Edited to make the question clearer

Nick Bostrom’s Simulation Argument can effectively be reduced to just two options:

Either (1) close to zero civilisations reach a post-human stage and run many ancestor simulations or (2) We are almost certainly now living in a simulation

My question is whether proposition 2 stays effectively the same if we replace “close to zero” in proposition 1 with just “zero”?

Surely it only takes one civilization making lots of ancestor simulations to make it almost certain that we are in one of them?

  • Why did you use "very close to one" instead of just "one"?
    – Conifold
    Jan 20, 2022 at 23:33
  • 1
    Just to state the obvious: saying 'zero' implies factual knowledge; saying 'close to zero' implies statistical improbability. The first is trivially easy to critique by asking how one knows there are none. Jan 21, 2022 at 1:17
  • If one uses zero in the first two premises, then we cannot be simulations. There would be ZERO "civilizations churning out simulations". No, the argument no longer works.
    – Dcleve
    Jan 21, 2022 at 17:46
  • @Conifold and all, Thanks, I’ve edited the question to make it clearer
    – Gueda
    Jan 24, 2022 at 16:38

1 Answer 1


Nick Bostroms argument reminds me of Drakes formula for the number of life bearing planets. Such a formula begs so many questions about its assumptions that it is useless. A far more scientific approach is to actually to go looking for life bearing planets. So far over 4,000 exoplanets have been discovered. As technology improves we'll have an emprically based estimate of possibly life bearing planets in our galaxy.

To go back to Bostrom: he assumes that consciousness can be artifically induced, a question that no-one has an answer to yet. One ought to recall that simulating consciousness is not consciousness. We can simulate a spinning cube on a computer, nevertheless it is not actually a spinning cube. All in all, Bostrom's argument is a variant of solipsism, a position in philosophy that has never been taken seriously.

To answer your question, replacing 'close to zero' with 'zero' implies that it is entirely false we are living in a simulation.

  • The Drake equation is not useless. Surveying exoplanets will help tune it's variables. The Drake equation is useful for considering life at very large scales, & looking at probabilities of encountering other life if say there is a Great Filter at a certain point. "it is not actually a spinning cube" Our subjective experience is also highly processed by our brains. So by your reasoning even reality isn't real. Descartes work is founded on taking methodological solipsism seriously. P-zombie issues are serious philosophy. Not accepting solipsism, is not the same as not taking it seriously.
    – CriglCragl
    Jan 24, 2022 at 17:26
  • Thanks for your answer. Are you sure about the last part? “Either no civilization runs lots of simulations, or we are almost certainly living in a simulation”. I’m not sure how that means it is entirely false we are living in a simulation?
    – Gueda
    Jan 24, 2022 at 18:33
  • @CriglCragl: Sure it is. I'm betting on better observational technology. If you want to bet on Drakes equation - go ahead - but its already history. Descartes stole his cogito ergo sum from al-Ghazali without attribution. And as al-Ghazali already pointed out, solipsism is just stupid and silly. Jan 25, 2022 at 4:45

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