“Why We Are Probably Not Living in a Computer Simulation” by Preston Greene (17 Oct)

Nick Bostrom’s simulation argument shows that if we believe that civilizations like ours tend to eventually run many simulations of their past history, then we should be nearly certain that we are currently living in such a simulation. Bostrom discusses two reasons why civilizations like ours might not tend to run simulations—neither of which is fully compelling—i) that they tend to become extinct before acquiring the required technology, and ii) that they tend to decide against simulation because they find it morally reprehensible or uninteresting. In this paper, I develop a more compelling reason to think that advanced civilizations tend not to run simulations: viz., that deciding to create simulations of the sort required by the simulation argument is irrational (on the basis of self-interest), and the inhabitants of advanced civilizations are likely to be rational. Thus, reflection on rational decision making shows us that we are probably not living in a computer simulation. Even so, I end by warning that newly-designed experimental research aimed at determining whether our universe is a simulation is more dangerous than has been realized, and the scientific community should consider discontinuing it.

Philosophy Seminar Series.
Date: Thursday, 17 Oct 2013
Time: 2pm – 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3 #05-23)
Speaker: Preston Greene, Nanyang Technological University
Moderator: Dr. Ben Blumson

About the Speaker:

Preston Greene is an assistant professor in the philosophy group at Nanyang Technological University. He completed his PhD at Rutgers University before coming to NTU in August. Before graduate school he was an actor, game show host, educational software developer, and intercollegiate soccer player at the University of California at Santa Cruz. His research concerns ethics, epistemology, and philosophy of science.

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