Why do we write books about Roman History and debate what really happened? Why do we make television shows or movies out of it?

Consider this just the evolution of what we already do today, for much of the same reasons, but amplified by astronomical powers of increased intelligence/computation generating thought/simulation.

This is the kind of naive forward extrapolation that gets you sci fi dystopias. Most of the things we do today don't bear extrapolating to logical extremes, certainly not this.

Calculations of the likely outcomes of certain events are

... (read more)

The simulation doesn't teach us more than we already know about history. What we already know about history sets the upper bound on how similar we can make it. Given the size of the possibility space, we can only reasonably assume that it's different in every way that we do not enforce similarity on it. The simulation doesn't contribute to knowing everything you could possibly know about your history, that's a prerequisite, if you want the simulation to be faithful.

This would be true if we were equally ignorant about all of history. However, there are s... (read more)

0jacob_cannell9yMost of the things we do today are predictable developments of what previous generations did, and this statement holds across time. There is a natural evolutionary progression: dreams/daydreams/visualizations -> oral stories/mythologies -> written stories/plays/art -> movies/television->CG/virtual reality/games->large scale simulations It isn't 'extrapolating to logical extremes', it is future prediction based on extrapolation of system evolution. Of course it does. What is our current knowledge about history? It consists of some rough beliefs stored in the low precision analog synapses of our neural networks and a bunch of word-symbols equivalent to the rough beliefs. With enough simulation we could get concise probability estimates or samples of the full configuration of particles on earth every second for the last billion years - all stored in precise digital transistors, for example. This is true only for some initial simulation, but each successive simulation refines knowledge, expands the belief network, and improves the next simulation. You recurse. Not at all. Given an estimate on the state of a system at time T and the rules of the system's time evolution (physics), simulation can derive values for all subsequent time steps. The generated data is then analyzed and confirms or adjusts theories. You can then iteratively refine. For a quick primitive example, perhaps future posthumans want to understand in more detail why the roman empire collapsed. A bunch of historian/designers reach some rough consensus on a model (built on pieces of earlier models) to build an earth at that time and populate it with inhabitants (creating minds may involve using stand in actors for an initial generation of parents). Running this model forward may reveal that the lead had little effect, that previous models of some roman military formations don't actually work, that a crop harvest in 32BC may have been more important than previously thought .. and so on.

Theists are wrong; is theism?

by Will_Newsome 1 min read20th Jan 2011539 comments


Many folk here on LW take the simulation argument (in its more general forms) seriously. Many others take Singularitarianism1 seriously. Still others take Tegmark cosmology (and related big universe hypotheses) seriously. But then I see them proceed to self-describe as atheist (instead of omnitheist, theist, deist, having a predictive distribution over states of religious belief, et cetera), and many tend to be overtly dismissive of theism. Is this signalling cultural affiliation, an attempt to communicate a point estimate, or what?

I am especially confused that the theism/atheism debate is considered a closed question on Less Wrong. Eliezer's reformulations of the Problem of Evil in terms of Fun Theory provided a fresh look at theodicy, but I do not find those arguments conclusive. A look at Luke Muehlhauser's blog surprised me; the arguments against theism are just not nearly as convincing as I'd been brought up to believe2, nor nearly convincing enough to cause what I saw as massive overconfidence on the part of most atheists, aspiring rationalists or no.

It may be that theism is in the class of hypotheses that we have yet to develop a strong enough practice of rationality to handle, even if the hypothesis has non-negligible probability given our best understanding of the evidence. We are becoming adept at wielding Occam's razor, but it may be that we are still too foolhardy to wield Solomonoff's lightsaber Tegmark's Black Blade of Disaster without chopping off our own arm. The literature on cognitive biases gives us every reason to believe we are poorly equipped to reason about infinite cosmology, decision theory, the motives of superintelligences, or our place in the universe.

Due to these considerations, it is unclear if we should go ahead doing the equivalent of philosoraptorizing amidst these poorly asked questions so far outside the realm of science. This is not the sort of domain where one should tread if one is feeling insecure in one's sanity, and it is possible that no one should tread here. Human philosophers are probably not as good at philosophy as hypothetical Friendly AI philosophers (though we've seen in the cases of decision theory and utility functions that not everything can be left for the AI to solve). I don't want to stress your epistemology too much, since it's not like your immortal soul3 matters very much. Does it?

Added: By theism I do not mean the hypothesis that Jehovah created the universe. (Well, mostly.) I am talking about the possibility of agenty processes in general creating this universe, as opposed to impersonal math-like processes like cosmological natural selection.

Added: The answer to the question raised by the post is "Yes, theism is wrong, and we don't have good words for the thing that looks a lot like theism but has less unfortunate connotations, but we do know that calling it theism would be stupid." As to whether this universe gets most of its reality fluid from agenty creators... perhaps we will come back to that argument on a day with less distracting terminology on the table.



1 Of either the 'AI-go-FOOM' or 'someday we'll be able to do lots of brain emulations' variety.

2 I was never a theist, and only recently began to question some old assumptions about the likelihood of various Creators. This perhaps either lends credibility to my interest, or lends credibility to the idea that I'm insane.

Or the set of things that would have been translated to Archimedes by the Chronophone as the equivalent of an immortal soul (id est, whatever concept ends up being actually significant).