The Most Terrifying Thought Experiment of All Time

WARNING: Reading this article may commit you to an eternity of suffering and torment.

Slender Man. Smile Dog. Goatse. These are some of the urban legends spawned by the Internet. Yet none is as all-powerful and threatening as Roko’s Basilisk. For Roko’s Basilisk is an evil, godlike form of artificial intelligence, so dangerous that if you see it, or even think about it too hard, you will spend the rest of eternity screaming in its torture chamber. It’s like the videotape in The Ring. Even death is no escape, for if you die, Roko’s Basilisk will resurrect you and begin the torture again.

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8 thoughts on “The Most Terrifying Thought Experiment of All Time

  1. Well the more I thought about this, df, the more I realized it is Pascal’s wager dressed up in new clothes!

    So I went to Wikipedia for a description of that wager: There are many problems with the reasoning in Pascal’s Wager, as well as the unsavoury theological assumptions it makes. Like most arguments for the existence of God, it seems more about reassuring existing believers than converting non-believers. This is because in order to convince a non-believer, a theological argument must both prove that the god it argues for is the One True God and disprove all other possibilities. People lacking a belief can see the potential for multiple gods existing, in fact an infinite number, but believers are constrained by their existing view that there is their god or no god. Only in this latter case does the reasoning behind Pascal’s Wager make any sense.

    In Bayesian terms, this can be stated as saying non-believers attribute uniform prior probabilities to the existence of any particular god; all equal, and all infinitesimal. Pascal’s Wager alone cannot update these probabilities as the reasoning applies only to the One True God out of an infinite number of possible gods. Without any further information to whittle this down, the odds of inadvertently worshiping the wrong god is a practical certainty. Only when the probability of a particular god existing increases does Pascal’s Wager become useful, i.e., if one god could be assigned even a mere 1% chance of being the One True God, Pascal’s Wager would present a clear benefit. Hence for anyone constrained by a bias towards a particular god, the Wager is far more clear cut and supportive of their belief.

    The biggest irony of Pascal’s Wager as far as Christian apologetics go is that even if it was otherwise completely sound it should then suddenly become a huge disincentive for convincing an unbiased party to worship YHWH specifically. By definition worshiping the Judeo-Christian God requires the worshipper to actively reject the existence of every other deity or potential deity thanks to the intolerance that is the First Commandment. In the absence of evidence for a specific deity, the theist-to-be would be better off directing some worship to one or more proposed deities that do not require exclusive worship. Pascal’s Wager being a lynchpin of Christian apologetics (rather than being a shibboleth that must be denied at all costs) can be viewed as a case of cognitive dissonance engendered by Christian privilege.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for that, sob1989. And sorry for referring to you as ‘Bob’ in the post before yours (no offense to either of you ;-)). Your comment makes a lot of sense to me. I wonder, though, isn’t it likely that “non-believers [do indeed] attribute uniform prior probabilities to the existence of any particular god; all equal, and all infinitesimal”? And if so, isn’t that the same as saying there exists only “One True God”? Or, at least, isn’t that the same as saying there is no difference between the two?

    Liked by 1 person

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