Let's Hope We're Not Living in a Simulation

Eric Schwitzgebel

in draft

According to the simulation hypothesis, we might be artificial intelligences living in a virtual reality. Advocates of this hypothesis, such as Chalmers, Bostrom, and Steinhart, tend to argue that the skeptical consequences aren't as severe as they might appear. In Reality+, Chalmers acknowledges that although he can't be certain that the simulation we inhabit, if we inhabit a simulation, is larger than city-sized and has a long past, simplicity considerations speak against those possibilities. I argue, in contrast, that cost considerations might easily outweigh considerations of simplicity, favoring simulations that are catastrophically small or brief -- small or brief enough that a substantial proportion of our everyday beliefs would be false or lack reference in virtue of the nonexistence of things or events whose existence we ordinarily take for granted. More generally, we can't justifiably have high confidence that if we live in a simulation it's a large and stable one. Furthermore, if we live in a simulation, we are likely at the mercy of ethically abhorrent gods, which makes our deaths and suffering morally worse than they would be if there were no such gods. There are reasons both epistemic and axiological to hope that we aren't living in a simulation.

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