Led a ‘fireside chat’ about simulating climate, human brains, and us

I was invited to lead a discussion at the University Scholars Program at the National University of Singapore. Here’s the poster description:

Title: I simulate, therefore I am not

Can we simulate the human brain, maybe after spending 1 billion Euro over the next 10 years, as pursued by the Human Brain Project? Will it
be able to speak, and if so, what will it tell us? Can we simulate Earth’s climate, maybe even the Earth itself? If civilizations are likely to develop realistic simulations of universes, then—so argues Nick Bostrom—we are likely not real, but living inside a simulation ourselves. Ken Kahn will take a closer look at Bostrom’s  simulation argument, and at the value of simulation today and in our (simulated?) future.

We had a lively two-hour discussion. First we talked about how climate models work and what they good for (and what the controversies are). Next we talked about the new ten-year one billion Euro project to simulate the human brain – http://www.humanbrainproject.eu/. This led to discussions of substrate-independent intelligence, uploading, moral status of simulated brains and more.

Then I summarised the ‘simulation argument’ of Nick Bostrom (Oxford philosophy professor) that we are likely to be simulated: http://www.simulation-argument.com/. This was followed by a discussion of John Barrow’s ideas about how physicists might detect that we are inside a simulation: http://www.slideshare.net/UnitB166ER/living-in-a-simulated-universe-by-john-d-barrow. Finally we discussed Robin Hanson’s essay about reasons that we should behave differently if we think there is a good chance we are being simulated. http://hanson.gmu.edu/lifeinsim.html

The discussion was a good fun and a good advert for my computer science talk about agent-based modelling and Modelling4All on Thursday.

RWIS poster

Posted in Meetings | 2 Comments

2 Responses to “Led a ‘fireside chat’ about simulating climate, human brains, and us”

  1. Howard Noble says:

    did u forget the image/poster?

  2. Kenneth Kahn says:

    Just added a link to the poster. The woman is S1m0ne (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S1m0ne).

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