An alternative to the simulation argument:
Nick Bostrom’s Simulation Argument argues that at least one of the following must be true:
- the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage
- any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history
- or we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation
However, I see other possibilities. Assumptions:
- The strong many-worlds theory is correct (i.e. all consistent mathematical systems exist as universes, a.k.a “everything exists”)
- The many-worlds immortality theory is correct (i.e. for every conscious state there is at least one smooth continuation of that state in the many-worlds)
Given these assumptions, it doesn’t matter if we are in a simulation because our conscious state exists in many simulations and many non-simulated worlds that look identical to us (but are different in imperceptible ways). Even if all the simulations stopped, there would still be a continuation of our conscious state in a non-simulated world consistent with our observations to date.
Further, it seems that there are more non-simulated worlds than simulated worlds. This is because there are many ways a mathematical model can exist so that it cannot be formulated in a finite way, and therefore not simulatable by an intelligent entity. It might even be that simulatable world are of measure zero in the many-worlds.
Further out ideas:
A fascinating related idea is the Egan Jump as described in the book Permutation City. The idea is to jump to another world in the many-worlds by simulating the genesis of a new universe. In this universe you code yourself into the initial conditions, and design the rules so that you end up as an upload in the substrate of the new universe. Because that universe will continue as it’s own mathematical model, your conscious state will continue in that universe, branching off your original self.
Yet another, more distantly related idea is that the peculiarities of our universe (quantum physics, large amounts of empty space) are in a sense an error correcting mechanism. Because any perturbation of a world is also a world, the result is quite chaotic and inhospitable to meaningful life. The structure we see around us with large aggregates “average out” the chaos. This leads to a stable environment as required for conscious observers to arise.