I want some of what John Tierney has, stat. I don’t know, I read the entire article and there wasn’t one mention of the flux capacitor so I’m not sure how convinced I am about this whacky premise. I am convinced Tierney and/or Dr. Bostrom has some kick ass weed on hand though.
The basic gist of the story is that at the rate computers are advancing a computer will be created with more processing powers than all the brains in the world and that advanced humans or “posthumans” as Tierney calls them will be able to run “ancestor simulations” of their evolutionary history by creating virtual worlds inhabited by virtual people with fully developed virtual nervous systems.
Some computer experts have projected, based on trends in processing power, that we will have such a computer by the middle of this century, but it doesn’t matter for Dr. Bostrom’s argument whether it takes 50 years or 5 million years. If civilization survived long enough to reach that stage, and if the posthumans were to run lots of simulations for research purposes or entertainment, then the number of virtual ancestors they created would be vastly greater than the number of real ancestors.
There would be no way for any of these ancestors to know for sure whether they were virtual or real, because the sights and feelings they’d experience would be indistinguishable. But since there would be so many more virtual ancestors, any individual could figure that the odds made it nearly certain that he or she was living in a virtual world.
Dr. Bostrom says his “gut feeling” is that there’s about a 20% chance that we are living in a computer simulation while Tierney says his gut feeling puts it at even odds.
According to Bostrom the only way we can possibly be saved from the fate of our existence being nothing more than a computer simulation is that, “maybe they wouldn’t need to do simulations for scientific reasons because they’d have better methodologies for understanding their past. It’s quite possible they would have moral prohibitions against simulating people, although the fact that something is immoral doesn’t mean it won’t happen.”
I can only imagine the shame my future offspring are feeling if they are in fact watching me blog this crap as computer simulation. I apologize in advance to them.