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Friday, June 12, 2015

Non-Existence Poofs

As AI, drextech, immortality meds stubbornly persist in non-existence, futurologists trot out consoling "existence proofs": brains! cells! jellyfish!


Elias Altvall said...

I have always found the simulation argument funny. I mean it is an incredibly old argument in one way or another throughout human history in the realm of philosophy (and occasionally mythology). Seems strange to act as if whether the world existing or not is a new question.

Dale Carrico said...

I have always assumed the so-called "simulation argument" in its futurological form was something of a scam: futurologists pine for better-than-real immersive virtualities that never arrive, so they pose as a thought experiment that reality itself might be just such a virtuality to lend credibility to the endlessly deferred promise of the techno-utopian fancy they pine for (and attract undeserved attention for peddling, naturlich). As you say, this is quite a hoary old chestnut as philosophy goes -- rather the sort of thing undergraduate boys impress each other with while smoking reefer in the dorm room -- which makes the whole advertorial con-job shrink wrapped in Very Serious Thought Leader garb especially vulgar and sad -- but quite apart from that the whole gambit fails rather spectacularly on its own terms: Were we living in a simulation the exploration of which we denominate reality the question at hand would remain whether a better-than-real-virtuality running on that virtuality we take to be real could be created, and the sleight of hand entertained by the simulation thought experiment fails to provide any reason to think it does, any more than the more reasonable expedient of simply assuming reality, such as it is, is what besets us, and that better-than-real virtualities are exactly as distant and disappointing a prospect as they have been more or less the whole time the futurologists have been preoccupied with them. As usual, one suspects the futurologists would do better to find a nice therapist to work through their issues and the rest of us would do better to treat their productions as late-night informercials peddling consumer cons rather than as serious forms of technology or policy analysis.

Elias Altvall said...

I see futurologists like priests. People who exploit other peoples wishes for a better world by simply reassuring that it will come. Either after death or in "the Future" both of which is a place of immortality. But then again you have already made that argument much better and more thoroughly than I could have.

It also seems a little bit funny that futurology evolved as anticommunist but is a simplified version of classical marxism without the critiques and analysis.

jimf said...

> I have always assumed the so-called "simulation argument"
> in its futurological form was something of a scam: futurologists
> pine for better-than-real immersive virtualities that never
> arrive, so they pose as a thought experiment that reality
> itself might be just such a virtuality to lend credibility to
> the endlessly deferred promise of the techno-utopian fancy they
> pine for. . .

_Computer Lib_, Ted Nelson (1974)
p. 58

SIMULATION an imposing term which means almost anything. Basically,
"simulation" means any activity that represents or resembles
something. Computer simulation is using the computer to mimic
something real, or something that might be, for any purpose:
to understand an ongoing process better, or to see how something
might come out in the future.

Here again, though, the Science myth steps in to mystify this
process, as though the mere use of the computer conferred
validity or some kind of truth.

(On TV shows, the Space Voyagers stand in front of the "computer"
and ask in firm, unnaturally loud voices what will be the results
of so-and-so. The computer's oracular reply is infallible.
On TV.)

Let there be no mystery about this. Any use of a data structure
on a what-if basis is Simulation. You can simulate in detail or
crudely; your simulation can embody any theories, sensible or stupid;
and your results **may or may not correspond to reality**.

A "computer prediction" is the outcome of a simulation that someone,
evidently, is willing to stand behind.

These points have to be stressed because if there is one computer
activity which is pretentiously presented and stressed, it is
simulation. Especially to naive clients. There is nothing
supernatural about it either. . .

The thing is, any set of assumptions, no matter how intricate, can
be enacted by a computer model. Anything you can express exactly
can be carried out, and you can see its consequences in the
computer's readout -- a printout, screen display, or some
other view into the resulting data structure.

Obviously these enactments (or sometimes "predictions") are
wholly fallible, deriving any validity they may have from
the soundness of the initial data or model. . .

"Simulation" means almost anything that in any way represents
or resembles something. Which is not to say it's a useless or
improper term, just a slippery one. . .

So don't be moved by the term "simulation." It means much,
little or nothing, depending.

Stay tuned for Third Life!
The virtual world Second Life celebrated its 11th birthday last Friday.
To the average person, Second Life is that thing they signed up for years ago,
walked around for 10 minutes and never returned to again.
But, the virtual world’s marketplace has been a boon for creators
and now the company behind Second Life, Linden Lab, is building a
new world from scratch. . .

Dale Carrico said...

I see futurologists like priests.

This analogy is definitely clearest in the guru-wannabe layer of the organizational archipelago of robocultic sects. But I tend to think the more apt analogy is the crass salesmanship of the middle-managers and PR-glad handlers, barking on cellphones and laser-pointing at PowerPoint slides the latest line in BS. Consumer capitalist marketing is an endless peddling of stasis as novelty and crap as wish-fulfillment, and I think futurological discourse is just a slightly amplified variation of that dance of death. That most futurologists likely disdain or at any rate fail to grasp their kinship with their more prevalent middle-brow discursive cousins just goes to show that they aren't exactly very sensitive or bright, even as they congratulate themselves on their superior scientificity and visionary genius. No doubt there are plenty of banksters with the same delusions of grandeur. Neither is it surprising on these terms to see that futurologists so readily fancy themselves parts of futurist "movements" -- eugenic transhumanism, history-shattering singularitarianism, greenwashing geo-engineering, the various techno-immortalisms, plastic/nuclear/nano/3Dprinter-cornucopisms, and so on -- after all, consumer fandoms around Apple gizmos fancy themselves movement no less, Naomi Klein described a company exec declaring Diesel Jeans "a movement." It is hardly surprising that self-esteem hucksters and the authors of management technique best-sellers offer up their vapid but lucrative consolations in packed Vegas auditoriums -- they are the same sort of guru-wannabes some lucky TED-talking futurologists manage to become, spouting slogans and neologisms and offering up their desperately hyperbolized advertorial promises, sex and success, like every empty ad shouting its lies on every screen. The Future -- a heaven of certainty and satisfaction and youthful skin -- is the faith that suffuses our society, hyperbolic norms and forms to distract and derange us on our way to death as we destroy the world and the weak for no good reason any one of us can say, corrupt priests and dumb postulants all the way down.