Re: Fwd: effing the ineffable

From: Chris Hibbert (
Date: Sun Jul 15 2001 - 11:52:56 MDT

In a paper ("Are You Living in a Simulation?", recommended by Brian
Atkins, Nick Bostrom argues that

> at least one of the following propositions is true:
> (1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching the
> posthuman stage; (2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to
> run significant number of simulations or (variations) of their
> evolutionary history; (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer
> simulation.

His argument is plausible, but I would argue that it gives us no cause
to change our behavior. It has the same feel as this parody of the
Christian's claim: "There exists an omnipotent, omniscient being who
almost never interferes in the world we perceive." In both cases, no
evidence is proffered; in fact, in both cases the claim is that evidence
doesn't exist because of the way the system is set up.

Nick makes a more convincing argument based on statistical reasoning,
but it doesn't provide any different cause of action. If it's true, we
should do the same things as if it's not true. We should look for gaps
in our understanding of how the universe works, and we should choose
goals and pursue them. Nick implies that we might be better off not
trying to develop too much computational power, since that might force
our hosts to turn off the power.

I don't buy it. While the argument is reasonable that we may be living
in a sim, it doesn't give us evidence that there are limits to the power
that may be available to the hosts, or what those limits might be.

The argument leaves me in the same position I was in before. The
universe doesn't give us any purposes, we have to invent our own. It
doesn't provide useful guidance in choosing among purposes, so it
shouldn't have any effect on us.

Should we try to make the simulation end as the Tibetan Buddhists are
reputed to be doing? Should we do what we can to lengthen the extent of
the simulation, at the cost of foregoing some things we would otherwise
chose to do? If we wanted to lengthen or shorten the span of the
simulation, what evidence do we have about what actions would be effective?

Better to believe that the universe is as it presents itself to us, and
choose goals and approaches based on that evidence. A creator that
wanted us to do otherwise (or that put conscious entities in a situation
where that was the best thing to do) is not worth bowing to.


(I read the paper without equations, since the paper is only available
in Word format. I assume the text I found among the raw bits is the
text Word displays.)

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