The Singularity and Simulation

(cross-posted at Brains)

There is a nice video of a recent talk by David Chalmers on the singularity available here. Dave also summarizes the argument in a recent post at his blog Fragments of Consciousness (here). He also gave this talk at the Graduate Center, which is where I saw it last Wednesday. It is an excellent talk and I hope it starts people talking about these interesting issues. Assuming you believe that AI is a possibility I find the general line he is pushing very persuasive and would be interested to hear what others thought about it.

One thought that I had was that if the second premise of the argument is right then we might have some kind of evidence that we are not living in a simulated world. If we were we would be the AI and the second premise says that once you have AI it will be a matter of years before you have AI+, but we haven’t had AI+ yet (i.e. strong A.I.) so we are not AI. When I asked about this Dave responded that ‘a matter of years’ should be interpreted as in the time scale of the next world up. If we are indeed in a simulated world then the simulators of our world could presumably manipulate the time scale in the simulated world. So what may seem like a long time to us could be a few seconds for them. Ah well, I guess we still can’t be sure that we aren’t in the Matrix.

This allows me to clarify the point of my previous post. In discussion with Dave about it he pointed out that what I describe is just one kind of dualism and that it is not the kind that the zombie argument deals with. This is a fair point. Looking back at the post I see that I was sloppy in presenting the argument. I should not have been saying that the zombie argument by itself is an argument that we are in a simulated world. What I should have said is that this account of what a nonphysical property is is the only one that is one the table. But when we adopt this as a theoretical account of what non-physical properties are even zombies can have them and so they do not seem to threaten physicalism. If there is some other account of what a nonphysical property is then we can examine it and one cannot say that an obvious example of a nonphysical property is seeing green or feeling pain. What is needed is an account of what it would mean to say that feeling pain is nonphysical. I, for one, can’t even conceive what that would mean except in the way Dave does in his matrix paper.

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