Re: How To Live In A Simulation

From: Nick Bostrom (
Date: Fri Mar 16 2001 - 21:42:03 MST

Hal Finney wrote:

>[snip] The result of this chain of reasoning is that the distinction between
>"levels of reality" is not correct. "Simulated" people are just as real
>as physical ones.
>I think this is what Nick had in mind. He emphasized that a conscious
>brain is a *physical* object. This is true whether it is a bunch
>of neurons, an electrical circuit, or an appropriately programmed
>computer. When someone is thinking, in a brain or a simulation or a
>sim-within-a-sim, there is physical activity in the real world that
>implements that thought. The thoughts are real, regardless of the
>context in which they appear.

Yes, that's what I had in mind, and for the reasons you describe.

"Thought crimes" takes on a new meaning when our thoughts get so complex
that they are in themselves separate units of consciousness. Now, it may be
that the beings who are sufficiently advanced to have such thoughts are so
godlike that their well-being counts for enormously much more than that of
their simulated sub-entities, so that thinking in detail about a miserable
person might be permitted on balance (in much the same way that we feel
justified in using animals for research). That's hard to determine from our
present viewpoint.

Nick Bostrom
Department of Philosophy
Yale University

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