Blake Borgeson, in blog form

suspected facts. validated opinions.

Posts Tagged ‘futurism

nick bostrom: are we living in a matrix? more possible than you might think

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This story isn’t new, as it’s a discussion that’s been going on for decades and was recently made into an extremely popular movie trilogy that spurred lots more conversations on metaphysics than most of us were accustomed to in 1999. And Nick Bostrom’s article, the subject of this post, was published in 2003. But if you haven’t read his simple, logical approach to presenting the case that there’s a measurable chance we’re actually living in a computer simulation, you should take a minute to check it out. That is, if you’re in a metaphysical mood.

Here’s the 2-pager that brings the point home. Here’s the Nick’s home page for the argument, with links to the full article and other perspectives and thoughts on the question, for the more curious.

Here’s the spoiler, if you’d rather have the 10-second version.

Let me state what the conclusion of the argument is. The conclusion is that at least one of the following three propositions must be true:

  1. Almost all civilisations at our level of development become extinct before becoming technologically mature.
  2. The fraction of technologically mature civilisations that are interested in creating ancestor simulations is almost zero.
  3. You are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.

The big reason, in my opinion, why this idea isn’t more prominent in discussions today, which Nick also points out, is that whether or not our world is real or a simulation doesn’t really affect how we should lead our lives. I’m sure there’s a philosophical term for that kind of question, as there seem to be a lot of questions like that scattered throughout philosophy. If you know it and have some more examples, kindly let us know in the comments.


Written by blakeweb

June 5, 2008 at 9:10 pm

Posted in tech

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The Singularity and Kurzweil in Wired – must be something in the air

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I just ordered Ray Kurzweil’s latest book, The Singularity is Near, a little over a week ago, on March 25, from amazon, and started reading it a couple days later. (amazon)  Three days later, the content from the latest issue of Wired became available.  I don’t read it regularly, but I may start soon.  I just discovered today that this issue contains a 5 page article on Kurzweil and the singularity.  If you haven’t heard of this, I have a feeling you will soon.  Actually, you just did, but you’ll hear about it more.  Here’s the basic gist of the term and how it originated, from the Wired article:

The word was first used to describe a crucial moment in the evolution of humanity by the great mathematician John von Neumann. One day in the 1950s, while talking with his colleague Stanislaw Ulam, von Neumann began discussing the ever-accelerating pace of technological change, which, he said, “gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs as we know them could not continue.”

In most people’s minds, computers won’t outpace human intelligence within our lifetimes.  But in Kurzweil’s incredibly well-reasoned prediction, a reasonable date to expect a laptop computer to be more computationally powerful than a person is 2020, and we should be prepared for computers to be more intelligent than us in every way by 2045.  The implications of reaching that point define the singularity.  I’ll let you read more for yourself if you’re interested.  Wikipedia has a good summary of both the technological singularity and Kurzweil’s history and predictions.

Written by blakeweb

April 3, 2008 at 8:22 pm

Posted in tech

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