Philosophy professor Preston Greene argues in the NY Times
ut what if computers one day were to become so powerful, and these simulations so sophisticated, that each simulated “person” in the computer code were as complicated an individual as you or me, to such a degree that these people believed they were actually alive? And what if this has already happened?
In 2003, the philosopher Nick Bostrom made an ingenious argument that we might be living in a computer simulation created by a more advanced civilization. He argued that if you believe that our civilization will one day run many sophisticated simulations concerning its ancestors, then you should believe that we’re probably in an ancestor simulation right now. ...
In recent years, scientists have become interested in testing the theory. ...
o far, none of these experiments has been conducted, and I hope they never will be. Indeed, I am writing to warn that conducting these experiments could be a catastrophically bad idea — one that could cause the annihilation of our universe. ...
if our universe has been created by an advanced civilization for research purposes, then it is reasonable to assume that it is crucial to the researchers that we don’t find out that we’re in a simulation. If we were to prove that we live inside a simulation, this could cause our creators to terminate the simulation — to destroy our world. ...
As far as I am aware, no physicist proposing simulation experiments has considered the potential hazards of this work.
Isn't it great that we have philosophers to worry about stuff like this?
Extending this reasoning further, we should shut down the LHC particle collider, and all the quantum computer research. These are exceptionally difficult (ie, computationally intensive) to simulate. If we overwhelm the demands on the simulator, then the system could crash or get shut down.
We probably should not look for extraterrestrials either.
A psychiatrist wonders
about our simulator overlords reading NY Times stories worrying about simulation.
I think these guys are serious, but I can't be sure. It is not any wackier than Many-Worlds.
Another philosopher, Richard Dawid, has a new paper on the philosophy of string theory
String theory is a very different kind of conceptual scheme than any earlier physical theory. It is the first serious contender for a universal final theory. It is a theory for which previous expectations regarding the time horizon for completion are entirely inapplicable. It is a theory that generates a high degree of trust among its exponents for reasons that remain, at the present stage, entirely decoupled from empirical confirmation. Conceptually, the theory provides substantially new perspectives ...
Wow, a "universal final theory" that is entirely "decoupled" from experiment, and with no hope of "completion" in the foreseeable future. But it is conceptually interesting!
I am sure Dawid thinks that he is doing string theorists a favor by justifying their work, but he has to admit that the theory has no merit in any sense that anyone has ever recognized before.