Re: How To Live In A Simulation

From: Brent Allsop (
Date: Sat Mar 17 2001 - 22:15:48 MST

Hal <>,

> Let me briefly give an explicit argument for why simulated beings
> deserve the same consideration as real ones. Basically I will claim
> that there is no fundamental difference between a simulated and a
> real being. I know this is a radical claim but see if the chain of
> reasoning below is convincing.

        Amongst extropians this isn't that radical of a claim. It
seems to be your basic extropian dogma which 99% of extropians seem to
refuse to question regardless of the evidence against it.

> Real human beings have all of their consciousness tied up in their
> brain. The activity of the brain somehow produces the consciousness
> that makes us want to care about them morally.

        Great so far.

> We know the brain works by the activity of neural cells which
> interact with each other via chemical and electrical messages.
> Likewise they get information from and send signals to the outside
> world via similar messages.

        Here is where you start to lose it. The important thing is, a
message must have some kind of receiver or final resulting knowledge.
There is more than messages in our brain. The messages from our
sensors ultimately end up being our conscious knowledge. Conscious
knowledge isn't a message, it is the result of a message.

        The signal our tongue produces when it comes in contact with
sodium chloride results, in our brain, the conscious knowledge that is
salty. In order for your argument to hold true some abstract binary
number must be able to do the same thing as this salty qualia our
brain uses.

        True, a sufficiently complex binary number can "causally"
model anything a salty qualia can, but this is missing the most
important part of consciousness. In order to know the true meaning of
this binary number, you must map it back to salty. The binary number
can be represented by a paper tape, ferrite on a disk, the state of
some transistors on an IC, or buss line... It doesn't matter to a
simulation. But to us it does matter.

        When people experience "synesthesia" incorrect conscious
knowledge results from our senses. Sodium chloride could result in a
red sensation, for example. Red could also abstractly represent
sodium chloride just like a binary number could. But anyone that
thinks it doesn't matter whether we represent sodium chloride with
salty or red - wouldn't they be really off their rocker?

        You can ask a real conscious person what salt is like. Some
day we will be able to eff and communicate these sensations. We're
already starting to artificially produce qualia (points of light and
sounds) via artificial stimulation in blind people, for example. When
you ask a simulation what red is like what will it say? If it is
being honest it will say it's salty is an abstract number and not like
anything. When you want to eff with a simulation so that you can know
what it's representation of salt is like, how could it be possible for
it to have anything to eff?

        Once we have enough ability to perform this Moravekian trick
and start to replace neurons with other material people will finally
realize that even if the external behavior remains the same, the
phenomenal conscious qualites will cease to exist. The people will
finally discover (or finally realize what we've all known all along)
that our consciousness knowledge is constructed of phenomenal qualia.
Though what this conscious stuff is phenomenally like can be
simulated, there is nothing really and fundamentally like it.

                Brent Allsop

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