Re: How To Live In A Simulation

From: Robin Hanson (
Date: Tue Mar 13 2001 - 14:46:23 MST

Hal Finney wrote:
> > How To Live In A Simulation
> >
>Very interesting, although a bit "iffy" (21 "if"s!). I was looking
>through some of my old extropian files last night and Lee Corbin raised
>a similar question back in February 1996, in a thread titled "The VR
>Solipsist". Unfortunately the archives don't go back that
>far so I have included his message below [1].

Thanks - Lee did indeed take the idea seriously, though I think I disagree
with some of his assessments.

>The problem with these kinds of speculations is that they hinge so
>much on the desires and motivations of those running the simulations.

Similar objections are raised to many of our discussions about the
future, such as about interstellar colonization or the Fermi paradox
or a world of AIs. Yes, this is a concern, but we should do the best
we can, and try to focus on the predictions we have the most confidence

>Robin's first suggestion is that it is more probable that everyone else
>in the world is a "zombie", a being who acts conscious but actually is
>not, and therefore we might care less about other people. However many
>philosophers argue that zombies are impossible

I had in mind much cruder things. For example, some "people" in a crowd
simulation might be run by very simple programs that have them wiggle
and mumble "peas and carrots" like extras supposedly did once in movie
crowd scenes. Or, far from the simulated people of interest, the
behavior of many people might be randomly generated based on statistics
from previous simulations, or come from "cached" records of previous
simulated people.

>If we are in a simulation (assuming humans or their descendants run
>the sim) then this tells us that human history extends long enough for
>simulations to be common, causing us to actually be more optimistic that
>we could live a long time.

Good point.

>Plus there is the observational fact that
>the world seems to be getting faster, more complex and more interesting,
>suggesting that the simulation still has some way to go and is not about
>to stop.

That only applies to globally motivated simulations. Someone who told
their "holodeck" to take them back to a party at the millennium might
end that simulation when the party got boring, regardless of how
interesting the world as a whole was getting.

Robin Hanson
Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030-4444
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323

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