Posts Tagged ‘philosophy’

Nick Bostrom

January 21, 2008

Anthropic principle

Bostrom has argued that the correct understanding of the anthropic principle is by means of his Strong Self-Sampling Assumption: Each observer-moment should reason as if it were randomly selected from the class of all observer-moments in its reference class. In this conception, each observer moment should be analysed as if it were randomly sampled. Analysing an observer’s experience into a sequence of “observer-moments” helps avoid certain paradoxes; but the main ambiguity is the selection of the appropriate “reference class“: for the Weak Anthropic Principle this might correspond to all real or potential observer-moments in our universe; for the Strong version, to all in the multiverse. Bostrom’s mathematical development shows that choosing either too broad or too narrow a reference class leads to counter-intuitive results; but he is not able to prescribe a perfect choice.

Simulation hypothesis

On the surface, Bostrom’s simulation hypothesis is an example of a skeptical hypothesis, a proposal concerning the nature of reality put forward to question beliefs, and as such, there is a long history to the underlying thesis that reality is an illusion. This thesis can be dated back to Plato, arguably underpins the Mind-Body Dualism of Descartes, and is closely related to phenomenalism, a stance briefly adopted by Bertrand Russell. However, Bostrom has argued that this is not the case, and there are empirical reasons why the ‘Simulation Hypothesis’ might be valid. He suggests that if it is possible to simulate entire inhabited planets or even entire universes on a computer, and that such simulated people can be fully conscious, then the sheer number of such simulations likely to be produced by any sufficiently advanced civilization (taken together with his Strong Self-Sampling Assumption) makes it extremely likely that we are in fact currently living in such a simulation.

At least one part of Bostrom’s tripartition must be true:

  1. Almost no civilization will reach a technological level capable of producing simulated realities.
  2. Almost no civilization reaching aforementioned technological status will produce a simulated reality, for any of a number of reasons, such as diversion of computational processing power for other tasks, ethical considerations of holding entities captive in simulated realities, etc.
  3. Almost all entities with our general set of experiences are living in a simulation.