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A philosopher explains how you can know for sure that you are not a sim

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As philosopher Richard Johns explains, sims do not understand simhood:

How can Alice determine whether the strange little man in her apartment who claims to be her Programmer is telling the truth?

Recently, philosopher Richard Johns (left), whose work was profiled here at Mind Matters News in “A philosopher explains why thinking matter is impossible,” has now written a piece for Medium. In it, he explains why we cannot create a sim that is a conscious, rational being. He uses a dialogue between “Alice” and “The Programmer” to unpack the idea:

The dialogue begins with Alice returning from school to find a strange little man in her apartment. He seemed not to notice her entering the room, and remained seated comfortably in Alice’s favourite armchair, reading her own copy of Nick Bostrom’s “Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?”.

“Who the hell are you?” Alice shrieked. “What are you doing in my apartment?”

News, “Sims do not understand simhood” at Mind Matters News

Allegedly, he’s her programmer.

Um, yeah.

Richard Johns explains how you can know for sure that you are not his sim.

10 Replies to “A philosopher explains how you can know for sure that you are not a sim

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    Ask the philosopher whether genocide is ethically justified to “cure” a disease that mainly kills people who were already dying. If he can answer that one, I’ll listen to him talk about other crap.

  2. 2
    daveS says:

    This paper looks very interesting (another occurrence of Cantor’s Diagonalization argument!).

    The entire paper is readable online via a link on the author’s web page here.

  3. 3
    daveS says:

    H’m, the author appears to be a bit of a crank (at the 9/11 Truther level).

  4. 4
    Retired Physicist says:

    DaveS One of the funniest responses I saw to the 9/11 truther claim that the kerosene can’t melt steel, was an engineer who straightened out a paperclip and held a bic lighter up to the middle of it and pretty soon the end of the paper clip bent over. The steel paper clip hadn’t melted, obviously, but it had lost sufficient Yield strength.

  5. 5
    daveS says:


    That’s a brilliant demonstration—perhaps something along the lines of what Richard Feynman would have done had he been in that situation.

  6. 6
    Retired Physicist says:

    DaveS, if you do it, just make sure you have something between your fingertips and the metal. Steel is a good conductor of heat. 🙂

  7. 7
    Silver Asiatic says:

    I’ve been researching 9/11 truther claims just recently, never having given them any notice before.
    As of last year, Popular Mechanics magazine states, regarding what caused the collapse of WTC 7:

    There are two other possible contributing factors still under investigation …

    For me, that’s not the best way to “thoroughly debunk” a contrary theory (which is what was claimed in the link I followed to Pop Mechanics).
    “We thoroughly debunked your theory by pointing to three possible causes which are still under investigation 18 years later”.
    I give that one to the truthers for now. Or, I’d say anyway, some sort of alternative theory is still on the table, however unpopular.

  8. 8
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Steel buildings melting in fire:

  9. 9
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Most conspiracy theories are false but every once in a while there is a true one.
    I usually don’t pay any attention, but if the research is honest and there’s enough back-and-forth dialogue there can be a good way to understand history and the truth of things.

  10. 10
    Battman says:

    Tell the philosopher God’s reply to Descartes:

    “I AM, therefore think!”

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