Re: Simulation argument in the NY Times

From: Norman Noman (
Date: Fri Aug 17 2007 - 04:05:46 MDT

> > > Can you explain why it is "more likely" for a simulation to have been
> > > created by intelligent beings?
> >
> >
> > Strictly speaking, to "simulate" entails REPRESENTING certain key
> > characteristics or behaviours of a selected system. Representation is
> > an intentional act, and only intelligent entities have intentions.
> Thank you for clearing up my confusion, you are quite right that the act
> of simulating something implies some sort of purpose; therefore if we
> assume simulation then we should by definition assume intentionality. I
> was thinking less of a "simulation" and more of "a universe that exists
> as a system of patterns contained within a larger system".

Actually... considering your original question with the more liberal
definition of simulation, perhaps it is not so unlikely as I claimed, that
say a turing machine enumeration might appear spontaneously.

I don't think it would happen in our universe, the self-replicating molecule
that began life on earth was probably much less complex than a turing
machine, and the uncertainty of our universe would doom a turing machine to
error and thus destruction long before it got around to simulating chicken

But in a more fragile and deterministic universe, say, conway's game of
life, things might be different... we know how to make a turing machine in
conway's game of life, and we definitely don't know how to make real,
reproducing, evolving life.

However, a replicator may exist which is robust enough to win against the
random chaos. If so, then it will fill the plane, taking the chaos with it,
and in the infinite chaos, only even more robust replicators (if they exist)
will survive. The only chance for turing machines at this point is if:
A. there is an upper limit on how robust a replicator can be, and
B. the most robust possible replicator contains a turing machine.

This strikes me as implausible.
On the other hand, the chance for evolution, leading eventually to
intelligence, seems to depend only on A being false. This is unknown for
conway's game of life, as is the existence of replicators more robust than
the general chaos. I do not feel capable of estimating the probability of
these things. There is a long chain of necessary conditions from the
starting pattern to intelligent life capable of running deliberate
simulations, but since the game is infinite, none of the steps need to be
likely, only possible.

Of course, conway's game of life is ITSELF a deliberate simulation. The
likelihood of a deterministic cellular automata arising naturally, compared
with our kind of universe, is unknown, since we've never seen a
deterministic system arise naturally, and under the simulation hypothesis,
we've never seen our type of universe arise naturally either.

This line of thought seems to lead down the rabbit hole fairly quickly.

On 8/17/07, Rick Smith <> wrote:

> Perhaps the nature of what's outside the box rests on something incredibly
> likely which we are not capable of imagining. As cognitive units we're just
> not able to conceive it.
> How can we assign probabilities to extrapolations when we have no idea
> what proportion of the complete set of imaginable things we can imagine?

This objection applies to every assignment of probability, not just ones
related to looking outside the box. I'm not sure what the real probability
answer is, if there is one.

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