Re: New website: The Simulation Argument

From: Jeff Bone (
Date: Thu Dec 06 2001 - 08:38:05 MST

Gordon Worley wrote:

> Figuring out how the Sysop works, ehh?

Or doesn't, as the case may be. ;-)

> Computationally, this is too expensive for a practical Sysop to work.
> The Sysop need not know the state of everything, but be there when
> needed.

And my argument is that in order to determine when and where the Sysop will
be needed, some agent --- whether the Sysop itself or the environment is
unimportant --- is going to need a predictive ability that allows it to
prevent unwanted harm or death to individuals. This will be, for example,
*far* more complex than forecasting local weather patterns in detail with
any accuracy. Indeed, consider weather: a Sysop that in fact performs as
Eli suggests it should (i.e., ensures --- absolutely, reliably --- that
involuntary harm or damage cannot impact a protected individual under the
Sysop's care) will either need to be able to control the weather (which
implies deep simulation ability in that area) or be able to proactively
protect particular individuals and their goods when threatened by bad
weather. Neither of these may be possible: the first may not be possibly
due to the complex dynamics of physical phenomenon like weather, the latter
may not be possible simply because it may be physically impossible to
protect something against the forces seen in certain disastrous weather
conditions. Bad weather, earthquakes, etc. would indeed require extremely
fine-grained simulation of the time evolution of large interrelated systems
of effects, to avoid the *eventual* impact on the constituency.

I agree that this is all, most likely, computationally impractical --- not
particularly because of lack of computation ability (let's assume
computronium) but because of the potential physical limitations to
simulating the real world in sufficient detail to provide absolute
guarantees of safety. IMO, the only thing a practical Sysop will be able
to do is guarantee best-effort protection and safety, and *that* might not
be worth the risks involved.

BTW, this all assumes that some part of the constituency "remains"
interested in being physically present in the physical world. If everybody
uploads --- *everybody* --- then this isn't as big a problem, though the
Sysop must still be concerned with the physical safety of whatever
substrate it runs on.

Logic, common sense, and actuarial reasoning should tell us that that
*absolute* safety is an impossibility, and my gut tells me that attempting
to task some Power with providing it is a recipe for disaster.


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