Anthropic Bias

About the Book

Anthropic Bias, a book that since its first publication in 2002 has achieved the status of a classic, explores how to reason when you suspect that your evidence is biased by “observation selection effects”—that is, evidence that has been filtered by the precondition that there be some suitably positioned observer to “have” the evidence. This conundrum—sometimes alluded to as “the anthropic principle,” “self-locating belief,” or “indexical information”—turns out to be a surprisingly perplexing and intellectually stimulating challenge, one abounding with important implications for many areas in science and philosophy.

There are the philosophical thought experiments and paradoxes: the Doomsday Argument; Sleeping Beauty; the Presumptuous Philosopher; Adam & Eve; the Absent-Minded Driver; the Shooting Room.

And there are the applications in contemporary science: cosmology (“How many universes are there?”, “Why does the universe appear fine-tuned for life?”); evolutionary theory (“How improbable was the evolution of intelligent life on our planet?”); the problem of time’s arrow (“Can it be given a thermodynamic explanation?”); quantum physics (“How can the many-worlds theory be tested?”); game-theory problems with imperfect recall (“How to model them?”); even traffic analysis (“Why is the ‘next lane’ faster?”).

Anthropic Bias argues that the same principles are at work across all these domains. And it offers a synthesis: a mathematically explicit theory of observation selection effects that attempts to meet scientific needs while steering clear of philosophical paradox.

The entire contents of the book are available here.

Reviews of Anthropic Bias

"From traffic analysis via a many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics and the problem of the fine-tuning of the universe to the purely philosophical problems of the Doomsday argument and the Sleeping Beauty problem, Bostrom succeeds in shining a new and interesting light on all of these issues."

Review by Wouter Meijs, Studies In History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies In History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, Vol. 36, No. 3, pp. 586-589 (2005)

"Bostrom presents a highly readable and widely relevant work which can be warmly recommended to everyone in philosophy of science. ... Bostrom’s book has appeared in the Studies in Philosophy: Outstanding Dissertations series edited by the late Robert Nozick. Just a few pages into the volume, and the reader learns why.&quot

Review by Christian Wuthrich, Philosophy of Science, Vol. 71, No. 2, pp. 230-232 (2004)

"Probably the worst thing one can say about this book is that it is too short.... Anthropic Bias is a wonderful achievement, which belongs on the shelf of every serious student of modern cosmology and philosophy of science."

Review by Milan Cirkovic, Foundations of Science, Vol. 8, No. 4, pp. 417-423 (2003)

"Anthropic Bias is a synthesis of some of the most interesting and important ideas to emerge from discussion of cosmic fine-tuning, the anthropic principle, and the Doomsday Argument. It deserves a place on the shelves of epistemologists and philosophers of science, as well as specialists interested in the topics just mentioned."

Review by Neil Manson, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, 2003.02.09.

"A wonderful achievement"

Review by Milan Cirkovic, Foundations of Physics, Vol. 32, No. 11, November (2002)