Thursday, December 22, 2005

Newcomb's Paradox and Conscious Machines

Newcomb's paradox seems to be nothing more than a paradox about free will in deterministic systems. There is however another way to look at this paradox. Suppose that the ''highly superior being from another part of the galaxy'' uses a computer to simulate the laws of physics to calculate the future. This can, of course, only work if we can ignore quantum effects or if quantum mechanics is just an approximation of a deterministic theory of everything.

The being can thus only predict your future actions by simulating you in a computer. If our consciousness is only caused by computation, then this means that the simulation performed by the being will cause you to experience the simulated reality. So, when you stand in front of the two boxes you cannot tell if you are in the real world or in the simulated world.

To defeat the being you must choose the closed box in the simulated world and both boxes in the real world. So, you need to know in which of the two realities you are. If the boxes are in a room you could try to put a small marking on a wall of the room. If the being calls you into the room to make your choice and you don't see the marking, you must be in the simulated world. You should then choose only the closed box. But now another problem arises. If you know that you are in the simulated reality, why would you care about your real world copy?