Re: Simulation argument in the NY Times

From: Tom McCabe (
Date: Wed Aug 15 2007 - 19:19:54 MDT

--- Norman Noman <> wrote:

> On 8/15/07, Henry Wolf VII <>
> wrote:
> >
> > The problem with those assumptions is that you
> only have access to one
> > game. There are still plenty of 2D games
> available. If you only have
> > access to that one 2D game, you would assume that
> there were only two
> > dimensions and time. This ignores that there may
> be many more that we can't
> > yet perceive. Looking back fifteen years, you
> would assume that the
> > universe only has sixteen colors.
> Most 2D games still have the APPEARANCE of a third
> dimension, and most 3D
> games have action confined to a surface. It's fairly
> clear in both cases
> that they are made to be played on a 2D screen, and
> thus by 3D people.

Hmmm.. according to the string theorists, space-time
is ten-dimensional. Therefore, it's meant to be played
by eleven-dimensional creatures. Maybe there's a cheat
code hidden somewhere in the sixth dimension?

> Our one instance in this "universe" is nowhere near
> enough to extrapolate
> > accurately to an outside universe. If this is a
> simulation, the beings that
> > created it would be post-singularity level beings.
> Due to the nature of the
> > singularity, their existence is currently
> impossible to describe.
> >
> It seems to me the very fact that they are
> "post-singularity level beings"
> is the beginning of a description.

So is calling something a "thingy". So is calling
something an "n-rank tensor in k-dimensional space".
Trying to get useful information from the statement
"post-singularity level beings" is on roughly the same
order of absurdity as trying to derive general
relativity from knowing "the curvature of space-time
is an n-rank tensor" (and nothing else).

> If indeed they
> are, then many more
> predictions might be made, because while a
> post-singularity entity could be
> and do almost anything, what it WOULD do depends on
> the original
> optimization target of whoever orchestrated the
> singularity, and whether
> something went wrong and that target became
> corrupted.

Yes, but we don't know the specifics of how any of
this happened. You might as well try and solve for a
billion unknowns with one equation.

> In either case, the original target was probably
> something we would not find
> totally alien, if it was the target of evolved
> beings, because evolution is
> likely to create beings that are like us in many
> ways, regardless of the
> environment. Beings that like surviving, eating, and
> reproducing. Beings
> that are just exactly smart enough to create
> civilization.

How do we know that these creatures *evolved*? How do
we know that the Second Law of Thermodynamics operates
in their universe? How do we know that one plus one
would equal two?

> However, I'm not sure it is certain a simulation
> would have to be created by
> post-singularity level beings. If the laws of their
> reality are
> significantly different from our own, they may have
> been able to create near
> infinite computing power long before they have a
> singularity, and all you
> need to simulate our universe is gobs of computing
> power and our laws of
> physics.
> In fact, I think it's plausible that they could
> simulate a universe
> pre-singularity even if their world is just like
> ours. Perhaps the hurdle to
> strong AI is bigger than we think, and nanotech gets
> its day in the sun. I
> could see it being possible only years from now to
> make a planet into a
> giant computer that was still essentially dumb, and
> a planet made of
> computronium could probably simulate a reasonable
> chunk of universe if you
> cheated a bit.

You can dream up whatever kind of beings you want, so
long as they have adequate technology, and then cook
up a plausible-sounding argument for why they would
simulate us. To shamelessly steal Eliezer's
terminology, the hypothesis of a "universe simulation"
does not forbid any outcomes; it does not serve to let
us anticipate the future. It is a disguised hypothesis
of complete ignorance.

 - Tom

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