[extropy-chat] Space: The Final Constraint

Damien Sullivan phoenix at ugcs.caltech.edu
Tue Jun 13 20:10:00 UTC 2006

On Tue, Jun 13, 2006 at 11:50:27AM -0700, Lee Corbin wrote:
> Damien writes

As a side note, the 1e33 minds in a m3 was a number I assume made up on
the spot for rhetorical effect, since there are likely to be no more
than 1e30 *atoms* in a m3 of solid matter.

> > > Hell, if you so badly *want* to receive photons and phonons that 
> > > depict birds chirping happily in a green woodland, then please do
> > > so. But do not demand that untold trillions of people don't get
> > > to live because you need so damned much matter to reflect those
> > > photons! There are less expensive ways for you to get your fix.

> > It seems like an appeal to just simulate it all in VR.
> > But how?  If someone wants the experience of deep exploration of
> > a complex system, vs. 3-D wallpaper of generic trees and birdsong
> > sources, then that'll take a lot of computation, it's not just a
> > matter of cheaply calculating some neurons. The best computer of
> > reality might be reality.
> In *theory* emulating neurons is indeed all you need to do.
> You can't know---as I'm sure you have often acknowledged---
> whether or not your brain is in a vat. Or whether you are
> being emulated on some computer.
> the emulation of everything that you see and hear. The 2D images
> are infinitely less expensive than crudely emulating every
> last molecule in a forest, say.

This doesn't follow.  The 2D images are the end result of a vast amount
of work.  Copying an image is cheap but computing what it should be is

E.g. suppose you want to emulate the experience of exchanging e-mail
with another brain in a vat.  Can you get away with just emulating the
sensory neurons which would be reading the e-mail?  No, because it takes
a whole other humanlevel mind to write the e-mails and carry on a
conversation.  This despite the fact that the ASCII text "reflection"
off the other mind is much smaller than the photon reflections off of a
rainforest.  The sensory bandwidth of a vatbrain may seem trivial
compared to the brain, but computing which sensory experiences should be
squeezed through that bandwidth is not trivial.

One person might be satisfied with crudely heuristic "wallpaper" full of
fractally drawn trees and chirping boids.  An animal behaviorist will
want to see real behavior.  Someone else might want to get out a
microscope, or sequence DNA, or explore ecological consequences over a
large area (so "just emulate what they're looking at right now" won't
cut it.)  And that's just at one moment, never mind wanting to see how
the system evolves over time.

The brain in a vat wants to interact with a rich environment, which
takes resources above and beyond that needed for the brain.

-xx- Damien X-) 

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