Bostrom, Economics, and a Sequence of Unfortunate Events
"It happened that a fire broke out backstage in a theater. The clown came out to inform the public. They thought it was just a jest and applauded. He repeated his warning, they shouted even louder. So I think the world will come to an end amid general applause from all the wits, who believe that it is a joke."
"God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh."
As far as we know, our universe is approximately 13.7 billion years old. And though 13.7 billion years may sound like a long time, in the context of eternity, a billion years is the batting of an eyelid. From the perspective of eternity, 13.7 billion years is like a flash of light, a mere spark. And how awe-inspiring it is to consider that in the course of those 13.7 billion years, of the 6,000 years of recorded history for humanity, we would find ourselves at this point -- on global, political, and economic levels.
I. Humanity on the Precipice
In light of the approaching election in November and the fact that the global economy appears to be on the precipice, I figured that now would be as good of a time as any to revisit Nick Bostrom's simulation argument. In light of Bostrom's argument, the idea that we could be approaching the "end of history" would seem ominously plausible.
On the topic of Bostrom's simulation hypothesis, Peter Jenkins has written that this "end of history" can be understood in the "Hegel/Fukuyama sense, i.e. when humankind reaches its ultimate end state, and in the technological singularity sense." In other words, "where the world as we know it winks out of existence and we are transported to a collective consciousness in the form of a generalized artificial intelligence of which, as individualized [artificial intelligences] or as technologically enhanced humans, we would each constitute a part." Though this idea may sound quite foreign, outlandish, and/or absurd for those who have never considered Bostrom's observations or have never thought of such things at great length, there is reason to believe that there could be something to Bostrom's simulation hypothesis.
What is even more interesting is that modern science and technology would appear close to being able to determine whether we are actually living in a computer simulation. Believe it or not, there is some scientific evidence to suggest that the ability to simulate a universe is possible -- if not, likely in the near future. One crux of Bostrom's argument is the theory that some intelligent civilization in the universe would at some point be so highly evolved as to be able to simulate an entire universe; if such a civilization existed, it could produce perhaps billions of simulated universes. Ergo, we must then ask: Are we the only universe to evolve to such a technological degree, or are we one of the billions of simulated universes being run? Arguably, humanity is on the precipice of the levels necessary for simulating universes. One could argue that we have already achieved such levels in light of MMORPGs and simulated science experiments.
The UK's Daily Mail recently reported how "scientists are trying to build [a human brain] using the world's most powerful computer." This supercomputer "will simulate the mind exactly and will help fight against brain diseases." Scientists hope to complete the project in 12 years. The article suggested that this project could "pave the way for more intelligent robots and computers".
The idea that humanity would find itself, in the 6,000 year time period of recorded history, at the edge of not only post-humanism and space colonization, but also a global economic collapse would appear to be quite an astronomical coincidence. What would appear to make the coincidence that much more interesting is the idea that various sources around the globe seem to be forecasting some apocalyptic event in the near future: the Mayan prophecy of 2012, St. Malachy's Prophecy of the Popes, Isaac Newton's 2060 projection, et al. These varied projections, from different sources at different points of history from different regions of the world, seem to align towards a not-so-distant point in time when humanity and life on Earth would dramatically change.
II. Global Threats
Going along with the Mayan 2012 prophecy and other various apocalyptic ideas, the fact that humanity has made it to this point may seem a bit disconcerting. For instance, take the issue of overpopulation. Whereas nature has ways and methods of correcting imbalances in ecosystems (not always in favor of individual species), one has to wonder why, if overpopulation and industrialization are threatening the global environment, there has not yet been any catastrophic "Captain Trips" pandemic to address surplus population. Going along with Friedrich Engels' sentiments, "If we want to be consistent, we must admit that the earth was already overpopulated when only one man existed."
But what about nature's wrath? An article from IJ Review published April 13, 2012 discussed "major seismic activity" that is occurring. From the article: "Does it seem to you like there has been an unusual amount of seismic activity around the world lately? Well, it isn't just your imagination. The Ring of Fire is roaring to life and that is really bad news for the west coast of the United States." The article suggested that "at some point there is going to be a tragedy of unimaginable proportions on the west coast." Even further, "one of these days, one or more of the major volcanoes on the west coast is going to experience a major eruption again", possibly Mt. Rainier. From the article: "A major eruption of Mt. Rainier could potentially be absolutely devastating for much of the northwest United States."
Along this same line of thought, an interesting article from the Daily Mail published in January 2011 discussed how a massive super-volcano beneath the Yellowstone National Park could possibly wreak havoc on two-thirds of the US. It would be the first time in 600,000 years that this volcano erupted; to put things into historical context, the last time Yellowstone's caldera erupted, it was 400,000 years before the dawn of homo sapiens. Such a volcanic disaster would be of Biblical proportions.
III. Economic Meltdown and a Possible Major Tech Boom
Various commentators have put forward ideas regarding simulators' intentions with respect to human suffering and humanity's purpose, e.g. the idea that evil and suffering exist because peace is boring or that our simulators (like earthly parents) want humanity to grow up and achieve a higher consciousness. In this sense, a global economic collapse would appear to be quite a climax to an epic storyline. In light of the hype of the Mayan 2012 prophecy, might we see a massive sell-off in global markets prior to Dec. 21, 2012 while some anticipate the end? Could we thereafter see a massive end-of-year rally once it is clear that the end did not occur? This could be something for traders and investors to keep in mind as we approach the end of the year.
Even beyond Dec. 21, 2012, the specter of global economic collapse remains. The UK Guardian reported Tuesday that the European debt crisis could cause the global economy to plunge "back into deep recession". One cannot help but feel that the economic outlook appears bleak. Looking forward, Australian research scientist Graham Turner has recently said that an MIT study from the 1970s portending "global economic collapse" and "precipitous population decline" by 2030 appears to be still on track. In other words, "the world is on track for disaster." Interestingly enough, the MIT study involved using computer simulations in determining the likelihood of an apocalyptic population and economic crash.
From an economic perspective, one cannot help notice the foreboding connections between technological development, political issues, environmental threats, global financial problems, and end-times anticipation. Whereas one would hope that the market could establish some pragmatic equilibrium to avert disaster, one has to wonder if the market would not be able to readjust in time to avoid apocalyptic tumult. Nevertheless, humanity remains on the course for technological development, possibly leading into post-humanism. Such thoughts regarding post-humanism and divine realities bring to mind the ideas of thinkers like Frank J. Tipler and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. When you think about it, if this is some sort of simulation, it makes sense that we could come to the realization toward the very end of the simulation -- as the inhabitants' realization that they are living in the simulation could possibly compromise the simulation's very purpose.
From this perspective, we could be in for a major technological boom in the coming decades. Between the path towards post-human technology and a drive toward space colonization (being perceived as necessary for human survival), I believe that there is reason to anticipate a major technological boom in the near future.
Even in light of contemporary political and economic debates over taxation, environmental damage, and income inequality, the conatus of human survival may get the upper hand -- potentially jumpstarting considerable investment in technological development. Per Bostrom's analysis, the closer we get to being able to simulate entire universes via computers, the closer we get to discovering the truth. If humanity does develop to the point of post-humanism and/or simulating entire planets with conscious individual entities, the more the odds increase that we are in fact living in a computer-simulation. Thus, giving way to the scientifically-realized observation that humanity is playing out some divine storyline. From this perspective, in light of global economic collapse, environmental problems, technological development, and our species' relatively brief history, maybe it will all come together in the end. When all is said and done, maybe it will all make sense and work out for the best. Given our current predicament, we can only hope.
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