Hi Stuart. It’s a while since I’ve posted.

Here’s one way of asking the question which does lead naturally to the Doomsday answer.

Consider two universes. They’re both infinite (or if you don’t like actual infinities, are very very large, so they both have a really huge number of civilisations).

In universe 1, almost all the civilisations die off before spreading through space, so that the average population of a civilisation through time is less than a trillion.

In universe 2, a fair proportion of the civilisations survive and grow to galaxy-size or bigger, so that the average population of a civilisation through time is much more than a trillion trillion.

Now consider two more universes. Universe 3 is like Universe 1 except that the microwave background radiation 14 billion years after Big Bang is 30K rather than 3K. Universe 4 is like Universe 2 again except for the difference in microwave background radiation. Both Universe 3 and Universe 4 are so big (or infinite) that they contain civilisations that believe the background radiation has temperature 3K because every measurement they’ve ever made of it has accidentally given the same wrong answer.

Here’s the question to think about.

Is there a sensible way of doing anthropics (or indeed science in general) that would lead us to conclude we are probably in Universe 1 or 2 (rather than Universe 3 or 4) without also concluding that we are probably in Universe 1 (rather than Universe 2)?

Thanks Stuart.

The difficulty is that, by construction, there are infinitely many copies of me in each universe (if the universes are all infinite) or there are a colossally huge number of copies of me in each universe, so big that it saturates my utility bounds (assuming that my utilities are finite and bounded, because if they’re not, the decision theory leads to chaotic results anyway).

So SIA is not an approach to anthropics (or science in general) which allows us to conclude we are probably in universe 1 or 2 (rather than 3 or 4). All SIA really says is “You are in some sort of really big or infinite universe, but beyond that I can’t help you work out which”. That’s not helpful for decision making, and doesn’t allow for science in general to work.

Incidentally, when you say there are “not many” copies of me in universes 3 and 4, then you presumably mean “not a high proportion, compared to the vast total of observers”. That’s implicitly the SSA reasoning being used for to discriminate against universes 3 and 4… but then of course it also discriminates against universe 2.

I’ve worked through pretty much all the anthropic approaches over the years, and they all seem to stumble on this question. All the approaches which confidently separate universes 3 and 4 also separate 1 from 2.