Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Philosophers Can Be So Stupid

Let me paraphrase this, only dialing it back by about 4000 years:

  • The human species is likely to go extinct before reaching a "literate" stage. 
  • Any literate civilization is very unlikely to write a significant number of books about its preliterate history. 
  • We are almost certainly just characters in a book.
Presumably Nick Bostrom would reject that idea, saying that characters in a book are, well, just characters in a book, not at all capable of having a consciousness that can be deceived into thinking themselves to be real.  But computers, well, they're a different story! 

No, they're not.  Computers are just recent technology, whereas writing is an old technology.  In fact, there's not much difference between artificial intelligence and a "choose your own adventure" book.  People today dramatically overestimate what computers can do -- and in the same way, people used to dramatically overestimate what writing can do.  That is, after all, exactly the belief manifested in any number of written curses and spells, the most well-known of which is, "Death will slay with its wings whoever disturbs the rest of the Pharaoh."

Both ideas are wrong, but both have a certain seductive appeal to them because they encapsulate an idea that would merely be scoffed at by the official academic world today:  We and all our world are, in fact, the creations of a superior Intelligence, and at some level, we each know this.

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