X-Message-Number: 11656
Date: Sat, 1 May 1999 15:51:48 EDT
Subject: simulations, celebrities

Raphael Haftka writes:

>It could be that I have missed something, but how do you know that our
>`real' world is not a computer simulations in somebody's (possibly a
>teenager in some real universe, based on how well things are going) computer?

There is a lot of repetition on this thread, but no doubt there are always 
new people looking or those who have forgotten. 

It is conceivable that we are emulations, but several reasons to doubt it, 
among them: (1) Possibly (I think probably) an emulation is impossible in 
principle, because awareness demands  time-binding and space-binding 
properties not available to any computer. (2) Emulations would almost 
inevitably generate a cascade of sub-simulations which would effectively stop 
everything. (3) Someone advanced enough to simulate a person would likely be 
deterred by ethical considerations, or else (4) by fear of what those 
faster-living simulations might do (because they could communicate, and 
therefore could in principle dominate the programmer).

Daniel Crevier writes:

>How about the following thought experiment .......[Bits of your brain are 
replaced piecemeal by electronic subsitutes, tested at each stage, until 
everything has been replaced.]

> and you will have become a 'simulation' 
of yourself. 

(This is an old thought experiment, similar to one of mine in 1962.) No, this 
is not simulation; it is duplication at a certain level. If it works, it 
works--consciousness is retained, or duplicated. The philosophical problems 
of criteria of survival remain, and are much the same as with other kinds of 

>Step 3: Instead of going outdoors, interface with the VR setup. Since 
>you are still yourself, there is no reason you shouldn't be conscious of 
>this virtual grass and clouds. But you are now a simulated being 
>interfacing with a simulated reality. 

No, you are a real being, a copy in (say) silicon of an originally organic 
being, interfacing with virtual reality.

>Which goes to show, in my view, that there can be consciousness in a 
machine that does not interface with the real world.

The question of consciousness has nothing to do with whether the subject is 
interfacing with the real world or a virtual world. It depends on whether or 
not there is subjective experience in the (real or artificial) brain. 

Mike Perry writes:

>I don't have exact specifications of what constitutes awareness, but I think
>it depends on the properties of the ongoing computation, the way the bits
>are crunched, etc. rather than other things. 

I think it depends on the physical properties of the system, perhaps 
something like standing waves that bind time and space, which computer 
simulation cannot do.

>Awareness, I think, extends
>isomorphically. If a system has awareness, then so does an emulation of it.

Again for late comers, this assumption is unproven, although moderately 

>Has anyone talked to [Dawkins] about cryonics, or even telomerase? 

There are millions of similar cases out there; why would it make sense to try 
to approach them individually, merely because they happen to have gotten a 
bit of press? In our experience, there is no percentage in it, and those who 
want to make a contribution to cryonics will do better to work on their own 
relatives and friends. Forget the celebs.

Robert Ettinger
Cryonics Institute
Immortalist Society

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