According to Nick Bostrom’s simulation hypothesis, every universe’s inhabitants would be equally likely to be living in a simulation, even if they were running simulations of their own. This leads to the uncomfortable conclusion that our universe is much more likely to be one of a huge number of simulations, rather than the one parent universe.
From a logical standpoint, this argument makes sense to me. But I’m always eager to poke holes in philosophical arguments, so here’s my best rebuttal as devil’s advocate. It doesn’t directly attack the logic of Bostrom’s philosophy; rather, it creates a probabilistic argument that we are NOT a simulation.
Let’s assume that simulations can be “turned off” by the parent universe at any time. Perhaps the inhabitants decide that the simulation is no longer needed for whatever reason, or perhaps the simulation is accidentally destroyed, or perhaps they are in a simulation themselves which is turned off by their parent universe. If this is the case, it would break the simulation chain. If Simulation A was the parent of Simulation B, which was the parent of the Simulation C, which was the parent of Simulation D, the inhabitants of Simulation A would be able to break this chain and destroy all of the simulations in this chain by turning off Simulation B.
The simulation hypothesis concludes that we are in a simulation in all probability, and that every universe is equally likely to be a simulation. This means that the universe that begat ours is also probably a simulation, as is the universe that begat our parent universe. If this is the case, it would be very likely that our own universe is merely one node in a huge chain of parent universes.
But this creates an interesting question. If any of those universes could break the chain at any time by turning off their simulation, the probability that not a single one of them would do so must be extraordinarily low. This strongly suggests that we are not in a simulation.
There are a couple of responses to this argument which I can foresee, so allow me to preemptively address them. Some might invoke the Anthropic Principle. It doesn’t make sense to marvel at the unlikelihood of our own existence, they will reason, because if our universe had been turned off we wouldn’t be here to speculate about it. In my opinion, this is a flawed application of the Anthropic Principle because there is another plausible explanation for our existence: Our simulated universe hasn’t been “turned off” by any of its parents because they don’t exist. We are the original universe.
So we have two possible explanations for our own universe. Either we are in a simulation, and are here due to the infinitesimally unlikely whims of an unimaginably vast chain of parent universes…or we are simply not a simulation. If these are the two possibilities, the latter seems much more likely from this probabilistic standpoint. It also has the advantage of surviving Ockham’s Razor.
What do you think? Is my probabilistic argument for our actual reality as strong as Bostrom’s argument for our simulated reality? What flaws do you see in my logic?