Personal Decision Making In Simulations

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Mon Oct 22 2007 - 09:00:57 MDT

Rolf wrote

> Suppose that every non-simulated civilization produces, on average,
> self-aware simulations equivalent to 10^100 civilizations, .001% of
> which are flawless ancestor simulations. A basic vanilla Simulation
> Argument would say that the odds are 10^95 to 1 that you live in a
> simulation. However, any decisions you make will affect 10^100
> simulated civilizations. So in basic vanilla utilitarianism, your actions
> are still dominated by a factor of 10,000 to 1 by considerations of
> "what should I do if we do *not* live in an ancestor simulation?"

This sounds to me as though it places more individual responsibility
on the shoulders of the ancestors than the simulated ancestors, even
though they're completely identical. It's tricky to reason about how one's
actions are correlated with others (e.g. voting) and whether the arrows
of causality should be thought of as strictly applying to future cases
from past cases. I myself could be said, for example, to influence or
even determine the voting outcomes of people sufficiently similar to
me who live now, but also of those who have voted before me or will
vote after me. Newcomb's paradox affords the clearest indication
that the answers may not be completely straightforward, as in,
wherein, to answer the question correctly, you have to reason
that "causality" works from future to past.

Your question, "What do we do if we do *not* live in an ancestor
simulation?" implies that one should, say, be very careful about one's
decisions because of the greater stakes involved. But the stakes are
equally great even if we are living in a simulation because of the
complete correlation with the original run. What really matters is the
total runtime in all the worlds that the decision maker gets. In other
words, if I'm in a sufficiently thin slice of the multiverse, I can party
all night, but if I'm in a thick slice, I should try to be more responsible.


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