Download Anthropic Bias: Observation Selection Effects in Science and by Nick Bostrom PDF

By Nick Bostrom

This paintings attracts realization to definite sorts of biases that permeate many elements of technological know-how. facts are restricted not just by means of barriers of size tools but in addition through the precondition that there's a few definitely situated observer there to have the information (and to construct the instruments). this straightforward fact seems to have wide-ranging implications for fields as various as cosmology, evolution thought, imperfect keep in mind difficulties in online game conception, theology, site visitors research, the rules of thermodynamics and the translation of quantum mechanics. but, demanding paradoxes lie in ambush. The notorious Doomsday argument is the sort of, however it is in basic terms the end of an iceberg.

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Extra info for Anthropic Bias: Observation Selection Effects in Science and Philosophy

Sample text

True. But the full evidence you have is not only that α exists but also that the messenger told you about ␣. If the messenger selected the universe he reports on randomly from the class of all actual observer-containing universes, then the probability that he would select ␣, given that ␣ is an actual observer-containing universe, is inversely proportional to the number of actual observer-containing universes. The messenger’s report therefore does not allow you to discriminate between general hypotheses6 that imply that at least one observer-containing universe exists.

Unfortunately, we can construct a parallel line of assumptions to show that any other possible universe would have been equally surprising. Let E# be the proposition that ␣ has some particular boring character. For instance, we can let E# say that ␣ is a universe which consists of nothing but suchand-such a pattern of electromagnetic radiation. We then have P (E#) ≈ 0. Let K be the same as before. Now, if we suppose that P (C E#) << P(C) and P (E# K) ≈ 1 then the truth of E# will be classified as surprising.

Case 1 comes closer to modeling our epistemic situation in this respect, since it mirrors this selection effect. However, Case 1 is still an inadequate model because it overlooks another observational effect. The messenger could have retrieved information about any of the actual universes, and the angel could have found out about some universe ␤ that doesn’t contain any observers. If there are no angels, gods or heavenly messengers, however, then universes that don’t contain observers are not observed.

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