RE: escape from simulation

From: mike99 (
Date: Sun Mar 28 2004 - 20:29:34 MST

Wei Dai wrote:

> Are we living in a simulation? A sufficiently good simulation is
> indistinguishable from reality, at least for the people living in it.
> Therefore we'll never be able to rule out the possibility that we are
> living in a simulation. The best we can do by examining emperical
> evidence
> is to place a lower bound on its verisimilitude.

For a detailed consideration of the argument that we are living in a
simulation, see Nick Bostrom's page with essays by various contributors at:

> Suppose the SI never finds any evidence that it is living in a
> less-than-perfect simulation. It still cannot rule out the possibility
> that it is living in a perfect simulation. Whether or not it continues to
> pursue escape as its main subgoal and at which point it gives up depend on
> the a priori probability that it assigns to the possibility of being in a
> simulation. But where does this prior come from? I'm curious if anyone
> else has thought about this problem.

The simulation argument is actually just a contemporary version of
Descartes', in which he considered the possibility that all the evidence of
his senses had been implanted by a "demon." He realized that there was no
way he could disprove that such a situation was actually the case, beyond
simply assuming that the all-powerful God would not allow it. (Descartes was
extremely careful not to write anything so skeptical that the Church would
do to him what it had done to Galileo.) In the final analysis, Descartes
concluded that the only claim he could not doubt was that he himself was
thinking all these thoughts, hence he existed: "Cogito, ergo sum" ["I think,
therefore I am"].

Modern science fiction is, of course, fully loaded with stories about living
in simulations. In some of these tales, one or more persons (characters?)
escapes into reality. In others, the ones responsible for creating the
simulation ensure that none of their creature can escape, even if those poor
entities strongly suspect the truth of their condition.

If we are living in simulation, we probably cannot leave it for reality --
or, more precisely, leave it for a lower level of implementation within a
hierarchy with an unknown number of such levels. If ultimate reality is the
lowest level of implementation, we may or may not ever discover what that it
is and then somehow reach it.

But as for me, I live and work on the assumption that I am already living in
reality, but that my perception and conception of what reality is altogether
has yet to be fully developed.


Michael LaTorra

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