Re: Ethics of being a Creator

Anders Sandberg (
24 Apr 1998 18:12:46 +0200

Henri Kluytmans <> writes:

> >First, some of the entities might suffer a gradual decline (like
> >humans with Alzheimer's disease), would it be nice to save backup
> >copies of their final, degraded state or should one save copies
> >from an earlier state? If so, why just one, why not several?
> When the creator has enough power to simulate a universe, he most
> also have enough power to merge the backup copies of earlier states
> with the later backups of the degraded states, and to construct
> from those multiple states a "healthy" state, containing all memories
> of the being. Of course one has to define what a "healthy" state is
> first.

Huh? This doesn't follow. I can set up a big game of life simulation
(or something similar, perhaps Tierra) right now on this computer, but
even if I discovered intelligent entities inside it after a while I
wouldn't know what to do with them. Sure, that huge stretch of digital
code is an intelligent entity, but I have no idea of how it works, how
to merge its memories (which might be impossible even in principle for
an Alzheimer-like case, where the memory substrate would be
non-isomorphic over time) or what it would consider "healthy" ("Poor
humans, guts riddled with bacteria. I'll resurrect them completely
without any bacteria, then they will be healthy and happy!").

Even if I happen to be a posthuman jupiter brain, I will still be
limited in my knowledge about the behavior of complex systems such as
simulated universes.

> If sentient beings will develop (that are also able to selfreproduce)
> it is very likely they will transform their environment considerably.
> This process is exponential. (Look at how the human beings have
> already transformed our environment (Earth). And how we could likely
> transform are whole galaxy within a million years.)
> This reasoning presumes that reproducing sentient beings will at one
> time develop a technological civilization. I think however that this
> is quite likely.

Only in worlds like ours where there exists objects that can be used
as tools. I would expect that an intelligent game of life pattern
might live in a world where this is almost impossible - there is no
way of moving anything without changing it. And in Tierra, the tools
might be code integral to the entities or symbiotic creatures instead.

> At a point in time the technological civilization will have transformed
> its environment a considerable amount, it should then be quite feasible
> to detect this pattern in the simulation. Now, the creator only has to
> play back the simulation and extract al the sentient beings of the
> earlier generations of this civilization.

I think you are on the right track, looking for changes creating
highly ordered states that spread quickly is a good way. But it is not
trivial, since the order may be well hidden.

> >Third, the afterlife is rather underdetermined: how to
> >keep the entities from pain *there*?
> When the entities are restored in a separate simulation there
> is now no reason anymore not to communicate with them. So the
> creator could ask the sentient beings themselves if they are happy
> or not. Or even give them the capabilities to alter themselves
> in to a state they individually prefer.

This assumes we can easily communicate with them. But how do we start
exchanging communication with entities with a fundamentally extremely
different world (like Tierrans, with a world consisting of computing
nodes and nonlocal memory indexed by templates and energy appearing if
you do certain things but not other things)? I think it can be done,
but it would be extremely hard to do, and the process might be rather
painful for the entities again (imagine being resurrected all alone in
a weird caricature of the real world where *something* tries to
communicate with you - and if you die, you are immediately

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y