Doomsday Argument

I found this video the other day and felt like I needed to share it. It is only 8 minutes but very interesting as it touches on a few different ideas when dealing with the extinction of our species.

I would like to start with saying that Hawking and a few others have already given us less than 100 years before we are extinct. I go back and forth with this idea and think it is very possible, but not very probable. I do think our days are numbered, but like most things our future is up in the air and we can make our own fate. The video did mention some statistical analysis that is known as the Doomsday Argument (what a badass name) that claims humans, both you or I, are either one of the first humans to be born and there will be many many more, or that we are nearing the end of the number of humans that will ever be born, which means that we are closer to extinction. At least that is how I tried to understand it. Wikipedia explains it a little better: The Doomsday Argument-

is a probabilistic argument that claims to predict the number of future members of the human species given only an estimate of the total number of humans born so far. Simply put, it says that supposing that all humans are born in a random order, chances are that any one human is born roughly in the middle.

So that makes more sense and is a little easier to understand. I understand what they are saying but eventually that “middle” will start to move toward the end, and get closer and closer until that last human being is born. So at what point do we say that the next person born will be closer to the end than the middle? The obvious answer is we don’t know, and there are quite a few arguments for and against this idea, so it is very tough to get an accurate gauge on the idea as a whole.

Something else that goes along with this idea is that even if the next human being born is very near to the last, that does not necessarily mean that we will go extinct. At the surface level this argument does not factor in the idea that human beings would evolve into an entirely new species. So technically the argument would still be true but, not totally accurate as humans would be something else like super homo sapiens (I think now we are classified as homo sapiens sapiens). So I guess the real question what will happen first, will we live long enough, as a species, to kill ourselves and destroy most of the planet in the process, or will we live long enough to evolve into whatever is next? When I say that I am not ruling out downloading our minds into android bodies either. That could very well be the next and final stage of our evolution, I doubt it will be the next but I wholeheartedly believe that it will be the last phase of our evolution. As I said can we hang on long enough to get there, that is the real question.

The video did discuss that there are those that believe humans are basically a plague upon the planet and always will be. I agree with this sentiment, as I am sure many of you are aware. The video goes on to say that we should stop what we are doing and slowly fade away into nothingness to preserve the life on the planet and that that is our moral obligation. As I said I agree with this, but I am certainly not going to kill myself. I like living, although I do feel that there will be a point in the future where a specific world encompassing event could change our species for the better, at least that is what I hope. However, I am not sure when or if this will happen, and there is also the chance that it could happen too late and too much damage will already be done. There is also the chance that this event could also be the catalyst that starts our very slow extinction process.

Along those lines the video mentions a man named Tom VII, whose real name is Tom Murphy, who is a computer programmer (that is really all the information out there that I could find about him). The video said he created an algorithm and let it play Super Mario video game. What he found was that the program discovered little secrets or almost cheats to exploit the game. Humans playing the same game either never thought about them or did not know they existed. That is pretty amazing, and to me shows what could potentially happen when an super intelligent A.I. were to be brought online. Think of the solutions to problems it could solve, problems we never even thought of and solutions we never would have thought of to our current problems. It is somewhat scary but also exciting at the same time. What is interesting is that it was very good at Mario, but when playing Tetris, it struggled badly. It had trouble anticipating future moves. Its struggled to place the current block while planning for the next block, then when the game was about to end in a loss the program paused the game, essentially refusing to play because it would lose. Basically the only way not to lose was not to play. This is sound logic, but childish at best, basically I am taking my ball and going home.

I find this interesting for a variety of reasons. One being that a human would simply lose the game so they could start over and play again, accepting defeat, but realizing that it could get another chance. The program on the other hand would not accept defeat to the point where it would not even play. I am trying to wrap my head around how pressing pause equates to something in the real world for an AI. Maybe it simply retreats back to where it came and stops what it is doing knowing that we got the better or it, or maybe it launches then entirety of our nuclear arsenal so that no one can play the game (of life) anymore.

Just some things to think about. The Doomsday Argument I find very fascinating and if I had to say I think it is mostly correct, all humans being born now are somewhere in the middle of every human who will ever be born. What I did not find it if that Argument takes into account natural or manmade disasters? However the Argument does state that the probability of extinction could occur sooner rather than later. I have always hated, and I mean hated statistics (and I don’t like using that word). I have always felt that they can be easily twisted and could be easily manipulated. But when it comes to something like this I think playing the numbers game is the only way to do it, I wonder what the standard deviation is for the DA. As you will see blow a 10% error is almost 1,000 years, so that is no small error. I will leave you with these gems from Wikipedia:

There is a 95% chance of extinction within 9,120 years.

The DA gives a 5% chance that some humans will still be alive at the end of that period.

Sometimes science sucks…




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