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Hypothesis 8, male variance in IQ, is irrelevant to the extent that this site is about rationality, not IQ. Whatever IQ tests measure, it is neither instrumental nor epistemic rationality. See What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought by Keith E. Stanovich for extensive discussion of this point. Even if there is male-female variance in IQ, that does not imply a male-female variance in rationality.
I think the likelihood of our descendants simulating us is negligible. While it is remotely conceivable that some super-simulators who are astronomically larger than us and not necessarily subject to the same physical laws, could pull off such a simulation, I think there is no chance that our descendants, limited by the energy output of a star, the number of atoms in a few planets, and the speed of light barrier, could plausibly simulate us at the level of detail we experience.
This is the classic fractal problem. As the map becomes more and more accurate, it become larger and larger until it is the same size as the territory. The only simulation our descendants could possibly achieve, assuming they don't have better things to do with their time, would be much less detailed than reality.
I don't think it's that hard to defend. That people like us emerge accidentally is the default assumption of most working scientists today. Personally I find that a lot more likely than that we are living in a simulation.
And even if you think that it is more likely that we are living in a simulation (I don't, by the way) there's still the question of how the simulators arose. I'd prefer not to make it an infinite regress. Such an approach veers dangerously close to unfalsifiable theology. (Who created/simulated God? Meta-God. Well then, who created/simulated Meta-God? Meta-Meta-God. And who created/simulated Meta-Meta-God?...)
Sometime, somewhere there's a start. Occam's Razor suggests that the start is our universe, in the Big Bang, and that we are not living in a simulation. But even if we are living in a simulation, then someone is not living in a simulation.
I also think there are stronger, physical arguments for assuming we're not in a digital simulation. That is, I think the universe routinely does things we could not expect any digital computer to do. But that is a subject for another post.
This argument is anthropomorphizing. It assumes that the purpose of the purported simulation is to model humanity. Suppose it isn't? Suppose the purpose of the simulation is to model a universe with certain physical laws, and one of the unexpected outcomes is that intelligent technological life happens to evolve on a small rocky planet around one star out in the spiral arm of one galaxy. That could be a completely unexpected outcome, maybe even an unnoticed outcome, of a simulation with a very different purpose.
Something doesn't click here. You claim "that we live in an unbelievably computationally expensive universe, and we really don't need to. We could easily be supplied with a far, far grainier simulation and never know the difference"; but how do we know that we do live in a computationally expensive universe if we can't recognize the difference between this and a less computationally expensive universe? Almost by definition anything we can measure (or perhaps more accurately have measured) is a necessary component of the simulation.
Thought-provoking indeed. I agree with you that the scale we've picked for utils is arbitrary, and the zero we've picked is also arbitrary. After reading through the comments, I begin to wonder if we should go farther. We talk about utils as if this is a quantity we can actually measure, but is that true? Are we measuring anything at all? Is a numeric measure of any kind at all helpful here?
Let me propose a situation: Given a choice between beer and steak, John chooses the steak. Given a choice between steak and ice cream, John chooses the ice cream. Given a choice between ice cream and beer, John chooses the beer. Which item has the highest utility to John? There's just no way to make sense of that in terms of real-valued utils because real numbers are transitive, and utility doesn't have to be.
If utils do make sense, I ask someone to produce an actual means of measuring them, fuzzy and approximate thought it may be. I can't figure out any mathematically consistent way to do this that doesn't resolve to some other more easily measured quantity such as money or dopamine levels or quality-adjusted life years (QALYs). And if one of those is what we're measuring, then we should probably just go ahead and say so.
In fact, in different problems we're likely to want different kinds of utility. Sometimes a problem is best understood in terms of money. In others, it's better understood in QALYs, and money may be not the measure but rather the constraint. That is, given that we have X dollars to work with, how can we maximize QALYs?
Bu if we just use abstract "utils" or "utilons" without connecting those to something we can measure in the non-hypothetical world, I'm not sure we get any useful information that applies outside of an axiomatic system that may not model reality.
When it comes to understanding how our universe evolves, religion and theology have been at best irrelevant. They often muddy the waters, for example, by focusing on questions of nothingness without providing any definition of the term based on empirical evidence. While we do not yet fully understand the origin of our universe, there is no reason to expect things to change in this regard. Moreover, I expect that ultimately the same will be true for understanding of areas that religion now considers its own territory, such as human morality.
Science has been effective at furthering our understanding of nature because the scientific ethos is based on three key principles: (1) follow the evidence wherever it leads; (2) if one has a theory, one needs to be willing to try to prove it wrong as much as one tries to prove that it is right; (3) the ultimate arbiter of truth is experiment, not the comfort one derives from one's a priori beliefs, nor the beauty or elegance one ascribes to one's theoretical models.
Lawrence M. Krauss, A Universe from Nothing, xvi
The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling.
Yes, I picked it up because it's by the Harry Potter lady; but it's hard to imagine how a book could be further away from Harry Potter. This is an ultra-realist novel for adults. By ultra-realist, I mean that not only are there no magical or science fictional elements. There aren't even any implausible elements or plot devices. (OK, maybe one involving some SQL injection, but it at least falls into the realm of the possible.) That is, this is a book about people who behave pretty much exactly like real people do; no heroes or villains here, though there are more and less likeable characters.
If Rowling's name were not on the cover, I doubt anyone would ever have suspected this book was by her. It really is that different. The language is different. The point of view is different (third person omniscient instead of Harry Potter's less common third person limited omniscient view). The novel is far more character driven than the plot-centric Harry Potter novels. There are no big reversals where you discover the good guy is the bad guy and the bad guy is the good guy. (This would be quite hard to pull off in third person omniscient, in any case.)
However, there is one thing that really stands out; and both connects this novel to Rowling, and distinguishes it from most other fiction including the Harry Potter novels. The children are equally well-drawn as characters, and equally important to the story as the adults. Although this is an adult novel, it is not one that makes the mistake of treating children as set dressing. The children here are real and significant. In LessWrong speak, everyone's a PC. There are no NPCs. Most adult novels ignore children. Most children's novels ignore adults. It is rare to find a novel that treats both children and adults as characters in their own right.
I don't think those questions are mere stand-ins. I think the answers to "does X deserve legal consideration?" or "does X deserve moral consideration?" depend heavily on "Is X conscious?" and "Does X experience pain/pleasure?" That is, if we answer "Is X conscious?" and "Does X experience pain/pleasure?" then we can answer "does X deserve legal consideration?" and "does X deserve moral consideration?"
If "Is X conscious?" and "Does X experience pain/pleasure?" simply stand-ins for "does X deserve legal consideration?" or "does X deserve moral consideration?", then if we answered the latter two we'd stop caring about the former. I don't think that's so. There are still very interesting, very deep scientific questions to be answered about juts what it means when we say something is conscious.
The problem is that I, for one, don't know what the question "Is X conscious?" means and I'm not sure how to judge "Does X experience pain/pleasure?" in a non-biological context either. Nor has anyone else ever convinced me they know the answers to these questions. Still, it does seem as if neurobiology is making slow progress on these questions so they're probably not intractable or meaningless. When all is said and done, they may not mean exactly what we vaguely feel they mean today; but I suspect that "conscious" will be more like the concept of "atom" than the concept of "ether". I.e. we'll recognize a clear connection between the original use of the word and the much more refined and detailed understanding we eventually come to. On the other hand, I could be wrong about that; and consciousness could turn out to be as useless a concept as ether or phlogiston.
That sounds like very useful advice. Do you have some suggestions for where to start learning this? E.g. particular books, classes, or Youtube videos?
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