If you’re building an ancestor simulation to better inform you on how to make decisions in the future (such as the outcome of policies like a lockdown, mask mandate, or vax program during a pandemic), what moral safeguards would you have about the conscious (“with the ability to choose”) beings in your simulation? Would you give them the ability to realize “the truth” about their simulation, allowing them to detach from the suffering it might otherwise cause if they thought it was all “real”?
If we could replay the last couple of years, many millions of times, with full datapoints needed to recreate a high fidelity recreation of what we all experienced, but tweak a few things in various ways to see which decisions have which impacts, it would be incredibly valuable. We could understand the unintended consequences of our actions or inaction. The value of running an ancestor simulation to help us make better decisions in the future is obvious to me. It seems inevitable that we will do this someday in order to save lives and limit human suffering.
But what moral obligations do we have concerning the suffering of the electronic minds we’ve simulated with experiences indistinguishable from our own?
Nick Bostrom explains (IMO, convincingly) that we are in a simulation because at least one of these three possibilities has to be true:
1) All human-like civilizations in the universe go extinct before they develop the technological capacity to create simulated realities;
2) if any civilizations do reach this phase of technological maturity, none of them will bother to run simulations; or
3) advanced civilizations would have the ability to create many, many simulations, and that means there are far more simulated worlds than non-simulated ones.
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The conclusion being, mathematically, it’s very unlikely we exist in a base reality creating all these simulations.
If we are in a simulation, what, if any, safeguards to suffering for the electronic minds (us) might our creators have included as moral imperatives? For example, would they ensure psychedelics, mindfulness meditation, deep spiritual practice, and the like enable anyone to find a path for “escaping the matrix”? Would they hardwire in us a knowledge of our eternal nature because all the information we experience will live on beyond this simulation run and be put back into the system as new inputs which might provide a sense of “past lives” or what some call the Akashic record?
If any of this has even the remotest chance of being an accurate description of our current lived experience, what benefits can we gain by understanding the system we’re in, via thought experiments along the lines of, “How would I build such a system?”
Years ago I read a book called the Age of Em which talked through some of the potential outcomes of being able to create simulated electronic minds, perfect digital copies of yourself, and sending them off to go learn something for you in a simulation. I remember not liking the book very much (I forget why), but I still often think about the ideas tackled there.
I think these explorations are really important. Potentially more important than pretty much anything else we put our time and attention into in terms of how influential it is on our lived experience. I might be wrong. But I don’t think I am. I intend to figure some stuff out about this simulation we call reality.
Well, not because I necessarily think I’ll gain some higher Truth (with a capital “T” or as some call it the single truth of absolute unbounded ONENESS or abiding non duality or I AM), but because it may be what my character in this play of life was programmed to do. Maybe that’s what we describe with the word Dharma. Maybe it’s just an interesting way (to me) to pass the time I’ve been given. :)