Thursday, February 27, 2014

Are We Living In a Simulation?

Dr. Nick Bostrom of Oxford says: probably. The basic argument is thus: Suppose that it is possible to make simulations rich enough to fool its inhabitants into thinking they are real. Then such simulations are probably common, given the ease of using computational power. So we are probably living in one rather than in a "real" world.

But really such arguments are specious. Bostrom tries to rigorize his argument by postulating that posthuman civilizations run "ancestor-simulations", but they might just as well run some other form of simulation, perhaps one in which only one observer (you, dear reader, of course!) is self aware, and everyone else is simulated just enough to continue the illusion. In which case his formula is significantly off. So his postulate #2 ("any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof)") is in fact quite likely to be true - or maybe it is, how could we know? But once that one is true, the others' truth values become unknown. In fact, in any scenario in which #2 is not followed precisely, Bostrom's math stops working.

This is often the problem with anthropic-principle arguments, and this one is no exception. You might be living in a simulation, but this paper is not a convincing argument.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Hope and Change

The only people who should have been surprised by this are journalists: "America drops to #47 in World Press Freedom Index". This is not the change we were waiting for, I don't think.

Followup: I can't imagine this will help:

But under the Obama administration, the Federal Communications Commission is planning to send government contractors into the nation's newsrooms to determine whether journalists are producing articles, television reports, Internet content, and commentary that meets the public's "critical information needs." Those "needs" will be defined by the administration, and news outlets that do not comply with the government's standards could face an uncertain future. It's hard to imagine a project more at odds with the First Amendment.