This is a bit rough, but I think that it is an interesting and potentially compelling idea. To keep this short, and accordingly increase the number of eyes over it, I have only sketched the bare bones of the idea.
1) Empirically, people have varying intuitions and beliefs about causality, particularly in Newcomb-like problems (http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Newcomb's_problem, http://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl, and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irresistible_grace).
2) Also, as an empirical matter, some people believe in taking actions after the fact, such as one-boxing, or Calvinist “irresistible grace”, to try to ensure or conform with a seemingly already determined outcome. This might be out of a sense of retrocausality, performance, moral honesty, etc. What matters is that we know that they will act it out, despite it violating common sense causality. There has been some great work on decision theory on LW about trying to thread this needle well.
3) The second disjunct of the simulation argument (http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Simulation_argument) shows that the decision making of humanity is evidentially relevant in what our subjective credence should be that we are in a simulation. That is to say, if we are actively headed toward making simulations, we should increase our credence of being in a simulation, if we are actively headed away from making simulations, through either existential risk or law/policy against it, we should decrease our credence.
4) Many, if not most, people would like for there to be a pleasant afterlife after death, especially if we could be reunited with loved ones.
5) There is no reason to believe that simulations which are otherwise nearly identical copies of our world, could not contain, after the simulated bodily death of the participants, an extremely long-duration, though finite, "heaven"-like afterlife shared by simulation participants.
6) Our heading towards creating such simulations, especially if they were capable of nesting simulations, should increase credence that we exist in such a simulation and should perhaps expect a heaven-like afterlife of long, though finite, duration.
7) Those who believe in alternative causality, or retrocausality, in Newcomb-like situations should be especially excited about the opportunity to push the world towards surviving, allowing these types of simulations, and creating them, as it would potentially suggest, analogously, that if they work towards creating simulations with heaven-like afterlives, that they might in some sense be “causing” such a heaven to exist for themselves, and even for friends and family who have already died. Such an idea of life-after-death, and especially for being reunited with loved ones, can be extremely compelling.
8) I believe that people matching the above description, that is, holding both an intuition in alternative causality, and finding such a heaven-like-afterlife compelling, exist. Further, the existence of such people, and their associated motivation to try to create such simulations, should increase the credence even of two-boxing types, that we already live in such a world with a heaven-like afterlife. This is because knowledge of a motivated minority desiring simulations should increase credence in the likely success of simulations. This is essentially showing that “this probably happened before, one level up” from the two-box perspective.
9) As an empirical matter, I also think that there are people who would find the idea of creating simulations with heaven-like afterlives compelling, even if they are not one-boxers, from a simply altruistic perspective, both since it is a nice thing to do for the future sim people, who can, for example, probabilistically have a much better existence than biological children on earth can, and as it is a nice thing to do to increase the credence (and emotional comfort) of both one-boxers and two-boxers in our world thinking that there might be a life after death.
10) This creates the opportunity for a secular movement in which people work towards creating these simulations, and use this work and potential success in order to derive comfort and meaning from their life. For example, making donations to a simulation-creating or promoting, or existential threat avoiding, think-tank after a loved one’s death, partially symbolically, partially hopefully.
11) There is at least some room for Pascalian considerations even for two-boxers who allow for some humility in their beliefs. Nozick believed one-boxers will become two boxers if Box A is raised to 900,000, and two-boxers will become one-boxers if Box A is lowered to $1. Similarly, trying to work towards these simulations, even if you do not find it altruistically compelling, and even if you think that the odds of alternative or retrocausality is infinitesimally small, might make sense in that the reward could be extremely large, including potentially trillions of lifetimes worth of time spent in an afterlife “heaven” with friends and family.
Finally, this idea might be one worth filling in (I have been, in my private notes for over a year, but am a bit shy to debut that all just yet, even working up the courage to post this was difficult) if only because it is interesting, and could be used as a hook to get more people interested in existential risk, including the AI control problem. This is because existential catastrophe is probably the best enemy of credence in the future of such simulations, and accordingly in our reasonable credence in thinking that we have such a heaven awaiting us after death now. A short hook headline like “avoiding existential risk is key to afterlife” can get a conversation going. I can imagine Salon, etc. taking another swipe at it, and in doing so, creating publicity which would help in finding more similar minded folks to get involved in the work of MIRI, FHI, CEA etc. There are also some really interesting ideas about acausal trade, and game theory between higher and lower worlds, as a form of “compulsion” in which they punish worlds for not creating heaven containing simulations (therefore effecting their credence as observers of the simulation), in order to reach an equilibrium in which simulations with heaven-like afterlives are universal, or nearly universal. More on that later if this is received well.
Also, if anyone would like to join with me in researching, bull sessioning, or writing about this stuff, please feel free to IM me. Also, if anyone has a really good, non-obvious pin with which to pop my balloon, preferably in a gentle way, it would be really appreciated. I am spending a lot of energy and time on this if it is fundamentally flawed in some way.
November 11 Updates and Edits for Clarification
1) There seems to be confusion about what I mean by self-location and credence. A good way to think of this is the Sleeping Beauty Problem (https://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Sleeping_Beauty_problem)
If I imagine myself as Sleeping Beauty (and who doesn’t?), and I am asked on Sunday what my credence is that the coin will be tails, I will say 1/2. If I am awakened during the experiment without being told which day it is and am asked what my credence is that the coin was tails, I will say 2/3. If I am then told it is Monday, I will update my credence to ½. If I am told it is Tuesday I update my credence to 1. If someone asks me two days after the experiment about my credence of it being tails, if I somehow do not know the days of the week still, I will say ½. Credence changes with where you are, and with what information you have. As we might be in a simulation, we are somewhere in the “experiment days” and information can help orient our credence. As humanity potentially has some say in whether or not we are in a simulation, information about how humans make decisions about these types of things can and should effect our credence.
Imagine Sleeping Beauty is a lesswrong reader. If Sleeping Beauty is unfamiliar with the simulation argument, and someone asks her about her credence of being in a simulation, she probably answers something like 0.0000000001% (all numbers for illustrative purposes only). If someone shows her the simulation argument, she increases to 1%. If she stumbles across this blog entry, she increases her credence to 2%, and adds some credence to the additional hypothesis that it may be a simulation with an afterlife. If she sees that a ton of people get really interested in this idea, and start raising funds to build simulations in the future and to lobby governments both for great AI safeguards and for regulation of future simulations, she raises her credence to 4%. If she lives through the AI superintelligence explosion and simulations are being built, but not yet turned on, her credence increases to 20%. If humanity turns them on, it increases to 50%. If there are trillions of them, she increases her credence to 60%. If 99% of simulations survive their own run-ins with artificial superintelligence and produce their own simulations, she increases her credence to 95%.
2) This set of simulations does not need to recreate the current world or any specific people in it. That is a different idea that is not necessary to this argument. As written the argument is premised on the idea of creating fully unique people. The point would be to increase our credence that we are functionally identical in type to the unique individuals in the simulation. This is done by creating ignorance or uncertainty in simulations, so that the majority of people similarly situated, in a world which may or may not be in a simulation, are in fact in a simulation. This should, in our ignorance, increase our credence that we are in a simulation. The point is about how we self-locate, as discussed in the original article by Bostrom. It is a short 12-page read, and if you have not read it yet, I would encourage it: http://simulation-argument.com/simulation.html. The point about past loved ones I was making was to bring up the possibility that the simulations could be designed to transfer people to a separate after-life simulation where they could be reunited after dying in the first part of the simulation. This was not about trying to create something for us to upload ourselves into, along with attempted replicas of dead loved ones. This staying-in-one simulation through two phases, a short life, and relatively long afterlife, also has the advantage of circumventing the teletransportation paradox as “all of the person" can be moved into the afterlife part of the simulation.