• Zaneemia
    5
    Nick Bostrom's simulation hypothesis raises the serious prospect that what we perceive to be reality could, essentially, be running on someone's laptop. Assuming the beings simulating us would have evolved through natural selection (if they're not simulated themselves), it seems likely that they have similar tendencies to us - including vindictiveness & rare sadism.

    This might not be the case if it turns out that e.g. nearly all simulations are run by superintelligences as an instrumental goal (and therefore no human involved nor a motive to suddenly bring about a Hell). It's also possible that the software that is used has in-built restrictions on this type of thing (might not be easy to do this, though.)

    Regardless, it still seems like a nasty possibility & I'm wondering if people have thoughts on this topic?
  • TheMadFool
    8.3k
    First of all, we've to come to terms with a simple fact - we are the nastiest lifeforms the planet earth has. We have a poor track record when it comes to goodness. Heck, we even use god, the very definition of goodness, to justify unthinkable atrocities we have, are, and probably will, commit against our fellow human beings and to even greater extents against non-human animals. In short if there's any creature that can and probably will transform this earthly haven for life into a living hell, it's us, humans. Some are of the opinion that a sixth mass extinction is underway and the cause? Humans and their fancy inventions are the prime suspects.

    So, if we feel like asking the question, do the simulation creators intend to "...bring about Hell"? it's like a hitman (us) on a mission experiencing amnesia and forgetting why he has a person bound and gagged (the world) in the trunk of his car.
  • Zaneemia
    5
    Fortunately, genuine intent to do bad stuff isn't overwhelmingly common amongst humans. Even if humans can be nasty, I think most wouldn't torture the sentient inhabitants of a simulation - but a non-negligible proportion might think it interesting to do something evil like this (hence why I made this post). I'm imagining more "bored simulator presses a button to torture us all" more than any current-day issue.
  • TheMadFool
    8.3k
    If there's a button that a bored simulation coder can press to unleash hell on earth, I believe we humans are at the means by which that button will bring about its effects.
  • Jack Cummins
    920

    Perhaps it has been pressed already because the whole world is in such a deep mess, but I hope that we can climb out of hell, and find the 'Stairway to Heaven.'
  • baker
    119

    What is the use of such speculations?
  • Echarmion
    1.9k


    The question is, how do we turn the absence of knowledge (are we in a simulation or not? What are the simulators like?) Into knowledge about the likelihood of a specific scenario?
  • fishfry
    1.7k
    are we in a simulation or notEcharmion

    Simulation of what?
  • NOS4A2
    4.1k


    It seems to me that if Bostrum’s hypothesis applies to us, it must also apply to those running the simulation, and so on to infinity. It’s simulations all the way down.
  • Michael
    9.4k
    It seems to me that if Bostrum’s hypothesis applies to us, it must also apply to those running the simulation, and so on to infinity. It’s simulations all the way down.NOS4A2

    The hypothesis does apply to those running the simulation, but the hypothesis isn’t that we are living in a simulation, only that we are almost certainly living in a simulation (or that civilisations are almost certain to not run simulations, either by choice or extinction).

    Consider that one person on Earth will be picked at random to receive a prize. For every person “I am almost certain to not win” is true, but someone will nonetheless win. And for every civilisation “I am almost certain to be a simulation (or civilisations are almost certain to not run simulations)” is true, but that allows that there could be at least one non-simulation.
  • NOS4A2
    4.1k


    The hypothesis does apply to those running the simulation, but the hypothesis isn’t that we are living in a simulation, only that we are almost certainly living in a simulation (or that civilisations are almost certain to not run simulations, either by choice or extinction).

    Consider that one person on Earth will be picked at random to receive a prize. For every person “I am almost certain to not win” is true, but someone will nonetheless win. And for every civilisation “I am almost certain to be a simulation (or civilisations are almost certain to not run simulations)” is true, but that allows that there could be at least one non-simulation.

    Thanks for the clarification. But why wouldn’t the hypothesis apply to those running the simulation?
  • Michael
    9.4k
    Thanks for the clarification. But why wouldn’t the hypothesis apply to those running the simulation?NOS4A2

    It does. Just as "I am almost certain to not have won the lottery" is true for everyone, even the person who has (unknowingly) won the lottery, "I am almost certain to be a simulation" is true for everyone, even the person who (unknowingly) isn't a simulation.
  • NOS4A2
    4.1k


    Crystal clear. Thanks again.
  • Zaneemia
    5
    Yeah. Perhaps our simulators might avoid torturing us out of fear that someone above them would punish them for it. But I'm not too sure - it doesn't seem as though our own simulators (if we're in a simulation) seem to care much for preventing torture. (I guess there's the possibility that the intense suffering doesn't actually occur, and torture victims' minds are modified such that they *think* they just got tortured. But it doesn't seem massively likely.)
  • TheMadFool
    8.3k
    Perhaps it has been pressed already because the whole world is in such a deep mess, but I hope that we can climb out of hell, and find the 'Stairway to Heaven.'Jack Cummins

    My thoughts exactly. :sad:
  • fishfry
    1.7k
    If you're in hell it's much more likely that the creator of your troubles is you, and not some mythical programmer in the sky.
  • Jack Cummins
    920

    Yes, in the last few months when I wake up and see the news I almost wonder if everything is a dream. So perhaps we are in this simulation already and I am aware that many are probably suffering much more than I am.
  • TheMadFool
    8.3k
    Yes, in the last few months when I wake up and see the news I almost wonder if everything is a dream. So perhaps we are in this simulation already and I am aware that many are probably suffering much more than I am.Jack Cummins

    Me too! It'd would be really interesting if it's a rock, paper, scissors kinda scheme. I mean here I am envying the rich and pitying the poor and the rich may pity me and the poor but is it possible that the poor pity the rich?
  • Tom1352
    16
    Would those who are simulating us also be in control of us? I'm not familiar with the particular argument the original post is referring to however if the beings simulating us designed us, our human nature, the world we live in etc. then to what extent can we be held responsible for our actions? My understanding is that the purpose of hell is purely for retribution and therefore to hold humans accountable for actions which the simulators are responsible for defeats the purpose.

    I think this point applies more generally without the simulation if you hold determinism to be true or considering how God creates humans and the world etc. but would be quire interesting to explore in this scenario.
  • Zaneemia
    5
    I was using "Hell" in a literal sense. Not some petty everyday concern, but rather some sadistic/vindictive guy running the universe on a laptop & torturing us (potentially manipulating the laws of physics to make it worse in the process).
  • Zaneemia
    5
    Yeah, that's the idea. If you're simulating a universe on a computer, presumably you'd have near-perfect control over it. Perhaps our creators are sadistic or something, though?
  • counterpunch
    233
    "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."

    I could understand perhaps, creating a simulation of the universe - in terms of its physical, chemical and biological properties, to see if it evolved life... but ancestors?

    I could understand, perhaps, creating a simulation of a brain - and wonder if a sufficiently detailed simulation of a brain might think.

    The universe, the brain - there's a subjective/objective necessity to those concepts, but ancestors? Why?

    Did Bostrom have daddy issues, or am I missing the point?
  • fishfry
    1.7k
    I could understand, perhaps, creating a simulation of a brain - and wonder if a sufficiently detailed simulation of a brain might think.counterpunch

    Bostrom's argument makes an analogy between the primitive video games of the 1980s, and the realistic ones of today. But that's silly. Nobody thinks Ms. PacMan has a subjective experience of pleasure eating white dots, or terror at being gobbled by monsters. On the contrary, in terms of implementing self-awareness, we have made ZERO progress in all this time. Bostrom's argument collapses immediately. We have no idea if it's possible to implement consciousness, nor do we have any idea how to do it even if it could be done. So his "zillions of ancestor simulations" idea fails. Its core premise is false. His argument is valid but not sound.

    What's the answer to the universe? Oh it's the great programmer in the sky. I'm baffled anyone takes this nonsense seriously. Just as the Romans, who had great waterworks, thought that the mind was a flow; and post-Newtonians thought the universe was a great clockwork machine; we, who have mastered computer technology, think the world must be a computer. The idea suffers from presentism, with no awareness of how silly it will look in a century.
  • counterpunch
    233
    I disagree. Computers will be around as long as civilisation remains. Maybe, in a century, the only humans left will be living in the ruins of civilisation - and all the computers will be doorstops and plant-pots. But while there's civilisation, there will be computers, and assuming continued development - I wouldn't bet against true AI; that is, genuine, conscious thinking machines, or something so similar, it's impossible to tell the difference.

    Ultimately, a rationalist has to suppose that the brain is a machine - a biological machine, capable of thinking. Simulating a brain does not seem impossible, even if that were a brain running on a binary, or quantum computer. It's like, when I was young, computers were:

    10 Print "I am a thinking machine."
    20 GOTO 10

    I am a thinking machine. I am a thinking machine. I am a thinking machine. I am a thinking machine. I am a thinking machine. I am a thinking machine. I am a thinking machine. I am a thinking machine. I am a thinking machine.

    That is already one level above the binary substrate.

    00001010001

    Then Bill Gates invented the Windows operating system as another level atop the C++ programming language, and personal computing took off. Thinking along these lines, I suspect someone will simulate a brain, and it will run like an operating system. The computer itself will not think. Rather, software simulating the brain will think, but the difference is academic.
  • fishfry
    1.7k
    I wouldn't bet against true AI; that is, genuine, conscious thinking machinescounterpunch

    I'm happy to take the other side of that bet.

    or something so similar, it's impossible to tell the difference.counterpunch

    That of course is the idea of the Turing test, a purely behavioral standard. But that test does not distinguish between a conscious person and a philosophical zombie, or a clever chatbot.

    Ultimately, a rationalist has to suppose that the brain is a machine - a biological machinecounterpunch

    A biological machine. You seem to agree that there is something special about biology, about life. No computer is alive. You seem to be offering talking points that support my view and not yours.

    In any event, a rationalist must admit that there are many things about the world we don't yet know. We may discover in the future principles of physics that go beyond the principles of computation. There's no evidence the world is computable. That's an assumption on your part. As I say, the simulation argument is going to be laughable a hundred years from now, just as the phlogiston theory of heat is today.

    That is already one level above the binary substrate.counterpunch

    Skyscrapers are more complex than mud huts, what of it? Clever organizations of programs are still programs, and are not conscious.

    I suspect someone will simulate a brain,counterpunch

    Ah but that's exactly the point. Such a simulation would not necessarily be conscious, any more than a perfect simulation of gravity will attract nearby bowling balls. We can simulate particle physics, we simulate the weather, we simulate football games. In no case is the simulation the real thing. If you perfectly simulated a human brain down to the neuron, you would find that externally, if you stimulate its optic nerve, a particular region of the cortex associated with vision lights up. But it would not have the subjective experience of seeing.

    That's another problem with the simulation argument. It's a simulation, not the real thing. You can program a computer to simulate a black hole, but it doesn't suck in nearby matter. Likewise you might eventually be able to simulate a brain, but it would not be conscious.

    Simulations of things are not the things themselves. You don't get wet when you run a simulation of a hurricane. I hope I don't have to belabor this point, but perhaps I do since you fell into exactly that confusion. I'll grant that you might be able to simulate a brain, but you still have not told me how you plan to implement a mind.
  • counterpunch
    233
    I'll grant that you might be able to simulate a brain, but you still have not told me how you plan to implement a mind.fishfry

    Then you just lost the bet, because the mind is an appearance unto itself - not a reality, but the product of brain processes. The lingering experience of experienced sensation.

    The Turing Test is false. I could talk to a child under Turing Test conditions and not think it's human because it doesn't know anything, and answers without a consistent thread of reason. Does that make the child inhuman, or unthinking?

    A biological machine. You seem to agree that there is something special about biology, about life. No computer is alive. You seem to be offering talking points that support my view and not yours.fishfry

    I am acknowledging the premise that brains are machines, in order to make the distinction between software and hardware - between the binary substrate of a computer, and the simulation of a brain running as software - and the academic difference between thinking machines and thinking computer programs.

    I see you are so very keen to respond, you didn't read the argument I made before responding to it, a bit at a time. How very machine like of you!

    You don't get wet when you run a simulation of a hurricane.fishfry

    That's true, but thought isn't a physical reality, is it? It is processing and generating ideas. Ideas don't have physical substance. I cannot expect a simulation of a hurricane to generate real rain. I can expect a simulation of a brain to generate real thoughts.

    I hope I don't have to belabor this point, but perhaps I do since you fell into exactly that confusion.fishfry

    lol.
  • avalon
    17


    In my mind, the short of it is that finding out we're in a simulation does not increase our odds of going to hell one way or the other.

    1. If a simulation is indeed what we're in, we have no information about its creator(s) other than the fact that they likely had a reason for creating it.
    2. Since the idea of "Hell" is presumably an idea created by residents within the simulation, we cannot be sure if such a place exists (either as an extension of the simulation itself, or a place in the "true" reality).
    3. If "Hell" were to exist and exist in the "true" reality (whatever that is), we have no idea if our consciousness would even have the ability to travel there.
    4. If "Hell" were to exist and exist in the "false" reality (presumably an extension of the simulation we're in), we have no idea what criteria determines our entrance to such a place.
  • Outlander
    864
    Nick Bostrom's simulation hypothesis raises the serious prospect that what we perceive to be reality could, essentially, be running on someone's laptop.Zaneemia

    Who in the actual f- ... anyway. As was stated by thousands of philosophers across thousands of years before in theories each more unique than the last, not to mention countless religions that essentially state the same thing, there is more to this reality than the life and death we experience. I guess, obviously since we are aware of computers now they could and would naturally be part of the whole thing. Sure.

    Assuming the beings simulating us would have evolved through natural selection (if they're not simulated themselves), it seems likely that they have similar tendencies to us - including vindictiveness & rare sadism.Zaneemia

    I.. uh.., sure. Why not assume they wear blue hats and red shoes while we're at it. It's just random. Also, "like us" is a major quantifier. We (as in modern humans) = barely got off the ground hardly a century ago after fighting with each other who happen to look a little different or speak differently. They (beings that create technology so advanced there is no difference from it and reality = Not the same. Not at all. Not by a long shot. Not even by a million years. Literally. So. Pretending this wouldn't be invalidated completely... yeah let's just continue.

    Regardless, it still seems like a nasty possibility & I'm wondering if people have thoughts on this topic?Zaneemia

    Nothing nastier than how it was and would be otherwise. No thoughts. Other than, why not smile for the camera and, as all religions essentially encompass: "don't be a ****.
  • fishfry
    1.7k
    thought isn't a physical reality, is it?counterpunch

    LOLOLOL. After you keep claiming it is. "Any rationalist" would agree. Your own words.

    I see you are so very keen to respond, you didn't read the argument I madecounterpunch

    Funny I was going to say the same about you. The funny thing is, you don't seem to read YOUR OWN posts. All the best.

    ps here's your earlier quote.

    Ultimately, a rationalist has to suppose that the brain is a machine - a biological machine, capable of thinking.counterpunch

    So which is it? Is thinking the result of a machine> Or is it NOT a physical reality? You see, I read your posts. You don't read your own posts, as I noted.
  • counterpunch
    233
    I see. Okay then. Thanks. Bye.
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