The problem with Bostrom's trilemma

Wednesday, 11 November, Year 12 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

The item goes substantially in the following vein :

  • The proportion of human-level civilizations that reach a posthuman stage is practically zero, or else
  • The proportion of posthuman civilizations that are interested in running simulations of their evolutionary history, or variations thereof, is practically zero, or else
  • The proportion of all entities sharing our kind of experiences that exist as part of a simulation is very close to one.

Most humans, to borrow the term, reading this earworm tend to form the impression that it is an interesting statement of the world around them, and for that reason important or at least noteworthy. This isn't, in itself, a problem with the material (though it is very much a problem with the respective "humans").

The problem with the statement is that it is incorrectly reductive, which is to say it throws out most of the bathwater including any babies, while preserving for our enlightened inspection a quantity of slightly soiled liquid approximately commensurate in weight and shape with what might have at some point been some babies.i

However objectively advanced present-day "humans"ii are (and indeed they are), they're nevertheless not meaningfully advanced in any sort of human-relevant terms. There is a humongous space of unyielding complexity between "objective", in the sense of mere ontology, and "biological", let's say, in the sense of living things (even stretching the concept to include such strange wasps as the grounded-ovopositor jet fighter). There's also a humongous space between that milestone and "humanity" however loosely (or not so loosely) conceived, even should it also include the middle class, black people, poor people, monkeys, house cats and the toxoplasmosis byproductsiii that breed and spread them etcetera. The problem of these two humongousnesses is that they're not at all the same kind, nor even close to anything like commensurate in size.iv

Consider the simple matter of simulations as run today, however advanced or unadvanced that would be. Unless you're willing to mistake an ant farm ( such as could indeed be found in any uppityv middle class boy's debris midden) for a simulationvi, the closest thing occurring today's taking place in Monsanto's torture rooms, and it proceeds in such a way as no plants themselves would ever be in even the most remote danger of confusing it for the genuine article (admitting plants were advanced enough to make such determinations).

Plants, to the standard of complex, multicellular photosynthesizing organisms existed on land 850 million years ago or thereabouts ; ants may well be as old as 150 million yearsvii. Something passiblyviii like humans would be about five million years old (and life itself four billion or thereabouts). To put it in the simplest of terms, if it takes five million years to produce something that can unconvincingly simulate plants but not ants, if the degree of magnitude more or less separating the two is that relevantix, then what of the other... six ? We have no solid grounds to expect this matter scales liniarily, and even with the most modest of exponents, six squared takes us squarely outside of the projected lifespan of this present universe (currently aged about 14 billion years as it is). We're not talking of anything like main star sequence or other localised impediments -- the problem is simply that even a very cursory estimate of the complexity involved in simulating present-day humans runs so far outside of bounds for the ultimately very limited possibilities of existence, that the whole nonsense's not worth discussing straight!

The difference between "humans" and "posthumans" is not commensurate with the difference between something like "modernism" and "post-modernism". It's not the case that "oh, one comes after the other", it's not like next election cycle there's gonna be "posthumans" walking around. The "posthumans" Bostrom posits aren't "more advanced" in any meaningful sense -- the difference is greater than any other difference, and therefore plainly not capable of being illustrated! There is, literally, no object in common usage however rare or remote that's of the same class as this immensity!

Once one grasps that what's here being proposed is precisely a discussion of how either all humans are shorter than fifty eight quadrillion light yearsx, or else all humans are in danger of snapping in half under black hole gravity or becoming knotted in their own endless noodly arms or else all humans are made of some substance not before known, it's relatively easy to understand that an intuitive impression as to human resistance to spontaneous snapping, however acquired, is nevertheless a very poor argument for the existence of magic substances.

In simple terms, there are exactly no simulated equivalents of today's humans because (excluding most subhumans such as the esteemed readership, that Bostrom idiot and pretty much everyone else) the requirements involved in simulating them would exceed all possible limits : there's not enough atoms in the universe to make the computers, there's not enough lifespan in the universe to debug the involved software, there's nothing, forget about it, buncha Haskellite brainrotted zombies!

  1. A lesser problem would be of course that it then attempts to trade on this, but then again a) "scientists" of the socialist ilk gotta eat and b) "scientists" of the socialist ilk rarely actually deploy any deliberateness in their confusion, they're not like five year olds scheming to get the cookie but rather like five month olds, readily distracted by large fields they're utterly unequipped to involve themselves with (while reliably believing something that in practice works quite like the contrary). []
  2. The few dozen humans that are actually that advanced have very little to do with "humans" in any sort of median or average sense ; the vast majority of Indians reading up about "SEO" have comparably little to do with the Internet in any interesting sense. []
  3. They used to call themselves women, but meanwhile the terminology's clarified itself towards "BBW", as the following illustration no doubt illustrates : bbw-1

    bbw-2 []

  4. There's an infinity of numbers between 0.0000000000000001 and 0.0000000000000002 just as there's an infinity of numbers between 20000000000000000 and 10000000000000000, and even though your intuition might propose they're very different in size, they're not, these two are very commensurate infinities.

    There's much larger gaps than those available in nature, and the gap between "150 lb of table salt" and "150 lb of living flesh" is significantly, mindblowingly, inexplicably tinier, truly immense as it may seem, than the gap between "150 lb of living flesh" and "150 lb of thinking life". The mind is a great summarizing machine, not great in the sense of the quality of its output, but great in the sense of the ease with which it reduces truly great spans to an apparent "nothingness" that's nowhere near anything like nothing yet beyond persuasively absent in our thoughts. []

  5. The problem with ESLtards isn't their "ambitions" per se, but rather their laughable notions and misrepresentations. They actually believe "social mobility" is a thing, among other shocking absurdities. It's not even that they "want to", "have their sights set high" whatever. It's that they actually believe such a thing is possible in the first place! []
  6. The fundamental problem is that the ant farm includes unresolvable dependencies, it can't exist of its own. []
  7. Though this matter bears some dispute, it's possible they're only 50 million years old, dating since slightly later than whatever ended dinosaurs. []
  8. Though you very well might not approve of your daughter's passionate copulation, conceivably you might nevertheless bob your head to their grunts and assorted gibberish (if socially incentivized). []
  9. And there's scarcely words available to explain just how unreachably far insect simulations actually are. []
  10. Coincidentally larger than the expected size of the Universe, but then again what's in an expectation, "America runs on science" and all that jazz. []
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3 Responses

  1. So Oxford going nova sometime after Bologna didn't just leave one shocking imbecile behind, but a whole bogon field of them.

  2. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Wednesday, 11 November 2020


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