I 100% agree with Peter Woit. We need to stop wasting time with this simulation stuff because IF our overlords are watching this, they might decide to turn us off. I mean, we haven't been turned off during the entire duration of our evolution, perhaps because we were never debating whether we were a simulation. What if that was the only thing keeping us turned on??? By debating this issue, we risk exposure to our Overlords and they might not want us to think we are just a simulation because learning this might change our behavior and the Overlords will be done with us! PLEASE STOP THIS! FOR THE SAKE OF HUMANITY!

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well said, completely agree, I did not find the criticism very useful but rather full of biases...

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Re: "This reality seems to be filled with stuff operating under unified physical law, not with humans."

You need a big universe just to get humans.

Also, humans might be a step on the way to filling the universe with computronium - in which case all the inanimate matter observed might be seen as being the result of the simulation having only recently been booted up.

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If bostrom's paper is published in a top jornal and so widly discussed why is it that I was able to cripple it with a few seconds of analysis? Is philosophy in that poor a state?

Bottom line is the formula as shown doesn't logically follow from its own foundations on the indifference principle (or DD argument). Easy enough to demonstrate if anyone cares although its pretty straight forward.

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Eliezer, I agree that a simulation run for entertainment purposes would pay less attention to getting the physics right. But, it would pay sufficient attention to make sure that the people in that world believe that their physics is exactly right. So the fact that we believe that our physics is right is not evidence that we are not in an entertainment simulation.

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A larger fraction of simulations run now are for entertainment purposes, so that seems a plausible thing to assume about the future.

Then we should expect the world around us to appear optimized for entertainment to a far greater degree, no? Consider "learning" vs. "entertainment". Only the former predicts that reality will be as faithful as possible to a low-level physics, because it is an attempt to learn about an outside phenomenon that runs on low-level physics.

Or to put it more simply: This, our world, may or may not be a simulation by some ahumane entity to learn about the initial conditions of Singularities it could run into; the Holocaust is faithfully simulated because it is what would happen under unified physics. But it's probably not there for entertainment, unless the entity is maximally entertained only by faithful simulations of unified physics.

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Yes we should not assume we know too much about simulator motives (if any), but that doesn't mean we have no idea whatsoever of them. A large fraction of simulations run now are for entertainment purposes, so that seems a plausible thing to assume about the future. The fact that our physics seems reliable is not much evidence about that - as creatures in an entertainment simulation should also think that.

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Assuming that you're the Robin Hanson who received his Ph.D in 1997 in social sciences from Caltech, then I apologize for the length of my prior comments.

"Jonathan and nc, you could have made your basic point in a few paragraphs."

We were educated to cite our sources. Once that's done, it's easy to be terse, as the cited article can be read in detail by the curious.

You and I have also both critiqued the Doomsday Argument (mine in a submitted article to Analog, which was not bought, but excerpts from which were scattered over several issues).

I also cited you in a paper at last year's NKS Wolfram Conference, on whether or not one could enumerate all possible economic systems. I think I quoted you (with attribution) on Economics of Abundance.

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oops - the penultimate sentence should of course read: "... and the simulation *hypothesis* is one of its disjuncts".

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Just for the record, Woit's "critique" claimed that the FHI is funded by the Templeton Foundation. In fact, we have not received any funding from the Templeton Foundation. (But I'd be happy if we got some.)

I agree with HA and Eliezer that we should avoid bundling these various claims about simulation. I would go further, and urge that we always remember the difference between the simulation argument and the simulation hypothesis. The simulation argument does not show, and was not intended to show, that we are living in a simulation. The simulation argument claims that a certain tripartite disjunction is true, and the simulation argument is one of the disjuncts. (It would be fair to say, however, that if the simulation argument is sound, then the simulation hypothesis is worth taking more seriously than we would otherwise have reason to do.)

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Eliezer, great comment IMO.I'm not against considering an anthropic principle behind our (perhaps simulated) reality, but I do think there's probably evidence as strong that the simulation is created along the lines Eliezer proposes (about something related to "unified physical law") and that we may be an incidental byproduct. This reality seems to be filled with stuff operating under unified physical law, not with humans. Of course that's not proof positive of anything, but "unified physical law" does seem to be a more defining feature of our reality, rather than things that have relations to human aesthetics such as being "interesting" in a way we can relate to.

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HA: I usually find it annoying when a good idea is arbitrarily hitched to a not necessarily good idea. So, I think this topic should start with de-linking the hypothesis that we're in a simulated reality from a particular behavior prescription that we "should try to be as interesting as possible".

Seconded. It's far more likely that our simulators are nothing like us, since they neither attempt to prevent Holocausts nor even attempt to facilitate them. The simulation, if it is one, seems extremely faithful to the notion of unified physical law; it is in an all probability an attempt to gain accurate knowledge about something that does run on unified physical law, or, perhaps, something that attaches intrinsic utility to patterns that are only "worthwhile" if they are accurate simulations of unified physical law.

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The idea that we're in a simulated reality is a perhaps testable claim. As I've posted here, to go from "we may be in a simulated reality" to "maybe we should try to be as interesting as possible to our simulators" moves to wish fulfillment -one could as easily move in a direction such as "maybe we should try to be as inconspicuous as possible to our simulators" or "maybe we should keep doing exactly what we're doing -it seems to be working", etc. I usually find it annoying when a good idea is arbitrarily hitched to a not necessarily good idea. So, I think this topic should start with de-linking the hypothesis that we're in a simulated reality from a particular behavior prescription that we "should try to be as interesting as possible".

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Now Scott Aaronson has written about this discussion over at Shtetl-Optimized:


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Carl Shulman asks, "Why is living in a world created with a foolish or unimportant purpose so lacking in meaning relative to a world with no purpose at all, e.g. a 'basement-level' universe not created by an intelligence?"

Since I reject happiness as an intrinsic value, the relevancy razor (described above) forces me to search for another intrinsic value. I believe that the search should be conducted using essentially the same methods we would use to refine our understanding of the physical environment (namely, physics and cosmology) and that it is possible for the search to end in success. That is, I do not hold to the is-ought distinction that most writers hold to, but rather believe in "objectively-valid morality" though I prefer to avoid the connotations of the word "morality" and to use instead "objectively-valid ultimate goal". Although I am perfectly aware that people who believe they know the objectively-valid good have caused the slaughter of hundreds of millions of people, I see no choice but to continue the search just as I see no choice but for us to maintain and refine a model of our environment, that is, of what is. Moreover, I believe that the search is more than a matter of aesthetics, feeling, intuition or personal subjective opinion.

In other words, I reject your suggestion that if ours world is not a simulation, it has no purpose.(I prefer the word "goal" to purpose. It has a sharper meaning.)

John David Garcia wrote what I consider a good book-length description the objectively-valid good. I consider Eliezer's Meaning of Life FAQ a good article-length description.

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Carl Shulman,

Happiness has high instrumental value, so even a person who assigns no intrinsic value to happiness will tend to spend much time and effort on happiness -- of himself and those around him. Let us take a little time to describe this instrumental value.

Certain emotional states such as social confidence, happiness and love conduce to doing valuable and important work in the modern environment.

Moreover, if a person fails regularly to have happy experiences, his ground state will tend over time toward sadness. Sadness and anxiety (and probably embarassment and shame) are no longer useful emotions in almost all situations. To avoid prolonged sadness and other unproductive emotional ground states, most people are well advised intentionally to seek out regular happy experiences.

Although certain social situations (e.g., involving authority figures or groups with norms against "negativity") can cause a person to feel happier than his physiology warrants, in general happiness closely tracks health and nothing makes it harder to feel happy than poor health. Health of course has very high instrumental value.

To round out our description, we ought to note that happiness also tracks certain parameters of the interpersonal environment that resulted in high reproductive fitness in the environment of evolutionary adaptation: e.g., whether the people with whom you interact respect you and take your needs and wants into account. This is what psychologists mean by "social support system".

One of the most distressing aspects of the current situation is that most people seem perfectly happy with happiness as their ultimate good and see no need to make a sustained intellectual search for values that might trump happiness. John David Garcia (whose books are at see.org) focused on this problem.

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