Harry

Especially For Young Women

 
   

16/02/04

 

sexy girl woman in short skirt in the kitchen

Female

Are You A Computer Simulation?

Hi D

I have this awful feeling that the truth of the matter is that civilisations destroy themselves somewhere on their way to becoming 'advanced'. In fact, I find it very difficult to think of them not doing this.

One slip. One accident. One act of terror. One miscalculation. 

The Second Law of Thermodynamics!

And the notion that consciousness is an **extremely** lucky happenstance - a mere epiphenomenon - seems highly unlikely - but, yes, possible.

But I have a dilemma.

I cannot really believe that consciousness is just a piece of unimaginable luck.

I cannot really believe that consciousness is just a piece of unimaginable luck. And I also do not actually believe that we are ever going to understand consciousness.

And given that it does now seem as if there has been the most monumental amount of luck involved in so many areas that are essential to our existence, I am becoming somewhat disconcerted about the whole matter.

Goodness me. Even the presence of the Moon seems to have been essential to the evolution of life on Earth - producing inter-tidal zones thus providing a stepping stone towards life on dry land, throwing water-borne chemicals on to the shores, providing a source of night light, a way of navigation, varying the weather patterns and the climate, creating monthly lunar rhythms (often used for reproductive cycles) and so on.

And the fact that the Moon just happens also to be of the right size and distance to provide occasionally a total eclipse of the Sun while leaving the outer halo visible for scientific observation just seems astonishing.

 it is almost as if someone is playing games with us.

In all, it is almost as if someone is playing games with us.

Worse still, such a possibility not only seems highly likely - it seems to be the most reasonable conclusion that one can reach.

And being quite a hardened atheist, I find this very disturbing indeed.

And consciousness seems to be the big bugbear.

Why is there such a thing?

How on Earth did it happen?

What the hell is it?

How is it that consciousness is never likely to be understood? - well, certainly not by humans.

And, worst of all, given that its very presence seems likely to lead us humans into oblivion - see later! - it seems to me that the very presence of consciousness is telling us something that, thus far, most scientists seem to be missing. And this 'something' is quite alarming.

So why do we have it? Wherein lies the benefit?

It is sometimes argued that consciousness allows us to imagine different courses of action before we commit to them, but computers can be programmed to calculate all sorts of planning operations before executing any of them without, apparently, the need for consciousness.

So, again, why do we have it?

And it's no use just shrugging your shoulders and saying, "Well, there we are. That's just the way it is." Because, if you do this, then you are admitting that science has no answer to the question.

And if you just assume that consciousness is simply an epi-phenomenon (i.e. something that just happens to come along with the territory) then, my goodness, what another stroke of luck, eh?

How many more bits of luck are we going to admit to?

How many more bits of luck are we going to admit to?

And, of course, you might as well also say that the universe just happened to come along; i.e. science has gone out of the window.

Well, I'm afraid that science has actually gone out of the window when it comes to consciousness - because it cannot touch it.

If you doubt this, just ask yourself how you could ever determine whether or not, let us say, your TV was conscious.

How could you ever definitely know the answer to this question?

Worse. Given that you are definitely conscious, how do you know that any of your conscious experiences represent reality - rather than, say, some artificial construction; like virtual reality?

You could never know such things.

But that's another story.

For the moment, let us just accept the fact of consciousness, so that I can get on with the computer simulation argument and show you all what a nightmare it all is.

Well, in my view, even an earthworm is conscious - with a tiny, tiny, tiny, teensy glimmer of consciousness somewhere embedded in its cerebral ganglion.

I'm pretty convinced that consciousness is a product of brains (as opposed to something that is tapped into by brains) and, further, that it arises from their information processing activities. 

And I also suspect that the amount of consciousness that brains produce is directly correlated with the amount of processing going on.

And many people would agree with this generalised view.

But an extremely important question arises in relation to this. And this is a question that, ...

1. ... we will never really be able to answer.

2. ... has positively enormous implications - most of which are likely to be 'bad' for humans.

The question is this.

Is consciousness something special to brains because they are 'living' structures, or can any sufficiently complex information-processing devices become conscious?

we are in trouble

Now, if we believe in the latter, we are in trouble. And here is why.

At some time in the not-too-distant future we are going to have machines up to all sorts of information-processing shenanigans. And some of them will even start to look human.

And unless we have firmly implanted in our minds some convincing notion that they are not conscious (even if they are) they will end up taking us over.

Goodness me. It's bad enough getting rid of an old comfortable armchair.

That armchair is your friend!

You weep at the very thought that it will end up in the garbage dump.

That lovely unique constellation of cigarette burns.

Gone!

Those hardened coffee stains that match so well the ones on the carpet.

Gone!

Your whole week is ruined.

Can you imagine how much worse matters would be if you actually believed that your dear old armchair was actually conscious!?

And, possibly, that it was deeply attached to you!

comfortable armchair cartoon

"Please don't abandon me."

You would rather die a horrible and hideous death than be parted from it.

And so if information-processing machines are ever discovered to be conscious (or even if we *believe* them to be conscious) we have had it.

we will become their slaves

At the very least, we will become their slaves as we pander to their ever-increasing number of wishes.

Especially if they are constructed to look and feel like submissive sensual perfect womenfolk with enormous perfect breasts!

Men are already slaves to the very imperfect women that they've got; i.e. things are bad enough already.

So. Goodness knows what would happen if robots ever started looking like this ...

sexy girl woman in short skirt in the kitchen

... especially if we believed that they were conscious.

But, worse still, if it is the case that the information-processing done by computers leads to consciousness, then we are definitely in a truly unholy existential mess -  because it would ***clearly*** follow that 'we' might not exist at all!

Think carefully about that.

For example, 'we' could simply be a program running on somebody's home computer.

We might be some socially-oriented type of video game for some horrid little alien schoolgirl who should be doing her homework.

Perhaps we all exist only in some kind of virtual reality. And our consciousness arises because the parts of the program that represent 'us' are processing sufficient information to make those parts of the program (hence, 'us') conscious.

Scary, eh?

If heavy-duty information-processing machines (or, rather, parts of programs) are conscious, all is lost.

We could never even know if we - or if anything else that we perceive - actually exists.

It is therefore best to assume that such machines are not conscious

It is therefore best to assume that such machines are not conscious so that we do not get too glum about the likelihood that we are nothing more than sophisticated programs created for some other beings' amusement, and so that we also do not get too emotional over sophisticated robots that look human - especially, of course, if they look and feel like submissive sensual perfect womenfolk with enormous perfect breasts!

Remember: If the robots ever look like this, ... 

sexy girl woman in short skirt in the kitchen

... we will be doomed!

We will be enslaved by them.

(Well, I certainly will be.)

My only real problem with actually doing this myself (i.e. blindly assuming that machines can *never* be conscious) arises from that little earthworm. 

If the earthworm does, indeed, have a teensy, tiny, flimsy, nano-nano bit of consciousness, then what has it got that an enormous information-processing machine cannot emulate?

And then, of course, you could argue the same sort of thing by thinking about a rabbit, then a dog, then a monkey, then a human.

Surely, a super-duper computer will one day outdo them all?

In everything!

Even 'consciousness'!

Which leads us right back to the distinct possibility that we are each just a part of a very sophisticated video game - that can do the job of consciousness-raising far better than can a worm.

Thus, the bit of program that creates the dirty mug that sits upon my table is not very sophisticated or complex, and so the mug part of the computer program is not very conscious. But the bit that creates me and my perceptions is, needless to say, some of the finest and most sophisticated programming ever invented, and so this bit is extremely conscious - and good-looking too!

Indeed, unless there is something particularly peculiar about information-processing brain tissue - something that gives rise to consciousness in animals but not in machines - there is a **high likelihood** that we are nothing more than sophisticated programs written by an advanced species (or perhaps even written by our own **descendants**) who, for some reason, wanted to re-create a virtual reality experience of our prior existence.

Why would they do this?

Goodness knows.

Perhaps they want a better version of reality TV.

Perhaps they are trying to reconstruct their ancestors (us) as authentically as possible.

After all, are not these exactly the kinds of things that we do all the time? (Films, books, photographs, history, genealogy, paleontology, biology etc etc).

Even religion!

We are always trying to figure out who we are!!!

We are always trying to figure out who we are  -and putting the most enormous effort into it.

And an advanced species might be doing exactly the same thing.

With us being 'virtually created' to help them with their studies.

Perhaps, bit by bit, they painstakingly and scientifically reconstructed us on their computers, just like we are always trying to reconstruct the past.

That's not such a crazy idea, is it?

Or maybe these advanced beings did not descend from us at all.

They might have been our mortal enemies, and they are now simply replaying the coming Battle of the Species where the humans are finally obliterated by their own stupidity.

Indeed, from their own point of view, this replay of our past existence could be an award-winning comedy of some sort.

In summary: If machines can have consciousness, then we surely have a number of very, very serious problems to face. And this will be especially true if only machines can produce consciousness.

Think about the implications of that on a dark night!

But, in fact, this could certainly help us to to explain why we still appear to be so alone in the universe (Fermi's Paradox) and why every fundamental thing to do with Nature seems so hugely coincidental and, even stranger, seemingly in particular favour of our very own peculiar existence.

So, perhaps we are just a part of a damn good computer program - like Sim City - but they left out some of the more difficult complicated bits - like having aliens beaming out at us from elsewhere.

Perhaps this is the real reason why 'we' do not hear anything when we currently listen out for aliens from other galaxies.

They were, quite simply, not programmed in.

And they were not programmed in, perhaps, in case somehow we discovered from them about the impending subterfuge - so giving the game away.

The possibilities are truly endless if machines can be conscious.

Within virtual reality, just about anything can happen, and anything could be 'true'.

Which, of course, could be great news in some ways; particularly given that I might be able, eventually, to get my hands on this! ...

sexy girl woman in short skirt in the kitchen

Yo!

Anyway.

I really do think that we are genuinely lost if we ever believe that machines can be conscious - because those machines will then definitely 'take us over' - in one way or another.

Are We Doomed?

... My own guess is that if we are, indeed, nothing more than simulations, then we have probably been simulated for entertainment purposes as much as for anything else.

Perhaps the aliens who created us have also categorised the incidents and events that take place amongst us into the very same kinds of categories that we use in newspapers, libraries, theatres etc - 'War', 'Violence', 'Crime', 'Comedy', 'Tragedy', 'Soaps', 'Romance' ... ...

We, ourselves, are positively glued to such things.

There is nothing like a good yarn!

Perhaps, like us, they sit down in their armchairs in the evenings with their remote controls and select a category of events that they would like to view. And up pop some of us on to their screens, or even, perhaps, directly inside their heads.

Maybe some of them want to experience what it was actually like to be Jack the Ripper

Maybe some of them want to experience what it was actually like to be Jack the Ripper - or, perhaps, Elvis Presley, or JFK - or, perhaps, they just invented such people.

Think of the entertainment value that such things would have.

And, while on the subject, it is probably worthwhile summarising the Doomsday Argument for those of you who have yet to come across it or who cannot really fathom out what it is all about.

It goes something like this.

1. If you consider all the human beings ever to have lived (about 90 billion, thus far, according to recent estimates) and you were to pick just one of them at random from the total pool, the probability that your selected human was born within the first one million of people ever to have been born is pretty slim.

Very slim indeed.

Indeed, the probability is that this selected individual was alive quite recently.

2. The number of humans being generated is growing faster and faster. And in, say, some 300 years time, we could well reach a point where another 90 billion humans will have been born - which would mean that some 180 billion humans will have been born since the dawn of human history.

And this would mean that prior to the year 2000, some 90 billion humans will have lived, but between the years 2000 and 2300 another 90 billion would have been added.

And so, if, in the year 2300, you were to pick any human being at random from the total population of humans ever to have lived, the chances are about 50% that this human would have been born between 2000 and 2300.

3. And perhaps by the year 2600, there will be 1000 billion humans living throughout our Solar System.

And this would mean that between 2300 and 2600, a whopping 820 billion humans had been born.

And if in the year 2600 you were to select a human being at random from the total pool of humans ever to have been born, the chances are very high indeed that they would have been born very recently. 

In fact, they would likely also still be living! - because of the increase in life expectancies that would have occurred thanks to advances in medicine and technology.

4. Now, here is the important bit.

If it is true that the human race will some day wipe itself out by making some kind of terrible technological mistake, then it is almost certainly going to happen at a time when the human population is at the highest that it has ever been - perhaps in the year 2600.

But the important point is that this will be at the very same time at which; 'should a human be selected at random (from all those who have ever been born) the most likely result will be that the human being so picked will have been born very recently - and, in fact, is very likely still to be living'.

In other words, the human race will wipe itself out at a point in time in which "Mr Average" is living.

And one horrible logical consequence of this is as follows.

When you try to look at the Universe as a whole, and you have got absolutely no idea where you are in the scheme of things - which is exactly the case currently; at least, with regard to other life forms and such - then your best bet, by far, is quite simply to believe that you are Mr Average - neither too much this way, nor too much that way.

But, as we have seen above, if it is true that the human race will some day wipe itself out, then Mr Average will be someone living extremely close to (or at) the time when the whole human race is about to be extinguished.

Mr Average is doomed!

And so, if we are, indeed, Mr Average (which is the most likely case) and if it is also true that the human race will some day wipe itself out, then we had best get ready to dive under the bed covers pretty soon; because Mr Average is doomed!

Mr Average is always doomed!

And yet Mr Average is the very best guess as to who we actually are!

Yikes!

However, of course, it might be the case that human beings are not, in fact, destined to wipe themselves out.

And, if this is true, then Mr Average can relax. He is not doomed to extinction over the next few years.

Hurrah!

Hurrah!

But the news is still not good.

Because, if we are, indeed, Mr Average (which is the most likely case) and we are neither too much this way, nor too much that way, then the likelihood is also very strong indeed that there exist many civilisations that are a few thousand years ahead of our own, technologically speaking, and, as such, their life forms (or their investigatory robots) should now be milling around all over the place.

In fact, some of those civilisations should be millions of years more advanced than Mr Average.

So. Where are they!?

They should be here!

(Remember that we are assuming that they did not wipe themselves out.)

if they are here, then why can we not see them?

And if they are here, then why can we not see them?

Well, of course, perhaps this is because we really are nothing but computer simulations - but simulations whose programmers have yet to include the simulation of aliens.

And so, in conclusion, it seems that there is a very good chance that we are ...

1. ... nothing more than computer simulations, or 

2. ... that we are shortly doomed.

Lose-Lose!

Of course, it could just be that we are not, in fact, Mr Average, but something rather special. Perhaps we just happen to be among the very earliest of civilisations and that we are, in fact, living many years in advance of our own civilisation's population 'explosion' - in which case, of course, we are definitely not Mr Average.

But, if this is true, then, basically, we are alone. Alone in this vast universe.

But, of course, the chances of this being true are very slim indeed.

So, in a nutshell, this is the situation.

The best guess, by far, is that we are Mr Average.

But, if this is actually the case, then we are left with two highly likely but very unhappy possibilities.

1. Civilisations tend to destroy themselves as a result of technological advancement and, being Mr Average, disaster will soon be coming upon us.

2. Civilisations do not destroy themselves - in which case (given that we are Mr Average rather than any leader in the pack) the aliens are, in fact, already all around us - but we cannot see them - and this rather suggests that we are simply simulations of some sort who have been programmed not to see them.

Yes indeed. Whichever way you look at it, the news is not very good.

On the other hand, of course, we might not be Mr Average.

 In which case, we are probably all alone.

Sleep well.

Also see, ...

 More Women Than Men Required

 



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