Monday, September 03, 2007

How to Live in a Simulation

By Robin Hanson

If you might be living in a simulation then all else equal you should care less about others, live more for today, make your world look more likely to become rich, expect to and try more to participate in pivotal events, be more entertaining and praiseworthy, and keep the famous people around you happier and more interested in you.

People love to pretend, and to watch others pretending. From story-telling to plays to movies to virtual reality, we keep getting better at making people feel like they are watching imagined places and events. We also keep getting better at role-playing, i.e., creating environments where several people can see what happens when they all pretend they are different people in another time and place. Eventually such role-playing simulations may get so good that people will often forget that it is just a simulation.

This brings us to the intriguing premise of many recent movies, including The Matrix, 13th Floor, Truman Show, and Dark City: what if people in the future create role-playing simulations where the people in it do not know that it is a simulation? This premise naturally leads to a premise even more thought-provoking: future people might create simulations of a world much like our world. If so, how sure can each of us now be that we are not now living in such a role-playing simulation?


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