October 19, 2017

Nick Bostrom: Are we living in a simulation?

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



It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor-simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation.

Read the scientific paper at https://www.simulation-argument.com/simulation.html

In simple but more words:

Many works of science fiction as well as some forecasts by serious technologists and futurologists predict that enormous amounts of computing power will be available in the future. Let us suppose for a moment that these predictions are correct.

One thing that later generations might do with their super-powerful computers is run detailed simulations of their forebears or of people like their forebears. Because their computers would be so powerful, they could run a great many such simulations. Suppose that these simulated people are conscious (as they would be if the simulations were sufficiently fine-grained and if a certain quite widely accepted position in the philosophy of mind is correct). Then it could be the case that the vast majority of minds like ours do not belong to the original race but rather to people simulated by the advanced descendants of an original race.

It is then possible to argue that, if this were the case, we would be rational to think that we are likely among the simulated minds rather than among the original biological ones. Therefore, if we don’t think that we are currently living in a computer simulation, we are not entitled to believe that we will have descendants who will run lots of such simulations of their forebears.

NOTE: In ancient Indian philosophy this is called Maya - a concept I am a big fan of. I believe everything is an illusion and that it is not possible for the human mind to ever know the reality.

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