David Nyman writes:
> I don't know whether these issues have been given an airing here, but
> I have a couple of thoughts about whether we're really 'in the
> Matrix', a la Nick Bostrom.
> Firstly, a moral issue. At least at the level of public debate, in our
> (apparent?) reality there is considerable sensitivity to interfering
> with fundamental issues of human freedom and dignity, and of avoiding
> where possible the infliction of unnecessary suffering, either to
> humans or other sentient organisms. It seems to me that if we are to
> take seriously the idea that significant numbers of advanced
> civilisations would 'simulate' us in the 'feelingful' way we
> (or at least I) experience, that significant moral issues are raised.
> These are not dissimilar to the paradoxes raised by the juxtaposition
> of an all-loving and omnipotent God. None of this is to claim a
> knock-down argument, but nevertheless it places a constraint on the
> kind of 'civilisation' that might undertake such an exercise,
> especially in those scenarios that take it to be some sort of game or
You're holding the beings running the simulation to awfully high standards.
Humans have always persecuted their own kind, let alone other species,
and have always managed to find rationalisations to explain why it isn't
really "bad". Even if technologically superior alien societies have similar
ethics to our own, by no means a given, what if our universe is being
simulated by their equivalent of a psychopath, or even a teenager in his
> Secondly, what sort of role are 'we' supposed to playing? On the
> one hand, we may simply be required to play a part 'intelligently',
> or at least predictably, for the benefit of the 'real' players. In
> this case, would they need to go to the trouble of making us
> 'sentient'? Or can we take this as evidence that the complexity
> required for 'intelligence' simply gives rise to such sentience?
I'd say that our sentience is a side-effect of our intelligence. Even if we
are part of the simulation, the simulation seems to consistently follow
evolutionary theory, and how or why would sentience develop if it were
possible to have the same behaviour without it? I think this is a convincing
argument against the existence of intelligent zombies.
> Thirdly, is part of the point that 'they' share 'our'
> experiences? If so, what does this say about the supposedly privileged
> relation between an individual and her experience? Or is it just that
> they get a third-party 'read-out' of our experiences? Well, again,
> would it then be necessary for us to go through the whole messy
> business 'consciously' for such reporting to occur?
Another reason why it appears that consciousness is a necessary side-effect
of human level intelligent behaviour.
> It seems to me that the above, and similar, considerations may act to
> constrain the likelihood of there being such simulations, their nature,
> or our 'actually' being in one, but I'm unable to say to what degree.
Perhaps it says something about the nature of the simulation's creators,
but I don't see that it says anything about the probability that we are
living in one.
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