Symbolic Systems Program Distinguished Speaker: Nick Bostrom

Sponsored by Symbolic Systems Program


Monday, May 15, 2006
4:15 pm –
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Building 420, Room 040

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Event Details:

Since 1991, the Symbolic Systems Program has annually hosted special lectures by speakers who have made distinguished contributions to the theory or applications of symbolic systems.

This year's Symbolic Systems Distinguished Speaker is...

Nick Bostrom

Director, Future of Humanity Institute

University Fellow in the James Martin Institute for Science and Civilization

University of Oxford

"Are You Living in a Simulation?"


I argue 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. It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor-simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation. A number of other consequences of this result will be discussed.

Speaker Bio:

Dr. Nick Bostrom is a University Fellow in the James Martin Institute for Science and Civilization at the University of Oxford. He is also the Director of the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of St. Cross College. His research interests include philosophy of science, foundations of probability theory, moral philosophy, bioethics, implications of future technologies for humanity, and global catastrophic risk.

Originally from Sweden, Dr. Bostrom earned a bachelor's degree at the University of Gothenburg. He received master's degrees in philosophy and physics at the University of Stockholm and wrote a master's thesis in computational neuroscience at King's College, London, before being awarded PhD in philosophy from the London School of Economics in 2000. His thesis, "Observational Selection Effects and Probability," was selected by Harvard philosopher Robert Nozick for inclusion in the Routledge series Outstanding Dissertations. Before attaining his current professorship, Dr. Bostrom was a Lecturer at Yale University and a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at Oxford University.

The author of over 100 articles, Dr. Bostrom has published in journals such as the Synthese, Bioethics, Mind, and Astrophysics & Space Science. He has authored one book, Anthropic Bias (Routledge), and co-edited two forthcoming volumes from Oxford University Press. Dr. Bostrom chairs the World Transhumanist Association and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, both of which he co-founded.

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