« Pants defendants make Pearson an offer he ought not refuse | Main | Beldar on BlogTalkRadio »

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

If we're all living in The Sims ...

How should you live your life if, as InstaPundit and his linkees postulate, we're all actually living inside a massive computer simulation run by super-advanced post-humans?

Well, duh. Act like you're not in a simulation. Otherwise you'll be inducing a software error. So, what — do you want to become the cosmic equivalent of the lines in the famously defective original Intel Pentium chip's microcode which caused that rare but catastrophic floating point division bug? Well, do you?

Posted by Beldar at 10:34 AM in Current Affairs, Humor | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to If we're all living in The Sims ... and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

» http://instapundit.com/archives2/008172.php from Instapundit.com (v.2)

Tracked on Aug 14, 2007 1:23:08 PM


(1) nk made the following comment | Aug 14, 2007 11:22:18 AM | Permalink

I won't inflict my opinion of philosophers on you because somebody already said it better.

(2) TriggerFinger made the following comment | Aug 14, 2007 12:48:20 PM | Permalink

What I find most amusing about that article is the complete ignorance of the author. Never mind that Descartes postulated an essentially identical premise; never mind that Occam's Razor insists that we discard such an absurdly overcomplicated explanation for existence without substantial supporting evidence for it; never mind that the scientific method would scoff at the premise as unfalsifiable; and who cares that the evidence claimed sufficient to produce a 20-50% probability that we are all living in a simulation consists of nothing more than an imaginary game of odds-making...

It seems critical thinking is no longer taught in journalism schools. Pity. I suppose I can't blame the multiple layers of fact-checking for missing this article, since there really aren't any facts to check ("Did you actually say that there is up to a 50% chance that we are all living in a computer simulation?" "Yup, I said it.").

(3) Grim made the following comment | Aug 14, 2007 1:33:23 PM | Permalink

I suppose belief that this was a simulation would suggest conversion to Hinduism; that's pretty much been their fundamental metaphysics all along.

(4) Max made the following comment | Aug 14, 2007 1:34:57 PM | Permalink

His argument seems to be identical to the one laid out by Tipler in The Physics of Immortality



(5) Norm made the following comment | Aug 14, 2007 2:30:38 PM | Permalink

this theme was explored in a scifi work by Rob't Heinlein called "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" where the eponymous Hoag was an art critic come down here to judge the creation. RAH had an amazing gift of prophesy.

(6) Errr.... what? made the following comment | Aug 14, 2007 3:44:38 PM | Permalink

"never mind that Occam's Razor insists"

Never mind that Occam's Razor is just a heuristic rule of thumb about probabilities, not a rigorous law of logic. It doesn't "insist" on anything.

But, assuming that it did so "insist", what would be your simpler explanation for the origin of the universe? I'll be fascinated to hear it.

(7) Sulla made the following comment | Aug 14, 2007 4:11:04 PM | Permalink

It's been a while since freshman philosophy, but I'm not sure what the point of invoking Descartes was - iirc, in the argument involving the "evil genius" and the nature of existance, Descartes had to declare "I am, I exist" which doesn't strike me as a more compelling argument than asserting "I am, I exist (in a virtual reality simulated by a device that is beyond our full comprehension).

(8) stevesh made the following comment | Aug 14, 2007 6:34:58 PM | Permalink

57. Refutation of Bishop Berkely
After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the nonexistence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it -- "I refute it thus."


(9) TriggerFinger made the following comment | Aug 14, 2007 6:35:31 PM | Permalink

Taking stuff in order... the point of invoking Descartes' "evil demon" (not genius, as I recall it) is simply to point out that the idea is not exactly new enough to be reported on in a "news"paper as "news". I wasn't trying to indicate that Descartes conclusively disproved the idea, because he didn't. He thought he had primarily due to religiously-biased logic, as I recall.

To the reader nitpicking about Occam's Razor, you are correct that it is a heuristic, not a rigorous law of logic. While Occam's Razor may not insist on anything, I will certainly invoke it when I personally insist on more evidence than imaginary odds-making for the spectacularly overly-complex scenario described before wasting time taking the scenario seriously.

But either way, "Science" it ain't.

And as for my simpler explanation for the existence of the universe -- see current science. "Natural processes occurring and interacting over time" is simpler than "daemon simulating natural processes occurring and interacting over time."

(10) billadams made the following comment | Aug 14, 2007 7:32:25 PM | Permalink

catholicfundamentalism.com has been saying for years that "God can program in three dimensions. He can program particles, compile them into structures and beings and have them move through time. He did it to give us all free will. Those who choose Him, and follow His Church, can be uploaded into Heaven. The others go somewhere else that's not nearly as joyful.

(11) Doc Rampage made the following comment | Aug 14, 2007 7:59:14 PM | Permalink

Good grief. Not once in the article did he show that he was even aware of that he was making the remarkable assumption that a simulation of human behavior would actually have mental states like a human. There is no coherent argument for why this should be the case, and a lot of argument that suggests it would not.

read this for an on-point analogy:


(12) Err...what? made the following comment | Aug 14, 2007 11:33:12 PM | Permalink

""Natural processes occurring and interacting over time"

Sorry, that's not "simpler" in any real sense. It's just handwaving which provides no real explanation for why there's anything here, or why the universe behaves the way it does. In fact, it's circular reasoning.

(13) TriggerFinger made the following comment | Aug 15, 2007 10:33:38 AM | Permalink

Err, I'm not here to argue physics, biology, or evolution with you. I am simply making the straightforward argument that assuming our perceptions reflect reality is simpler than assuming our perceptions (and indeed our entire existence) are the product of an artificial simulation. It's just a statement of relative complexity supporting the invocation of Occam's Razor, not a challenge to your world view... though god knows, your world view appears to need challenging.

The simulation requires a daemon to initiate it and a computer of some kind to run it, over and above the entirety of the process it is simulating. Obviously, the addition of the daemon, the computer, and the supporting reality structure for them are additional elements of complexity that add no explanatory value.

(14) Doc Rampage made the following comment | Aug 15, 2007 11:31:06 AM | Permalink

TriggerFinger, you are misapplying Occam's Razor. If they were just trying to explain why we are here, then Occam's Razor would apply. But they aren't just trying to explain an observation, they have a positive argument. You have to address that argument directly by attacking its premises or inferences --like the ridiculous premise that if someone wrote a computer program to simulate human behavior, then actual human thoughts and feelings of self would magically pop up inside the machine.

(15) nk made the following comment | Aug 15, 2007 2:35:33 PM | Permalink

Say, Doc, didn't Phillip K. Dick do that in "Screamers"? I thought it raised a couple of interesting questions 1) did the machines incidentally become like humans by being programmed to behave like humans or 2) was it necessary to make them be like humans in order to realistically behave like humans?

(16) Strick made the following comment | Aug 15, 2007 8:46:11 PM | Permalink

Actually, this sounds exactly like David Brin's 1998 short story, "Stones of Significance".


(17) Doc Rampage made the following comment | Aug 15, 2007 10:58:30 PM | Permalink

nk, there have been lots of stories based on 1 and/or 2 and lots of people have argued for them both. I've never seen an argument for 1 that didn't ultimately come down to voodoo-like reasoning. Number 2 is more respectable.

(18) Robin Hanson made the following comment | Aug 17, 2007 6:14:57 PM | Permalink

I don't think people suspecting a simulation is much of a problem at all. The real history they would be trying to simulate also had people with such suspicions. As long as the simulated suspicions are similar to the real suspicions, why on Earth would that be a reason to end the simulation?

The comments to this entry are closed.