Re: The moral dimension of simulation

From: David Nyman <>
Date: Mon, 07 Aug 2006 11:58:24 -0000

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:

> 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.

Do you mean that if we are living in one, then the moral standards of
its creators are reprehensible (to our way of thinking) or at least
opaque? Would you feel that our believing this puts us in a position
in any way different from that of deists traditionally trying to fathom
what the standards or motives of their gods might be? In either case do
you have a view on how this could or should affect our own standards or
conduct within the simulation?


> 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
> > entertainment.
> 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
> bedroom?
> > 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.
> Stathis Papaioannou
> _________________________________________________________________
> Be one of the first to try Windows Live Mail.

You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "Everything List" group.
To post to this group, send email to
To unsubscribe from this group, send email to
For more options, visit this group at
Received on Mon Aug 07 2006 - 08:00:27 PDT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Feb 16 2018 - 13:20:12 PST