The Monist

Volume 97, Issue 3, July 2014

Models and Simulations

Claus Beisbart
Pages 399-417

Are We Sims? How Computer Simulations Represent and What this Means for the Simulation Argument

N. Bostrom’s simulation argument and two additional assumptions imply that we likely live in a computer simulation. The argument is based upon the following assumption about the workings of realistic brain simulations: The hardware of a computer on which a brain simulation is run bears a close analogy to the brain itself. To inquire whether this is so, I analyze how computer simulations trace processes in their targets. I describe simulations as fictional, mathematical, pictorial, and material models. Even though the computer hardware does provide a material model of the target, this does not suffice to underwrite the simulation argument because the ways in which parts of the computer hardware interact during simulations do not resemble the ways in which neurons interact in the brain. Further, there are computer simulations of all kinds of systems, and it would be unreasonable to infer that some computers display consciousness just because they simulate brains rather than, say, galaxies.