I think I like Kurzweil’s optimistic AI scenarios more than this version of reality
that posits we are all computer simulations run by a more advanced intellect which itself may be a computer simulation.
This sounds fanciful, but I’d suggest that this type of philosophical speculation is a lot more pragmatic and reasonable than the Jean Paul Sartre silliness I studied in Philosophy classes back in the 1980’s.
Kurzweil’s very reasonable suggestion is that we’ll soon have conscious, very intelligent computers. He also suggests that these machines will quickly lead to a sort of cosmic explosion of intellect that would easily be capable of massive “simulations” of intelligent life. What if this already has happened? One thing that bugs me about Kurzweil’s ideas is that it seems totally unreasonable to suggest that our feeble earth / human technologies will be the first to make this jump to massive cosmic intelligence. The idea that we’d be the first to do this seems very unreasonable to me given the age of the universe. Our universe has been around for about 15 billion years and we are not all that amazing. I’d think many intelligent creatures would have come around by now. If Kurzweil is right it seems at least a few of these would have made the leap to the singularity-style intellects.
How to reconcile these things? My gut feeling is that we really are physical, evolutionarily designed, meat and potato biological beings who have a capacity to think and reflect that is a product of the massive processing power of the bunches of neocortical columns and synaptic firing that goes on in our brains. Kurzweil is right about the rise of intelligent machines – coming soon to a virtual theater near all of us – but he’s wrong about the exploding cosmic intellect. There will be limitations – probably based on physical laws of our universe relating to speed of light and other constraints – that will prevent us from becoming “too big”. This explains why we’ve (probably) had no contact with other intelligent beings – we are just too far away and unfortunately we live at the edge of our galaxy where presumably a lot fewer intelligences exist than nearer the center.