Is the Boltzmann brain paradox a genuine one?

For some time, I have been wondering whether the Boltzmann brain paradox is a genuine one. Here’s how Wikipedia describes the paradox (emphases are mine):


In physics thought experiments, a Boltzmann brain is a self-aware entity that arises due to extremely rare random fluctuations out of a state of thermodynamic equilibrium. For example, in a homogeneous Newtonian soup, theoretically by sheer chance all the atoms could bounce off and stick to one another in such a way as to assemble a functioning human brain (though this would, on average, take vastly longer than the current lifetime of the universe).


The idea is indirectly named after the Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann (1844–1906), who in 1896 published a theory that the Universe is observed to be in a highly improbable non-equilibrium state because only when such states randomly occur can brains exist to be aware of the Universe. One criticism of Boltzmann’s “Boltzmann universe” hypothesis is that the most common thermal fluctuations are as close to equilibrium overall as possible; thus, by any reasonable criterion, human brains in a Boltzmann universe with myriad neighboring stars would be vastly outnumbered by “Boltzmann brains” existing alone in an empty universe.


Boltzmann brains gained new relevance around 2002, when some cosmologists started to become concerned that, in many existing theories about the Universe, human brains in the current Universe appear to be vastly outnumbered by Boltzmann brains in the future Universe who, by chance, have exactly the same perceptions that we do; this leads to the absurd conclusion that statistically we ourselves are likely to be Boltzmann brains. Such a reductio ad absurdum argument is sometimes used to argue against certain theories of the Universe.


The two assumptions I’d like to question in this post are: (i) the assumption that a Boltzmann brain could self-assemble in the first place, given enough time; and (ii) the assumption that the spontaneous self-assembly of such a brain is more likely than the spontaneous formation of human observers.

Concerning (i), I would like to point out that the brain is a multi-layered organ containing 86 billion neurons, each of which is supported by glial cells and astrocytes. Within each neuron is a nucleus, surrounded by a cell body which receives signals via dendrites and sends signals along an axon, which in turn is insulated with a myelin sheath. The idea that individual atoms could arrange themselves into a brain containing tens of billions of these multi-layered structures is simply absurd, because such a “brain” would fall apart long before it formed. Without stable intermediate stages, a brain cannot spontaneously self-assemble out of atoms, even when given an infinite amount of time.

As for (ii): it seems to me that the main argument in its favor is that thermodynamically speaking, it’s easier for an infinite box of gas in equilibrium to assemble into X than it is for the gas to assemble into X + Y. Hence the spontaneous formation of a brain alone is far more likely than the self-assembly of a brain attached to a human body, which in turn is more likely to form spontaneously than an entire planet full of organisms (including humans), which is more likely to form spontaneously than a universe full of stars and planets (including our Earth). But this kind of reasoning ignores the possibility of “springboards,” or transitional stages which generate multiple paths, some of which lead to the desired target.

Thus the likelihood of a brain forming from a box of gas is far greater if the gas is first allowed to assemble into a primordial cell, as such a cell is capable of evolving into various kinds of organisms (including humans with brains). But evolution can only proceed in a physical environment; hence we need a planet for the cell and its descendants to live on. But a planet needs a source of energy to power the chemical reactions leading to life, which in turn requires energy to power its own internal processes; hence we need a star as well. And the formation of stars is rendered more likely by the postulation of an initial Big Bang, starting from a hot, dense state. In short: while the spontaneous formation of a universe, holus bolus, is many orders of magnitude less likely than the spontaneous formation of a brain, the formation of a human being possessing a brain within the framework of a Big Bang universe which is capable of generating stars and planets, some of which are capable of generating life, which subsequently evolves into the dazzling array of creatures we see on Earth, is far more likely than the spontaneous self-assembly of a Boltzmann brain – an event whose probability I have already argued is zero.

I’d like to finish with a closing thought. Is there something wrong with the way we define entropy? Currently, physicists define it in terms of the number of possible micro-states of a system which are consistent with its macro-description (e.g. “a human brain”). This, in essence, is what Boltzmann’s entropy formula expresses. However, such a definition ignores a system’s history, and makes no attempt to calculate the number of pathways by which the atoms in the system can reach their macro-level target. Boltzmann’s definition of entropy also leads many well-meaning but misinformed laypeople to mount fallacious arguments against biological evolution. Isn’t it about time we came up with a better definition, which doesn’t generate silly paradoxes? What do readers think?

259 Replies to “Is the Boltzmann brain paradox a genuine one?”

  1. stcordova
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    Personally the Boltzman brain thing looks like an incomprehensible mess!

    The idea is indirectly named after the Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann (1844–1906), who in 1896 published a theory that the Universe is observed to be in a highly improbable non-equilibrium state because only when such states randomly occur can brains exist to be aware of the Universe

    Possibly false premise. It rules out the possibility the state of low entropy was the result of creation rather than a random event. The fact the premise leads to absurdities suggests the premise is false. This is a argument/proof by contradiction something is wrong with the starting assumptions!

    If everything is just a major accident, well, yeah, you can guess we just might be accidentally having illusory perceptions and that we are really alone in the universe just imagining all the events around us.

    It also makes the likely false assumption self-awareness is material origin. Some interpretations of Quantum Mechanics insist there must be a non-material entity (like God) in reality to make QM work, otherwise it leads to absurd paradoxes. The book Quantum Enigma of consciousness argues (implicitly) reality requires MIND to be fundamental to physics.

    Boltzmann committed suicide after devoting himself to the study of statistical mechanics and thermodynamics. Very sad, but, being a fan of Darwin and being an atheist, I suppose if he thought his soul was just the product of a random roll of the dice, then killing himself was consistent with his beliefs on some level. All accounts suggest he was a decent caring man. Sad.

  2. Alan Fox Alan Fox
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    stcordova: I suppose if he thought his soul was just the product of a random roll of the dice, then killing himself was consistent with his beliefs on some level. All accounts suggest he was a decent caring man. Sad.

    Makes no sense. If this life is all we get, better make it count. Which Boltzmann did.

  3. Alan Fox Alan Fox
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    PS seems likely he was suffering from clinical depression. Not sure whether religious belief has any bearing on one’s chances of being prone to periods of depression.

  4. Alan Fox Alan Fox
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    PPS one might also ask does atheism cause depression or does depression cause atheism – assuming there is any statistical link at all.

  5. BruceS
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    T_aquaticus:
    The Boltzman Brain scenario has largely been taken over by the Computer Simulation scenario.It goes something like this . . .

    I am not sure why you say one has taken over the other. They are two separate hypotheses. BBs are a consequence of our best physics. The Simulation Hypothesis is an interesting thought experiment in philosophy.

    It is true that both are global skeptical hypotheses, in the philosophical family of Plato’s cave, Descartes’ evil demon, Putnam’s brain-in-a-vat, The Matrix, and so on.

    BB is different though, in that it is a scientific prediction, not just a thought experiment.

    Although I suppose that if you thought ID was a science, then the simulation designer could be what it predicts. Then one could argue about a deistic simulation designer versus a tinkerer, and whether such tinkerings were detectable by our science.

    Oh, wait, maybe we are already having that argument?

  6. BruceS
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    Alan Fox: Makes no sense. If this life is all we get, better make it count. Which Boltzmann did.

    SC is taking BBs as an ideology, not a science.

  7. BruceS
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    T_aquaticus: It does make one wonder if the Holographic Theory is on to something.Perhaps strange action at a distance in the quantum world is the product of a computer calculation.

    That computer would have to be a quantum computer to simulate the experiments we do based on Bell’s results, I believe. Although maybe not if the SH included superdeterminism. Also, I suppose I am making the unwarranted assumption that we have any handle on the physics of the simulator’s world.
    .
    Also, “action at a distance” if it means signaling is not in our quantum world (it would violate SR). QM just adds non-local correlations, but these cannot be used to signal classical bits (ie the bits we can use to make decisions; those with causal influence)

  8. BruceS
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    fifthmonarchyman:
    If there is no God It’s much more likely to be something like that than anything like what we experience.

    Perhaps God is in fact the simulation designer and that designer (Designer?) has chosen to reveal within-simulation knowledge to you. That would be Simulation Theology, I suppose.

    Also, regarding your nested BBs and simulation hypothesis post: if you have not seen the movie Inception, you might enjoy it. It has a similar premise.

  9. stcordova
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    The Poincare recurrence relation is valid in say an idealized situation where molecules bounce in a box and don’t get together to become a black hole! If the universe is expanding, then the Poincare relation also fails. Hence, if the universe becomes so spread out, everything is so disconnected from each other, a “fluctuation” becomes meaningless since entropy goes to infinity. Recall that if you expand a volume of gas letting it expand isothermally and adiabatically (no heat added or subtracted or work done) into a bigger chamber, the entropy automatically increases! Expanding the universe increases entropy in an irreverisble way, hence you can’t have a fluctuation deep into the future that is a meaningful fluctuation because you just have a measily atom floating by its lonesome causally separated from all other atoms as space expands.

    SO we ARE in a privileged time, and there is Time’s arrow, we are NOT, as far as we can tell, in a recurring universe. As Lawrence Krauss said:

    In 5 billion years, the expansion of the universe will have progressed to the point where all other galaxies will have receded beyond detection. Indeed, they will be receding faster than the speed of light, so detection will be impossible. Future civilizations will discover science and all its laws, and never know about other galaxies or the cosmic background radiation. They will inevitably come to the wrong conclusion about the universe……We live in a special time, the only time, where we can observationally verify that we live in a special time.

    The reductio ad absurbdum of Boltzman brains is confirmed, showing the premises are likely wrong or at least not consistent with what we regard as reality. We have to start with the assumption after all, that something is real, like pain!

  10. BruceS
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    T_aquaticus: It does make one wonder if the Holographic Theory is on to something. Perhaps strange action at a distance in the quantum world is the product of a computer calculation.

    I am not sure I understand what you mean by bring in the HT. Can you be more specific?

  11. fifthmonarchyman
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    BruceS: Perhaps God is in fact the simulation designer and that designer (Designer?) has chosen to reveal within-simulation knowledge to you. That would be Simulation Theology, I suppose.

    Not exactly,
    God is honest and trustworthy. He could not reveal false information
    A simulation is by definition not reality.

    BruceS: if you have not seen the movie Inception, you might enjoy it. It has a similar premise.

    It’s one of my favorites.

    I think the realization that sans God we are simply incapable of knowing whether we are dreaming or the product of someone else’s dream should be pondered till it’s weight sinks in. Usually we just skip over it and move on.

    No one actually thinks that we are BBs or part of a simulation but the atheist can’t possibly justify that belief. For him it’s simply an act of blind faith in something that is very unlikely.

    I’d say that understanding probably weighed on Boltzmann

    peace

  12. Alan Fox Alan Fox
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    BruceS,

    Holographic principle.

  13. fifthmonarchyman
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    BruceS: That computer would have to be a quantum computer to simulate the experiments we do based on Bell’s results, I believe. Although maybe not if the SH included superdeterminism. Also, I suppose I am making the unwarranted assumption that we have any handle on the physics of the simulator’s world.

    Quantum computers might just be a line of code put in after a weekend bender.

    peace

  14. BruceS
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    Alan Fox:
    BruceS,

    Holographic principle.

    Yes, I knew that was what T was referring to. I don’t understand its relevance non-locality. I do understand both are related to quantum information and that the correlations shown in comparing measurements of entangled systems are grounded in quantum information (or at least, I think I understand that).

    But I am guessing that T is saying HT/HP is an explanation or grounding of this entanglement. But that is where I’d like to understand T’s point better.

  15. BruceS
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    fifthmonarchyman: Not exactly,
    God is honest and trustworthy. He could not reveal false information
    A simulation is by definition not reality.

    Well, of course, that is exactly the type of “knowledge” a simulation designer would reveal to you.

    I think the realization that sans God we are simply incapable of knowing whether

    You like SC are using BBs to make ideology claims, not scientific or philosophical claims. As I have posted, I would agree that philosophy is needed to argue you are not currently a BB. But science says BBs must exist in the far future (but this claims needs to make the assumptions documented in the second Carroll link and also respond to Allan’s arguments).

  16. Alan Fox Alan Fox
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    BruceS,

    Doesn’t look like it’s been tested yet or even that there is consensus on what such a test could involve.

  17. Alan Fox Alan Fox
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    BruceS: As I have posted, I would agree that philosophy is needed to argue you are not currently a BB

    Surprisal. If I’m some sort of simulation, how come I’m continually surprised? Or does that just refute solipsism?

  18. BruceS
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    Alan Fox: Surprisal. If I’m some sort of simulation, how come I’m continually surprised? Or does that just refute solipsism?

    If it is a simulation a la Bostrom, then there is no reason to think you would be any different than you are now. So Scott A says, correctly IMHO, that Bostrom’s idea can be ignored in practice.

    If by “refute solipsism” you mean logically rule out, then nothing can, I suspect. On the other hand, why ask such a question unless maybe you think the answer is buried in your solipsist subconscious and asking yourself will make it conscious?

    Here is a possibly relevant philosophical anecdote related to the simulation stuff. There is another anecdote related to the solipsist question which I leave as an exercise for the Googler.

    [start of anecdote]
    “Tell me,” Wittgenstein’s asked a friend, “why do people always say, it was natural for man to assume that the sun went round the earth rather than that the earth was rotating?” His friend replied, “Well, obviously because it just looks as though the Sun is going round the Earth.” Wittgenstein replied, “Well, what would it have looked like if it had looked as though the Earth was rotating?”:

  19. walto walto
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    BruceS: You are missing the assumption that the universe will end up spending an unlimited time in a state of thermodynamic equilibrium.Any microstate has a finite probability of arising in such a state, including a human brain in contemplation of its existence.The probability of such a state is unimaginably small, but still greater than zero.And any state with positive probability will arise an unlimited number of times in an unlimited time frame.

    Brains alone are more likely that fully human observers because they are a subset of fully human observers and so their probability is higher.But fully human observers would also be possible.Of course, there is no claim that these entities would last very long!

    Sean Carroll has a nice paper on BBs (link below).He includes the philosophical explanation (first put forward by Albert, I believe) of why you or Ishould reject the hypothesis that we are currently Boltzmann brains.Roughly, any such assumption is incoherent, since it depends on scientific knowledge that no Boltzmann brain could have (using knowledge as JTB, emphasis on the J).

    Link to Carroll’s paper
    https://arxiv.org/abs/1702.00850

    You might like this:
    https://www.academia.edu/33781223/Beliefs_in_a_Vat?source=swp_share

  20. Allan Miller
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    fifthmonarchyman: I think you are still assuming that a BB must be similar to a human brain.

    It’s physical structure capable of carrying a thought. The same issues apply, even when one decides to appeal to physical structures not known to exist. In fact, the problems I’m alluding to would apply to a simple house-brick.

    If materialism is true then our thoughts are just complex computations and BBs are just universal Turing machines.

    If materialism is true it may still be the case that thoughts require a structure along the lines of our own

    In an infinite universe time is not a problem.

    No, but practicality is. Thinking structures might be possible in a black hole plasma or a diffuse collection of photons, but I see no reason to simply accept this as a given.

  21. Allan Miller
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    Here’s a question – a rhetorical one: if you are a BB, how come you arose out of physics which you only imagined?

  22. Alan Fox Alan Fox
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    Allan Miller,

    That’ll surprise him!

  23. BruceS
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    Allan Miller:
    Here’s a question – a rhetorical one: if you are a BB, how come you arose out of physics which you only imagined?

    That is not a rhetorical question at all. It is exactly the question that leads to the philosophical argument concluding that you are not a BB. That’s the argument that the philosopher David Albert develops, Carroll repeats, and I try to quote upthread. Rumraket makes a similar philosophical point upthread.

    The only adjustment would be to add that it is not coherent for you to argue you are a BB on the basis of physics, since if you are, there is no rational basis for the physics you are using.

  24. BruceS
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    walto: You might like this:
    https://www.academia.edu/33781223/Beliefs_in_a_Vat?source=swp_share

    That was fun in the same way BBs are. I do admit I ran out of intellectual gas in the latter part where she applies Wittgenstein’s PLA to the objections.

    However, I suspect the paper’s argument would not meet the KeithS standard for refuting his Cartesian skepticism. Whether that should enter be one’s standard for irrefutable logic, I will leave as rhetorical red cape wave for him, should he be lurking.

    The argument also seemed to rely on the assumption that one is an isolated brain in a vat. But I don;t think it works for the Matrix, where there is a community of people communicating in language about a common world which is a causal source for their perceptions. Just not the source we think it is when we are not doing philosophy.

    I think the same issue arises if the argument were to be applied to a Bostrom simulation.

  25. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
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    fifthmonarchyman: I think the realization that sans God we are simply incapable of knowing whether we are dreaming or the product of someone else’s dream should be pondered till it’s weight sinks in. Usually we just skip over it and move on.

    No one actually thinks that we are BBs or part of a simulation but the atheist can’t possibly justify that belief. For him it’s simply an act of blind faith in something that is very unlikely.

    Ha ha, nope. That’s not only not true, it’s also inconsistent with Reid, who you claim to understand and admire.

  26. fifthmonarchyman
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    Allan Miller: If materialism is true it may still be the case that thoughts require a structure along the lines of our own

    I don’t think you understand what universal Turing machines are.

    If thoughts are computations then any ole computer will do. For the same reason that you can run Microsoft software on a apple computer. The simplest computer possible can do any computation it just takes longer.

    Of course you could argue that thoughts aren’t like computations and brains are not like computers. That is a position I happen to agree with. But most folks here think that strong AI is at least a possibility.

    peace

  27. fifthmonarchyman
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    Kantian Naturalist: Ha ha, nope. That’s not only not true, it’s also inconsistent with Reid, who you claim to understand and admire.

    LOL here we go again

    Here is the quote from Reid that Walto and I discussed earlier.

    quote:

    I thank the Author of my being, who bestowed it upon me before the eyes of my reason were opened, and still bestows it upon me, to be my guide where reason leaves me in the dark. And now I yield to the direction of my senses, not from instinct only, but from confidence and trust in a faithful and beneficent Monitor, grounded upon the experience of his paternal care and goodness. In all this, I deal with the Author of my being, no otherwise than I thought it reasonable to deal with my parents and tutors. I believed by instinct whatever they told me, long before I had the idea of a lie, or thought of the possibility of their deceiving me

    end quote: (Reid, Inquiry, in Works of, I.184).

    That is exactly my position!!!!!!.

    My position is not just consistent with Ried it’s literally exactly the same as his in this regard.

    And it’s a position that is simply impossible to hold sans God.

    I will grant that Reid did not spend a lot of time asking atheists to ponder where the principles of common sense come from but he knew full well he owed his confidence to God’s graciousness.

    Of course It was a different time. He was involved in an argument with folks who denied that we could trust our senses. But he would never ever pretend that we could trust our senses if God did not exist.

    peace

    P.S.

    Also notice that Ried considers normal everyday sense experience to be “dealing with the author of my being”. It sounds a lot like what I’m getting at when I say revelation.

  28. fifthmonarchyman
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    BruceS: Well, of course, that is exactly the type of “knowledge” a simulation designer would reveal to you.

    Yes and his deceitfulness in this area would prove that he was not God and therefore not worthy of my worship.

    It would also mean that I could not trust his truthfulness in other areas.

    The only way I can ever trust that the impressions of my senses and reasoning faculties are veridical is if they were given to me by a loving and faithful God.

    peace

  29. stcordova
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    Regarding the Poincare recurrence theorem and Boltzman’s Universe, suppose you have 10 fair coins. Every now and then ( like say 1 out 2^10 trials on average), you’ll get all heads. In principle you can take this out to N-number of coins, but then this becomes and absurd number, but ok, on infinite time scales it will repeat.

    The problem is the recurrence theorem works well when you have an infinite universe where numerous trials can take place. By way of analogy, if some sort of permanent glue were used to glue the coins down so they won’t flip anymore, then one will not have recurrence of the same coin configuration! In analogous manner, there are some irreversible features of the universe where recurrence can’t happen, hence the Boltzman universe can’t have those fluctuations in the future even on infinite timescales since stuff will just be plain spread out to oblivion in a Big Bang scenario. And if Christian God made the universe in miraculous act of creation, then the universe is winding down and coming apart irreversibly. Forget any fluctuations from equilibrium in the distant future.

  30. stcordova
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    My point is, there are simpler more elegant ways to argue features of the universe without resorting to in-elegant proof-by contradiction that involves multiple premises, where you can’t tell specifically which premise is actually falsified.

    There are several premises, or at least two I can identify:

    1. eternal universe
    2. a thermal fluctuation is sufficient to create a Boltzman Brain in an empty universe (huh?) and that brain can give us all of our experiences

    I don’t know if I can go on. The whole argument looks like a mess.

  31. Allan Miller
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    BruceS: That is not a rhetorical question at all […].

    A question’s rhetorical nature is not determined by its originality!

  32. Allan Miller
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    fifthmonarchyman: I don’t think you understand what universal Turing machines are.

    If thoughts are computations then any ole computer will do. For the same reason that you can run Microsoft software on a apple computer. The simplest computer possible can do any computation it just takes longer.

    So if I make a computer out of basketballs and have snails shuffle them around, the system will suffer existential angst? Prove it.

  33. keiths keiths
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    Allan, to fifth:

    So if I make a computer out of basketballs and have snails shuffle them around, the system will suffer existential angst? Prove it.

    Fifth doesn’t believe that it will:

    Of course you could argue that thoughts aren’t like computations and brains are not like computers. That is a position I happen to agree with.

  34. Alan Fox Alan Fox
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    BruceS,

    Irrefutable! 🙌

  35. keiths keiths
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    Alan:

    Surprisal. If I’m some sort of simulation, how come I’m continually surprised?

    We’ve been over this before:

    Alan:

    BTW, Keiths, are you in my simulation or am I in yours?

    The simple answer to solipsism is surprisal. The real world never ceases to surprise me.

    keiths:

    Seriously? You think no simulation could possibly surprise you?

    Alan:

    I can imagine being surprised by something I can’t imagine. I can’t imagine being surprised by something I can imagine. Can you imagine being surprised by something you can imagine?

    keiths:

    Yes, of course I can. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in my line of work who hasn’t been surprised by a simulation.

    Have you done any work with simulations?

  36. Alan Fox Alan Fox
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    keiths,

    We’ve been over this before

    I know. You never disappoint in this regard.

  37. keiths keiths
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    Alan,

    If a simulation of a processor chip can surprise its creators, why do you think that no simulation could ever surprise you?

    Another example: Edward Lorenz was surprised by the behavior of his weather simulations, leading to his pioneering work on chaos theory and the coining of the term “butterfly effect”.

  38. Alan Fox Alan Fox
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    keiths:
    Alan,

    If a simulation of a processor chip can surprise its creators, why do you think that no simulation could ever surprise you?

    That’s undecidable.

    Another example:Edward Lorenz was surprised by the behavior of his weather simulations, leading to his pioneering work on chaos theory and the coining of the term “butterfly effect”.

    Not following. Because Lorentz was surprised at something that indicates that BBs are possible? I say BBs are undecidable but Allan’s point is persuasive.

  39. Alan Fox Alan Fox
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    keiths: If a simulation of a processor chip can surprise its creators, why do you think that no simulation could ever surprise you?

    I’m misreading perhaps. I’m talking solipsism. Not surprisal by a simulation, surprisal as a simulation.

  40. keiths keiths
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    Alan:

    Not following. Because Lorentz was surprised at something that indicates that BBs are possible?

    No. We’re talking about simulations, not Boltzmann brains, though you appear to have been confusing the two in this exchange with Bruce:

    Bruce:

    As I have posted, I would agree that philosophy is needed to argue you are not currently a BB.

    Alan:

    Surprisal. If I’m some sort of simulation, how come I’m continually surprised? Or does that just refute solipsism?

    My point is that simulations can behave in surprising ways. Lorenz was surprised by the behavior of his weather simulations. My colleagues and I have been surprised (many times) by the behavior of our chip simulations. Talk to scientists and engineers across a broad range of disciplines and you’ll hear similar stories.

    So when I wrote this…

    Seriously? You think no simulation could possibly surprise you?

    …and you responded with this…

    I can imagine being surprised by something I can’t imagine. I can’t imagine being surprised by something I can imagine.

    …your response made no sense.

    Simulations can surprise, and they are certainly imaginable.

  41. BruceS
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    fifthmonarchyman: Yes and his deceitfulness in this area would prove that he was not God and therefore not worthy of my worship.

    Just so. The problem as I see it is that you cannot tell the two possibilities apart.

  42. BruceS
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    fifthmonarchyman: Of course you could argue that thoughts aren’t like computations and brains are not like computers. That is a position I happen to agree with. But most folks here think that strong AI is at least a possibility.

    It’s quite possible to hold both positions: human brains do not operate like digital computers and also strong AI is possible. As in fact I do.

    That of says nothing about phenomenal experience, only intelligence.

  43. BruceS
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    Allan Miller: A question’s rhetorical nature is not determined by its originality!

    Just to be clear, I meant rhetorical in the sense of “asked merely for effect with no answer expected”.

    So your post was not rhetorical in that sense, that is in terms of importance to the debate on whether one is currently a BB. Of course, I make no claims about your motives in posting!

    ETA: The italicizing of ‘philosophical’ in my post to you was also meant to be non-rhetorical.

    Maybe this post is rhetorical, however.

  44. fifthmonarchyman
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    BruceS: It’s quite possible to hold both positions: human brains do not operate like digital computers and also strong AI is possible. As in fact I do.

    Wait a minute. AI is based on the idea that intelligence can be “simulated” by a computer.

    If you hold that you can’t get there that way but can still get there by some other route you are not talking about AI but something else entirely.

    peace

  45. fifthmonarchyman
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    BruceS: Just so. The problem as I see it is that you cannot tell the two possibilities apart.

    I can tell them apart if God chooses to reveal himself to me. He can do that because he is omnipotent.

    If something or someone is knowable I can know because …….God.

    peace

  46. BruceS
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    says:

    fifthmonarchyman: Wait a minute. AI is based on the idea that intelligence can be “simulated” by a computer.

    If you hold that you can’t get there that way but can still get there by some other route you are not talking about AI but something else entirely.

    peace

    I agree I am not talking about AI the way you understand it. Rather, I am talking AI the way modern science and philosophy understands it.

    I can tell them apart if God chooses to reveal himself to me. He can do that because he is omnipotent.

    If something or someone is knowable I can know because …….God.

    Nothing in that logical contradicts my point. Hint: Focus on the “if” part.

  47. fifthmonarchyman
    Ignored
    says:

    BruceS: I agree I am not talking about AI the way you understand it. Rather, I am talking AI the way modern science and philosophy understands it.

    You are going to have to show me some research in AI that does not involve computers.

    BruceS: Nothing in that logical contradicts my point. Hint: Focus on the “if” part.

    In essence what you are claiming is that you can’t ever know a person as he truly is.

    I would beg to differ.

    peace

  48. BruceS
    Ignored
    says:

    An AI system competed against a human debate champion. Here’s what happened

    The article makes an important point about the role of emotion in human judgments of the winner’s debate.

    But is also makes a mistake when it says”

    “Of course, the AI wasn’t inventing ethical positions of its own and trying to push them on us humans. It was just pulling from statements humans have already made and strategically spitting those back at us.”

    The mistake is this: implying this is a constitutive difference between human and AI intelligence. For how much of the above is true of humans as well? That question needs to be addressed.

  49. BruceS
    Ignored
    says:

    fifthmonarchyman:

    In essence what you are claiming is that you can’t ever know a person as he truly is.

    Well, you can actually argue the reverse: that you can never know yourself except through both the interactions with others and the world in general. Wittgenstein’s PLA and Putnam’s externalism about meaning are two ways of doing that.

    And with that I will bow out of this exchange.

  50. fifthmonarchyman
    Ignored
    says:

    BruceS,

    The AI definitely involved a computer in that paper.
    What else do you have?

    peace

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