Icke-simulerad bitterhet

Nick Bostrom, filosof vid universitet i Oxford, har kommit fram till att vi förmodligen inte är något annat än datorsimuleringar. John Tierney skrev en artikel om det, ”Our Lives, Controlled From Some Guy’s Couch”, i New York Times (2007/08/14):

[I]t seems quite possible. In fact, if you accept a pretty reasonable assumption of Dr. Bostrom’s, it is almost a mathematical certainty that we are living in someone else’s computer simulation.

This simulation would be similar to the one in “The Matrix,” in which most humans don’t realize that their lives and their world are just illusions created in their brains while their bodies are suspended in vats of liquid. But in Dr. Bostrom’s notion of reality, you wouldn’t even have a body made of flesh. Your brain would exist only as a network of computer circuits.

Hur kom dr Bostrom fram till detta?

Dr. Bostrom assumes that technological advances could produce a computer with more processing power than all the brains in the world, and that advanced humans, or “posthumans,” could run “ancestor simulations” of their evolutionary history by creating virtual worlds inhabited by virtual people with fully developed virtual nervous systems.

Some computer experts have projected, based on trends in processing power, that we will have such a computer by the middle of this century, but it doesn’t matter for Dr. Bostrom’s argument whether it takes 50 years or 5 million years. If civilization survived long enough to reach that stage, and if the posthumans were to run lots of simulations for research purposes or entertainment, then the number of virtual ancestors they created would be vastly greater than the number of real ancestors.

There would be no way for any of these ancestors to know for sure whether they were virtual or real, because the sights and feelings they’d experience would be indistinguishable. But since there would be so many more virtual ancestors, any individual could figure that the odds made it nearly certain that he or she was living in a virtual world.

The math and the logic are inexorable once you assume that lots of simulations are being run.

Hur vet dr Bostrom detta? Det gör han inte. Han bara gissar, antar och spekulerar en massa – i en sann popperiansk anda. Och precis som FN har sina klimatmodeller som varierar rätt kraftigt, har dr Bostrom sina hypoteser.

Vilka av dessa är mest troliga? Det vet han inte heller. Men dr Bostrom har ett instrument som, skulle man kunna tro, seriösa filosofer aldrig skulle använda sig av: ”Dr. Bostrom doesn’t pretend to know which of these hypotheses is more likely, but he thinks none of them can be ruled out. ‘My gut feeling, and it’s nothing more than that,” he says, “is that there’s a 20 percent chance we’re living in a computer simulation.'” Där har vi det: magkänslan.

En filosof spenderar nästan 18 månader åt att försvara Ayn Rands metaetik – och efter mycket om och men blir han godkänd. Andra filosofer slänger istället ur sig absurda och grundlösa hypoteser – och får en egen artikel i New York Times. Och folk undrar ibland varför man känner sig lite bitter.

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