The Life of the Mind 10: The Simulation Argument

Many works of science fiction as well as some forecasts by serious technologists
and futurologists predict that enormous amounts of computing power will be
available in the future. Let us suppose for a moment that these predictions are
correct. One thing that later generations might do with their super‐powerful
computers is run detailed simulations of their forebears or of people like their
forebears. Because their computers would be so powerful, they could run a great
many such simulations. Suppose that these simulated people are conscious (as
they would be if the simulations were sufficiently fine‐grained and if a certain
quite widely accepted position in the philosophy of mind is correct). Then it
could be the case that the vast majority of minds like ours do not belong to the
original race but rather to people simulated by the advanced descendants of an
original race. It is then possible to argue that, if this were the case, we would be
rational to think that we are likely among the simulated minds rather than
among the original biological ones. Therefore, if we don’t think that we are
currently living in a computer simulation, we are not entitled to believe that we
will have descendants who will run lots of such simulations of their forebears.

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