The first part of your belief that "it is implausible that we are in a universe simulation" appears to be based on the argument:

If simulationism, then solipsism is likely.

Solipsism is unlikely, so . . .

Chain of logic aside, simulationism does not imply solipsism. Simulating N localized space-time patterns in one large simulation can be significantly cheaper than simulating N individual human simulations. So some simulated individuals may exist in small solipsist sims, but the great majority of conscious sims will find themselves in larger share... (read more)

To uploads, yes, but a faithful simulation of the universe, or even a small portion of it. would have to track a lot more variables than the processes of the human minds within it.

1datadataeverywhere9yI don't understand why human-mind equivalents are special in this regard. This seems very anthropocentric, but I could certainly be misinterpreting what you said. Cheaper, but not necessarily more efficient. It matters which answers one is looking for, or which goals one is after. It seems unlikely to me that my life is directed well enough to achieve interesting goals or answer interesting questions that a superintelligence might pose, but it seems even more unlikely that simulating 6 billion humans, in the particular way they appear (to me) to exist is an efficient way to answer most questions either. I'd like to stay away from telling God what to be interested in, but out of the infinite space of possibilities, Earth seems too banal and languorous to be the one in N that have been chosen for the purpose of simulation, especially if the basement universe has a different physics. If the basement universe matches our physics, I'm betting on the side that says simulating all the minds on Earth and enough other stuff to make the simulation consistent is an expensive enough proposition that it won't be worthwhile to do it many times. Maybe I'm wrong; there's no particular reason why simulating all of humanity in the year of 2011 needs to take more than 10^18 J, so maybe there's a "real" milky way that's currently running 10^18 planet-scale sims. Even that doesn't seem like a big enough number to convince me that we are likely to be one of those.

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).