Ever since Nick Bostrom made his Simulation Argument famous, it has been making the rounds of groups that fancy themselves edgy and in the know. I’ve written about Bostrom and his simulation argument before, but in that article I left out the immorality that I see at the heart of his argument. That oversight makes this second article necessary.
Here is Bostrom making his argument:
ABSTRACT. 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.
There is only one real problem with this idea. That problem is the simulation itself. We don’t live in a simulation, we are simulations. Are you a simulation or are you real? That is the problem. Most of us balk at thinking we are fakes. I think, I act, I decide (qualified free will is another conversation) a philosophical critique of the nature of seeing the universe as a simulation starts with Plato’s cave (the subject of the previous article) and goes on through George Berkeley proposing that matter only existed because we thought about it, which made god necessary because he always thought about everything. So it really isn’t anything new to suggest that “hey, everything around us is so subjective it might actually be fake.” It is quite tempting psychologically to discard the belief that others feel pain as you do. It makes it easier to take advantage of them.
If we live in a simulation, the we part of the proposition is only nominally provided as a hand-waving excuse to stop accusations of solipsism. If we live in a simulation, then how much easier would it be to just simulate one brain and feed it input as if it was real experience? Any programmer would tell you it would be orders of magnitude easier. We are on the verge of establishing this milestone of programming right now.
Now apply Occam’s razor. The simplest explanation for the Simulation Argument is that “I am real and you are all simulations.” The converse could be true too but the thinker has to be real or he wouldn’t be thinking in the first place.
This is philosophy 101, basic History of Western Philosophy curriculum. What the simulation argument does is create a god and call him programmer instead of god. The simulation argument amounts to being just another religion, when dissected. Nick Bostrom might be able to learn a few things for L. Ron Hubbard if what he trying to do is create a new religion. He might want to build a little more mystery into the argument, as an example. Hubbard did that in spades with Scientology.
There is nothing beyond conjecture that leads people to say we live in a simulation. The same kind of conjecture that lead religious men to try to calculate how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. There is nothing beyond narcissism and solipsism that compels people to accept that everyone around them is a fake. Internalizing that belief makes you a sociopath, not a healthy human being.
Liking the simulation postulation (not a theory, not even a hypothesis) has not one whit of bearing on whether it is true or not; and there isn’t any proof you can cite that says that it is more than a fantasy aside from the insistence that the universal constants don’t make any sense. Existence isn’t there to make sense. Existence simply is, and that is possibly the hardest fact to accept about it. Expecting it to make sense is a human foible.
Copied and recompiled comments from the Freethinkers United Facebook group.