The Termination Risks of Simulation Science

Erkenntnis 85 (2):489-509 (2020)
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Abstract
Historically, the hypothesis that our world is a computer simulation has struck many as just another improbable-but-possible “skeptical hypothesis” about the nature of reality. Recently, however, the simulation hypothesis has received significant attention from philosophers, physicists, and the popular press. This is due to the discovery of an epistemic dependency: If we believe that our civilization will one day run many simulations concerning its ancestry, then we should believe that we are probably in an ancestor simulation right now. This essay examines a troubling but underexplored feature of the ancestor-simulation hypothesis: the termination risk posed by both ancestor-simulation technology and experimental probes into whether our world is an ancestor simulation. This essay evaluates the termination risk by using extrapolations from current computing practices and simulation technology. The conclusions, while provisional, have great implications for debates concerning the fundamental nature of reality and the safety of contemporary physics.
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Archival date: 2019-08-11
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2018-11-23

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