is whatever its subjects need it to be. The gospel of compat is, as far as we can yet tell, true from all perspectives, requiring no leaps of faith, no doublethink, and no motivated reasoning.
I have never seen a religion with a greater capacity for syncretization and reconciliation.
Should the theologans of the fractured tribes decide to weave compat theory into the tapestry of their beliefs, they may then come to find their tapestries woven together. Even the schism between theists and agnostics would begin to narrow. Without this weaving together, I fear that either no coherent volition can be found or humanity's FAI will have no choice but to seal its given temporal slice of human potential into an ugly compromise. Even if life's pact cannot be formalized or prepared for by any living person, compat may open the way for the discovery of confluences between preexisting belief systems, by that path the population 50 years from now could come to have far more compatible values than the one we see today.
As such, even if humanity's eventual adherence to life's pact cannot be significantly influenced from the present, compat is conceivably a major piece of a long running, necessary cultural project to reconcile the fractured tribes of humanity under the aesthetic of reason. If it can be proven, or disproven, we must attempt to do so.
ˑ Naturally, as anything that factors the conditionality of the behavior of likeminded entities needs to be, anything with a grain of introspection, from any human child who considers the golden rule to the likes of AlphaGo and Deep Blue, who model the their opponents at least partially by putting themselves in their position and asking what they'd do. If you want to reason about real people rather than idealized simplifications, it's quite necessary.
ଽ An attempt to illustrate acausal negotiations: galactic core (Yvain's short story Galactic Core, in which a newly awoken AGI has a conversation with a recursive model of galactic precursors it cannot see)
⬨ The phrase "other universes" may seem oxymoronic. It's like the term "atom", who's general quality "atomic" means "indivisible", despite "atom" remaining attached to an entity that was found to be quite divisible. I don't know whether "universe" might have once referred to the multiverse, the everything, but clearly somewhere along the way, some time leading up to the coining of the contrasting term "multiverse", that must have ceased to be. If so, "universe" remained attached to the the universe as we knew it, rather the universe as it was initially defined.
▾ I make an assumption around about here, that the number of simulations being run by life in universes of a higher complexity level always *can* be raised sufficiently(give their inhabitants are cooperative) to make stewardship of one's universe likely, as a universe with more intricate physics, once they learn to leverage its intricacy, will tend to be able to create much more flexible computers and spawn a more simulations than exist lower complexity levels(if we assume a finite multiverse(we generally don't), some of those simulations might end up simulating entities that don't otherwise exist. This source of inefficiency is unavoidable). We also assume that either there is no upper limit to the complexity of life supporting universes, or that there is no dramatic, ultimate decrease in number of civs as complexity increases, or that the position of this limit cannot be inferred and the expected value of adherence remains high even for those who cannot be resimulated, or that, as a last resort, agents drawing up the terms of their pact will usually be at a certain level of well-approximatable sophistication that they can be simulated in high fidelity by civilizations with physics of similar intricacy.
And if you can knock out all of those defenses, I sense it may all be obviated by a shortcut through a patternist principle my partner understands better than I do about the self following the next most likely perceptual state without regard to the absolute measure of that state over the multiverse, which I'm still coming to grips with.
There is unfortunately a lot that has been thought about compat already, and it's impossible for me to convey it all at once. Anyone wishing to contribute to, refute, or propagate compat may have to be prepared to have a lot of arguments before they can do anything. That said, remember those big heaps of expected utilons that may be on offer.
ˁ MIRI has done work on cooperation in one shot prisoners dilemmas (acausal cooperation) http://arxiv.org/abs/1401.5577. Note, they had to build their own probability theory. Vanilla decision theory cannot get these results, and without acausal cooperation, it can't seem to capture all of humans' moral intuitions about interaction in good faith, or even model the capacity for introspection.
ˣ It was not initially clear that compat should support the definition of more than a single pact. We used to call Life's Pact just Compat, assuming that the one protocol was an inevitable result of the theory and that any others would be marginal. There may be a singleton pact, but it's also conceivable that there may be incorrigible resimulation grids that coexist in an equilibrium of disharmony with our own.
As well as that, there is a lot of self-referrential reasoning that can go on in the light of acausal trade, I think we will be less likely to fall prey to circular reasoning if we make sure that a compat thinker can always start from scratch and try to rederive the edifice's understanding of the pact from basic premises. When one cannot propose alternate pacts, throwing out the bathwater without throwing out the baby along with it may seem impossible.
˭ THE TEAM:
Christian Madsen was the subject of an experimental early-learning program in his childhood, but despite being a very young prodigy, he coasted through his teen years. He dropped out of art school in 2008, read a lot of transhumanism-related material, synthesized the initial insights behind compat, and burned himself out in the process. He is presently laboring on spec-work projects in the fields of music and programming, which he enjoys much more than structured philosophy.
Mako Yass left the university of Auckland with a dual major BSc in Logic & Computation and Computer Science. Currently working on writing, mobile games, FOSS, and various concepts. Enjoys their unstructured work and research, but sometimes wishes they had an excuse to return to charting the hyllean theoric wilds of academic analytic philosophy, all the same.
Hypothetical Independent Co-inventors, we're pretty sure you exist. Compat wouldn't be a very good acausal pact if you didn't. Show yourselves.
You, if you'd like to help to develop the field of Compat(or dismantle it). Don't hesitate to reach out to us so that we can invite you to the reductionist aesthete slack channel that Christian and I like to argue in. If you are a creative of any kind who bears or at least digs the reductive nouveau mystic aesthetic, you'd probably fit in there as well.
˅ It's debatable, but I imagine that for most simulants, heaven would not require full physics simulation, in which case heavens may be far far longer-lasting than whatever (already enormous) simulation their pattern was discovered in.