Re: Is this world a computer simulation?

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Mon, 06 Sep 1999 20:44:40 -0500

Matt Gingell wrote:
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky <>
> >Which makes sense, except that I'm speculating that the Way Things Are
> >has "evolved" to maximize the reproductive rate of the simulations. In
> >which case, there's an obvious adaptive selection pressure for rewriting
> >nonconformist Powers - or, on the very dimly bright side, stopping
> >nanodisasters - that doesn't exist for stopping random suffering or
> >optimizing for pleasure. Such worlds may exist, but they don't
> >reproduce. Besides, at least one major sub-hypothesis is that the
> >Powers involved are insane.
> If a universe were adapted enough to prevent nano-disaster among its children,
> then surely it would be pushing us towards Singularity hard enough we'd notice.
> In any case, you'd expect something that highly evolved to short-circuit the
> process by launching a simulation of itself at the instant it started a
> simulation of itself.

Your latter objection makes sense, except that Universes in selection lines that allowed that degree of optimization pressure would rapidly optimize to the point of not containing any conscious observers. In which case we have your first objection, but once you start dealing with issues of "rapidity" you get into the problem of applying the Anthropic Principle to relative times across Universes, which even I don't want to get into. Consider that, if a selection line is unoptimized enough to contain fifteen billion years of time, then as long as a civilization eventually gets to the Singularity, *when* doesn't make any difference to the reproductive rate relative to whatever kind of ultimate reality determines which kind of Universe we're most likely to be in according to the Anthropic Principle. (You know, I think that's the most recursive sentence I've ever written.)

> But there's no point in trying to generalize from just our node of the search
> tree. There are too many unknowns to make this an interesting discussion, even
> if God isn't nuts.

Mmm, I don't know. There are certainly too many factors for me to have a best guess - but I thought the discussion was getting interesting.

> Here's my plan - focus on the one tiny corner of the world I think I can make
> some sense of, think I'm on to something, work like a dog for years and years,
> let my ego get away from me and publish ludicrously overblown projections, fail
> spectacularly and get laughed out of the scientific community in a flap that
> makes the cold-fusion thing look friendly, drink myself half way to oblivion,
> and end up choking on my tongue in a Budapest hotel the day before Science
> publishes the article explaining everything.

For goodness sakes, man, if research scientists let themselves be intimidated by that kind of possibility, we'd still be sitting around in caves wondering if rocks were edible. What alternative are you offering, exactly? Going through life in a total fog and making no effort to clear it up, until eventually a random terrorist group programs some nanobots to sweep through the GPS-marked boundaries of the United States and kill everything inside?

Besides which, I don't drink. I don't dare. My neurology is weird enough already.

[Eliezer said:]
> So then why aren't the aliens here already? Equipped with
> nanotechnology, they sweep from star to star at slower-than-light
> speeds, engaging in Dysoneering and playing Culture to primitive
> cultures, and run out of stars in any given galaxy in, say, less than a
> million years. No spacetime engineering; that's a Power's game.

Yes, that's a Banks reference.

           Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Running on BeOS           Typing in Dvorak          Programming with Patterns
Voting for Libertarians   Heading for Singularity   There Is A Better Way