More threads by Daniel


The hard problem of consciousness becomes easier if you consider us as players in a simulation.

Perhaps we are part of a massive modelling exercise (a Monte Carlo simulation, perhaps) to determine the optimal way of achieving a specific goal. One candidate for that goal is the creation of superintelligence. From the perspective of a superintelligent alien species, individual humans might be about as interesting as dogs if we are lucky, or as microbes if not. Whereas a superintelligence might be seriously interesting. Maybe our simulators are in the business of creating new friends. Or maybe they need a lot of clever new colleagues to solve a really big problem, like the heat death of the universe.

There is a long philosophical and scientific history to the underlying thesis that reality is an illusion. This skeptical hypothesis can be traced back to antiquity; for example, to the "Butterfly Dream" of Zhuangzi, or the Indian philosophy of Maya, or in Ancient Greek philosophy Anaxarchus and Monimus likened existing things to a scene-painting and supposed them to resemble the impressions experienced in sleep or madness.
Aztec philosophical texts theorized that the world was a painting or book written by the Teotl...

Some point out that there is currently no proof of technology that would facilitate the existence of sufficiently high-fidelity ancestor simulation. Additionally, there is no proof that it is physically possible or feasible for a posthuman civilization to create such a simulation, and therefore for the present, the first proposition must be taken to be true. Additionally there are limits of computation...

Besides attempting to assess whether the simulation hypothesis is true or false, philosophers have also used it to illustrate other philosophical problems, especially in metaphysics and epistemology...

Hanson additionally speculates that someone who is aware that he might be in a simulation might care less about others and live more for today: "your motivation to save for retirement, or to help the poor in Ethiopia, might be muted by realizing that in your simulation, you will never retire and there is no Ethiopia."

To me, the simulation question is somewhat interesting, but only in the way science fiction is interesting, such as for entertaining speculation or hypothetical, philosophical arguments.

I am more interested in the potentially illusory, painful features of self-consciousness:

Hard problem​

The hard problem, in contrast, is the problem of why and how those processes are accompanied by experience. It may further include the question of why these processes are accompanied by this or that particular experience, rather than some other kind of experience. In other words, the hard problem is the problem of explaining why certain mechanisms are accompanied by conscious experience. For example, why should neural processing in the brain lead to the felt sensations of, say, feelings of hunger? And why should those neural firings lead to feelings of hunger rather than some other feeling (such as, for example, feelings of thirst)?

Chalmers argues that it is conceivable that the relevant behaviours associated with hunger, or any other feeling, could occur even in the absence of that feeling. This suggests that experience is irreducible to physical systems such as the brain.
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