July 29, 2005
Transhumanism : are we there yet?
This paper argues that at least one of the following propositions is true: (1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage; (2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof); (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation. It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor-simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation. A number of other consequences of this result are also discussed.
It's a fun read, partly because it's short. I think Nick Bostrum assumes something which is not right, though.
The much-touted "singularity", when/if it occurs, will, by definition, be so far beyond our current understanding of what technological advance entails as to render any present philosophising about its nature meaningless (of course, that doesn't stop us trying to second guess!)
This implies that, outside of science fiction, the technological foundations for discussing whether we are a manifestation of a curious posthuman civilization or not are rather shaky. We treat computing power as a tool today. In the future, if posthuman computing power really is unlimited, it probably won't be under the diect influence of our descendants in the way that we control the computers of today. It will not behave according to our current understanding of computing devices, and may well have its own notions about what software it wants to run. Whether that includes running human ancestor simulations is completely unknowable at the present time. Indeed, whether any kind of cooperation with human beings can be inferred from computing power of essentially infinite resource is certainly not a given.
Arguments extrapolating technological progress into the deep future - and its sociological effects - usually have a tendency to look pretty silly fifty years on - and I'm sure that includes the points I've made above, too.
Where's my personal rocket plane and my summer house on the moon?
Posted by daen at July 29, 2005 12:07 AM