Accelerating Future Transhumanism, AI, nanotech, the Singularity, and extinction risk.


The Self-Sampling Assumption

The self-sampling assumption (SSA) is a philosophical tool which follows from basic principles. It suggests that we should reason as if we are typical observers in a suitable reference class. The SSA is part of a larger class of phenomena known as observer selection effects.

For example, say you're participating in a psychology experiment where there is a reward for guessing the correct answer to a given problem posed to you by an experimenter. The scenario is this - you join 99 other people in front of a large building. All 100 persons, including yourself, are blindfolded and equipped with noise-cancelling headphones. You are all led inside the building. The 100 persons are split into two different groups. 95 persons are led into room A, 5 persons are led into room B (everyone is informed this). Without removing the blindfold or headphones, it is your task to guess whether you have been led into room A or B. If you guess correctly, you are rewarded $100, otherwise nothing. Given no other information, which room should you assume you were led into? A, of course, at odds of 19:1.

The self-sampling assumption suggests that we should assume we are typical observers out of the class of all observers. (Or, more accurately, that the observer-moment we are experiencing is a typical example selected from the class of all observer-moments.) It is possible that our specific situation is an exotic or rare one, but relatively unlikely. It's possible that there is a planet somewhere with a quadrillion intelligent observers living on it, but if so, we have to ask ourselves: why were we born on this planet, rather than that one? The probability of any given observer being born on the planet with a quadrillion observers is much higher than being born on the planet with so much fewer persons.

Many thinkers' first reflex is to challenge the idea of the self-sampling assumption, because it can lead to counterintuitive conclusions. Many may feel uncomfortable with the idea that we can get so much theoretical firepower from a method largely independent from empirical testing. But it seems like observer selection effects are just something we just have to deal with - justifying their existence requires far fewer assumptions than those required by many other beliefs people frequently argue for.

Perhaps the most unsettling conclusions followed by this line of reasoning are those represented by the Doomsday Argument. If we are typical persons, then it's likely we were born at a time where most persons are born. In other words, the height of our civilization is likely to be occurring right now. If there are many generations in the future, then why weren't we born then...?

Comments (54) Trackbacks (1)
  1. “If we are typical persons, then it’s likely we were born at a time where most persons are born. In other words, the height of our civilization is likely to be occurring right now. If there are many generations in the future, then why weren’t we born then…?”

    Because we’re approaching the singularity, and are therefore amongst the last “original” humans alive. I would think the Doomsday argument supports the singularity quite nicely.

    Also, have you thought of the extreme unlikeliness of being a human at all? There are plenty of other conscious animals, and probably aliens and/or computer consciousnesses (in the future). So the Doomsday argument kind of sabotages itself a bit there.

  2. “The self-sampling assumption suggests that we should assume we are typical observers out of the class of all observers.”

    A slight nitpick, but it’s important to clarify that we should assume only that we are typical observers out of the reference class of all observers self-similar to us. (potentially narrower than the class of all potential ‘observers’) Defining the reference class properly is the tricky issue.

    Roland, the doomsday argument depends on the reference class. If the reference class is ‘homo sapiens’, it only predicts a near-future termination or long steady population decline of homo sapiens, not all observers, which naturally fits the Singularity hypothesis quite nicely, as you point out.

    The existence or potential of aliens does not directly ‘sabotage’ the doomsday argument – it merely says that if aliens exist, our civilization is probably not the first. (Likewise for potential computer consciousnesses, whether alien or ‘human’).

  3. Hey very nice website!! Guy .. Excellent .. Superb .. I’ll bookmark your site and take the feeds also…I am glad to find numerous useful info here in the put up, we’d like develop extra strategies on this regard, thanks for sharing. . . . . .

  4. I am a long time ago I study your weblog and it has long been declaring that you’re a great author

  5. naturally like your web site but you have to take a look at the spelling on several of your posts. Several of them are rife with spelling issues and I to find it very troublesome to inform the reality nevertheless I’ll certainly come back again.

  6. Thanks a lot for your own brilliant web site; this is in fact the terms that retains me awake from the day. I’ve been shopping around for this web site after i found out about them through the colleague as well as was happy when i found it soon after searching for long time. As like a avid blogger, I’m very happy to see others taking initivative and contributing to the area. Wanted for you to comment to demonstrate my approval to your web site as it is rather energizing, and many bloggers do not get appreciation that they deserve. I believe I’ll visit again and may spread the word to my own friends.

  7. One of the more impressive blogs Ive seen. Thanks so much for keeping the internet classy for a change. Youve got style, class, bravado. I mean it. Please keep it up because without the internet is definitely lacking in intelligence.

  8. Congratulations for posting such a useful blog. Your blog isn’t only informative but also extremely artistic too. There usually are extremely couple of individuals who can write not so easy articles that creatively. Keep up the good writing !!

  9. This put up is totaly unrelated about what I was previously searching google for, nonetheless it had been indexed on the 1st page. I speculate your carrying out something right if Yahoo and google likes a person adequate for you to location you with the initial page of a non associated search.

  10. Howdy brothers and sisters simply enjoy your dazzling site thanx and do not stop!

  11. Nowadays YouTube video tutorials quality is more better and better, thus that’s the motive that I am watching this video at at this time.

  12. Hi there! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this site? I’m getting sick and tired of WordPress because I’ve had issues with hackers and I’m looking at alternatives for another platform. I would be fantastic if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

  13. One more thing. In my opinion that there are lots of travel insurance web sites of reliable companies than enable you to enter holiday details and acquire you the quotes. You can also purchase the international travel cover policy on the internet by using your current credit card. Everything you need to do will be to enter the travel specifics and you can start to see the plans side-by-side. Merely find the program that suits your capacity to pay and needs after which it use your credit card to buy that. Travel insurance on the internet is a good way to begin looking for a reliable company for international travel insurance. Thanks for discussing your ideas.

  14. Your house is valueble for me personally. Thanks!…

  15. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. After all I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again very soon!

  16. I simply could not depart your web site before suggesting that I really enjoyed the standard information a person provide for your visitors? Is gonna be again ceaselessly to investigate cross-check new posts.

  17. naturally like your web-site however you need to take a look at the spelling on quite a few of your posts. Several of them are rife with spelling issues and I find it very troublesome to inform the reality nevertheless I will surely come back again.

  18. I wanted to create you a tiny observation in order to say thank you the moment again for all the marvelous information you’ve contributed on this page. It was certainly strangely generous of you giving freely just what a number of people would have supplied as an ebook to help with making some cash for themselves, particularly since you could have done it in case you desired. The ideas as well worked like the fantastic way to be sure that the rest have the same fervor like my very own to learn much more when it comes to this condition. I know there are thousands of more pleasant situations in the future for people who look over your blog.

  19. Good blog. Feel free to visit my homepage D also:

  20. Very nice homepage. A Feel free to pass by my blog also:

  21. I really believe that a foreclosures can have a major effect on the borrower’s life. Mortgage foreclosures can have a Seven to several years negative effect on a applicant’s credit report. A new borrower having applied for a home loan or any kind of loans for that matter, knows that the particular worse credit rating can be, the more difficult it is to have a decent mortgage loan. In addition, it could affect a borrower’s chance to find a really good place to lease or rent, if that turns into the alternative housing solution. Thanks for your blog post.

  22. This website was… how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something that helped me. Thank you!|

  23. Adidas Path Working sneakers hold the greatest selection for newcomers to professionals. Commencing joggers should not commence a schedule without having runners which contains correct cushioning for that complete ft ., a comfortable match alongside with safety from the elements. The dangers related with operating utilizing very poor sneakers incorporate sprained shins, bruised foot, and lots of other pains and aches which could run you concerning days. Path footwear ought to offer added footing, are more durable uppers, also like a far more padding sole. You will require to establish what form of ft you might have before selecting a sneaker. In case you have toned arches, endeavor jogging sneakers along with movements and likewise balance deal with in addition to elevated further padding.

  24. pair of sun glasses inside their autos. When you are traveling your vehicle, the particular glare via light can cause non permanent dazzling. In fact, glare coming from the sun’s rays are a main cause for several mishaps. This sort of accidents might be prevented in the event you have sun glasses. It’s generally necessary for specialist motorists, which usually generate significant cars much like the college buses or vehicles to use sun glasses because implications

  25. Excellent read. I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing some research on that. He actually bought me lunch because I found it for him! Therefore let me rephrase: Thanx for lunch!

  26. I’ve loaded your blog in 4 totally different web browsers and I must say your blog loads a lot quicker then most. Would you mind contacting me the name of your website hosting company? My personal email is: . I will even sign up through your own affiliate link if you’d like. Thank you

  27. Interesting website, i read it but i still have a few questions. shoot me an email and we will talk more becasue i may have an interesting idea for you.

  28. Dead composed content , thanks for information .

  29. I truly want to thank you for however one more fantastic informative post, I’m a loyal visitor to this weblog and I can’t say how a lot valuable guidelines I’ve learned from reading your content material. I truly appreciate all the hard function you put into this excellent blog.

  30. Lengthy prior to the chronicle started we males have got unneurotic aside from the ladies and performed things. We had time.

  31. Fine web page! I totally relished the quite examining. I hope to find out from considerably additional out of your internet site. There’s no doubt that that you have exceptional details into as well as eye sight. Now i’m exceedingly encouraged on this content material.

  32. I blog quite often and I truly thank you for your content. This great article has truly peaked my interest. I’m going to bookmark your site and keep checking for new information about once a week. I subscribed to your RSS feed as well.

  33. Looking at details delivered in this article I found a bit of interesting final thoughts. I would really like to appreciate your time suffered in posting.

  34. The style you documented this particular topic at this point is really interesting and also expertly created. In my opinion you’ll be able to immediately acquire massive amount followers.

  35. I was just searching for this info for a while. After six hours of continuous Googleing, at last I got it in your website. I wonder what is the lack of Google strategy that don’t rank this type of informative sites in top of the list. Normally the top web sites are full of garbage.

  36. certainly like your web-site but you need to check the spelling on several of your posts. Many of them are rife with spelling problems and I find it very troublesome to tell the truth nevertheless I’ll definitely come back again.

  37. whoah this blog is excellent i love reading your articles. Keep up the good work! You know, many people are searching around for this info, you can help them greatly.

  38. An impressive share, I just given this onto a colleague who was doing a bit analysis on this. And he in fact purchased me breakfast because I discovered it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the deal with! But yeah Thnkx for spending the time to debate this, I feel strongly about it and love reading extra on this topic. If possible, as you become expertise, would you thoughts updating your blog with more details? It is highly useful for me. Big thumb up for this blog submit!some tips here!

  39. Oh my goodness! an amazing article dude. Thanks However I’m experiencing difficulty with ur rss . Don’t know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anybody getting equivalent rss drawback? Anyone who knows kindly respond. Thnkxsome tips here!

  40. It’s arduous to seek out knowledgeable folks on this matter, but you sound like you already know what you’re talking about! Thanks

  41. I’m impressed, I need to say. Really hardly ever do I encounter a blog that’s each educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you have got hit the nail on the head. Your idea is excellent; the issue is something that not enough persons are talking intelligently about. I am very pleased that I stumbled throughout this in my search for something regarding this.more tips i found on!

  42. Spot on with this write-up, I actually think this website wants far more consideration. I’ll in all probability be once more to learn much more, thanks for that info.some tips here!

  43. Spot on with this write-up, I really think this web site needs far more consideration. I’ll in all probability be again to read way more, thanks for that info.Useful info!

  44. After research a number of of the blog posts on your website now, and I really like your approach of blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark website listing and might be checking again soon. Pls take a look at my web site as properly and let me know what you think.

  45. I used to be more than happy to find this internet-site.I wished to thanks in your time for this glorious learn!! I positively having fun with each little bit of it and I’ve you bookmarked to check out new stuff you weblog post.more tips i found on !!!

  46. This can be a thoughts-blowing post.Written properly moreover nicely organized.

  47. fantastic website man, I’d recommend a site for affordable young persons car insurance, so if you are ever stuck in the gutter trying to find a decent priced insurance policy for yourself or children, check this website out, it helped me wonders. great post, will be back again to check for updates.

  48. Well I truly liked studying it. This information procured by you is very effective for accurate planning.

  49. Thank you for having a good blog.

  50. I’m really enjoying the theme/design of your weblog. Do you ever run into any internet browser compatibility issues? Christie.

  51. Do you know how I avoid duplicate iCal alerts? (Apple support does not, so far…) I think b/c of iCloud calendar sharing among my husband and i, I’m getting two alerts for every event on the iMac and on the iPhone. everything is up to date and that i have a new MacBook Pro and the new iPhone 4s.

  52. This post is a very special post.

  53. The new Zune browser is surprisingly good, but not as good as the iPod?s. It works well, but isn?t as fast as Safari, and has a clunkier interface. If you occasionally plan on using the web browser that?s not an issue, but if you?re planning to browse the web alot from your PMP then the iPod?s larger screen and better browser may be important.

Leave a comment