Interview with Nick Bostrom at the Future of Humanity Institute Oxford University - http://www.simulation-argument.com/ - The simulation argument is continuing to attract a great deal of attention. I regret that I cannot usually respond to individual queries about the 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.
Related: What If The Matrix is Real?
What It Will Take for Computers to Be Conscious
The world’s best-known consciousness researcher says machines could one day become self-aware.
If I build a perfect software model of the brain, it would never be conscious, but a specially designed machine that mimics the brain could be?
Correct. This theory clearly says that a digital simulation would not be conscious, which is strikingly different from the dominant functionalist belief of 99 percent of people at MIT or philosophers like Daniel Dennett. They all say, once you simulate everything, nothing else is required, and it’s going to be conscious.
I think consciousness, like mass, is a fundamental property of the universe. The analogy, and it’s a very good one, is that you can make pretty good weather predictions these days. You can predict the inside of a storm. But it’s never wet inside the computer. You can simulate a black hole in a computer, but space-time will not be bent. Simulating something is not the real thing.
It’s the same thing with consciousness. In 100 years, you might be able to simulate consciousness on a computer. But it won’t experience anything. Nada. It will be black inside. It will have no experience whatsoever, even though it may have our intelligence and our ability to speak.
I am not saying consciousness is a magic soul. It is something physical. Consciousness is always supervening onto the physical. But it takes a particular type of hardware to instantiate it. A computer made up of transistors, moving charge on and off a gate, with each gate being connected to a small number of other gates, is just a very different cause-and-effect structure than what we have in the brain, where you have one neuron connected to 10,000 input neurons and projecting to 10,000 other neurons. But if you were to build the computer in the appropriate way, like a neuromorphic computer [see “Thinking in Silicon”], it could be conscious.
If I were to put you in a room with a computer from the future, would you be able to determine if it’s conscious?
I couldn’t from the outside. I would have to look at its hardware.