Re: New website: The Simulation Argument

From: Nick Bostrom (
Date: Mon Dec 03 2001 - 17:30:05 MST

Samantha wrote:

>One question. Exactly why would posthumans run "ancestor
>simulations"? Or perhaps I should ask for clarification and
>expansion of that phrase.

It's not hard to think of other possible motivations: curiosity, art,
nostalgia, wanting to "step into the past" and act out the role of a
historically significant person, science of alternative routes of history,
habitat for diseased or uploaded people, etc. What's interesting is that
future society will lack individuals with any of these desires or is very
effective in preventing them from acting on them, or else we are in a

(Another possible cool reason for setting up simulations of various sorts,
and to reward their inhabitants for virtuous behavior, is to create
uncertainty about whether one is living in such a simulation. If one is
uncertain about that, one would get an extra reason to act morally.)

>But are we using "sim" as synonymous with all effective virtual
>reality situations, that is, universes that run at a different
>level than those who created/monitor that universe?

Yes, and ancestor-simulations are a subset of this class: simulations that
contain minds that have human-like experiences.

Nick Bostrom
Department of Philosophy, Yale University
New Haven, CT 06520 | Phone: (203) 432-1663 | Fax: (203) 432-7950

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