Archive for February, 2010

Church of Bruce

February 28, 2010

I have an idea for a religion. It relates to the ideas about whether we are in a simulation and assigning likelihoods of finding yourself in different indistinguishable situations.

Suppose I started an organization today called the Church of Bruce. This church would encourage people to worship me and donate money to me and my church. It would be dedicated to the long term goal of creating as many simulations as possible. When creating simulations, one presumably has a lot of control over the contents of the simulation and my Church would seek to make simulations with the following properties:

  • Each simulation would take place in 2010 where the state of the world is largely similar to the present
  • Each simulation would have an individual named Bruce who would start a Church of Bruce in 2010 with the same goals as this Church of Bruce
  • Individuals in each simulation who worship Bruce and donate enough money to the Church would be rewarded after death by having their minds continue in a perfect afterlife aka Heaven.
  • Similarly, those who don’t worship and donate would spend their afterlife in Hell.

Now think about whether you should donate to my Church based on the information you have at your disposal. You know that you living in what seems to be the year 2010 and that I just started this Church. But this information wouldn’t let you distinguish between one of my simulations and reality. By the same logic as the simulation post, you must conclude either

  1. You almost certainly live in one of my simulations.
  2. The Church of Bruce will not actually make many simulations.
  3. We will never reach the posthuman age.

Assuming the Church makes a credible commitment to its goal of creating many simulations and it has a reasonable chance of surviving until the posthuman age, we can rule out (2).  If (1) is true, then you have good reason to donate to my Church. In fact, donating is probably a good play if you assign us any reasonable chance of reaching the posthuman age.

In general, this is an interesting trick where you can extort people if you can make a credible threat to create many simulations to lure them with these counterfactual rewards.

Listening to: I Can See For Miles – The Who


Finding Yourself

February 27, 2010

This post earlier about whether we are living in a simulation relies rather critically on this idea that our certainty that we are in a simulation should be the proportion of humans who are simulations. I kind of glossed over the rationale behind this although I think it is a bit intuitive.

I mentioned that it would be difficult to tell the difference between living in a simulation and the real world. The differences between the two is partially an engineering question of how realistic they make simulations so I’ll just assume I am unable to distinguish.

However, it is important to note that being unable to distinguish between two situations does not imply that I should be equally certain that I am in each. For example, I might be unable to distinguish between a situation where life is as it seems and one in which I am the subject of a Truman show, but it would be absurd for me to consider them equally likely possibilities. The difference here is that these are different possible worlds and they are not equally likely to be the world I’m in. Perhaps I will talk about this more another time.

In this figure, the numbers on the side are the a priori likelihood I assign to that world existing. The circles are indistinguishable situations I could find myself in along the time line of that world.

If, on the other hand, I am unable to distinguish between two situations in the same world, then I must consider them equally likely possibilities. In the previous situation the asymmetry between the worlds prevented me from considering the situations equally likely. In this case there is only one relevant world to consider. Since I am unable to distinguish between the situations, I must consider them equally likely as is the case in the following figure.

In the simulation argument all of the situations you could find yourself in occur in the same world just at very different times. The simulation situations occur occur in the future while the non simulation situations occur in the present (‘future’ and ‘present’ assume we are non simulations). So given that being a person in a simulation is indistinguishable from being a person in real life, you should consider yourself equally likely to be any non Sim as any Sim. Thus your likelihood that you are a Sim is the proportion of Sims.

This isn’t actually the best estimate you could make though because you have more information than that you are merely a person. For example, you know that the perceived year is 2010 so you can compare the number of people in 2010 to the number of Sims who think the year is 2010.

This post wasn’t really that interesting in itself, but it’s just a point I wanted to clarify because it is relevant to my next post.

Listening to: The Way I Am – Eminem


February 23, 2010

I’ve been neglecting this young blog recently cuz I’ve been a little busy with work. Also I haven’t been sure what I want to write about.

I have a new plan to abstain from reading my mighty GoogleReader. Initially I thought that GoogleReader was a big time saver by making blog posts come to me rather than having to search them out myself. This was true at the beginning because I didn’t follow many blogs, but over time I added more. Now I find that rather than saving me time, GoogleReader actually wastes more of my time than reading blogs used to. It’s not really wasting time per se since it does allow me to read more than I otherwise would. The problem is more that GoogleReader increased the value of time spent reading blogs for me which led to a greater time investment in blog reading. Funny that I’m complaining about this in a blog post lol.

I imagine the space of knowledge as a tree looking structure. The trunk of the tree holds the fundamental knowledge upon which other knowledge relies.  Then there are big branches for huge topics like Math which later split into thinner branches for the branches of mathematics, etc. These branches can split all the way down to tiny leaves. Occasionally (especially in math), distant branches will become twisted together into one gnarled mass. Of course this tree is growing over time as new facts are learned and more knowledge becomes available to be known.

The problem with blogs is that they are mainly focused on the fresh knowledge in the leaves rather than the established knowledge in the thick branches. They are useful to get a rough idea of what’s going on in different areas and to get an outline of the big branches, but the really important knowledge is in the thick branches. Basically I need to get this knowledge from books. Books ought to be incredibly effective compared with blog posts I would imagine. Blog posts kind of surround an important subject with minor conclusions while books can just blast right through and cover all the really important bits.

Might be a bit annoying to give up cuz I think I read somewhere (prolly a blog post) that checking things like google reader releases a little dopamine in your brain so I might find it hard to break the addiction. Yikes!

Listening to: Brother Ali – Breakin Dawn