Re: Simulation argument in the NY Times

From: Matt Mahoney (
Date: Sun Aug 19 2007 - 11:44:11 MDT

--- Norman Noman <> wrote:

> > Evolution is not intelligent? How do you define intelligence? Evolution
> > created humans out of a mix of simple chemicals. I would say that is
> > pretty
> > smart.
> Intelligence is a property of mind that encompasses many related abilities,
> such as the capacities to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly,
> comprehend ideas and language, and learn. Evolution does none of these
> things, it's just a very simple optimization process that emerges in systems
> with mutating replicators.

If you define intelligence in terms of properties of the human mind, then only
humans will ever be intelligent. Animals lack language, and might lack the
ability to think abstractly, but do they lack intelligence?

More general definitions have been proposed, e.g. [1].

> Suppose you wanted to exterminate all life on earth. Who do you think would
> > win, you or evolution?
> Suppose you wanted to brew an anti-gravity potion. Who do you think would
> win, you or gravity? I guess that makes gravity intelligent.

Currently, I don't think it is possible to exterminate the human race, much
less all life. You could imagine various scenarios, such as nuclear war, a
genetically engineered plague, or poisoning the atmosphere. But I think that
some humans would survive any such attack, and certainly many nonhuman

Legg essentially showed in a second paper [2] that intelligence = algorithmic
complexity. Currently, I think that the algorithmic complexity of all the DNA
on earth (taking into account redundancy) exceeds the knowledge (both brains
and technology) of any group of humans bent on world destruction. But a
singularity would change that.

[1] Legg, Shane, and Marcus Hutter (2006), A Formal Measure of Machine
Intelligence, Proc. Annual machine learning conference of Belgium and The
Netherlands (Benelearn-2006). Ghent, 2006.

[2] Legg, Shane, (2006), Is There an Elegant Universal Theory of Prediction?,
Technical Report IDSIA-12-06, IDSIA / USI-SUPSI, Dalle Molle Institute for
Artificial Intelligence, Galleria 2, 6928 Manno, Switzerland.

-- Matt Mahoney,

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