The Null Device


Before Cool Britannia, Working Title and Gwyneth Paltrow's English accent, there was Merchant Ivory, renowned for their costume dramas. Purveyors of quality cinema, or the Stock Aitken Waterman of pretty, lightweight film?


Via FmH, an interesting paper which attempts to prove that at least one of the following propositions is true: (1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a "posthuman" stage; (2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof); (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.

In some ways, the posthumans running a simulation are like gods in relation to the people inhabiting the simulation: the posthumans created the world we see; they are "omnipotent" in the sense that they can interfere in the workings of our world even in ways that violate its physical laws; they are "omniscient" in the sense that they can see everything that happens. However, all the demigods except those at the fundamental level of reality are subject to sanctions imposed upon them by the more powerful gods living at deeper levels.

(So there is a God and ve is a simulation hacker? Not exactly a reassuring theogony that we're living in what may be a computer toy. "As flies to wanton boys we are to the Gods".)

We can, however, conclude that one naïve transhumanist dogma is false: The probability that you or your descendants will ever run an ancestor-simulation is negligible, unless you are now living in such a simulation.


I've got a bit of a dilemma. I have just been given a kitten by several family members. A high-maintenance, pedigree kitten, with special dietary requirements and a tendency to not leave one alone. With it around, I'm unable to do anything (as when it's not trying to climb onto my lap, it's going where it shouldn't). (I even found it hard to sleep last night, as it insisted on waking me before 8am.) Locking it outside the room doesn't work, as it complains in pained tones. (As you probably would too, were you in its situation.) That is, if it doesn't bolt through the door before you get a chance to close it.

I didn't ask for a cat (let alone such a high-maintenance cat), and don't quite feel up to keeping it. However, since a lot of people put a lot of effort into getting it, giving it away would be hard. Therein lies my dilemma.