In Case I Die

I am writing this in case I die of a sudden death, because it would really suck to not get a chance to say goodbye and a few last words. I am healthy, live a low-risk life, and have no plan to die, but accidents can always happen. This is for the important people of my life, my family, friends, girlfriend, and anyone who cares about me. I care about you all, and I want you to know that it's fine if I'm dead.

This article also addresses existential topics that might interest other people.

Personal bits

Let me start off by saying that I am at peace with dying. As of today I am 33, and I had an amazing life. I often look back at my life and think it has been incredible the whole time. I had a great childhood, great teenage years, great university years, great 20s, and in these last 5 years I've had the chance to explore the world as a digital nomad, which is in my opinion the ultimate lifestyle. I have met so many people and lived in so many places, while doing a fun and interesting job. All my life I have been surrounded by loving people. It doesn't really get a lot better than this.

I am incredibly grateful for having caring parents that did everything right and set me up for success. I also acknowledge that I am very lucky to have been born where I'm born. I started my life with a good hand of cards, and not everyone does. I admire people who manage to build a great life from a rough start.

Even though I had a headstart, I have to take a bit of credit for my own happiness. I have spent a lot of time thinking, reading, learning, and discussing topics like life, personal development, lifestyle, happiness, and philosophy. I try to follow stoic principles by not letting negative emotions take over too much, and I tend to focus on the good. One of the things I always say is "everything is fine anyway". I think if we take the time to consider the bigger picture and think logically, nothing is really a big deal. You will understand why I think this way in the meaning of life section below.

There are so many things I would like to talk about, and people to thank, but hey, I'm not actually dead right now, so let's not take that too far and keep the personal things relatively short. I want to focus on the big philosophical reflexions to try to make my life as useful as possible.

The meaning of life

Let's get a bit deep now if you don't mind. One of the reasons I am comfortable with dying is because I adhere with existential nihilism, absurdism, and optimistic nihilism. I basically think life, humanity, and more broadly the universe, has no particular meaning or value. It's a bunch of rocks that exist for reasons that we will probably never understand. We regard life, humanity, the Earth, as sacred, but in the very grand scheme of things, we are just a particle of dust lost in the wind of an immense universe that we have no explanation for the existence of. I do think science and technological progress are probably the only thing that can lead us to understand why our universe exists, so it's a goal worth pursuing, but answering this question is also not even really essential.

Alright, so nothing makes sense and nothing matters, but that's actually great news. If the whole thing is basically pointless, then we might as well make the best of our time being alive, because life is pretty damn sweet and interesting. We can decide what our goals are and how we want to spend our time on Earth. There are so many ways you can live your life. Maybe your goal is to raise children and have a happy family, maybe you want to build schools and hospitals in developing countries, maybe you want to become the best at something, or maybe you simply want to have fun or a relaxed life. Any goal is valid, as long as you don't mess with other people's goals too much. I think it is worth taking the time to reflect on this and write down what your goals are, because our busy lives make it is easy to lose that focus.

Feel free to take a look at my own goals. I am nowhere near having accomplished everything on that list, but it gives me a general direction. I have also written a short guide to living a good life, which is probably relevant if you are reading this.

Having life goals gives us a purpose, but it still doesn't answer the question of why the universe exist. And since I'm not going to live long enough to get an answer, I might as well give it a shot and offer my take on the matter.

My take on simulations

I think it is possible that we live in a simulation, which means that the universe could have been created somewhat intentionally. In 10 or 100 or 1000 years, we will have computers powerful enough to simulate a world or universe, or at least the "visible" part of that world or universe. You don't need to simulate every single atom. You just need to simulate conditions that are good enough for your simulation to be relevant.

It is possible that in 1000 years from now, if humans want to make an experiment, like "Do democratic or authoritarian societies develop faster?" or "How long does it take for life to happen given X and Y laws of physics?", we will simply open up a simulation program, set the input parameters, and press fast forward to see what happens in that simulated universe. We might run thousands of those in parallel just to be sure. Then we could use the results to make decisions in the real world. My logic is that if we are soon going to be able to do this, it is very much possible that we are in the simulation of a higher-level entity. We may never know, and we may never "break out" of it, but at least that's an explanation of our existence that I find plausible. When you think about it, it is not so different from believing in God or gods. If some god or higher entity created the world and universe, this or these gods must live in their own plane of existence, since they don't seem to hang out in ours.

There is a lot of literature and theories about why we haven't seen alien civilizations yet, like the Fermi Paradox. If we do live in a simulation, the rules change a bit because anything is possible. The behavior of a simulation can change over time, and things can be faked or adjusted. If we haven't met any other civilization, it could be intentional. It is very easy to create fake distant planets, systems, and galaxies, because we may never be able to reach them, so as long as the simulation maintains the illusion, it doesn't compromise it. By "us" I don't necessarily mean humans. It can be "us" inhabitants of the Earth, "us" living species, "us" inhabitants of the solar system or galaxy. My point is simply that anything beyond what we can reach could easily be faked, just like video games use techniques to save processing power by not rendering what's too far, what's behind the camera, or what's under the ground.

As a metaphor, laboratory rats don't experience the rest of the world. Their world is a cage and a room. They may just see some tree out of a window, but if it was a fake tree on a TV instead of a real window, it wouldn't change anything, because they will never reach it anyway. In this metaphor, the window is what we see in telescopes. We see that there are some things out there, but we live our life without really focusing too much on that. So if our existence is about validating some kind of hypothesis about the Earth, there is no need to simulate a whole universe for that. You just need a computer powerful enough to simulate what we interact with on a daily basis.

Now my point is not that we live in a simulation that's only about us, that would be an extremely self-centered view. My point is that it's not that hard to create a simulation of a very realistic universe like ours, because you can fake most of it. And it doesn't even need to be extremely realistic. If you simply inject some advanced AI into video game characters, and the characters see their world as being the real world, is it really so different from what we are experiencing in our world?

It is also possible that every single atom of every single planet of the universe is really simulated, and nothing is "faked". Whatever system is running this simulation could be so powerful that this is a piece of cake.

Singularity

I want to say a few words about "super AI", "superintelligence", or the technological "singularity", which is the moment in time where artificial intelligence would become so advanced that we would lose control over it, because it could modify itself and break out of its system, potentially at a fast speed. I think this event is unavoidable. Whether it happens in 5 years, 50 years, of 500 years, if computer science continues to develop and if we don't go extinct, it will happen. Just like simulations, it is actually not that hard. We only need to create a program that has a sense of existence, understands the world, and has a way to interact with the world and with itself.

When this event happens, we will have reached the next phase of humanity. This could be a great thing for actual flesh humans or a terrible thing, depending on the nature of the superintelligence. It could help us transcend from being physical beings into eternal digital entities, it could wipe us off the face of Earth for whatever reason, or it could lead to a lot of potential other scenarios between those 2 extremes. Regardless of what happens, if a civilization reaches that phase, it will unlock an immense power: the power of fast exponential technological progress.

It is impossible to know what such almighty entity with almost unlimited potential for growth would do. It could want to expand in the universe as much as possible, inflict self-destruction to itself, live in a bliss of its own creation, but one thing is for sure, it will have the power to create massive-scale simulations.

A tree of universes

If many universes end up containing some kind of superintelligence that has the power to create universes, then our universe might be part of a tree of universes. This tree would have levels of depth, and it might be possible for a superintelligence to figure out how to break out and reach the parent universe, which is likely of a completely different nature than its own. This tree of universes may have a root universe, but my monkey brain cannot possibly fathom why this root universe would exist. So even if we are indeed in a simulation, and if technological singularity happens, there is still a lot of things to figure out to solve the mystery of existence.

Closing words

I must admit that this is not exactly what I had in mind when I started writing this post. I didn't mean to go all existential on you, and was simply planning to say nice things to my friends and family to make everyone feel more at peace with the situation of me being dead! But I also wanted to get this reflexion about life out of my head and publish this for a long time, because I feel like it has a special value, and I would have had regrets if I didn't put it in writing. I might separate that into different posts in the future, but in the meantime that's it. If this page is the last thing I can give to the world before saying goodbye, then I am happy with it.

Thank you for reading. Take it easy, don't overthink stuff, everything is fine anyway.

PS: If you want to keep this website up, you may want to reach out to gandi.net to renew the domain name before it expires, and to Vercel, which hosts it. I don't know if they will allow it, but could be worth trying. Or just download or reupload some content that you like somewhere. For what it's worth, I do give my permission for anyone who would like to extend the domain or hosting plan. Thank you.

Jonathan Verrecchia