Thursday, May 17, 2007

computers and "religion"

As you may have gathered, I think we might be living in a computer simulation. Although this does not affect my view on whether or not a "proper" God exists, it does (or should) change my probability estimates for a few things.
  1. I think it is much more likely that there is some form of life after this one.
  2. Miracles (where normal laws of physics are violated) are more likely.
  3. By our standards, the people who programmed our universe would be supremely powerful, almost like gods in fact.

I'm sure I'm leaving out other obvious implications.

Here's a question: If we became posthuman and were considering running an ancestor simulation and keeping in mind that the virtual beings would suffer just as we do in this world, would it be ethical to create a world like this one?

We would be able to create a world where natural disasters were slightly less common (or at least more evenly spread out), would we be justified in not doing this if we could?


Uri Kalish said...

Maybe, the simulations all start in the big bang and aimed at investigating different laws of physics? In this case, humans are coincidental, are they not?

mutt said...

True, this is one of the possibilities. But as far as I can tell the question still stands; once they realise that sentient beings are developing they should shut down the simulation, modify the environment or modify us (and other animals).

I think it's likely that the first simulations of this sophistication would be ancestor simulations simply because our laws of physics have generated life, so of all the possibilities, these laws are the most likely to yield something interesting.

Maybe the simulation ran really fast in their time, and we came on the scene during their coffee break. Maybe their attitude is much the same as scientists who test on animals today or perhaps our idea of moral behaviour is complete gibberish to them or hilariously naive.

Uri Kalish said...

“…once they realize that sentient beings are developing…”

Yes, I agree they might not have this feeling of morale, but even if they do…

We have just begun to understand our universe (real or simulated). There are so many open questions in physics, chemistry and biology that I’m afraid in a few decades, a high school student reading our science books will have a good laugh. Let’s assume we are a 100 years away from discovering some meaningful fact about the universe that will change our most fundamental scientific theories. Why would they stop the simulation now? Maybe we are too dumb right now, and we need an extra 1000 years to gain knowledge that will justify our existence in the eyes of the entities running the simulation?