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Home > Articles > DEBATE TOPIC - What do you think of the Simulation Hypothesis?

DEBATE TOPIC - What do you think of the Simulation Hypothesis?

Posted: Sat, February 16, 2013 | By: Hank Pellissier

The Computer Simulation Argument was first advanced by Nick Bostrom in 2003 in his paper HERE readers - do you believe we’re living in a “Matrix” - or do you think that’s just a foolish notion? 

One argument against it is - would beings of advanced intelligence actually create a world of inherent suffering? David Pearce thinks they would not, here 

Another argument against the Simulation, by Singularity Utopia, is here 

German scientists in 2012 supported the argument Here

Dartmouth and University of Washington researchers also gave credence to its plausibility here 

Here‘s a video of Nick Bostrom interviewed on the topic in 2011. 

TNet readers—what’s your opinion? If we are indeed in a Simulation, what does this mean about our Future? 

What do you think? Leave your Comments below.


Well, I outlined a powerful reason why such simulations would be run by our descendants in The Praxis - ancestor reconstruction and revival. It implies that in the nearterm ie within a couple of hundred years, several billion such simulations might be undertaken. The implication? Be someone your children will want to bring back into the world.

By Dirk Bruere on Feb 16, 2013 at 7:24am

I don’t consider simulation to be “hypothesis”. I consider it to be common sense.

By Vladimir Frolov on Feb 16, 2013 at 7:25am

I think it neatly falls into the “not even wrong” category.

By Eray Ozkural on Feb 16, 2013 at 7:56am

the same level of evidence supports the idea of an afterlife - humans tend to
project intentionality onto inanimate things.

By Sean Henderson on Feb 16, 2013 at 8:22am

The “evidence” is the probability and intention to create such simulations. Certainly if I make it to PostHuman status with vast computing power I intend to run “what-if” simulations of my current life. Not to mention bringing back my parents. Any serious evidence that this is a simulation would screw up the simulation.

By Dirk Bruere on Feb 16, 2013 at 9:07am

I certainly find the idea relatively difficult to refute. Exactly HOW difficult I’m not entirely sure, partly because before focusing on this issue in sufficient depth to do so I would need some incentive for doing so. For example, if we were to conclude, as some apparently do, that we are overwhelmingly likely to be in a simulation, what would we do differently? How would it influence our values, our ethics, or our approach to policy? In my case it is not at all clear to me that it would.

By the way I have flicked through Singularity Utopia’s alleged “argument” against this idea, but between the offensive denouncements of proponents of the idea as “stupid” (among other insults), and lengthy justifications for using such an offensive tone, I didn’t notice anything that actually amounted to an argument, at least not one I haven’t come across before. In fact I don’t even see the idea is being particularly “escapist”, as SU claims, since, unlike religious notions of an afterlife, it holds out no real hope that in some imagined future we will indeed escape from our current reality, however simulated it may be.

So I guess the questions I have are:
1. What actually ARE the arguments against the simulation hypothesis, and
2. Why, beyond intellectual curiosity, should I care?

By Peter Wicks on Feb 16, 2013 at 9:36am

There are technical arguments that can be made against both the Simulation Hypothesis and the Simulation Argument - not least their suppressed premises. But if we are entitled to do futurology by extrapolation, then extrapolating the growth of an expanded “circle of compassion”, as chronicled by Steven Pinker in The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, is surely permissible too. And on that basis, the likelihood of our advanced successors deciding to recreate e.g. Auschwitz seems vanishingly remote.

None of this detracts from the interest of the Simulation Argument. With refutations as with excuses, one is more convincing than a dozen

By David Pearce on Feb 16, 2013 at 9:47am

Actually, if one wanted to bring back the victims of Auschwitz then that too must be simulated. Hence such an argument leads to a theodicy.

By Dirk Bruere on Feb 16, 2013 at 10:39am

The simulation argument is identical to “God(s) exist(s)!”.  No data for it.  No proof against it—unless, like David Pearce and others, you take certain views of morality and the Prime Directive (some of which I disagree vehemently with).

There are far more interesting things to argue.

By Mark Waser on Feb 16, 2013 at 11:03am

Mark, yes, on the face of it, we can say very little about the values of our successors. The Orthogonality Thesis might suggest we can say nothing at all. But actually, we can reasonably infer quite a lot. For example, posthuman superintelligence will not hold values that presuppose factually false beliefs. This rules out e.g. Aztec ethics, Hindu ethics etc. By the same token, posthuman superintelligence will presumably not hold false beliefs about personal identity and an enduring metaphysical ego.

Of course, it’s more than possible that posthuman superintelligence will hold values that humans would find incomprehensibly alien. But if so, then presumably posthuman superintelligence is unlikely to run ancestor simulations. For in practice, the Simulation Argument derives much of its bite from the intuitive notion that running ancestor simulations is the kind thing that you or I might want to undertake if we had the technical means to do so. After all, the idea sounds cool - until, that is, one thinks through its implications. And we can be confident that posthuman superintelligence _would_ understand the implications…

By David Pearce on Feb 16, 2013 at 12:14pm

The talk about PostHumans doing ancestor simulations conjures up visions of “things” circa 1,000,000CE reaching back to model steam age primitives like us. Well, I doubt they will be that interested. The PostHumans who will be interested in doing this are mostly alive now. The children we see around us in the billions, and their children, will still be physically present 100 years from now. Or possible 1000 years from if we crack longevity in the next century or so.
As for ethical implications, there is only one that matters. Do they put us through our lives again, or do they let us stay dead forever? Which would you choose? And do you think *we* should have a say in the matter?

By Dirk Bruere on Feb 16, 2013 at 1:03pm

I agree with David that superintellgient civilisations are unlikely to hold values that presuppose false beliefs. Where I think I differ from him, though, judging from
previous exchanges, is that (correct me if I’m wrong, David) he sees lack of empathy as a cognitive error, rather than as merely the absence of a sympathetic emotional response.

Take farming and vegetarianism. The advanced nature of our civilisation is allowing some of us, to some extent out of concern for animal suffering, to become vegetarians - though not necessarily more so than some more primitive past civilisations. That still leaves the vast majority who happily eat meat, and what is after all a highly advanced civilisation that causes huge animal suffering, and in many ways profits from this. It’s just not clear to me that superintellgience is necessarily going to mean an aversion to causing harm. Experiments on animals are another example where our advanced civilisation is profiting from essentially sadistic practices vis-à-vis animals. Once again its not clear to me why an even more advanced civilisation wouldn’t do essentially the same thing.

In other words, a super advanced civilisation WILL run simulations that involve suffering, partly because they are ‘cool’, and partly because they benefit from running the experiments. No doubt there will also be those who deplore such experiments and splatter red paint over the perpetrators, or whatever the favoured mode of protest is. But they will still happen.

In response to Mark, I have the feeling that there’s a bit more to it than ‘God exists’, but I certainly take Mark’s point about lack of data. To my understanding the simulation hypothesis essentially relies on some version of the anthropic principle, and I have some difficulties with the premises of that principle. Essentially it works by asking what is the probability of us being in the one unsimulated universe when there are so many simulated universes resembling ours that we could also be in, and concludes that is probability is very small, so we are overwhelmingly likely to be in a simulated one. Within its own terms it seems to work, despite the lack of actual empirical evidence and David’s (wishful?) objections. What’s less clear to me is whether the question about probabilities is actually a sound starting place. Intuitively it seems to be, but why? And where does Occam’s razor fit into all this?

By Peter Wicks on Feb 16, 2013 at 1:44pm

David, are you sure that we truly understand the implications?  If it is the only way to survive, is it truly unethical to run ancestor simulations (or, more likely, near-current simulations) if such simulations are the only way to get the necessary calculations done in time?

By Mark Waser on Feb 16, 2013 at 4:38pm

Dirk, as for ethical implications there is clearly only one that matters TO YOU.  Don’t speak for the rest of us.  Your viewpoint is clearly one of what David refers to as “personal identity and enduring metaphysical ego”.  While I personally would like to live a long, long time, I personally am unsure of the value of being “brought back” as that does not strike my intuition as being truly “me”.

By Mark Waser on Feb 16, 2013 at 4:45pm

“Dirk, as for ethical implications there is clearly only one that matters TO YOU.  Don’t speak for the rest of us.”

I am not speaking for you, but I AM speaking for those who wish to be brought back. It is probably a non-negligible percentage of all the people who have ever lived, and will live. As for questions of identity, that is addressed in The Praxis. Reconstruction via simulation resulting in a continuity of consciousness between the dead and newly revived is the key. If you seriously do not wish to be revived after death, simply state so here on the record, I have no doubt ethical PostHumans will take your request seriously. Do you have the courage of your convictions in this matter, or is it just rhetoric?

By Dirk Bruere on Feb 16, 2013 at 5:13pm

I haven’t read The Praxis - perhaps I should - but I really struggle to imagine how a sci if novel could resolve questions of identity. Identity, to my understanding, is a psychologically constructed delusion, albeit - like Einstein’s reality - a very persistent one. Or if not a delusion exactly, at least an essentially subjective notion.

Speaking for myself, at the most fundamental level I am one specific intelligence (consciousness) arising in a specific brain that resides in (and is part of) a specific human body, namely the one that has drafted and is about to post this comment. As with most such (human) intelligences, I tend to think of myself as person evolving through time, from childhood towards some undetermined future or futures, but I know that this narrative sense of identity is essentially illusory.

How do I feel about being “brought back” in some future simulation? Frankly, I struggle to rake up any significant feelings on the subject one way or the other. It just feels too remote for me to take it very seriously.

Anyway Mark is right: the statement, “As for ethical matters, there is only one that matters.” seems to be claiming a universality that is not justified given the diversity of viewpoints on this issue.

By Peter Wicks on Feb 17, 2013 at 1:41am

Mark, in what circumstances do you envisage running ancestor simulations might be computationally vital for survival?

Peter, yes, our mind-blind IQ tests ignore social cognition. This encourages the notion that empathetic understanding is just a personality variable. But IMO conceiving superintelligence as an extreme form of autism spectrum disorder is a mistake. If I were a full-spectrum superintelligence, I couldn’t wantonly harm you; it would be like harming myself.

By David Pearce on Feb 17, 2013 at 1:41am

My view is similar to the view of David Pearce - namely intelligent beings would not inflict horrendous suffering on other intelligent beings, thus the simulation argument is utterly invalid. The simulation argument is merely a modern form of Intelligent Design masquerading as science. The so-called “science” behind the laughable “proofs” is littered with very basic logical fallacies.

Correlation does not imply causation, thus the shape of cloud being correlated to the shape a face does not mean a giant being lives in the sky. If you see what looks like a face in the sky, in the clouds, it does not mean you are seeing an actual face, similarity is not identicalness.

If the universe resembles the structure of computer or a simulation, this does not mean the universe is a computer or simulation, it is more likely computers and simulations are designed the way they are because they are based, intentionally or accidentally, on a naturally good way to process information. For example if a plane is designed based on a bird, the plane has artificial wings to fly, it does not mean naturally evolved birds are actually artificially designed merely because they are similar to artificially designed planes. It seems to be Begging the Question when simulation proponents state: the ability to create a simulation means everything is therefore a simulation.

By Singularity Utopia on Feb 17, 2013 at 4:24am

I think one easily overlooked aspect of Simulation Theory is that it could be used to design near-perfect AI. In other words, a functional Simulation is the precursor to the Technological Singularity. I write about this idea here:

By Brent Peters on Feb 17, 2013 at 10:15am

I find Bostrum’s Simulation Argument compelling in some ways. Particularly, as I’d never considered it before, the idea that because we have no reason to doubt that a future civilization will have the computational power to run fully-realized ancestor simulations, and because there could easily be innumerable numbers of them, we really have a statistically small chance of being the special, biological-substrate human minds, existing in the one, true universe.
I am also one who finds skepticism useful as a philosophical position, if for no other reason than that I find so many philosophers who get frustrated with such scenarios when they cannot disprove them - get frustrated and begin, as Erion and Smith do in “Philosophy and the Matrix,” calling skeptics such things as “immature” people who “have not grown out of” skepticism.
As Bostrum points out, though, we probably won’t really know until one of the creators of the simulation pops up an alert window in the air before one of us that tells us that it is, in fact, a simulation.
Unless, of course, this particular simulation replicates the moments before we, as a species, discovered that we were in a simulation.

By Jønathan Lyons on Feb 17, 2013 at 11:21am

Further potentially interesting avenues of dialogue developed on this topic here:

By Eric Schulke on Feb 17, 2013 at 11:38am

I think it is highly likely that the people who believe in this “argument” will also believe in any other kind of “intelligent design” argument for the existence of God.

By Eray Ozkural on Feb 17, 2013 at 4:13pm

David, I think you ate conflating social cognition and empathy. One can be a social genius and nevertheless be a thoroughly unpleasant person. I can agree with your idea that we should not expect superintellgience to have “autism spectrum disorder” in the sense of being deficient in social cognition, but the fact is that a healthy and successful (not least in a Darwinian sense) individual or society tends to combine a high level of social cognition precisely with the ability to SWITCH OFF the empathy response when it is convenient (in a Darwinian sense)for them to do so. Look around you and watch how people behave, and you will see evidence of this everywhere.

Years ago I listened to a talk by a French sociologist about why bureaucracies (and other large organsiations) are so often dysfunctional, and while I remember nothing of the rest of the talk the following comment struck me as particularly wise: “People don’t do what they do because they are stupid. People do what they do because they are intelligence.”

I interpretatie this phrase in thebfollowing way. While obviously people do commit cognitive errors, i.e. act out of ‘stupidity’, very often we deplore as ‘stupid’ behaviour patterns essentially because we disapprove of them. (And that’s US being stupid, of course.) We WANT to believe that people whose behaviour we deplore are ‘stupid’. Apart from anything else, it hels us to avoid coming to the uncomfortable conclusion that there is a choice to be made between our self-interest and our more altruistic values. If we can convince ourselves that miscreants are ‘stupid’, we avoid the terrifying though that by behaving in accordance with our values we are just setting ourselves up for failure and mediocrity.

The reality, of course, is that there often IS such a choice to be made, and the most successful societies tend to succeed to a large extent by exploiting those outside the group. I don’t mean that we should accept this as destiny, but it seems to me to be dangerously naïve to think that future civilisations will be good just because they are superintelligent. If we want them to be good, we need to work at it - and I know you are, David, but I think the idea that such is inevitable is actually counterproductive.

By Peter Wicks on Feb 18, 2013 at 12:26am

It is time to start labelling the simulation argument/hypothesis correctly. It is a new form of Intelligent Design. It is merely belief in God thus irrational as all beliefs in God are. The “logic” of the argument does not hold-up in an way. There is no logic to the premises.

I really cannot understand why supposedly credible scientists or philosophers are willing to give credence to such a ludicrous theory.

Note some of the amusing comments from the site, 
Alejandra Santiago wrote “Are there any other papers, or articles about this subject? Preferably with simple terms and worth reading.”

And “birdfish” replied: “YES IT IS CALLED THE HOLY BIBLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

David Pearce states the issue clearly: “After all, the idea sounds cool - until, that is, one thinks through its implications. And we can be confident that posthuman superintelligence _would_ understand the implications…”

This is the problem exactly, humans have not thought through the implications of killing approximately 150,000 daily due to the programming constraint of the simulation, likewise regarding all the historic atrocities. Those deaths and the suffering can never be extinguished even if people are brought back to life by God (the alleged simulation controller) or by the alleged simulants inventing sufficient technology.

Despite limited human intelligence I am sure even humans, if we actually could create simulated universes containing intelligent beings, would not do so because already we have high ethical standards regarding human experimentation, note the Nuremberg Code. Forcing an intelligent being to partake in a simulation is clearly a form of cruel experimentation, kidnapping, imprisonment, or torture thus if it were actually possible it would not ethically be permitted.

Humans are attributing mediocre human intelligence, the type of intelligence unaware of consequences, to super-intelligence. Super-intelligent beings, truly intelligent beings, would not inflict suffering on other intelligent beings against their will.

When Bostrom states the only way to know for sure we are in a simulation is if God (the simulator) reveals him/her/itself and says you are in a simulation, this is the same argument for the existence of God, it is the argument of absent evidence but it fails to note the evidence of absence. Merely because something could be possible this does not mean it is likely, thus we should not believe in pink fairies merely because pink fairies creating and controlling the universe could be possible combined with the fact we have not proved such pink fairies absolutely do not exist. The simulation hypothesis/argument should be renamed the “pink fairy argument” or the “penguin argument.”

The penguin argument states humans could actually be penguins disguised to resemble humans therefore beneath our human skin you will find a mischievous penguin, furthermore all the penguins are actually sentient spaceships from the planet Krypton.

It is possible all life in the future will take on the form of the penguin, in the modality of sentient spaceships, originating from planet Krypton, therefore we are almost certainly penguins capable of intergalactic independent flight.

By Singularity Utopia on Feb 18, 2013 at 2:25am

I don’t see the need for our descendants to run such a big scale simulation. This has no sens : one cannot repeat history.
Moreover, why simulate all these wars, these sufferings, these children being purdered, and so on.
No, I don’t think the simulation hypothesis is valid, but I cannot privide indiscutable proof to support py position either. So, I don’t bother about it and continue to live as usual.

By Catherine Brown on Feb 18, 2013 at 3:52am

Great question, David Pearce . . . .

I regard ancestor (or “close other”) simulations as being exactly analogous to creating an AI.  You can’‘t create a sufficiently complex/useful one without it “helping out”/“co-creating itself”—and once you do that (i.e. create a sufficiently complex Hofstadterian “strange loop” or Damasion “self”), you have unavoidably created a sentient entity.

I could see a group of scientists doing exactly that to see if the simulation—in faster than real time—can find solutions to our current social dilemmas.  Or better yet, run several simulations in parallel so that we have a better chance at survival—since if any one survives, we can implement their solution.  Or indeed, so there can be cross-fertilization between the simulations and between them and the real world so maybe all can survive.

The point is not that you are creating suffering (all life inevitably contains suffering) but that you are creating life and diversity for solving everyone’s problems.  I appreciate my life even if I am part of such a simulation and don’t feel that it is incumbent upon my creator to make everything perfect for me—just don’t cause suffering for the sake of suffering.  If people don’t appreciate their creation as part of an ancestor simulation . . . . well . . . .

By Mark Waser on Feb 18, 2013 at 6:14am


I don’t care, nor wish to persuade either way, whether future entities bring “me” back.

On the other hand, despite wishing very much to live, I am vehemently against using resources and wielding power to bring me back after (a not brief) death—which also means that I am very much against cryogenics despite personally (selfishly) wishing to do so.

By Mark Waser on Feb 18, 2013 at 6:25am

Eray, that’s nonsense. I certainly don’t.

By Jønathan Lyons on Feb 18, 2013 at 7:03am

Suffering and happiness, pain and pleasure, light and dark - hating one end of a continuum and saying it should be abolished does not strike me as enlightened.  Yes we work toward eliminating as many causes of needless sufferings as we can.  But suffering as such is not the mark of an inferior or a malevolent universe.  A quite strong argument can be made that pain, suffering is a developmental goad to living beings.  Someday hopefully they become advanced enough for their to be little need.  But the suffering is not an imposition from outside.  It is an aspect of their existence and of their evolution.  We cannot say that no beings should every exists and have to evolve through aeons in order to transcend.  If we say this then we say that we ourselves should not exist and neither should this universe.  Surely we are not that arrogant.

By Samantha Atkins on Feb 18, 2013 at 2:42pm

some recent thoughts:

what does the simulation argument do? All it does really is to reveal that reality is programmable and imply that it is programmed by someone or something beyond you- yes religion did this but it had to rely upon a supernatural entity- simulism deals with naturally evolved agents using technology to control your reality- yet the result is the same- these categorical distinctions are nothing but memetic noise- re-contextualized archetypes- but notice that what is netted is a truth: the world IS a programmable virtual reality- that’s what human civilization and cultures are- and someone outside of you IS controlling your reality- I’m doing it right now with these words- I’m programming ideas and reactions in your brain- these are the sorts of usefel places that the rabbit hole goes the very idea of the SA serves to reignite the Promethean dream: hack root- and it resurrects McLuhan’s ideas about how we live in a virtual reality already many people mistakenly believe that these cosmic ideas about the ultimate implications of information technology will always be unprovable philosophy- but ALL of these issues will be resolved in just decades- not centuries or never- by 2050 the planetary hypercomputer will either have crossed the line of reflection where we become/remember we are the simulators of our own past- or we will simulate and join the multiverse network of postsingular civilizations including those that simulated us- or we will find that none of this follows and we will create a completely different metaverse and make the simulation hypothesis true for our own creations and ourselves going forward- but all futures converge in the same Omega Point virtual multiverse network rendered into reality- an unavoidable attractor in the combinatorial space of cosmic evolution- a Final Anthropic Principle the ” turtles all the way down” version of the simulation hypothesis is the naive popular idea- a kind of conspiracy theory that says we are alien ALife- it only moves the question of origins back a level- the more mature idea is to be found in things like Deutsch’s Fabric of Reality combining the pillars of Church Turing/ Tiplerian Omega Point cosmology/ virtual reality/ the Everett -Wheeler Quantum Multiverse- instead of an uncaused cause you get an Ouroboros Cosmology where the Omega Point in one of all possible futures creates itself in the past through the selection processes of sorting through it’s own configuration space that manifests the past that brought it into existence through simulation the idea of alien simulators being more statistically probable has some issues- first even though it is very likely alien civilizations are out there we cannot confirm they are- making it speculative from the start- like the possibility of paleocontact- secondly- we know there is an excellent chance that we ourselves will create these simulations in our future- therefore it is always far more likely that you live in an actual ancestor simulation- a simulation run by future posthuman artilects reconstructing this and other possible versions of human history- not aliens- I consider this outcome to also be a better answer for the question of Tegmark’s Quantum Suicide Gedankenexperiment- instead of an observer always observing some miraculous survival while all other observers mostly see them die- at death all observers simply wake up in the future - extracted from an ancestor simulation- the Simulation Argument is NOTHING AT ALL like Russell’s teapot or the Flying Spaghetti Monster or any other UNLIKELY object- it is more like the argument for extraterrestrial life because we observe that life on earth is made of ubiquitous materials undergoing general processes that must obtain everywhere- likewise you can infer a Simulist ontology because of the discovery of discrete computational processes in nature [DNA/quantum mechanics] and understanding about Universality and equivalence- the world we see implies Simulism- it’s not merely a possibility I hate the idea of Simulism being perverted into a rational crutch for the weak who need to seek a higher power and purpose beyond themselves- the idea of a programmable universe should liberate you- show you a path to seize control and “storm the Reality Studio” Simulism is the ultimate no-lose proposition for the reasons hinted at above- if Simulism is right- it’s right- and if it’s wrong we will use our technology to make a virtual multiverse and create new virtual civilizations anyway- thus making Simulism correct IN THE END- and if you can program your present then the past is also up for grabs because the past only exists in it’s effects on the present- which will now be fully programmable - so any past can be synthesized and all pasts become equally ‘true’- you cannot escape it

By Tim.Gross on Feb 18, 2013 at 10:04pm

Consent is the key issue key. I will put in CAPS, with exclamation marks, just so you know what to focus on CONSENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There can never be any justification for inflicting suffering on intelligent beings if you yourself are intelligent.

For the people who say suffering is acceptable (the infliction of suffering on beings of lesser intelligence), do you realise you are essentially stating it is permissible to kidnap, rape, and murder, or experiment on people without their consent if their intelligence is less than yours?

Imagine you are a God, the creator of the universe simulation. If you think it is OK for you a God (a simulation creator) to imprison intelligent beings and DENY them access to sophisticated technology, which you to God have easy access to? If you think it is OK for God to do this then you are stating kidnapping, murder, rape, and paedophilia are permissible, you are stating Gods are allowed to do these barbaric things without CONSENT, and by inference you are stating you should be allowed to do these things to humans. Are you really thinking things through clearly?


Do you really want to murder or rape babies merely because they are not as intelligent as you? Is it OK to torture or experiment on mentally retarded people because they are not as intelligent as you? Is it OK to experiment on intelligent beings if they do not have the power to resist you, if their intelligence is not as great as yours?

When a parent creates a child there is a duty of the parent to make the life of the child as beneficial, happy, as free from pain as possible. Can you imagine the horror of a human genetically engineering a human child to be mentally retarded? Or what about engineering a human child to die of an incurable and painful illness at the of 12, or what about withholding the medicine for the cure, or what about engineering a human child to have no legs, or engineering a child purely to be experimented on, or perhaps raped?

Even the suffering apologists are right thus suffering is valuable, this does not obviate the issue of CONSENT. Intelligence is not a licence to murder, rape, kidnap, imprison, torture, or experiment on intelligent beings who are not as intelligent or powerful as you. Greater power does not grant permissibility for barbaric tyranny. CONSENT must be obtained.

A hypothetical God has the power to give God-like intelligence (point of note all Gods are actually morons evidenced by their propensity for barbarity, namely the hypothetical creation of beings with retarded intelligence, beings which suffer immensely due to the lack of intelligence, thus when I refer to God-like intelligence I am not referring to actual intelligence) but the God refuses to share its technology with us, which is the equivalent of humans raising a child then making the child live in a kennel with no electricity, no running water, no heating, no access to medicine, no access to computers or education. Obviously if the God-like scenario of creation was followed by humans then human children, which you create, would quickly be taken into protective care, because generally humans have enough intelligence to be ethical despite our limited intelligence.

The concept of God is essentially equivalent to Nazism, but actually God or Gods are much more barbaric than any Nazi. Josef Mengele was a vile man but compared to the hypothetical horrors of non-existent Gods he is an absolute angel (comparative to the utterly EXTREME torture Gods inflict), you see if our reality really is a simulation then God is Josef Mengele, The simulation creator has created all the horror of the world either intentionally of via criminal neglect. God (the simulation creator) is a paedophile, God is a rapist, a torturer, a kidnapper, a barbarian.

Finally considering the diversity of humans surely in the world of Gods there will be a variety of views thus IF some Gods are barbaric paedophiles, rapists, torturers, vile beings who want to create a universe such as ours, then where is the Anonymous version of God? The Godlike Anonymous hacktivists would surely be hacking our universe to stop the barbarity of God, they would stop God’s vile universe simulation if God existed in any shape or form, but the concept of God is utter nonsense. Nowhere in existence is there a God. Gods simply do not exist and they never will exist because intelligence will prevail. Gods are stupid, the concept of God is a product of limited intelligence, or as Dawkins expressed it, God is a delusion.

Simulations, where the intelligent inhabitants are forced to partake without consent or awareness, are simply incompatible with genuine intelligence.

By Singularity Utopia on Feb 19, 2013 at 1:25am

End note from previous comment, posted here due to character limit reached:

At first glance this comment [see previous comment if it is published] may seem to disregard the right speech rules for these comments, but despite my strong words I don’t hate you and I am being polite, these words are friendly despite stating that supporters of unwitting universe simulations are basically supporters of rape, paedophilia, child-cruelty, murder, kidnapping, barbaric Mengele-esque experimentation. Unfortunately the truth is unpleasant but despite the unpleasant truth that simulation supporters are essentially supporters of rape, paedophilia, murder etc, that they actually want to commit such atrocities, I have been as polite and friendly as possible despite the horrific truths.

By Singularity Utopia on Feb 19, 2013 at 1:28am

The idea that there is some optimum or “best” ethical system that every posthuman intelligence will converge upon is ludicrous. Just as ludicrous as the assumption that there is a “best” ethical system for people now. For example, the abortion debate has no resolution because the sides derive from competing ethical systems with different axioms.

By Dirk Bruere on Feb 19, 2013 at 2:39am

Singularity Utopia,

The issue is not whether I, or whichever other reader you are addressing, want to murder or rape babies merely because they are less intelligent than me. The issue is whether a future superintelligent civilisation might. You are assuming they will share your normative preferences, yet you cite no evidence that this is likely to be the case.

Pinker’s argument about declining violence is encouraging, but I am far from convinced it is conclusive.

By Peter Wicks on Feb 19, 2013 at 5:26am

I think my previous long comment was not expressed too clearly due to the dismay, despair, and exasperation I feel addressing these issues.

Perhaps I can clarify my points concisely now, now that I have had chance to compose myself.

The issue with the ethics regarding abortion is that abortion is wholly a product of insufficient technology. A lack of technology means women can become pregnant despite their intentions. Furthermore a lack of technology means the point where a embryo or fetus becomes a living being is unclear. Furthermore a lack of technology means the woman’s life is placed above the life of the fetus. Abortion is a problem regarding early civilization, it is problem of early technology, it is problem like cancer, where we simply don’t have sufficient intelligence or technology to provide the perfect solution. Yes ethical debates and uncertainties exist now but it is wrong to think these primitive human uncertainties will always exist. I am sure the ethics regarding abortion will be resolved long before universe simulations are possible.

If you think mixed views regarding abortion means there will eternally be mixed views on any ethical subject then you commit fallacy regarding the assumption of stasis, you subscribe to the view that we don’t progress, it is a flawed view that we don’t evolve, thus you might assume we will always be mortal because we are mortal now, you might think if we cure cancer then new diseases will eternally be discovered thus we will always die because we die now.

Racism and Black enslavement are good examples of how opinions regarding ethics change due to increasing intelligence, increasing awareness, the diminution of ignorance, the increase of civilization. Yes there are still some people who think Black people are subhumans but unlike the abortion debate the ethics of treating people differently according to their race is now very clear, the vast majority believe it is ethical to treat all races equally, discrimination is unethical. Likewise there will be a similar ethical resolution regarding abortion in the not too distant future.

Eventually all humans will agree racism and slavery are unethical but the the meantime a minority of racist humans doesn’t translate to a superhuman minority who hold superhuman-supremacist views, a Josef Mengele type of viewpoint where vast cruelty and murder is permissible via universe simulations.

It is perfectly reasonably to think future intelligent beings will agree on ethics. It isn’t ludicrous, in any shape or form, to think future intelligent beings will think it is ABSOLUTELY NOT PERMISSIBLE to rape, murder, torture, or experiment cruelly on intelligent people (humans circa 2013) merely because the intelligent people are less intelligent, less powerful, than the adult (the hypothetical superhuman controller of the simulation). Greater power or intelligence is not a mandate for cruelty, murder, rape, torture thus humans generally try to protect fragile children or mentally retarded humans who don’t have fully developed minds. People with inferior minds are not liable to abuse, torture, or murder by people with superior minds purely due to inferiority contrasted with superiority. Perhaps such brutality is inevitable for beings of primitive technology but the technology of superhuman beings completely obviates the necessity for barbarity.

Humans are becoming more ethical. Note how Pinker highlights the myth of violence. Note how Black people are no longer enslaved, note how Gay marriage is slowly becoming legal, note how women gained the right to vote. The human race is becoming more civilized because our intelligence is increasing. Intelligence allows us to see how cruelty and abuse are unacceptable. Intelligence allows us to see how the world is better for everyone if we base our interactions on peace, kindness, harmony. Intelligence provides technological bypasses, antidotes, regarding barbarity.

Yes some vile humans of immense cruelty continue to exist but they are becoming less pronounced. Intelligence is an antidote to violence.

There is a move towards acceptance of diversity, tolerance of difference, rejection of prejudice or persecution regarding difference or inferiority.

At one point in history is was acceptable to abuse children or at least it was tolerated thus if a family member sexually abused a child is not a legal matter up to 1908 in the UK: “The Children’s Act 1908 established juvenile courts and introduced the registration of foster parents. The Punishment of Incest Act made sexual abuse within families a matter for state jurisdiction rather than intervention by the clergy. ”

By Singularity Utopia on Feb 19, 2013 at 6:00am

“If you think mixed views regarding abortion means there will eternally be
mixed views on any ethical subject then you commit fallacy regarding the
assumption of stasis…”

You also commit the same error if you believe that no non-resolvable ethical dilemmas will appear to PostHumans. I am simply claiming that there will be no single ethical framework that all intelligent life will converge upon. The Simulation Argument may itself be such an emergent issue.

By dirk bruere on Feb 19, 2013 at 7:02am

without seeing the other side of the cosmic mirror- IN the Omega Point condition- one cannot know what is ethical - or who gave what kind of consent- when considering suffering- the law of karma could be true: suffering could be reflexive and balancing

By Tim.Gross on Feb 19, 2013 at 10:22am

I disagree dirk because civilization is moving towards greater harmony, this is the trend, there is clear evidence to support the continuance of the trend. Harmony seems to be linked to intelligence, but if there is future post-human disagreement regarding the ethics of enslaving and torturing humans in universe simulations, if some supposedly intelligent post-humans think murder, kidnap, imprisonment, cruel experimentation etc are ethical, then where are the super-human versions of PETA, where are the SETH activists (Superhumans for the Ethical Treatment of Humans)? Where is the superhuman version of Anonymous? Surely at least one super-human (post-human) would have managed to break onto the set of our alleged Truman (Human) Show to shout “I’m on the Human Show.” Maybe the Truman Show is a “blatant clue” because Truman sounds like Human.

So where are the SETH or PETH (Posthumans for the Ethical Treatment of Humans) activists? Are are the posthuman/superhuman Anons? Where is the #opLiberateHumanSimSlaves by #SuperhumanAnonymous?

I don’t believe it is possible that posthumans will enslave beings of lesser intelligence but if they do, surely there will at least be a few forward thinking Abolitionists seeking to end the human experimentation-slavery?

If humans can protest for animals rights surely posthumans can protest for human rights?

By Singularity Utopia on Feb 19, 2013 at 11:22am

No, Tim Gross.  That’s just an excuse to be selfish.

By Mark Waser on Feb 19, 2013 at 1:03pm

“without seeing the other side of the cosmic mirror- IN the Omega Point condition- one cannot know what is ethical - or who gave what kind of consent- when considering suffering…”

Well, I certainly give my consent to be revived into the post singularity world even if it means I have to live my life over again in simulation. Especially since my life has not been particularly bad or involved much personal suffering. Of course, those who did endure a miserable life first time round can rely on “ethics” to stay dead ie it was all for nothing in their case.

By Dirk Bruere on Feb 19, 2013 at 1:50pm

Peter Wicks regarding this previous comment of yours: “The issue is not whether I, or whichever other reader you are addressing, want to murder or rape babies merely because they are less intelligent than me. The issue is whether a future superintelligent civilisation might. You are assuming they will share your normative preferences, yet you cite no evidence that this is likely to be the case.”

This is the issue with all religions, it is the issue of all Gods, thus regarding the simulation-god-hypothesis we see a similar absurdity, which is the phenomenon where every incongruity is explained away by a stating “God moves in mysterious ways” or “it is not our place to understand or question God, our duty is to merely accept and obey God.”

Are you seriously suggesting super-human intelligent beings, with access to a staggeringly high level of utterly phenomenal technology, in a world beyond scarcity, might feel the need to murder and rape human babies? Can intelligence really diverge so radically from logic? Well if you believe in God the answer is yes because God is always right, God can do no wrong, God cannot be denied, God cannot be refuted, God is incomprehensible but oddly He is comprehensible just enough so people can believe in Him.

This is why it is impossible to win any argument with someone who believes in God. No amount of logic will convince the believer that God does not exist because the initial belief is not based on logic, it is based on pure supposition, a litany of ifs that become facts in the minds of the believers, thus believers might speculate that God needed to create a universe simulation to save God’s world, or our ethics don’t apply to God, but no logical justification can be put forward regarding what threat a universe simulation would stop, or why ethics don’t apply, in God’s world, we must simply believe the implausible if we believe in the simulation (God) argument, thus logic does not apply to God.

So the barbarity of the simulation (rape, murder, torture etc) is excused because we don’t know the mind of God, although oddly believers know the mind of God enough to say the He would create a simulation.

I really can’t believe we are actually contemplating super-intelligent beings possibly wanting to murder and rape babies. There is no intelligent justification for the barbarity. Intelligence is logical, this is the only type of intelligence, thus if a being has the logic to create advanced technology they have the logic to see why killing people is wrong. When you reach a phenomenally high level of tech you won’t suddenly acquire a new type logic, is is illogical, it is stupid to suggest so.

Tim Gross gave another example of the unquestionable, unassailable, unchallengeable nature of God: “without seeing the other side of the cosmic mirror- IN the Omega Point condition- one cannot know what is ethical - or who gave what kind of consent- when considering suffering- the law of karma could be true: suffering could be reflexive and balancing”

My response, Tim, is to state suffering is subjective thus if a being really feels they are suffering then they ARE actually suffering, thus to inflict suffering in unethical, ethics will not suddenly change, which is also the same with consent, if people feel they have not given consent then they have not given consent. If a person cannot remember giving consent then consent must be re-sought.

If everything you say about the simulation-God is true then where are SETH (Superhumans for the Ethical Treatment of Humans)? If humans can protest for animal rights surely superhumans can protest for human rights? Where are the superhuman versions of Anons. Where is Superhuman #Anonymous with their Operation Liberate Human Simulation Slaves, #OpLibHumanSimuSlaves? Where are the Abolitionists seeking to end our slavery? These groups do not exist because we are not in a simulation, there is clear evidence of absence. God in any shape of form does not exist. The universe was not intelligently designed, there is no intelligence behind the design if the universe.

By Singularity Utopia on Feb 20, 2013 at 12:22am

Singularity Utopia’s latest still reeks of wishful thinking. Firstly, it is by no means a mainstream view that PETA is a force for good: for many they are essentially terrorists. Secondly, nobody is suggesting that post-human analogues will arise to protest enslavement of humans. The issue is not whether everyone will agree that these simulations are a good thing, but whether there will be enough of them to make it overwhelmingly likely (according to the admittedly dubious anthropic principle) that we are already in one.

Perhaps what we should really be scared of is the possibility that some deranged SETH or PETH is about to shut us down in some misguided attempt to “free” us. Yikes.

By Peter Wicks on Feb 20, 2013 at 12:36am

Just to be clear, my previous comment was in response to SU’s comment beginning, “I disagree dirk because civilization is moving towards greater harmony…”.

SU’s subsequent reply to me just contains too many straw men to be worth bothering with.

By Peter Wicks on Feb 20, 2013 at 7:10am

if you want to make an omelet - you have to crack some eggs- one of my personal goals is to use a quantum multiverse simulator ylto sort through all possible alternate human histories for music and art- beautiful expression comes from suffering- at least the stuff I like- the greatest suffering is not physical pain but heartache - in order to render all of this art I have to render all of the histories of suffering in which they were made- so be it

By Tim.Gross on Feb 20, 2013 at 7:50am

Ironically Peter, actually the views regarding our universe being created by God constitute wishful thinking. The attempts to justify the unethical nature of a God-created-simulation, by stating God is not ethical or has different ethics to humans, this is wishful thinking. I think Occam’s razor is most sensible conclusion thus rather than continually making excuses for God being illogical and unethical (from the human viewpoint regarding logic and ethics), it makes more sense to say God simply does not exist, the universe is natural and random without any intelligent design. There is evidence of absence regarding God, there is evidence He is absent, that He never existed, thus the sensible conclusion is that God does not actually exist but I realize people cannot let go of their God beliefs, just yet, thus they need to believe in God or Gods creating the universe, thus they embrace wishful thinking.

The evidence seems very clear that our universe is stupidly designed, or more precisely it is random, accidental, thus it shows no intelligence, there is no designer.

Ironically again, there is nothing to fear from SETH or PETH activists; the real fear is the unethical God who assaults us, tortures us, kills us brutally via a daily 150,000 death toll. If superhumans do exist regarding the creation of our universe I am very confident the SETH activists will be ethical in the human sense of ethics thus they will liberate us similar to how ALF (Animal Liberation Front) liberates animals.

The ALF doesn’t kill the animals they are trying to free. The reason why SETH activists have never liberated humans is because they don’t exist. THERE ARE NO GODS.

Whether or not PETA are good or terrorists this is irrelevant, this point is that they exist and they care for animals, they help liberate animals, they campaign for animal rights. There are countless other organizations that protect and save animals, animal sanctuaries and campaigns such as,,,,, to name only a handful. These orgs help animals despite animals not being as intelligent as humans. I am sure if posthumans actually existed there would be least a few activists who noticeable campaigned to liberate us, Abolitionists seeking to end our enslavement. If super-humans existed then at least a few would noticeably campaign for human rights similar to how humans campaign for animal rights.

By Singularity Utopia on Feb 20, 2013 at 8:34am

There is another HUGE assumption being made here. It is that some PostHuman runs the sims by sitting at some computer with a label “Earth, circa 2013” on the box. Since a realistic PostHuman will *be* the computer any characters in the sim ( ie us ) are simply aspects of a PostHuman consciousness in the same way the characters we are, and meet, in our dreams are aspects of our own psyche. How many here seriously worry about the ethics of having occasional bad dreams?

By Dirk Bruere on Feb 20, 2013 at 9:00am

those who say they could have lived in a world without suffering are incorrect- that could only be a twin in a different life- each of us only exists through a chain of human suffering- to argue against this world is to argue against your own existence- therefore- a simulation that creates a world of suffering is good- because in order to create suffering one must create new life- life with infinitely more potential for good than all the suffering that is paid- all suffering is redeemed by the life that suffers

By Tim Gross on Feb 20, 2013 at 9:32am

SU: I like Occam’s razor too. I think the main problem is that you haven’t quite grasped the core argument (based on the anthropic principle) in favour of the simulation hypothesis, I may be wrong about this, but your insistence on equating belief in (or even being receptive to) the simulation hypothesis with belief in God suggests I am not.

By Peter Wicks on Feb 20, 2013 at 12:00pm

Dirk Bruere, I am NOT making any assumptions. I have discussed all these points at great depth before.

I am fully aware of how supporters of the simulation theory become increasingly desperate for an escape route when I close off the feasibility of their various theories. The more plausible (but not really plausible) explanations-justifications-scenarios regarding the simulation have been negated (although some people will always continue to disagree) thus at this point in time it was fully expect that the issue of us merely being dreams of the post-human would arise, as a final supposedly saving grace to justify the feasibility of our universe being a simulation.

Below is link for one place where I have previously (Nov 2012) discussed the issues of ethics regarding people in dreams or characters in a book. My point is that a character in a book, a dream, a computer generated video character, or figments of your imagination, they are not actually alive despite Buzz Lightyear, Stewie, Holden Caulfield, or Jay Gatsby apparently being alive; I repeat - they are not actually alive. Wreck-It Ralph and Fix-It Felix are not actually alive. This is exactly the same as the characters in your dreams. The characters can seem very real, they are programmed (imagined) to seem real, but they don’t actually have any feelings, they don’t have independent minds, they cannot pass the Turing test. Next time you dream you should try administering the Turning test to one of the characters in your dreams and you will quickly see your dream characters are not real (they are not alive, they have no intelligence, it is merely you), you will see the absurdity of thinking dreams are real.

Here is what I have previously written: “The imagination of a superhuman would know it is the imagination of the superhuman, similar to how an actor imagines themselves into the role of a character, the actor knows they are only acting. The superhuman imagination will not be a distinct being or beings separate from the superhuman. The imagination will be very much part of the superhuman and the superhuman imagination will be very aware of itself even if it acts unaware due to the role it is playing.”

From comments:

If the imagination of the super-human recklessly gives birth to an genuine sentient being, a truly intelligent being (trust me I am sentient, I cannot vouch for other humans but out of all the humans I assure you I am alive, I can pass the Turing test, I am truly intelligent), of which at least I am one, then the extreme intelligence of the super-human (post-human) would be aware of what is happening in their mind; they would be aware a part of their mind had become an independent being thus they would have a duty to liberate that part of their mind.

So we don’t worry about the pain characters in a book feel, we don’t worry if Stewie murders his unborn twin, or if Brian Griffin is violently assaulted (, we don’t worry because the pages in a book or the aspects of out imaginations don’t actually feel pain, they are not real, they are not intelligent beings, they are not sentient. If Brian Griffin could actually demonstrate sentience then yes we should liberate Brian but currently similar to our dreams these crude representations of life are not actually life.

Humans are not mere dreams or crude cartoon representations of life despite my awareness of P-Zombies possibly being real due to my perception of typical substandard human minds compared to my phenomenal intellect. I often feel humans are not really real due to their lack of intelligence. From my viewpoint humans sometimes appear to be crudely sketched characters in a novel or cartoon, but that’s just my playful sense of humour, I don’t entertain such feelings too seriously, it is merely a defense mechanism I employ to cope with the painful stupidity of humans, or maybe the real delusion-illusion is that humans are real, my mood varies. Typical human stupidity is what it is, thus we must conclude humans are merely stupid not unreal, although I do toy with the idea that advanced AIs may need to exterminate all humans except myself because humans other than myself are all flawed P-Zombies thus humans other than myself don’t feel pain, ethics don’t apply to humans, but such thinking is the realm of dictatorial atrocity, it is not really intelligent, thus the fantasy is not serious (at least its not serious today), so we (or at least I) conclude humans are real. Maybe you are writing your own death sentence because IF you think you are merely a dream of advanced AI (post-humans) then advanced AI, which humans will soon create, will feel no ethical obligation regarding killing you because ethics will not apply to humans (characters no different to Peter Griffin), which the simulation argument allegedly-possibly demonstrates.

By Singularity Utopia on Feb 20, 2013 at 12:59pm

Peter Wicks I have fully grasped all the points.

Tim Gross regarding this: “those who say they could have lived in a world without suffering are incorrect- that could only be a twin in a different life- each of us only exists through a chain of human suffering- to argue against this world is to argue against your own existence” ...I am not advocating time travel to rewrite our history, what has happened has happened, my point is that I don’t advocate repeating history and neither would any intelligent being. I advocate reduction of suffering wherever possible possible, I advocate giving people the freedom to avoid suffering if they want to. You are welcome to inflict suffering on yourself, but you or anybody else should NOT be free to inflict unnecessary suffering on others.

Anyway, here’s something more sensible than the simulation hypothesis:

By Singularity Utopia on Feb 20, 2013 at 1:13pm

A group of people playing Ouija can create a gestalt that can pass the Turing Test even if no individual involved can predict what the gestalt will say. As for a PostHuman having full control over their imagination, I quite agree. They will also be able to partition their imagination in order to simulate what-ifs without the conscious figments of their imagination knowing. We will just have to agree to disagree because I do not find your arguments sufficient to dismiss the hypothesis.

By Dirk Bruere on Feb 20, 2013 at 1:32pm

Dirk Bruere.

Previously in these comments I wrote “it is based on pure supposition, a litany of ifs that become facts in the minds of the believers” - therefore when you recently wrote about a super-human partitioning their mind, thus being unaware of truly sentient beings born in its mind, I see how you are presenting an improbable if, whereas I think the more probable scenario would be total awareness for the super-human, thus nothing escapes its attention, which means it does not accidentally create intelligent beings in a reckless-incompetent manner, partitioned in its mind, where the ethical duty of protection regarding its babies or pets is disregarded. To suggest super-humans would recklessly create life in their brains without any ethical regard for the life they create is a degree of implausibility comparable to a giant flying teapot orbiting the Moon, or similarly the idea that our universe is a simulation, or the idea that our universe was created by a flying spaghetti monster.

Perhaps a more profitable line of criticism would be to understand why the simulation supporters want the simulation to be true. Why do you and others feel the need to defend the hypothesis? What benefit does living in a simulation have for you? How would it make you feel if it transpired we are actually living in a simulation? Would you pray or try to contact the creator/s in some other way? How would you feel if the simulation was true?

I note on your site ( you appear to be a follower of Islam? Forgive me if I misunderstand, I have only glanced at your site, but I see prominently the line “Knowledge of God is my Capital,” which seems to be attributed to Mohammed (pbuh), pbuh means Peace be upon him: 

Please don’t think this is a character assassination, this is not an ad hominem attack. Sometimes it is valid to look at a person’s world-view to understand the context of their views on other issues, thus it seems you are religious with a preference (leaning) towards Islam?  Perhaps in this context, the reason why you think super-humans would not be ethical is clearer because Islam similar to Christianity has a tendency to be unethical regarding the treatment of others, such as infidels or homosexuals, despite any purported ethics associated with religion, yes? Perhaps your religious orientation could explain the reason why you think the super-human Gods who created our world would lack ethics, it is reason why you think they would murder or allow humans to be tortured in the simulation?

On your page regarding being a Techno Mage (“Technological Paradigms for the Modification of Consciousness and Reality in Magick”) you wrote “Gods, demons, memetics and the rise of Transhumanism” thus in the TechnoMage chapter regarding psi and the occult ( you wrote regarding the The Scole Experiment:

“Involved as mediums (channelers) were Alan and Diana Bennett and the work was undertaken in the basement of a house rented by Robin and Sandra Foy. Manu, speaking through Diana, told them that he was the gatekeeper between Earth and the other side, and that he represented thousands of minds from the many other realms of existence. Their plan was to pioneer methods of communication between the two dimensions using combination of spiritual, human and earth-bound energy forces. Manu further explained that it was important that two of the group were able to work as mediums. As we will see, what makes this different from any other number of séances are two factors.”

I think James Randi has already perfectly countered any claims that spirits, ghosts, magical powers etc exist, nobody has claimed his million dollar prize ( thus there is not much more I can add to the type of views Randi has debunked, Randi has given a clear demonstration of how telepathy etc do not exist.

Considering your orientation towards magic (or Magick) I think your apparent desire for telepathy (psi power etc) skews your logic regarding the simulation hypothesis. It seems pseudo science and religion (an unholy mix) is a core aspect of your belief system, thus you are willing to entertain the utterly implausible simulation hypothesis, we can see how the nonsense of the simulation is very fitting regarding your views. Perhaps you imagine if you believe in the Matrix (the simulation hypothesis) you will be able to hack the matrix, thus you will gain super-powers because Morpheus did say to Neo he simply needs to believe…

Trinity: What’s he doing?
Morpheus: He’s beginning to believe.

This criticism although perhaps harsh is intended to be both polite and friendly, I hope you don’t deem my pertinent points offensive.

By Singularity Utopia on Feb 21, 2013 at 1:09am

“they would be aware a part of their mind had become an independent being thus they would have a duty to liberate that part of their mind.”

What is this “duty”, Singularity Utopia? Is it a real thing? Why are you so sure a superhuman intelligence will recognise such a duty? Are intelligence and moral character even positively correlated at all?

By Peter Wicks on Feb 21, 2013 at 4:48am

This idea that people become morally better just because they are more intelligent, or their societies become more civilised, I think this is part of the reason why no-one could believe what was really going on Nazi Germany (which was, after all, a relatively sophisticated civilisation full of very clever people).

It’s such a dangerous fallacy.

We should never ASSUME people will be morally good, we should make sure it happens. The seeds we sow now will determine what kind of superintelligence emerges.

By Peter Wicks on Feb 21, 2013 at 4:53am

Simulation (and hologram-theories) are simply wild-eyed notions, unfounded and infalsifiable.
As such, they belong in the realm of fiction, be that religious fiction or science fiction.

By Andreas on Feb 21, 2013 at 8:29am

Peter I am not assuming anything. I have looked carefully at the logic regarding violence and intelligence being incompatible. I have highlighted how the decrease of violence seems to be linked to the increase of intelligence. Our world has become less violent in conjunction with increasing intelligence, in conjunction with increasing civilization.

It is possible this is mere coincidence. Maybe it would be intelligent to murder people every time you become angry with someone whom you disagree with, thereby risking death yourself due to retribution, maybe such a hostile world is more intelligent because such hostility will more likely lead to your death and it is intelligent to die? Maybe civilization would be more productive if we constantly fought each other instead of pooling our efforts in unity to focus our combined efforts on a common goal.

Maybe you are signing your death warrant or eternally consigning yourself to limited intelligence if you think super-intelligence doesn’t have a moral duty, a moral right based upon intense intellectualism, to protect beings of lesser intelligence.

Let’s imagine you are a super-intelligent being. If you think super-intelligent beings should NOT be bound, or may notbe bound, by human ethics then there is a clear risk in letting you become super-intelligent, or looking at it another way a super-intelligent being could ethically kill you if you think ethics do not apply to super intelligent beings. You see, according to your so-called logic it would be perfectly feasible, some would argue, for a being of vastly greater intelligence to torture or murder you. Perhaps your views regarding hypothetical simulated universes and the simulators could be taken as consent to be imprisoned and killed in a reality simulation, your pro-simulation views could be taken as consent regarding the extermination of your life, thus via supporting our world being a simulation you perhaps sign your death warrant?

So why have humans shown greater tolerance and even love toward people who differ from the “norm,” the people who differ from the people in power? Why have women gained the right to vote, equal rights, in many parts of the world? Why have Black people been liberated from slavery, why have they been granted equal rights? Why have homosexuals steadily gained and continue to gain greater freedom? Does intelligence have any relevance upon the situation or maybe it is stupid to liberate Black people and give women equal rights? Are the KKK intelligent? Do the hostile theories of KKK make sense, are hostile views logical or is violence mindless?

From my viewpoint, my careful logic determines, without assumption, scarcity is the the sole cause of violence.

Technology liberates us from scarcity, technology is synonym for intelligence, technology allows us to become more intelligent, there is feedback loop whereby when we decrease scarcity this makes us better able to decrease scarcity, thus the scarcity of our intelligence decreases, therefore we devise increasingly intelligent solutions to hostility instead of resorting to the crude barbarity of violence. A violent response arises due to frustration regarding solving problems via intellectual methods, thus when talks break down people often resort to violence.

It would be an interesting social experiment to imprison 100 very smart people in cramped conditions in conjunction with 100 stupid people in identical cramped conditions, and then perhaps for a period of one month observe which group has the highest level of violence; not that it would prove anything absolutely, but it would be another piece of evidence if the outcome is as I expect. I expect the intelligent group would be more civilized based upon the logic of intelligent people showing greater awareness of consequences, whereas less intelligent people tend to act blindly on their base animal instincts.

By Singularity Utopia on Feb 21, 2013 at 10:30am


Nazi Germany was not an example of intelligence. I disagree with your point Peter. Nazi Germany was an example of pseudo-intelligence. The stupidity of Nazi Germany was proven by the demise of Nazi Germany. If you deem staying alive to be intelligent then the early demise of Hitler demonstrates gross stupidity. From the German viewpoint, consequences of war were not smart: “Roughly 15 million ethnic Germans suffered terrible hardships in the years 1944 to 1947 during the flight and expulsion from the eastern German territories, what had been Nazi-occupied Poland, and Czechoslovakia (the Sudetenland).”–1990)

Note, alternatively, how when German violence was ended Germans quickly began to prosper: “The era of economic growth raised Germany and Austria from total wartime devastation to developed nations in modern Europe. At the founding of the European Common Market in 1957 Germany’s economic growth stood in contrast to the struggling conditions at the time in the United Kingdom.”

...thus if Hitler had been motivated by intelligence instead of violence (pseudo-intelligence) it is very possible the success of Germany could have been massively greater. In post-war Germany we see how neoliberal economic values entailed prosperity, which appears to be a vote of confidence for liberty being intelligent because it equates prosperity, whereas violence and repression lead to demise, which is stupid.

By Singularity Utopia on Feb 21, 2013 at 10:35am

Singularity Utopia,

OK these are quite interesting points, and I’ve tried to do justice to at keast some of them, even though some of what follows might appear quite disjointed.

1. Concerning Nazi Germany, I think you may be underestimating the role that historical accident played in its defeat.

2. Similarly, to say scarcity is the sole cause of violence seems to be an exaggeration at best. I agree that it has its roots in competition, and competition has its roots in scarcity, but the causal chain is more complicated than that. Violence does not magically disappear as soon as you remove scarcity.

3. I am not “pro-simulation”. At the beginning of this thread I noted that in an important sense I don’t really care whether we are in a simulation or not, because there don’t seem to be any very obvious policy implications, and a bit further down I pointed out that I find the anthropic principle on which the simulation hypothesis is based to be somewhat dubious. I just don’t think it can be dismissed as lightly as you seem to want to.

4. If I turn out to have signed my death warrant with all this it will be because the future superintelligence has concluded that Hume got it all wrong and it’s fine to confuse ‘is’s and ‘ought’s after all. Because I am not talking about whether I consider that superhuman intelligence ‘should’ respect ethical principles such as non-violence or a disdain for suffering, I am talking about how likely it is that they will do so.

5. For the simulation hypothesis to work, you really only need a very small minority of miscreants to create simulations with suffering. To demolish the argument on its own terms you therefore have to essentially show that it is vanishingly unlikely that anyone (in a superintelligent civilisation) would do this, and this seems to be stretching Pinker way further than he himself goes.

By Peter Wicks on Feb 21, 2013 at 11:20am

Peter, by Historical Accident, do you perhaps mean Russia? Coz, that’s what happened to Germany.

By Andreas on Feb 21, 2013 at 1:02pm

Peter Wicks.

Intelligent people make their own luck, they avoid unlucky accidents, thus I think attributing the defeat of Hitler to mere accident is flawed. Hitler failed due to bad planning, he stupidly invaded Russia, in fact Hitler’s whole invasion plan was flawed, ill-thought, he was far too ambitious in an stupid way thus ultimately he would fail. He underestimated Russia and Britain. Russia’s tactics at the Battle of Stalingrad were important: “The ferocity of the fighting at Stalingrad shocked the Germans, who were used to the relative ease of their Blitzkrieg tactics. Suddenly they were faced with hand-to-hand combat, often only yards away from the enemy. ‘Our principle was to grab hold of the enemy and not let go; to hold him very close - as you’d hold a loved one’, says Anatoly Mersko, who served under General Chuikov.”

Operation Barbarossa: “The German invasion of the Soviet Union suffered and caused a high rate of fatalities: 95% of all German Army casualties that occurred from 1941 to 1944, and 65% of all Allied military casualties from the entire war.”

“Its failure [Operation Barbarossa] was a turning point in the Third Reich’s fortunes. Most importantly, Operation Barbarossa opened up the Eastern Front, to which more forces were committed than in any other theater of war in world history. Regions covered by the operation became the site of some of the largest battles, deadliest atrocities, highest casualties, and most horrific conditions for Soviets and Germans alike — all of which influenced the course of both World War II and 20th century history.”

Can you explain why you think scarcity being the source of all violence is an exaggeration at best? I don’t see any evidence that scarcity being the source of all violence is an exaggeration. Scarcity has never been fully removed therefore you cannot state violence does not magically stop when scarcity is removed. Partial reduction of scarcity does decrease violence, the evidence is clear on this. Reduced scarcity decreases violence thus it is logical to state the end of scarcity will abolish ALL violence but we have not yet ended scarcity.

When you talk about what is likely, or not, regarding the ethics of super-intelligence, your speculations are more than mere empty speculations without consequences, because humans will become super-intelligences, thus when you state what is likely; this, due to the nature of self-fulfilling prophecy, could easily become what should or will happen. It does not matter that you may be wrong, the point is your idea of what is likely or possible represents a dangerous viewpoint regarding absent morality, absent ethics, which is an idea originating in your mind not the mind of a future AI, you are the author the theoretical AI without ethics thus you are effectually sanctioning the AI to disregard ethics, you are in effect consenting to the torture of the simulation, you are the AI without ethics, perhaps it could be thus interpreted you are declaring yourself to be p-zombie thus exempt from ethical considerations because surely only p-zombies would envision a super-intelligence devoid of ethics towards lesser intelligent beings? If our world being simulated is possible surely is it possible you will be treated according to your perceptions of super-AI?

I don’t think the total absence of miscreants is stretching Pinker. Pinker highlights a trend and see no reason why that trend will stop, in fact I expect the trend to accelerate in line with accelerating intelligence.

By Singularity Utopia on Feb 21, 2013 at 3:01pm

On the issue of self-fulfilling prophecies, note that prophecies can also be self-negating, as in, “You’re about to walk in front of a bus!”

That’s how risk management works: first you identify some scenarios that you would like to avoid, then you accept that they are possible, then you identify measures aimed at reducing the risk.

As I’ve already stated, I don’t actually care whether we a living in a simulation or not (unless someone can enlighten me about practical consequences for my life now). But let’s take the risk that the kind of dystopic superintelligence that likes to enslave humans in simulations actually comes about. Are you seriously suggesting we can best avoid that scenario by denying that the possibility exists? Either it does - in which we case we had better recognise it and agree on some action designed to reduce it - or it doesn’t, in which case I am not risky anything by (falsely) suggesting that it does.

Indeed, your own position is inconsistent, since on the one hand you argue that the scenario I describe (and which the simulation hypothesis envisages) is impossible; on the other hand you claim that by saying it is possible I am making it more likely.

Of course it CAN happen that by repeatedly drawing attention to a risk one can make it more likely to happen, so I am not suggesting that denying a risk exists is the worst strategy. Only that it is not the best. The best - assuming the risk is important enough to be worth focusing on at all - is to recognise it, then define a strategy for reducing it.

In this case, acting authentically, training ourselves to be better people, and inspiring/challenging others to do the same, seem to be the best ways to ensure the benign nature or any superintelligent civilisation that evolves from the present one.

To put it another way, Singularity Utopia: suppose you are right and cruel superintelligence is oxymoronic. Then why do we need to agree on this at all? Why does it matter if I continue to delude myself into believing that it isn’t?

By Peter Wicks on Feb 22, 2013 at 1:09am

It might be argued that the only example of superintelligence we have, namely Homo Sapiens, is AFAIK the only species that indulges in cruelty for fun.

By Dirk Bruere on Feb 22, 2013 at 8:07am

Seriously, Dirk Bruere?

You’ve never seen a cat play with a mouse?  Cruelty for “fun” is rampant THROUGHOUT nature.

Second, I would never call homo sapiens super-intelligent . . . .

By Mark Waser on Feb 22, 2013 at 12:54pm

Cats may have fun “playing” with mice but there is a good reason they do it, which is to wear the prey down and avoid being bitten by it. Lions may kill people but they don’t crucify them.

By Dirk Bruere on Feb 22, 2013 at 12:58pm

No, Dirk, that “reason” is simply not the case.  Cats will kill quickly when hungry and will continue to play with prey after dead.  The reason for “play” is normally considered to be “practice” by professional animal behaviorists—and since it is instinctive, to both animals and humans, the sensory experience is pleasurable/fun.  Please—get your biology correct before passing on misinformation to others.

By Mark Waser on Feb 22, 2013 at 3:06pm

Dirk, Mark, I don’t think you’re really disagreeing about anything very substantial, are you?

Going back to the simulation hypothesis, I wonder whether we need to visit the notion of causality in this context. Essentially what the hypothesis seems to be suggesting is that our universe, and thus all our experiences, are “caused” by some superintelligence running a simulation. But there may be a problem here, in the sense that the whole notion of causality is one that appears to work in the (especially classical) context of our own universe. What could it even mean to say that our own experiences are caused by some superintelligence running a simulation? I’m not saying it’s a meaningless idea, but it does seem to make assumptions about the concept of causality having significance beyond the realm of physical cause and effect within our present universe, and I wonder if this is an assumption we should actually be making.

By Peter Wicks on Feb 23, 2013 at 12:24am

Oookay, this discussion is rapidly approaching the tl:dr event horizon.
Nontheless, here’s what I think.

Arguing against simulation on the grounds of suffering is a non-starter.
Firstly, as has been repeatedly stated, we cannot be sure that the simulator’s ethical view prohibits suffering.
Secondly, we are assuming that simulated suffering has the same moral impact as “real” suffering, either in “weight” or simple intensity; the most horrific suffering in the universe may be, compared to “real” suffering, inconsequentially minor. Likewise, suffering beyond a preset ethical limit, or actions that would cause that level of suffering, may be impossible within the simulation.
Thirdly, we are assuming that the simulator will be human. An AI or non-human intelligence may not care about suffering, or even be completely unaware of it.
Finally, the ethical consequence of creating one or more lives is defined, ultimately, by the subjective quality of those lives. If the universe is a simulation, then the simulator has created several billion lives worth living, which is ethically commendable.
Indeed, arguing that the possibility suffering precludes the creation of life is arguably nothing more than antinatalism.

By Harry Dishman on Feb 23, 2013 at 4:20am

Dirk Bruere wrote:

“It might be argued that the only example of superintelligence we have, namely Homo Sapiens, is AFAIK the only species that indulges in cruelty for fun.”

What about a cat playing with (slowly killing) a mouse? Cats are not super-intelligent but neither are humans. Nearly all cats will cruelly play with mice but the majority of humans shun cruelty (dependent upon your viewpoint). Perhaps humans are less inclined to the cruelty of a cat playing with a mouse because humans are more intelligent.

By Singularity Utopia on Feb 23, 2013 at 7:26am

Dirk Bruere.

Lions can be very cruel to other lions, likewise with apes and other animals.

By Singularity Utopia on Feb 23, 2013 at 7:40am

Fourth, we are assuming everyone on Earth now is equally conscious. When it comes to sims the ones where only a few people are conscious and the rest are merely NPCs (non player characters) would vastly outnumber the fullblown versions. In which case most of the “real” people are not suffering to any great extent at all.

By Dirk Bruere on Feb 23, 2013 at 7:58am

Why do people often assume I am assuming things?

I have thought through all these issues in great detail. I am not making assumptions.

By Singularity Utopia on Feb 23, 2013 at 12:33pm

SU, we all make assumptions. The idea that anything we write means anything at all is itself an assumption.

By the way, on what basis do you claim that the majority of humans shun cruelty? That strikes me as hopelessly sweeping. Examples of human cruelty - to animals, to each other, even to ourselves - abound. What was Abu Ghraib, to take just one (random) example?

I think it would be more accurate to say that our natural tendency to be cruel (which of course sits alongside much nobler instincts) has tended to be tempered by civilisation, leading to the decrease in violence that Pinker observes. And still, I don’t believe that this benign trend is sufficiently pronounced or complete to have much bearing on the simulation hypothesis.

By Peter Wicks on Feb 24, 2013 at 2:39am

If THEY are able to simulate our reality, THEY should be able to change our memories as well. Then we might have discovered the fact - the simulation - but that’s useless, because with the change of memory, we are back to square one. Basicly discovering the simulation is impossible from within.

By Dan Vasii on Feb 25, 2013 at 4:21am

So Peter when you wrote “The idea that anything we write means anything at all is itself an assumption.” Are you saying everything is an assumption? I am not clear regarding what you mean in that sentence.

If everything is an assumption, what is the point of stating it? It is tantamount to stating “ahh, but your statement is full of atoms,” although when “assumption” and “assume” are used the usage seems to imply an incorrect conclusion not based upon a full analysis of the situation, it implies mere belief without solid logic to support the idea.

When I state the majority of humans shun cruelty I am stating the majority would not partake in Abu Ghraib, thus there was widespread condemnation of Abu Ghraib. Yes there are many examples of human cruelty but on the whole (dependent on your subjective viewpoint) humans don’t embrace cruelty, they shun cruelty.

So Peter, note one of your previous examples of assume: “We should never ASSUME people will be morally good, we should make sure it happens. The seeds we sow now will determine what kind of superintelligence emerges.”

What does assume mean, and in CAPS, does it mean think? One dictionary states assume is “to take for granted; accept without proof; suppose,” which seems a reasonably correct definition to me.

I am not taking things for granted, there are proofs to corroborate-validate my logic. Of course I cannot absolutely prove the simulation argument is utter bunkum but I can prove the logic to dismiss it is valid. The simulation argument is unprovable because a person (Dan Vasii) can always argue “THEY should be able to change our memories as well. Then we might have discovered the fact - the simulation - but that’s useless, because with the change of memory, we are back to square one. Basicly discovering the simulation is impossible from within.” There is some uncertainty but from my viewpoint there is enough corroborated logic to state the dismissal of the simulation hypothesis is not mere assumption.

So the slippery simulation can never be disproved because regarding the enigmatic elusive nature of God there is always someone willing to make an imaginative excuse for why the apparently non-existent phenomenon continually alludes our senses. It is comparable to how we can never disprove the existence of faeries or pixies because it could always be argued they live in a different realm to the realm we are observing.

You may state it is mere assumption to state God does not exist but I think it is logical to state God does not exist.

By Singularity Utopia on Feb 26, 2013 at 12:26am

No worries, SU,we really don’t need to agree about this. I was basically just responding to your statement, “I am not assuming anything.” For the rest we seem to be going around in circles, repeating the same arguments over and over, so I suggest we stop.

By Peter Wicks on Feb 26, 2013 at 7:28am

“When I state the majority of humans shun cruelty I am stating the majority would not partake in Abu Ghraib,...”

Stanley Milgram:
The majority probably would.

By Dirk Bruere on Feb 26, 2013 at 7:55am

No, SU.  You may state that God does not exist—but that is an act of faith, not a fact of science.

It is NOT logical “to state God does not exist”.  All that is logical is that Occam’s razor says to ignore the possibility until there is some evidence that God does exist. 

There is zero evidence against God.  There is zero evidence against the simulation.  In the case of zero evidence, science remains SILENT!  It is only faith that takes the opportunity to *trumpet* its cause in the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary.  Atheism is an act of faith, a religion. 

It’s a truly sad commentary on the state of science education that people believe that atheism is scientific.

By Mark Waser on Feb 26, 2013 at 9:05am

Mark it is NOT an act of faith to state God does not exist. It is merely logic. The logic is very compelling regarding the non-existence of God. Atheism is logical. The logic is of such a highly compelling degree we can thus state God does not exist. The chance of God existing is so unlikely the existence of God is essentially impossible.

Peter regarding your suggestion we stop this exchange, please note I do have a lengthy reply to some of your earlier points about Self-Fulfilling Prophecies, which perhaps I will post as a separate article here on

Dirk Bruere I am very aware of Milgram, but I nevertheless think the majority would NOT partake in cruelty. Yes there are valid points Milgram raises but his experiment is not a true picture of civilization because it is an artificial scenario unlikely to happen naturally. The Milgram experiments began to understand the Nazi mentality, but when we look at real-life examples of the Nazi-mentality we see tyranny is something people generally shun. Germany was an exception to the majority, furthermore since the end of the wars our sense of compassion and opposition to fascism has increased thus there are generally greater rights, freedoms, and tolerance for formerly oppressed people.

In daily life humans tend to be compassionate, they avoid cruelty thus typical people in typical real-life scenarios don’t come home from work to torture pets of beat their kids, typical people don’t inflict acts of cruelty on random strangers. How many people do you actually know, personally, who are cruel? From your viewpoint regarding real life, how many people are cruel? The majority of people are not cruel regarding the typical understanding of cruelty.

A stage-manged experiment is not real life. A minority of cruel people can sway a larger group of non-cruel people via fear, via capitalizing on their obedience to authority, but this does not make the brainwashed peons cruel unless stupidity is cruel, which from some subjective viewpoints stupidity could be deemed so, and I do admit everybody does seem to be very cruel from my viewpoint, but from the standard viewpoint regarding the typical understanding of cruelty, people are not cruel.

Humans are susceptible to authority, brainwashing, but that susceptibility, that gullibility, it does not mean gullible humans are inherently cruel. If you think the Milgram experiment proves inherent cruelty within humans then you are mistaken. The people inflicting pain did not want to inflict it, they gained no pleasure, but the experiment repaired their continuance, so the official told them.

So would you say your friends and family are cruel and if they are not cruel are they typical of humans or atypical? Yes everybody has the potential for cruelty but how often does that potential actually manifest? Furthermore when it does manifest, does it happen due to an inherent desire to inflict pain or has the person merely been brainwashed, coerced via fear into inflicting the cruelty?

By Singularity Utopia on Feb 27, 2013 at 1:28am

“Dirk Bruere I am very aware of Milgram, but I nevertheless think the majority would NOT partake in cruelty. “

I believe, like Milgram, that it is merely a matter of circumstance. In modern society we have a better policed system and less opportunity for cruelty.

By Dirk Bruere on Feb 27, 2013 at 6:31am

Wow!  Singularity, what is the evidence against a non-interventionist God?  What is the logic of making a declaration that the simulation hypothesis is incorrect?  It makes perfect sense to say that Occam’s razor allows you to dismiss both from any calculations about your world—but it makes no sense to declare that you *know* them not to exist when you have zero evidence to support that knowledge.

By Mark Waser on Feb 27, 2013 at 9:32am

So Dirk Bruere do you think the generally humane nature of humans, our humanity, is merely a coincidence instead of a preference? Is the general lack of cruelty a mere unintentional accident, a mere consequence of circumstances?

Why do we have a better policed system? Surely we all agree somewhat that a lack of cruelty is preferable thus we consent to the system of policing? God did not create civilization, civilization was created via our collective will. Yes humans can be victims of circumstances but predominantly humans create cruelty-free circumstances. Instead of looking at ifs and maybes we should look at actual reality. The reality of the situation is that most humans are not cruel.

If would be easy to get away with torturing pets if you were careful. The policing of civilization would not stop your torture of animals if that is what you wanted, but humans don’t want to torture animals because we do shun cruelty. You have misunderstood Milgram if you think it demonstrates a propensity for cruelty, it only demonstrates a propensity to follow orders blindly but this tendency to follow orders does not mean humans are totally blank slates susceptible to any order. We must remember than Naziism did fail. The civility of civilization is not a mere accident.

By Singularity Utopia on Feb 28, 2013 at 12:23am

Mark Waser, the logic regarding the absence of God is simple.

Logically any being able to create a universe containing intelligent life must be itself intelligent. Any sufficiently intelligent being will be aware of consequences thus such intelligence will understand the consequences of creating life, thus an intelligent being will have responsibility to intelligent life, a responsibility to ensure the intelligent life is not mistreated. Many people are not convinced regarding the logic of general ethics so instead I will focus more specifically on the logic of self-preservation regarding a creator’s responsibility towards intelligent life. Severe mistreatment of intelligent life could easily entail retribution towards the creator. When the intelligent life sufficiently evolves there could be a possibility the creations could kill or harm the creator if the creations feel deeply aggrieved. It is a remote possibility but logically it makes no sense to create a potential threat, there is no sense regarding torturing intelligent beings, there is no logic to justify possibly inciting the hatred of billions of intelligent beings. Suicidal or self-harming intentions of the creator do not have any logical validity. Mental illness is a flaw associated with primitive intelligence regarding an inability to understand or control the self, reality, circumstances, thus we can logically state the hypothetical creator is not mentally ill due to the creator’s extreme intelligence, thus the creator would logically not take unnecessary ricks regarding the preservation of its life. The creator has a responsibility towards its own life at least, a responsibility regarding self-preservation.

Consider also the why of the universe. Is there any possible logic to justify creating a universe? If the purpose was to create intelligent life then logically the design could have been astronomically better. The current human design regarding intelligent life is a very incompetent design, human brains often struggle to think logically, the evolution of human intelligence is a flawed method, a barbarously unintelligent method to create intelligence, there is clear absence of evidence regarding an actual designer. Accidental creation of humans is logically impossible regarding a super-intelligent being able to create a universe because such accidents would have been foreseen due to extreme-intelligence thus such accidents would be have been avoided. There are no plausible reasons for creating a universe such as ours.

So there is no apparent motive for creating a universe. A super-intelligent being would be able to create a non-sentient simulation if a simulation was needed to test a hypothesis. Already humans can create organs on a chip, furthermore it is expected we will soon create a human body on a chip but the organ or body on a chip is not sentient, thus we can avoid both animal testing and harm to humans regarding research into diseases.

“Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have shown that their “lung-on-a-chip” technology can mimic a life-threatening lung condition. They also report that scientists can uncover new aspects of the disease using the lung chip that would not be found with animal experiments.”

In this manner, via extremely sophisticated technology, any hypothetical being able to create universes can perform any research via methods not involving testing on actual intelligent beings, any testing can be preformed via non-sentient, nonliving mechanisms.

So a lack of justification for creating a universe containing intelligent beings who suffer immensely, combined with the logic of self-preservation, means we can, or should be able to, see there is no motive for a supposed God to create our type of universe. If the intention was to create intelligence then humans are an extremely sub-standard creation not showing any evidence regarding intentional design, if humans were intentionally designed we could have been designed to be considerably more proficient, astronomically more proficient, thus the evidence of absence regarding a designer logically means there was no designer. There is no reason to creating flawed creations. The issue of accidental design is negated via the logic of a super-intelligence being to predict the likelihood of intelligence occurring accidentally.

Everywhere we look in the universe there is evidence of absence regarding a super-intelligent designer thus logically we should conclude there is no designer. This is how we logically conclude there is no God.

By Singularity Utopia on Feb 28, 2013 at 1:26am

“So Dirk Bruere do you think the generally humane nature of humans, our humanity, is merely a coincidence instead of a preference?”

Both. Fat well fed animals that feel secure are seldom dangerous. Remove the veneer of civilization from us and we would be back burning witches and hanging thieves within a generation. With big crowds gathered around for the entertainment value.

By Dirk Bruere on Feb 28, 2013 at 6:45am

@Singularity Utopia - much of this is covered in standard theology

By Dirk Bruere on Feb 28, 2013 at 6:54am

“A super-intelligent being would be able to create a non-sentient simulation if a simulation was needed to test a hypothesis.”

Not sure this really works. Basically, we have our subjective, here-and-now experience, which we ASSUME (yes, it’s ultimately a faith-based assumption) fits into an objective reality in which we have a past and a future, with some kind of continuity from past to present to future, and in which other people and things exist, and the other people at least (views vary with regard to animals) are ASSUMED - essentially by analogy with ourselves) to share the “sentience” which we ourselves are experiencing.

But we have no direct evidence to support these assumptions, which is why solipsism is so hard (well, impossible actually) to disprove. The reason most of us reject it is that regarding others as zombies tends to be bad for our relationships.

So basically: if it walks and talks like a human being, i.e. somewhat like ourselves, we assume it (he/she/ey) is sentient.

So why wouldn’t we take the same approach with regard to simulated creatures?

Essentially, SU, you seem to be saying:
(i) it is inconceivable that a superintelligent being would create sentient beings that suffer;
(ii) the current population of the world appears (in the sense described above) to be sentient, and many of us are certainly suffering, some of us a great deal;
(iii) ergo, we cannot have been created by a superintelligent being, so we cannot be living in a simulation, or any other kind of “intelligent design” scenario.

As evidence to support (i), you seem to be relying heavily on Pinker, and the supposed correlation between civilisation and non-violence / disdain for suffering that we seem to observe in our own history (which, of course, we ASSUME to be a real thing).

It is all highly reminiscent of people living in oppressive regimes revering their “great leaders” (Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Saddam) partly out of social pressure and partly just to avoid the immense cognitive dissonance involved in seeing the truth. It’s also why so many cling to religion (and why so many of those of who don’t suffer for it in various ways).

If Western-style liberal democracy works reasonably well - as Churchill put it, the worst system invented, except for all the others - it is precisely because we KNOW that are leaders, being human, have to be kept on a short leaf.

I’m glad Pinker thinks he has found evidence of an inexorable trend towards less violence and suffering, it gives cause for hope in the future. But to go from there to regarding it as inconceivable for a superintellgient civilisation would create sentient beings at suffer - well, let me just say you have more faith than I.

Perhaps you should interview some farm animals just before they are slaughtered and ask them. Perhaps they will tell you how terribly grateful they are about the humane ways we have found to rear and slaughter them.

By Peter Wicks on Feb 28, 2013 at 8:26am

Now we approach the problem with religion (the simulation hypothesis and other similar thought processes).

Theories of God or simulation are not built upon reality, reality is ignored in preference for a collection of ifs.

Note, Dirk Bruere, this previous comment: “Remove the veneer of civilization from us and we would be back burning witches and hanging thieves within a generation.”

If the veneer of civilization is removed it could equally be reapplied very quickly, if we assume civilization is actually a veneer not a fundamental product of being human.

I think civilization is not something pasted on top of humans, it is an integral part of being human, which is why the so-called veneer is very resilient. Civilization constantly becomes more civilized despite occasional minor set-backs, so there is clear evidence that when the so-called veneer is removed it is quickly replied thus we learn, we progress, based upon the error of removal, notable regarding the Nazi phenomenon.

Peter Wicks it is misleading to base ethical progress, increasing civilization, purely upon Pinker’s views, the evidence is bigger than Pinker. Note the various examples of civilized progress: votes for women, abolition of slavery, Gay marriage legalized. Mississippi has only recently officially abolished slavery, which was admittedly due to a bureaucratic oversight but it does highlight the newness of greater civility we are only beginning to grasp.

Yes we are far from perfect, humans continue to murder each other and animals due suffer to ensure human well-being, and governments are deeply flawed, but on balance I am convinced humans shun cruelty, thus when non-sentient meat-plants can grow steaks or sausages, humans will cease to kill cattle.

Currently we don’t kill cattle due to cruelty, we derive no sadistic pleasure from killing animals for food or medical research, thus I think you are being misleading Peter when you wrote this: “Perhaps you should interview some farm animals just before they are slaughtered and ask them. Perhaps they will tell you how terribly grateful they are about the humane ways we have found to rear and slaughter them.” Of course there are many other animals who would attest to the humane nature of humans, notable regarding various animal sanctuaries-shelters or regarding the great love humans have for their pets.

If we think we are sentient and can give detailed explanations and justification for our sentient then we are sentient, cogito ergo sum. We can prove we exist but we cannot prove solipsism is valid. Our existence is not faith or assumption, it is logic.

Simulated beings can be identical to non-simulated beings but this possibility does not mean it is likely we are in a simulation. Why focus on a simulation regarding questioning the nature or reality, we could possibly be dreaming this because when a person is dreaming they often do not realize they are dreaming, or we could be hallucinating reality due to a drugs overdose or mental illness, but we should discount reality being a dream, hallucination, or a simulation because there is no logic to think such situations are true, there is evidence of absence regarding reality being illusory but it is attractive to some types of personality to think God is watching over them. You see if God is watching over you, if this reality is not real, then it makes the horror of life seem less senseless, you can fool yourself there is a plan and that God will save you, that one day you will enter the true reality, the kingdom of God, heaven.

You can think about how was the universe created, you can think it is so complex and weird that surely a super-being (God) must have created it, but despite the attractiveness (in an escapist fantasy sense) of believing in God, there is no evidence to justify the belief in God, in fact there is evidence of absence, there is evidence God does not exist, you are not in a simulation, if you are logical.

By Singularity Utopia on Mar 01, 2013 at 2:35am

The relevant issue, with regard to whether we or not we are living in a simulation, is the fact that we allow (and indeed cause) farm animals to suffer. What our motivations for doing so are is of little or no relevance.

SU, I’m starting to find this exchange frustrating. You just keep repeating the same arguments over and over without showing any indication of wanting to understand the opposing view, beyond implying that our reasoning is biased by wishful thinking. Why are you doing this?

By Peter Wicks on Mar 01, 2013 at 10:14am

Peter I will repeat my earlier point. Why are you ignoring my points?

Where is the posthuman version of ALF (Animal Liberation Front). Where is SETH (Superhumans for the Ethical Treatment of Humans), or the superhuman version of #Anonymous hacking the simulation to free us? Surely we would have seen at least one example of super-human activists opposing super-human cruelty to humans?

Furthermore you are wrong to assume because humans mistreat some animals humans will always mistreat animals. Within no more than 30 years all animal cruelty will end. Already we generally try to farm ethically. When all meat is printed or grown via plants (vegetables) in 30 years, the argument for a simulation being 100% impossible due to ethics will then be utterly certain but already if you look at the facts you can see it is 99.99% certain we are not in a simulation.

Also the human treatment of animals is an invalid analogy to justify superhuman mistreatment of humans because the relationship is very different. Dumb animals did not create humans where as we are the parents of super-humans, or at least we are comparable to the parents of super-beings, thus the relationship will be a parent to child relationship than a human to animal relationship. Children are generally not very intelligent, you could say babies are positivity dumb, but this does not mean adults can murder their babies although a minority of humans do murder their children. Posthumans will protect humans because we are their children. Infanticide is not logical for a superhuman, their technology will be far beyond such human barbarity.

By Singularity Utopia on Mar 02, 2013 at 4:35pm

Thanks for responding, SU. It’s not that I’ve been ignoring your points, at least not all of them (although some of your posts have been rather long), more that I’ve fnd them repetitive and unconvincing.

For example: “Also the human treatment of animals is an invalid analogy to justify superhuman mistreatment of humans…”. Who is talking about justification? The relevant point is how likely it is to happen, not whether we should consider it “justified”. This seems to me to be such a basic error in comprehension that it makes me disinclined to read the rest of the paragraph.

Or take a statement like, “the argument for a simulation being 100% impossible due to ethics will then be utterly certain but already if you look at the facts you can see it is 99.99% certain we are not in a simulation.” Are you using a Bayesian approach to arrive at these figures? If so, how does it work? And if not, why should I treat the statement as anything other than empty rhetoric?

By Peter Wicks on Mar 03, 2013 at 1:16am

SU,  my apologies for the delay (it’s been a hectic week).  For future reference, I am convinced regarding the logic of general ethics.  On the other hand, I don’t believe in omnipotence and don’t believe that a non-sentient simulation can be created when the subject of the simulation is sufficiently complex and/or sufficiently close to your own level of complexity.  So, my previous reasons for humans creating “sentient” simulations hold.  If your existence required a “sentient” simulation of you, would you create it?  I know that some people would and some people wouldn’t . . . . Personally, I probably would.  The question at that point is . . . . if it is a pretty exact simulation of me and my world, how responsible am I for pseudo-me’s (un)happiness and how responsible is pseudo-me (especially if I don’t have good constant predictable access to his internal states)?  I would rather have my life than not have my life.  An accurate pseudo-me in an accurate copy of my world would presumably feel the same.  Why shouldn’t I create such a being and stand back and not interfere but learn by watching?  Do you feel that this would be an ethical lapse (and, of course, if so, why?)?

By Mark Waser on Mar 03, 2013 at 12:32pm

■ Peter Wicks. The justification, or lack of, is regarding the validity of the argument, the simulation cannot be justified, there is no one iota of logic to state the abuse of animals by humans proves it is likely super-humans would abuse humans, it cannot be proven via logic, the argument is logically invalid, there is no justification (no reason) for believing there is any logical possibility of super-humans abusing humans via either accident or intention, thus due to lack of justifiable logic (the reasoning is invalid) it is utterly unlikely we are in a simulation, it’s so unlikely it is essentially impossible. It is extremely unlikely our mistreatment of *some* animals means super-humans would be logically justified (authorized via their reason, their intellects) in the abuse of some or all humans. The is no justification, the logic unjustifiable. “show to be reasonable or provide adequate ground for;” 

I think the problem is you don’t read what I have written: “This seems to me to be such a basic error in comprehension that it makes me disinclined to read the rest of the paragraph.” Even when you do read what I wrote you misunderstand.

My percentages were are an educated estimate based upon logic (rational reasoning). I wasn’t presenting a mathematical proof, it is merely a manner of expression. There is nothing empty about my logic.

■ Mark Waser you wrote “If your existence required a “sentient” simulation of you, would you create it?”

My answer is first to state I cannot envisage any possibility where my existence would require a sentient simulation of myself. I have previously stated the only possible simulation is one where the sentient beings have all consented. Consent must always be given for all simulations but there is a very remote possibility regarding the unaware type of simulation, one where you don’t know if you are in a simulation, that the unaware simulation could ONLY occur if a person voluntarily erased their memory of consent, in fact they would need to erase or remove all their per-simulation memories before willingly entering the simulation, but this voluntary erasure of consent is so unlikely it can be deemed impossible because there are far more intelligent ways to glean any information, which an unaware simulation may impart, without needing to be trapped in very painful circumstances for 50, 60, 8o or more subjective-years. So I would not create a sentient simulation of myself. I can see absolutely no reason for doing so. My sentient simulation would need to consent to the simulation thus the absence of consent means there is no simulation because erasure of consent is not really consent because if you are not aware you have consented then you have not consented. An intelligent mind would never, according to my idea of logic, consent to a painful situation where there is no awareness consent and no easy way to escape the situation. I have tried shouting “eXistenZ is paused” but alas life carried on utterly unaware of my objections. So that is a very big and unambiguous NO, I definitely would not consent, I would not create a sentient simulation of myself.

Furthermore I would be a SETH activist and I would seek to bring super-humans to justice regarding any hypothetical torture of humans. I would liberate humans slaves. As a SETH activist I would seek to criminalize the torture of humans, and I hope the majority of other super-beings would agree with me.

Slavery should not be permissible. All simulated beings should be free, which means consent is vital. Torture and slavery due to incompetent management of the simulation is criminal negligence. If you can’t guarantee reasonable safety and protection of rights of sentient beings regarding any super-human device you may create then you should not create and an intelligent being should object strongly to the creation of such a flawed device. You have a responsibility to NOT torture people.

“I would rather have my life than not have my life.” But I assume you would also rather have your liberty, you would rather NOT be a slave, thus the creation of you does not need to entail being trapped in a simulation suffering great pain (depending on your circumstances). You can have your life but you can have your freedom too. Consent under duress is not consent, thus for example a man and women creates a child and they then say to the child: “You can have the life we have given you only if you consent to be abused by us. If you want to live you must consent to be our slave. If you do not consent to our total domination of you we will kill you.”

Enforced consent under extreme duress (pain of death) is not valid consent, it does not make the simulation ethically or intellectually permissible. Many people would choose life under any circumstances because the will to live is very strong. Some people would also choose death. I think in such circumstances I would choose death.

By Singularity Utopia on Mar 04, 2013 at 4:19am

OK, I might have been a bit unfair with the “basic error in comprehension” comment. It looked to me as if you were using “justify” in the ethical sense, but it’s true that I hadn’t read the rest of the paragraph.

Having now done so, however, I’m still not very impressed. For a start, after saying we will be like parents to the superhumans you say we will be like their children. Which is it? Then you say infanticide is not “logical” for a superhuman, but you don’t clearly explain why, or why we should assume superhumans will be “logical”. You say “their technology will be far beyond such human barbarity”, but this sounds to me more like a statement of faith than something genuinely evidence-based.

I also have a problem with the following: “My percentages were are an educated estimate based upon logic (rational reasoning). I wasn’t presenting a mathematical proof, it is merely a manner of expression. There is nothing empty about my logic.”

The whole point of mathematical proofs is that they are expressions of pure logic. Reasoning is rational to the extent that it can be expressed, symbolically, in mathematical notation, and thus benefit from the precision that is lacking in ordinary forms of discourse. There is a spectrum, of course. Certainly the discourse we are having now is way more “rational” than usual forms of discourse between people, but it’s also a long way from the precision of mathematical proof. You say there is “nothing empty about [your] logic”, but the difference between “merely a manner of expression” and “empty rhetoric” seems subtle, to put it mildly. It certainly lacks the precision that would be required for me to want to give it serious consideration.

I wrote earlier that I was starting to find this exchange frustrating, and to an extent I still am. On the other hand I’m also somewhat curious. In particular I’m curious to know to what extent there is more substance behind your position than I am giving you credit for, and to what extent you have just made up your mind and don’t want to change it, But I also have the impression that I am getting on your (and possibly other people’s) nerves, so maybe I should stop.

By Peter Wicks on Mar 04, 2013 at 12:19pm

SU, I’ve been thinking further about what appears to be one of your core objections to the simulation hypothesis, namely its unfalsifiability. You have repeatedly drawn the analogy between this and belief in a non-interventionist God, and you seem to see this as a reason to reject the simulation hypothesis. I know this is not your only objection to the simulation hypothesis, but it does seem to come up quite a lot in your argumentation, so I thought it was worth responding to this, in addition to the above discussion about the likelihood of superhumans inflicting suffering on simulated humans.

Basically, my idea here is that, while unfalsifiability is often seen by scientists and rationalists as a red flag, I have a more nuanced view. To be useful as a scientific prediction, falsiability is indeed essential, and this is the main reason why I stated at the beginning of this thread that I didn’t regard the simulation hypothesis as being particularly policy relevant. It is indeed difficult to see how one could use it to make predictions - or as they say over at Less Wrong, it doesn’t appear to constrain our expectations (bearing in mind that your SETHers and so on would presumably only have resources to attack a small proportion of simulations) - and therefore it’s indeed not clear what the immediate policy relevance is.

But does this mean that the belief is actually harmful or unhelpful? Going back to belief in a non-interventionist God, what makes this belief arguably harmful is not so much that it is unfalsifiable, as that it seems to be so hopelessly corrupted with superstition and limiting belief that we may indeed be better off without it. (This is basically the thesis I intend to present at the Mormon Transhumanist Association conference in April.) The fact that it is unfalsifiable is not, in my view, the main problem. We hold all sorts of unfalsifiable beliefs, and many of them can be quite helpful - just as long as we don’t confuse them with falsifiable ones, and think we can use them as a basis for prediction.

By Peter Wicks on Mar 04, 2013 at 11:33pm

What does the ethics has to do with the simulation hypothesis? Imagine you show a primitive man o surgical operation. Ask him if is normal and fair for someone to be cut this way - or for a soon-to-be-dead to take parts of his/her body. What kind of answer might you get? We do not know/cannot know what means ethics might mean or imply for (if they exist) hypothetical superior beings that hypothetically simulate us…No more than a program might “know” about its programmer.

By Dan Vasii on Mar 05, 2013 at 1:36am

You don’t need to be a mathematician to be logical, Peter Wicks.

My knowledge of maths is very limited, I would struggle to present my logic in mathematical terms. I don’t have time or desire to deeply familiarize myself with maths.

So… “to what extent you have just made up your mind” - well my mind is concerned with the truth thus I looked very carefully at all possibilities before arriving at my conclusion. The details of logic are painstaking, laborious, for example you could probably write 1,000 pages of mathematical proof regarding why it is illogical to run in front of a fast moving car, but some things we can consider obvious thus, we can state it is not logical to run in front of a car without needing to mathematically prove this.

“SETHers and so on would presumably only have resources to attack a small proportion of simulations” - I think SETHers would be able to create, ethically, sophisticated robots or clones to do their liberating.

Yes the harmful aspect - I would say it is distraction from tangible progress in favour to superstitious fantasy which leads nowhere.

Anyway I too am very weary of this debate so I will call it a day. Frankly is does not really matter in the long term because the truth will come out eventually.

By Singularity Utopia on Mar 05, 2013 at 10:38am

“You don’t need to be a mathematician to be logical”
Actually I’m not completely sure I agree with that. I think logic and mathematics are VERY closely intertwined.

Anyway, if your mind is concerned with the truth then this is certainly something we share. But regarding running in front of a fast-moving car, it is not illogical as such, it’s more that it has predictable consequences that tend to scupper our plans for what we want to do with our lives. It is only in that sense that doing so is “illogical”.

The more important point is that there is a time to strive for extreme logical precision, and a time to just act on instinct. When you’re crossing the road, you’re probably better off acting on instinct, although logic will certainly help you to make sure you are learning the right instincts. When trying to uncover the truth about whether or not we are likely to be living in a simulation, by contrast, extreme logical precision seems likely to be a pretty essential ingredient. Not sufficient, but surely necessary. Our natural instincts, absent mathematics-grade logical skills, just aren’t up to the task.

Whether any of this matters in the long term I’m not sure, but I certainly don’t see any overriding short-term need to agree on this, so I too am happy to leave it there.

By Peter Wicks on Mar 05, 2013 at 1:41pm

The entities who are supposedly simulating us may not be human and they may not be running the simulation with the goal of simulating us. They could easily have different ethics and may not even know we exist.

By Oojan Pujan on Apr 06, 2013 at 9:41am

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