Continuing some themes from several prior posts, we find John Tierney of the New York Times presenting Nick Bostrom's argument that life is just a sim created by a higher being. Link. Tierney says he's convinced and adds:
[I]f owners of the computers were anything like the millions of people immersed in virtual worlds like Second Life, SimCity and World of Warcraft, they’d be running simulations just to get a chance to control history — or maybe give themselves virtual roles as Cleopatra or Napoleon.
Continuing his ruminations, Tierney solves the problem of evil and suffering:
It’s unsettling to think of the world being run by a futuristic computer geek, although we might at last dispose of that of classic theological question: How could God allow so much evil in the world? For the same reason there are plagues and earthquakes and battles in games like World of Warcraft. Peace is boring, Dude.
Though I've said similar things about fun and simulation and I get the logic, I really hope Tierney speaks in jest. Yet he claims to be more convinced than Bostrom that Bostrom is correct:
In fact, if you accept a pretty reasonable assumption of Dr. Bostrom’s, it is almost a mathematical certainty that we are living in someone else’s computer simulation.
Bostrom, otoh, says he's got a "gut feeling" that there is a 20 percent chance he's correct. (He's got a very well-calibrated gut, btw, mine generally doesn't provide gradations quite that fine.)
But whatever -- given that Bostrom, the source of all this fun, looks to his gut for answers, I don't think there's much need to debate whether he's right or wrong about this. Instead, I'd like to ask the readers to assume that Bostrom is right. Assume you're just AI being observed in a model or game -- so then what?
The article has some thoughts on this but I'd be interested in hearing what our readers might do differently if they found they were simulations living in a simulated reality -- and why. Would you do anything differently? Here's one response from Robin Hanson:
...all else equal you should care less about others, live more for today, make your world look more likely to become rich, expect to and try more to participate in pivotal events, be more entertaining and praiseworthy, and keep the famous people around you happier and more interested in you.
Do you agree? (
Her His advice seems applicable to the motion picture industry too, btw -- coincidence?)
Tierney provides these links for further reading:
- Are You Living in a Computer Simulation? Nick Bostrom. Philosophical Quarterly, 53:211, 2003.
- How to Live In A Simulation. Robin Hanson, Journal of Evolution and Technology, September, 2001.
(Source of the quote above.)
- The Matrix as Metaphysics. David J. Chalmers, Matrix site.
- Historical Simulations - Motivational, Ethical and Legal Issues." Peter S. Jenkins, Journal of Futures Studies, 11:1, 2006.
- Simulation-argument.com. Nick Bostrom.