X-Message-Number: 8302
Date: Mon, 9 Jun 1997 15:11:54 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: #8296

Seems to me Mr. McCluskey (#8296) is off the mark in several respects.

1. I said that someone living in a simulation and running experiments might
not encounter surprises--things not implied by known rules--and thus might
have reason to believe he is indeed in a simulation--since in the (or in a)
real world, with the laws of nature not fully known, surprises are to be
expected. Mr. McCluskey said this is circular reasoning, since it is based on
observing a world I believe to be real.

No, it isn't circular reasoning. In the discussion, we really haven't
established any clear agreements about the conditions of the experiment; but
presumably any simulation would be started by people much like us and in a
similar, slightly more advanced civilization. If these assumptions are
rejected, then discussion becomes much more difficult.

Actually, we could hardly be in a simulation, under the terms of the
discussion as I understood them, because the whole idea was that the
simulated world (our planet and environs, maybe, with its people) would allow
individuals to carry on their lives as they would have done in the real
world. This could only begin at a future point in history, not now or in the
past, since the capability does not yet exist.

In any case--again, according to the terms of the discussion as I understand
them--the simulated world would be as much like the real one as the
programmers' knowledge permitted. Hence, under any reasonable assumptions,
surprises (discoveries) would be expected in a real world, not in a simulated
world (except possibly for deliberately programmed surprises, which one would
think ruled out by the assumption of maximum verisimilitude).

2. I said that programmers usually write bugs in complex programs, and
simulated programmers in sims and subsims would also. Mr. McCluskey says (a)
you can tend to avoid bugs by keeping the rules simple, say quantum
mechanics, and start with the big bang; and (b) if there is a bug at sim
level X, you could start over at some point and eventually get rid of bugs,
and a typical simulated person would observe no evidence of crashes.

(a) Again, this changes the rules of the discussion, as I understood them. We
are not starting a new universe; we are trying to continue our present world
and present lives by simulation.  The rules cannot be kept simple, because
the world and the people in it are complex.

(b) First, if you have to backtrack and rejigger the program, then my
proposition was correct--the simulated lives (or at least some of them) did
not continue as the original would. Second, the bug might (it seems to me)
not necessarily "crash" the program, but instead just cause goofy results.

3. Mr. McCluskey bypasses the question of proof of the information paradigm
by saying his reliance on the information paradigm is not a statement about
nature but about his own values. My point exactly. The info folk believe it
because they want to believe it. (In fairness, of course, they also have
plausibility to help them, plus the lack of any definitive proof for any
competing idea.) My position is the extremely simple one that, until we know
more, it is premature to take any firm position. It could also be dangerous;
there is evidence that at least some info people bypass cryonics in favor of
hypothetical uploading.

The major point is that values should not be considered arbitrary. I believe
we can and should restructure our values based on biophysics and logic.

4. On the question of sim speeds, I'll just note a couple of possible ways in
which they might be fast. One might involve "quantum computing." Another
might involve just programming tricks, such as modules for certain biological
or neurological functions, interchangeable among individuals, so that it is
not necessary to model every detail of every individual separately. (Or every
detail of every drop of water separately etc.)

Robert Ettinger

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