Monday, December 24, 2012

Refuting the Simulation Argument

Many works of science fiction as well as some forecasts by serious technologists and futurologists predict that enormous amounts of computing power will be available in the future. Let us suppose for a moment that these predictions are correct. One thing that later generations might do with their super-powerful computers is run detailed simulations of their forebears or of people like their forebears. Because their computers would be so powerful, they could run a great many such simulations. Suppose that these simulated people are conscious (as they would be if the simulations were sufficiently fine-grained and if a certain quite widely accepted position in the philosophy of mind is correct).- Nick Bostrom,

This position is absolutely ludicrous and it is easy to see why when the key terms are defined.  The terms conscious, simulated, people, and computer all need to be defined in the context of this theory for anybody to even begin to make sense of it.  However, Nick leaves these terms ambiguous in order to subtly get you to use YOUR imagination to fill in his blanks.  When he asks for you to "suppose that the simulated people are conscious" he is pulling the wool over your eyes, and here's why.

Simulate is, of course, a verb.  We can define simulate as "an action intended to represent another action or shape."

Rationally, "simulated people" is a package deal- it is a phrase representing the process being performed by the computer, making it a concept.  We use the term "simulation" or "simulated people" as a noun to efficiently communicate the entire process as a conceptual whole, which is easy enough to understand when made explicit. Yet, this sort of "quick and dirty talk" makes it easy to then attribute actions to the new noun we have invented, even though that noun does not represent an object- but rather, another action.  This is called the fallacy of misplaced concreteness (reification of the concept) and it is entirely irrational, a fundamental error.

Let me expand.

Only objects (that which has shape) can act- can be conscious, can simulate, ect.  The proponent of the theory specifies that computers are objects doing the simulating, but then they subtly switch the acting object to "people" with the phrase "simulated people".  From computers, an actual object, to "simulated people", a pseudo-object place holder used to make talking about the process easier.

However, pursuant to the definition of simulate, "simulated people" is completely synonymous with the verb "simulate", making is the action performed by a computer.  "Simulated people" is only understood in the minds of the audience who watches the actions of the computer.  The "people" (simulation) do not become objects, no matter how "fine grained" they are.

Therefore, the notion that the "simulated people are conscious" is entirely irrational because it ascribes an action of a brain (consciousness) to the concept of the simulated humans. It treats the concept as an actor, committing the fallacy of misplaced concreteness (reification).  Processes, like simulations, can never perform any actions like to be conscious.

The entire Simulation theory follows as  incoherent due to this faulty hypothesis.


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