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(Huffington Post UK)   Today's Fark ready headline: Scientists to test if we're actually living in the matrix   (huffingtonpost.co.uk) divider line 97
    More: Strange, universe, simulations, civilizations, University of Bonn, other universes, physicists, budget constraints, savage  
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6951 clicks; posted to Main » on 12 Dec 2012 at 12:13 PM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-12-12 01:45:14 PM
Can you imagine the reaction if this theory was proven true? Hellz Yeah!
 
2012-12-12 01:46:58 PM

SpectroBoy: The only way to catch a simulation would be to know some difference between simulation and "reality". Since none of them have ever seen reality, anything they observe COULD be normal.


That's not necessarily true. Starting only from the assumptions that reality is self-consistent and complete, you might be able to detect a difference.

Suppose you could prove some equivalent to an "incompleteness theorem" for the laws of physics of our universe, analogous in some way to Godel's Theorem for number theory, or the Halting Problem in computing. Suppose this proof showed that the laws of physics are either incomplete or inconsistent. Then you would have to reason as follows:

1) If the laws are inconsistent (maybe the reason its so hard to reconcile gravity and QM is because they can't be reconciled?): Set up an experiment where the laws ought to contradict. If the universe continues to function, then something external to the universe must be choosing how to reconcile the outcome. Therefore, our entire universe is running artificial laws "inside" something more real.

2) If the laws are incomplete, the same logic applies. Set up the experiment with undefined outcome, see what happens.

Now, what might such an incompleteness theorem for physics look like? I don't know precisely, but it would probably be something related to information. And in fact, clues are already out there. Consider:

There's a very powerful thread of thought in physics that suggests that conservation of information may be the fundamental concept behind the curtain of QM, as well as being the basis of entropy. The two collide when considering the entropy of black holes and lead to the suggestion that the amount of information in the universe is finite, or at most countably infinite (which in turn implies that space-time is probably quantized at the Planck scale).

That's all well and good except... one of the assumptions in modern QM is that certain processes are essentially random, e.g. which way will a photon go when it encounters a beam splitter? Which way will one of a pair of entangled electrons be spinning? The problem with this is, true randomness represents (in a definable, formal sense) an infinite amount of information, for the simple reason that any finite amount of information could be cataloged, listed, and predicted and therefore not be truly random (compare a pseudo-random number generator, for example). Now, it may serendipitously turn out that the infinity of information that QM randomness manufactures can be proven to be only countably infinite; but if it turns out that it is uncountably infinite, we have a contradiction -- or more plausibly, an external source of information.

Or to take another path to contradiction: If the black hole entropy argument is correct, and any finite space-time region can contain only a finite amount of information, it would suffice to prove that some physical quantity is continuous, not quantized. For example, if time is continuous, it would require infinite precision (and therefore infinite information) to describe a region of space-time, contradicting the fact that the space-time itself can contain only finite information. (This is essentially a cosmological version of Cantor's proof that the set of reals is bigger than the set of integers). Proving that time is continuous and not quantized is left as an exercise for the reader.

Unfortunately, I don't have a way to prove the converse, i.e. to prove that we are not in a simulation. There are many plausible ways we could be in a simulation and never be able to prove it.


tl;dr: If we assume only that "reality" is self-consistent and complete, and without knowing anything else for absolute certain about "reality", we might be able to find a contradiction that exposes the simulation.
 
2012-12-12 01:56:52 PM

RatOmeter: What we need to do is get to the hardware. Use LHC to trigger an unhandled interrupt or exploit a bug in a driver. A subatomic buffer overflow or something... What we need is a damned privilege escalation!


Won't happen. Unless they use Java...
 
2012-12-12 02:00:38 PM
forty-two
 
2012-12-12 02:11:28 PM
also approves
2.bp.blogspot.com 
/hot
 
2012-12-12 02:19:38 PM
Um, didn't Descartes handle this 300+ years ago?
 
2012-12-12 02:21:23 PM

IrishFarmer: These scientists are wasting their time.

To see why, try building a computer simulator inside of your computer, for instance with Minecraft. If you do, you'll notice that the computer you simulate inside of your computer is significantly less capable than the computer itself. (Yo, dawg....)

I don't know the maths off-hand, but there is a very tight limit on what a universe can simulate inside of itself, and as you go down the chain, the simulation within the simulation will look nothing like the real thing.

So faulty assumption #1 is that this hypothetical chain of simulations is homogeneous.

They even say that the proof they're looking for is "limitations" in our universe that look like the same kind of limitations you would expect in a simulation. But there's a contradiciton here. Can a universe simulate itself without limitation, which would allow you to have a simulation within a simulation and so on, or not? The answer is "not", but they don't know that they're even asking that question which is why they're giving contradictory answers.

This throws their whole argument. It now is NOT more likely that we're in a simulation than in the real world. In fact, the majority of simulations wouldn't be as complex as our reality is, so it's about as likely that we're in a simulation as we are in the real world. (Any simulation within the first simulation will be hobbled so badly that it wouldn't resemble our universe at all unless the real universe was incomprehensibly complex, in which case the creatures in it wouldn't be creating an evolutionary history because we'd be nothing like them).

Faulty assumption #2 is that consciousness is possible inside of these simulations. Data are just abstract relations inside of a turing machine in this case. Speculating that these simulations could spawn not just one consciousness, but multiple independent consciousnessesses is like saying that you could imagine a person, and if you were intelligent enough to properly ...


If I were to write a program in a computer that completely simulated every neuron in my brain, would that simulation be conscious? How could you tell, or not? What if it simulated every molecule in my body? Would it be conscious then? If Moore's law holds, we'll get to maybe find out in about forty years - we'll be able to simulate an entire human brain at the neuronal level.

As for the limitations - that's exactly what the scientists are looking for. The Universe may be a simulation which would by necessity be run on a computer larger than itself (at least in terms of storage space). No one is saying that the Universe is being simulated on a computer the same size or smaller. As to the properties of this parent Universe, we have no idea. It's a leap of faith that they don't have hypercomputers (i.e. something better than Turing machines). If they do, then all bets are off and we probably would never be able to know if we were in a simulation unless the runners thereof told us (which would be cool).
 
2012-12-12 02:25:58 PM
 
2012-12-12 02:26:29 PM

maniacbastard: I met a guy that wanted to make a spaceship drive system that organized the unorganized electromagnetic information that he sucked in the front, he'd organize it and filter it and spew it out the back.

Somehow the change in entropy would allow him to exert a directional force to conserve the second law of thermodynamics.

I am still confused.



That kind of sounds like a Quantum Vacuum Plasma Thruster (without looking it up).
 
2012-12-12 02:28:29 PM

OtherBrotherDarryl: I'm kind of hoping so...
[proletariatfashionista.files.wordpress.com image 359x255]


I saw this movie in a 3d imax when it came out. Her breasts were...the best thing I've ever seen.
 
2012-12-12 02:29:38 PM

Mugato: OtherBrotherDarryl: I'm kind of hoping so...
[proletariatfashionista.files.wordpress.com image 359x255]

Damn if she didn't make Trinity look like a man in that scene.

/she sort of does anyway


...and that is not a bad thing at all...but my thoughts wander...
 
2012-12-12 02:41:12 PM
One of the ideas I like to toy with is that IF this is true, and the people running us are ALSO running a simulation...

Well, if a virtual machine is poorly constructed, can't data and programs get 'out' of it into the higher-level machine?
 
2012-12-12 02:51:31 PM
12/20/2012 23:53: "This is not a test, this is not a test. Today we were informed that: Observable consequences of the hypothesis that the observed universe is a numerical simulation performed on a cubic space-time lattice or grid are explored. The simulation scenario is first motivated by extrapolating current trends in computational resource requirements for lattice QCD into the future. Using the historical development of lattice gauge theory technology as a guide, we assume that our universe is an early numerical simulation with unimproved Wilson fermion discretization and investigate potentially-observable consequences. Among the observables that are considered are the muon g-2 and the current differences between determinations of alpha, but the most stringent bound on the inverse lattice spacing of the universe, b^(-1) >~ 10^(11) GeV, is derived from the high-energy cut off of the cosmic ray spectrum. The numerical simulation scenario could reveal itself in the distributions of the highest energy cosmic rays exhibiting a degree of rotational symmetry breaking that reflects the structure of the underlying lattice. ...........In other words we found out that the simulation is ending in 5 minutes, thank you, good night.
 
2012-12-12 02:54:29 PM
www.vitamin-ha.com
 
2012-12-12 02:59:49 PM

Felgraf: One of the ideas I like to toy with is that IF this is true, and the people running us are ALSO running a simulation...

Well, if a virtual machine is poorly constructed, can't data and programs get 'out' of it into the higher-level machine?


That's pretty much what I was (jokingly) talking about earlier. Exploit a hardware (SMI anyone?^) or VM or OS vulnerability to gain full system privileges. A lot of [h|cr]ackers will hit a machine, software or web app with semi-random crap from the comfort of their own home on a machine they can reboot or rebuild as needed. Wack it until something cracks, then figure out how to turn the crack into a door.

Difficulty: Can't afford to crash this sim or brick the box it's running on.
 
2012-12-12 03:01:18 PM
Wait a minute..........no, I do have two black cats. Never mind.

/would like cheats please
 
2012-12-12 03:04:54 PM
Umimpressed

upload.wikimedia.org
 
2012-12-12 03:24:59 PM
We can't be in the Matrix, there isn't a green tinge to everything.
 
2012-12-12 03:39:34 PM
FTFA: The theory basically goes that any civilisation which could evolve to a 'post-human' stage would almost certainly learn to run simulations on the scale of a universe. And that given the size of reality - billions of worlds, around billions of suns - it is fairly likely that if this is possible, it has already happened.

Except that if we are a simulation, there is absolutely no reason to believe that the real universe has billions of worlds around billions of suns. Or even any worlds or any suns.

That aside, I gather that their model is "Simulate some physics and if anything emerges which wasn't programmed in then we're living in a computer". Bad new, guys. Numerical simulation of physics has been around for years, and the way we do it is programme in the behaviour you expect, check that some of the emergent results correspond with experimental observation and then trust the others.

The mice will be furious.
 
2012-12-12 04:15:08 PM
I just worry that, once the simulation is over, all of my alien friends will laugh at me for fapping so much.
 
2012-12-12 04:31:43 PM

czetie: If we assume only that "reality" is self-consistent and complete, and without knowing anything else for absolute certain about "reality", we might be able to find a contradiction that exposes the simulation.


There are many things that appear contradictory based on our ability to observe or comprehend them.

Older examples include retrograde motion of planets. Newer examples include quantum physics.

Anything that appears to be a contradiction can simply be a limitation of the tests being applied. This can only ever exist as a thought exercise, IMHO.
 
2012-12-12 04:43:00 PM
Everybody just yell "COMPUTER: ARCH!".
 
2012-12-12 05:19:32 PM
Is there a tech support line? I might have found a bug.
 
2012-12-12 05:39:33 PM
...and, in another recent FARK article, people are presently buying guns to protect themselves from...literally...zombies.

It would seem that even parts of the scientific community (who knows how legit this group is) now base their "science" on fictional movies and/or TV.

So yeah...most people are sh*t-stupid.

Besides, why even have a job? The earth is going to die in 9 days...use your remaining time to relax! shiat...if you DO believe in the Mayan calendar? Put your money where your mouth is: Quit your job pull all your savings and take that big trip you always wanted. Hopefully you didn't stand in line for "Black Friday" as we'll never see another Christmas.

/next up? Determining whether our asteroid belt are actually pieces of the planet Tatooine.
 
2012-12-12 06:01:06 PM

tanman1975: Umimpressed

[upload.wikimedia.org image 200x306]


You are the only other person I've seen on here who likes (or has even heard of) Egan. Love his work. Wish they would release Kindle versions, since my dead-tree versions are pretty old.
 
2012-12-12 06:03:05 PM
Paging Douglas Hofstadter, please pick up the white courtesy phone. We have an existential crisis you need to work on here.
 
2012-12-12 06:47:18 PM

Pangea: czetie: If we assume only that "reality" is self-consistent and complete, and without knowing anything else for absolute certain about "reality", we might be able to find a contradiction that exposes the simulation.

There are many things that appear contradictory based on our ability to observe or comprehend them.

Older examples include retrograde motion of planets. Newer examples include quantum physics.

Anything that appears to be a contradiction can simply be a limitation of the tests being applied. This can only ever exist as a thought exercise, IMHO.


Those things didn't appear "contradictory", they appeared inexplicable in themselves within a given theory. I'm talking about finding an essential contradiction between two different laws.

For example: quantum physics first arose out of the observation that classical thermodynamics predicted that a black body oven would be filled with an infinite amount of energy -- clearly, an impossibility. This was resolved by assuming that EM energy is quantized. Other experiments confirmed that EM radiation is, indeed, quantized. Now imagine that, at the same time, another experiment had shown that EM radiation must be continuous at the same time as it is quantized: that's the level of contradiction I'm talking about.

Obviously, that didn't happen because it isn't true. But imagine if we found that cosmology essentially requires space-time to be continuous while QM essentially requires space-time to be quantized: then we'd know that we're in a simulation whose creator is playing fast and loose with the laws, applying the simpler continuous model on the large scale, the more accurate quantized model on the small scale, and who is very surprised that some consciousness inside the simulation had forced their hand...
 
2012-12-12 06:58:57 PM

Lord Dimwit: If I were to write a program in a computer that completely simulated every neuron in my brain, would that simulation be conscious? How could you tell, or not? What if it simulated every molecule in my body? Would it be conscious then? If Moore's law holds, we'll get to maybe find out in about forty years - we'll be able to simulate an entire human brain at the neuronal level.


If it were possible then it would create an interesting thought experiment per what I said above. Namely, if a conscious being were intelligent enough to mentally model another conscious being's brain in his thoughts, then would his own brain contain a second consciousness? That's kind of weird to think about.

At any rate, I don't think abstractly modeling a brain is the same as building a physical brain. Whereas a physical brain-replica could theoretically be conscious, I don't think abstract data could be.

Lord Dimwit: As for the limitations - that's exactly what the scientists are looking for. The Universe may be a simulation which would by necessity be run on a computer larger than itself (at least in terms of storage space). No one is saying that the Universe is being simulated on a computer the same size or smaller. As to the properties of this parent Universe, we have no idea. It's a leap of faith that they don't have hypercomputers (i.e. something better than Turing machines). If they do, then all bets are off and we probably would never be able to know if we were in a simulation unless the runners thereof told us (which would be cool).


On some level, it is possible that we "brains in a vat" so to speak. The real universe could be so incomprehensibly complex that its computers could sustain a universe like ours. However, discovering this would be impossible anyway. It also highlights a further problem. Natural physical processes which seem like limitations of the simulation are indistinguishable from natural physical processes in the universe. Concluding that they're evidence of a simulation is completely unwarranted.

And anyway, my point was simply that their argument that us being in a simulation is more likely than us being in the real universe relies on faulty assumptions and isn't sound.

I still say these guys are wasting their time, as far as proving that the universe is a simulation goes.
 
2012-12-12 07:31:33 PM

IrishFarmer: Lord Dimwit: If I were to write a program in a computer that completely simulated every neuron in my brain, would that simulation be conscious? How could you tell, or not? What if it simulated every molecule in my body? Would it be conscious then? If Moore's law holds, we'll get to maybe find out in about forty years - we'll be able to simulate an entire human brain at the neuronal level.

If it were possible then it would create an interesting thought experiment per what I said above. Namely, if a conscious being were intelligent enough to mentally model another conscious being's brain in his thoughts, then would his own brain contain a second consciousness? That's kind of weird to think about.

At any rate, I don't think abstractly modeling a brain is the same as building a physical brain. Whereas a physical brain-replica could theoretically be conscious, I don't think abstract data could be.

Lord Dimwit: As for the limitations - that's exactly what the scientists are looking for. The Universe may be a simulation which would by necessity be run on a computer larger than itself (at least in terms of storage space). No one is saying that the Universe is being simulated on a computer the same size or smaller. As to the properties of this parent Universe, we have no idea. It's a leap of faith that they don't have hypercomputers (i.e. something better than Turing machines). If they do, then all bets are off and we probably would never be able to know if we were in a simulation unless the runners thereof told us (which would be cool).

On some level, it is possible that we "brains in a vat" so to speak. The real universe could be so incomprehensibly complex that its computers could sustain a universe like ours. However, discovering this would be impossible anyway. It also highlights a further problem. Natural physical processes which seem like limitations of the simulation are indistinguishable from natural physical processes in the universe. Concluding that th ...


You might be interested in, for example, Searle's "Chinese Room" thought experiment, where he asks about, for example, having two minds in one head.

As for abstract data being unable to be conscious...that's obviously an unanswerable question. I think it matters how it's viewed. Our brains are just sacks of chemicals - at the lowest level, I don't believe that an oxygen atom can be conscious. I don't believe a protein molecule can be conscious. I don't even believe that a single neuron, or cortical column can be conscious. However, at a "higher level" lots of these little things interacting has consciousness kinda...fall out of it all.

It's like looking at a desktop computer. At the lowest level, it's just silicon and and copper. Look at the screen close enough and it's just little colored dots. If you zoom back, though, you see beautiful patterns: words, letters, pictures. Consciousness in the brain is like that to me - look at an individual neuron, or even the entire brain but at the wrong semantic level, and it's just chemicals. Look at it from the right semantic level, though, and you get a thinking entity.

So...if I simulated that on a computer, would it work? I think so, at a different level. There's an old argument about this - if you simulate a power plant, not a single bit of electricity is actually produced. That's looking at it from the wrong level, though. No electricity is produced in the "outer world" outside of the simulation, but electricity is "produced" inside the simulation. If the rules of the simulation are written correctly, if you stop simulating the power plant, the things in the simulation that depend on simulated electricity will fail. So, would a simulated brain think simulated thoughts? I think so.

As to your second point, I agree completely - things that look like they might be simulated on a computer might just be the way physics is. In fact, it might be that we can construct computers like we do because of some fundamental feature of physics (in other words, we see physics as looking like a computer because our computers look that way because of physics). Anything short of the simulation runners coming out and telling us that we're in a simulation is not proof.

The best evidence short of the simulation runners talking to us would be if we simulated a universe complex enough for life, or maybe even intelligent life, to evolve. It would by necessity be much smaller than our Universe, but if we could do it, then the Simulation Argument holds - if it's possible, what are the chances that we were the first, versus one of the myriad sub-simulations?
 
2012-12-12 07:38:52 PM
1.bp.blogspot.com
 
2012-12-12 08:20:52 PM
Well then....let's hook the Universe up to the internet and see how far Rule 34 REALLY goes.
 
2012-12-12 09:45:11 PM

Lord Dimwit: The Universe may be a simulation which would by necessity be run on a computer larger than itself (at least in terms of storage space).


But you wouldn't need to simulate the entire universe. You would only need to simulate the parts being observed.

Or not.
The fark would I know about it? I have a hard time observing my own ass.
 
2012-12-12 09:47:11 PM

Lord Dimwit: You are the only other person I've seen on here who likes (or has even heard of) Egan. Love his work. Wish they would release Kindle versions, since my dead-tree versions are pretty old.


Count me in. Permutation City is one of my faves.
 
2012-12-12 09:48:28 PM

Lord Dimwit: Wish they would release Kindle versions, since my dead-tree versions are pretty old.


Seeing as you bought the dead-tree versions already, why not just download a "liberated" copy for your Kindle?
 
2012-12-12 10:11:52 PM
Well, we already know the size of the grid spacing.
 
2012-12-12 10:42:14 PM
What if the speed of light was a propagation delay built into the simulation to prevent all points from having the be computed and relayed to all other points before it can advance? By only updating a certain radius of neighbors per tick with point specific information, the simulation could be run faster and made massively parallel...
 
2012-12-12 11:26:18 PM

0Icky0: Lord Dimwit: The Universe may be a simulation which would by necessity be run on a computer larger than itself (at least in terms of storage space).

But you wouldn't need to simulate the entire universe. You would only need to simulate the parts being observed.

Or not.
The fark would I know about it? I have a hard time observing my own ass.


Right, which is why quantum indeterminacy provides, to me, anecdotal evidence that we're in a simulation. Same with the speed of light, absolute zero, the Planck length, event horizons around black holes, and the subjective nature of experience.

/ hearsay and conjecture are kinds of evidence!
 
2012-12-12 11:58:09 PM

OscarTamerz: If we are could somebody please set up a button to click to have her appear on command?

[onwardoverland.com image 352x287]


I'll be in my pod.
 
2012-12-13 05:05:34 AM
Forget The Matrix.

Watch The Thirteenth Floor.> Simulations inside of simulations.
 
2012-12-13 06:28:05 AM
cdn-static.cnet.co.uk 
We are in a simulation, and it's Better Than Life.
 
2012-12-13 09:27:31 AM
Blah blah blah, Philosophy 100 and Physics 101 students out of the house for the first time in their lives, getting baked and realizing "that the Universe is, like, SO BIG man!"

None of anything discussed in this thread will change the fact that I have to go to work tomorrow.
 
2012-12-13 01:52:39 PM

ObscureNameHere: Blah blah blah, Philosophy 100 and Physics 101 students out of the house for the first time in their lives, getting baked and realizing "that the Universe is, like, SO BIG man!"

None of anything discussed in this thread will change the fact that I have to go to work tomorrow.


Sure it will. You're just too stupid to notice that you don't.
 
2012-12-13 02:00:05 PM

Lord Dimwit: As for abstract data being unable to be conscious...that's obviously an unanswerable question. I think it matters how it's viewed. Our brains are just sacks of chemicals - at the lowest level, I don't believe that an oxygen atom can be conscious. I don't believe a protein molecule can be conscious. I don't even believe that a single neuron, or cortical column can be conscious. However, at a "higher level" lots of these little things interacting has consciousness kinda...fall out of it all.


I think the difference is the "machine". If we could make abstract data conscious, that would be the ultimate proof that a soul can exist without a body, in a sense. Our brains are conscious because the brain itself is a machine which produces the consciousness. Now, instead of just abstractly modelling a brain, we could build a "computer brain" and potentially it could become conscious, but only because that computer, like our brain, is a machine with the parts in the right place. Abstract data does not have this advantage.
 
2012-12-13 02:21:12 PM

IrishFarmer: Lord Dimwit: As for abstract data being unable to be conscious...that's obviously an unanswerable question. I think it matters how it's viewed. Our brains are just sacks of chemicals - at the lowest level, I don't believe that an oxygen atom can be conscious. I don't believe a protein molecule can be conscious. I don't even believe that a single neuron, or cortical column can be conscious. However, at a "higher level" lots of these little things interacting has consciousness kinda...fall out of it all.

I think the difference is the "machine". If we could make abstract data conscious, that would be the ultimate proof that a soul can exist without a body, in a sense. Our brains are conscious because the brain itself is a machine which produces the consciousness. Now, instead of just abstractly modelling a brain, we could build a "computer brain" and potentially it could become conscious, but only because that computer, like our brain, is a machine with the parts in the right place. Abstract data does not have this advantage.


What produces the abstract data again?
 
2012-12-13 02:36:44 PM
FTA:Essentially, Savage said that computers used to build simulations perform "lattice quantum chromodynamics calculations" - dividing space into a four-dimensional grid. Doing so allows researchers to examine the force which binds subatomic particles together into neutrons and protons - but it also allows things to happen in the simulation, including the development of complex physical "signatures", that researchers don't program directly into the computer. In looking for these signatures, such as limitations on the energy held by cosmic rays, they hope to find similarities within our own universe.

...can I buy some pot from you?
 
2012-12-13 02:44:22 PM
i45.tinypic.com
 
2012-12-13 03:20:31 PM

IrishFarmer: Lord Dimwit: As for abstract data being unable to be conscious...that's obviously an unanswerable question. I think it matters how it's viewed. Our brains are just sacks of chemicals - at the lowest level, I don't believe that an oxygen atom can be conscious. I don't believe a protein molecule can be conscious. I don't even believe that a single neuron, or cortical column can be conscious. However, at a "higher level" lots of these little things interacting has consciousness kinda...fall out of it all.

I think the difference is the "machine". If we could make abstract data conscious, that would be the ultimate proof that a soul can exist without a body, in a sense. Our brains are conscious because the brain itself is a machine which produces the consciousness. Now, instead of just abstractly modelling a brain, we could build a "computer brain" and potentially it could become conscious, but only because that computer, like our brain, is a machine with the parts in the right place. Abstract data does not have this advantage.


Hm...yes and no. What happens to a program when I turn off my computer? The program is just a sequence of numbers; it isn't necessarily stored in the computer anywhere (at least not for long), but it tells the computer what to do. When the computer is off, the program doesn't cease to exist, per se, since it's an abstract concept - but it ceases to have any effect or agency whatsoever.
 
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