Foresight Nanotech Institute Logo
Image of nano

Essay considers how to live in a VR simulation

An interesting essay by Robin Hanson on highly advanced virtual reality (VR) systems ("How To Live In A Simulation") appears on the Kurzweil AI website. Hansonís theme: "If you might be living in a simulation then all else equal you should care less about others, live more for today, make your world look more likely to become rich, expect to and try more to participate in pivotal events, be more entertaining and praiseworthy, and keep the famous people around you happier and more interested in you."
The essay was originally published September 2001 in the Journal of Evolution and Technology. Robin Hanson is also the originator of the Idea Futures concept.

One Response to “Essay considers how to live in a VR simulation”

  1. Mr_Farlops Says:

    But will they have human motivations?

    Hanson's is an interesting essay but, it seems to assume that the god-like creators of these simulations will have motivations that present-day humans can understand. I don't think we can assume this.

    Imagining super-advanced civilizations wasting their time in recreating sophisticated versions of The Sims seems to oversimplify things.

    One example of the point I getting at is what I term the "Lovecraftian Premise."

    A kid accidentally destroys an ant nest by riding her bike through it. There was no malice in her actions but from the ant's point of view an incomprehensible and horrific disaster has occured. If ants had the brains for such things, they'd think their fate was in the hands of evil and inscrutable gods.

    See? It isn't enough to draw conclusions about the motivations of god-like beings based only on the evidence around us. Our ant-nest (simulation) may be destroyed but, the reasons for this happening may be forever outside our brain hardware to deal with.

    Douglas Adams had a great line in his radio series that bears repeating here: "[Will things resolve themselves neatly?]…or will it be just like life–interesting in parts but no substitute for the Real Thing. What is the Real Thing?"

    If I may be facetious, I guess what I am trying to ask is: If these creators have human motivations then how come the universe isn't filled with gratiutious sex and violence and cardboard villians written in broad strokes of black and white?

    It is true that our best works of fiction tend to grow beyond even their author's original intentions to become great works of ambivalence and complexity with multiple valid interpretations. But most fiction tends to be very simple and melodramatic–qualities that seem to be totally lacking in the universe that I've experienced so far.

    It may be true that we are just sprites inside a simulation but, to speculate on motivation of the beings who wrote the code of this simulation seems like religion to me–we just ain't smart enough.

Leave a Reply