Sunday, July 22, 2018

Two silly ideas: We live in a simulation & our computers are going to have us for lunch

You know, I was trained as a humanist–English lit plus other stuff. I watched postmodernist criticism rise out of the smoke of New Criticism and phenomenology. It interested me, to be sure, but I went in another direction.

As I did so, I watched my postmodernist colleagues do a variety of stuff. Some of it interesting and valuable. And some of it batshit crazy. The batshit crazy stuff has received a full and perhaps deserving measure of ridicule from various quarters-traditional humanists, culture warriors, scientists, and devotees of the Aufklärung (aka Enlightenment).

But no humanist has propounded anything that tops WE R A SIMULATION for batshit crazy, and the idea the one day our computers are going to become SUPERINTELLIGENT and turn us into fodder for paperclip factories, that’s just as nuts. And yet there are folks who think these are conceptions of great wisdom and intellectual depth. They write earnest books about them, publish learned articles in obscure journals, and whisper sweet nothings into the ears of Silicon Valley billionaires.

And the billionaires listen, showering them with money and think tanks.

The silly con!

And the curious thing, by the way, most mysterious, is that these two crazy ideas aren’t conjoined. In the simulation fantasy, those simulations are presided over by some priesthood-of-the future, not by superintelligent machines. And in the supermachine fantasy, those computers don’t waste time running simulations of human history.

How’d that one slip by? Or would the conjunction of the two expose the con?

We are doomed! Are we?

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