Nick Bostrom

A technologically mature “posthuman” civilization would have enormous computing power. Based on this empirical fact, the simulation argument shows that at least one of the following propositions is true: (1) The fraction of human‐level civilizations that reach a posthuman stage is very close to zero; (2) The fraction of posthuman civilizations that are interested in running ancestor‐simulations is very close to zero; (3) The fraction of all people with our kind of experiences that are living in a simulation is very close to one.
If (1) is true, then we will almost certainly go extinct before reaching posthumanity. If (2) is true, then there must be a strong convergence among the courses of advanced civilizations so that virtually none contains any relatively wealthy individuals who desire to run ancestor‐simulations and are free to do so. If (3) is true, then we almost certainly live in a simulation. In the dark forest of our current ignorance, it seems sensible to apportion one’s credence roughly evenly between (1), (2), and (3).
Unless we are now living in a simulation, our descendants will almost certainly never run an ancestor‐simulation.

2 thoughts on “Nick Bostrom

  1. shinichi Post author

    Are We Living in a Computer Simulation? Let’s Not Find Out

    Experimental findings will be either boring or extremely dangerous.

    By Preston Greene

    In 2003, the philosopher Nick Bostrom made an ingenious argument that we might be living in a computer simulation created by a more advanced civilization. He argued that if you believe that our civilization will one day run many sophisticated simulations concerning its ancestors, then you should believe that we’re probably in an ancestor simulation right now. His reasoning? If people eventually develop simulation technology — no matter how long that takes — and if they’re interested in creating simulations of their ancestors, then simulated people with experiences just like ours will vastly outnumber unsimulated people.

    If most people are simulations, Professor Bostrom concluded, the odds are good that we ourselves are simulations. Our world would be just one simulation of many, perhaps part of a research project created to study the history of civilization. As the physicist (and Nobel laureate) George Smoot has explained, “If you are an anthropologist/historian and want to understand the rise and fall of civilizations, then you will need to make very many simulations involving millions to billions of people.”

    The theory that we are living in a computer simulation may sound bizarre, but it has found adherents. The technology entrepreneur Elon Musk has said that the odds that we are not simulated are “one in billions.” Professor Smoot estimates that the ratio of simulated to real people might be as high as 10¹² to 1.

    In recent years, scientists have become interested in testing the theory. In 2012, inspired by Professor Bostrom’s work, physicists at the University of Washington proposed an empirical experiment of the simulation hypothesis. The details are complex, but the basic idea is simple: Some of today’s computer simulations of our cosmos produce distinctive anomalies — for example, there are telltale glitches in the behavior of simulated cosmic rays. By taking a closer look at the cosmic rays in our universe, the physicists suggested, we might detect comparable anomalies, providing evidence that we live in a simulation.

    Similar experiments were proposed in 2017 and 2018. Professor Smoot captured the promise of these proposals when he declared, “You are a simulation and physics can prove it.”

    So far, none of these experiments has been conducted, and I hope they never will be. Indeed, I am writing to warn that conducting these experiments could be a catastrophically bad idea — one that could cause the annihilation of our universe.


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