Are we in a simulation? This short video explores the question

In 2003, Philosophical Quarterly published a paper by philosopher Nick Bostrom titled "Are You Living In a Computer Simulation?" In the introduction, Bostrom argues that one (or more) of the following propositions must be true:

(1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage

(2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof)

(3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.

It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor‐simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation. A number of other consequences of this result are also discussed.

The TED-Ed video above looks at how we might be able to run experiments to learn whether or not we are currently living in a simulation. Read the rest

'What do you think happens when we die, Keanu Reeves?'

Actor Keanu Reeves answers one of life's greatest questions in the way only Keanu Reeves can. Read the rest

Where does consciousness come from?

"Consciousness is what allows us to be aware of both our surroundings and our own inner state." In the first of a three part video series, "Kruzgesagt - In a Nutshell" examines "how unaware things come aware." Stay tuned for theories of consciousness that of course may be as much about philosophy as they are neuroscience.

Sources here.

Read the rest

Independent study guide to logic for philosophers and mathematicians

Retired Cambridge professor Peter Smith has distilled his experience in teaching philosophers and mathematicians about formal logic into a free, frequently updated (last updated: 2017) study guide to logic, constructed to be easily accessible, with quick-start guides for different kinds of learners, written on the assumption of very little education in either maths or philosophy. Read the rest

On the role of truth and philosophy in fantastic fiction

Fantasy and science fiction author and political activist Steven Brust (previously) was this year's Guest of Honor at Philcon, an excellent Philadelphia-area science fiction (I have also had the privilege to be Philcon's GoH, and it's a great con); his guest of honor speech is entitled Truth as a Vehicle for Enhancing Fiction, Fiction as a Vehicle for Discovering Truth, and he's posted a transcript to his blog. Read the rest

Capitalism is self-annihilating, not self-perpetuating

Umair Haque (previously) is on fire: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism, Then What’s the Point of Capitalism? "You can see it in stark, comic terms. What are Bezos and Musk doing? Trying to flee to Mars. What’s Gates doing? Recommending you books to read, and trying to save the world with charity. LOL — how ironic. These are different forms of freedom from capitalism. Maybe on Mars, we can build a better world. Maybe through ideas and philanthropy, we can solve the problems that corporations can’t. All the capitalists I see are trying to win freedom from capitalism, in one way or another. Aren’t they?" (via Kottke) Read the rest

Several experts explain key ethical issues about AI

Artificial intelligence has nearly unimaginable potential to shape the world, but it poses a number of significant ethical questions that need to be carefully examined at every step to reduce bias. Several experts give a rundown of the main concerns. Read the rest

Strong Female Protagonist, Book Two: the hard philosophical questions of superheroism and compassion

It's been nearly four years since the first crowdfunded collection of Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag's webcomic Strong Female Protagonist was published; the second volume, published this week, traces not just the evolution of its protagonist, the superhero Alison "Mega Girl" Green, but of its creators, who have found new and amazing depths to plumb and heights to soar to.

Can the future influence the past? The scientific case for quantum retrocausality

Quantum physics gets real weird real fast, and one idea gaining more currency of late is the concept of quantum retrocausality, where a decision made in our experience of the present may influence what we experience as the past.

These aren't a bunch of Time Cube type cranks, either. From a helpful overview by Lisa Zyga:

First, to clarify what retrocausality is and isn't: It does not mean that signals can be communicated from the future to the past—such signaling would be forbidden even in a retrocausal theory due to thermodynamic reasons. Instead, retrocausality means that, when an experimenter chooses the measurement setting with which to measure a particle, that decision can influence the properties of that particle (or another particle) in the past, even before the experimenter made their choice. In other words, a decision made in the present can influence something in the past.

Huw Price has done some great introductory lectures like this on the concept:

WTF is Quantum Retrocausality? (YouTube / Seeker) Read the rest

Watch this hilarious dismantling of Jordan Peterson's philosophical woo

Natalie Wynn, creator of the Contrapoints YouTube channel, is a lapsed academic well-versed in the lingo of both 4chan and Tumblr, making her the perfect person to construct an entertaining takedown of Jordan Peterson. Read the rest

Governing a decentralized internet without votes

When we think of democracy, we generally think of voting: the people are polled, the people decide. But voting is zero-sum: it has winners and losers. There are other models of governance that can make claim to democratic legitimacy that produce wins for everyone. Read the rest

This spare and clean animation asks some cosmic questions

In I Am Here , director Eoin Duffy addresses the strange sensation when we realize our entire lives have led up to one fleeting moment. Read the rest

What is the slowest music humanly possible?

While the typical answer is 33 beats per minute, musician Adam Neely's answer morphs into a great primer on the "perceptual present," a concept widely discussed in both the philosophy of music and of consciousness. Read the rest

The Paradox of Tolerance: should intolerance be tolerated?

With the rise of white nationalist groups whose allies in government extend all the way to the President of the United States, tech companies are finding themselves in the uncomfortable position of deciding where tolerance begins and ends -- where they have a duty to step in and silence certain kinds of speech. Read the rest

Mind-bending supercut of computer simulation existence theories

What is Life? collects some of the more interesting takes on whether we may be living in a computer simulation. Read the rest

Review of pages intentionally left blank

The most perfect lie in publishing, "This Page Intentionally Left Blank", is commonly to be found in books, manuals and tests. But also journals, curiously enough, a fact that is the subject of a paper published at Academia Obscura.

The US Code of Regulations (1984) actually mandates that blank pages in certain books and pamphlets must be marked as such.1 As such, they are especially common in technical works. This has lead to a large number of people attempting to solve the philosophical conundrum such non-blank blank pages create, often through online fora and crowdsourcing platforms. The Office of the General Counsel at the US General Accounting Office, acutely aware of the distress caused, purported in 2001 to have resolved the conundrum in its Principles of Federal Appropriations Law (Second Edition, Volume IV).2 Text on page ii, which is otherwise blank, reads “This page is intended to be blank. Please do not read it.” However, this appears to have only further entrenched the philosophical contradictions, and the subsequent Third Edition contained no such text on its blank page.

Read the rest

Everything, even a rock, has some degree of consciousness

Philip Goff, associate professor in philosophy at Central European University in Budapest, argues that the idea of panpsychism ("mind is everywhere") shouldn't be dismissed just because it sounds crazy. Read the rest

More posts