Re: How To Live In A Simulation

From: Robert J. Bradbury (
Date: Sun Mar 18 2001 - 12:03:43 MST

On Sun, 18 Mar 2001, Samantha Atkins wrote:

> > From the fingers of RJB:
> > I would also assert that they are of less *value* in a simulated world
> > than in the "real" world because they are inherently less efficient.
> Is "efficiency" a valid model of the *value* of an intelligent
> self-aware being? I find that a bit difficult to concede.

I'm pretty sure its a valid "value" for an extropic self-aware being.
If there ends up being a strong conversion on extropic perspectives
(yea, don't we wish...) then it would become a "universal" value.

[Short sidebar...
Of course there is a great parody of extropian principles that people
like Damien and Eliezer should sit down and collaborate on -- there
you flip all the principles upside down (e.g. you try to make a
universe that is as completely wasteful as possible). Probably
the primary goal is to dump all the baryonic matter in the universe
into a giant black hole as rapidly as you can. Interestingly enough
this gets tricky because as you pour matter into the universe drain(s),
it radiates lots of high energy that works against you dumping more
matter into the blakc hole. The universe seems setup so that we
could not develop a philosophy where we promote
  "And we shall go gently into that dark night with all possible speed"
Ruins my day, because I only get to be the Antichrist in a simulation.
... end sidebar]

> Once you have turned the corner and created self-aware intelligent
> beings I don't think you can morally any longer claim they exist only
> for your own purposes.

If they are running on my computronium I can. We are programmed to think
"consciousness" and "free will" should drive the moral system. What if
evolving to the highest complexity is the highest moral principle?

> A justification from scarce resources is only valid in a truly scarce
> resource situation that there is no other way to deal with.

We live in a resource constrained universe. The big-bang made only so
much baryonic matter from which computers can be constructed and there
is only so much matter lighter than iron that can be used to create
energy and the speed-of-light limits how fast information can be
exchanged between distant locations. There are "Limits-to-Growth"
in the Universe, just as there are on Earth.

Now, of course you can devise ways of out of this -- you eliminate
reproduction (real or virtual) and you eliminate the expansion of intelligence.
I.e. what you got is all you're going to get -- live with it.
I don't think that is very extropian though. If you allow any
growth or expansion *at all* you hit the limits rather quickly
(on stellar time scales).

> I get the impression from your general tone above does not speak of the
> simulated real beings as, as it were, beloved children you would be loathe to
> sacrifice if you had to but rather as if they are simply your property
> and entertainment to do with as you will. I think there is quite a
> difference.

I'm just dealing with the harsh realities -- parents have to allocate
resources between children. They try to do it fairly, they try to do
it in ways that nobody gets hurt -- but it never turns out that way.

Some on the thread have placed as the highest moral principle that of
supporting or maintaining any conscious entity that has ever "lived".
I would place as higher moral principles developing the highest degree
of complexity (trans-consciousness?) or supporting the maximum number
of highly complex individuals (at some point the Earth has to be
recycled into computronium) or supporting the greatest amount of
diversity (creating highly complex ecostructures into which various
levels of consciousness can develop themselves). Etc.

> Elimiating them because you think them your property or such is
> something else entirely. Merely electing to take care of yourself and
> your direct dependents and friends and so on rather than others you know
> less well is not a large moral problem in a world where there is
> sufficient scarcity that one has no choice. But that is not quite the
> same thing it seems to me as described above.

I think it is. Americans are spending $300+ billion on defense per year
if I recall. Spread over ~3 billion people, thats $100 / year / person.
Quite sufficient to lift those at the lowest income levels completely
out of subsistence existences. You could extend the argument to the
overall American wealth. Our GNP is ~1/3 the world GNP with 1/20th the
population. Couldn't we share a bit more of that? Collectively as a
culture we have made the decision not to aggressively address this
problem. Fortunately bio/nanotech will be able to solve this problem
over the next couple of decades.


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