Hedonism, Simulation Theory and the Experience Machine.
What does Hedonism, Neuralink and Bostrom’s simulation theory have to do with the thought experiment ‘Experience machine’ by philosopher Robert Nozick.
Since humans have been able to hold cognitive thoughts one of the most debated topics has been what is the right path towards the ultimate well being. This led to the ethical theory of ‘hedonism’ which argues that seeking pleasure and avoiding suffering are the only two components necessary for well-being. This ethical theory is thought to have been created by Aristippus of Cyrene who was a student of Socrates and believed that pleasure is the highest good but is most notably portrayed in the 90s movie the ‘Matrix’ when Cypher is being offered a place at the head of the simulation by agent Smith saying;
“You know, I know this steak doesn’t exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy, and delicious. After nine years, you know what I realize? Ignorance is bliss.”
Right here in this bit of dialogue the core beliefs of a hedonist thinker are revealed, as long as an action or an event brings about pleasure it doesn’t matter if its reality. In the modern day of 2020 with virtual reality, neuralink and the debate of simulation theory is appearing in discourse more and more as a respected perspective compared to what would have once been seen as the belief of conspiracy theorist just five years ago.
Though what seems to be the catalyst for this growth in thought is Elon Musk who has claimed that we are more than likely to be simulation then not, with the statement creating some of most amazing facial expressions we have ever seen from Joe Rogan on his podcast when he heard this news, and so did we all.
Though where this theory finds its creation is in Nick Bostrom’s simulation hypothesis where he outlines a trilemma which explains the outcomes in which our future or our reality lie. The first of the three outcomes is that inevitably humanity will no longer exist due to an inability to advance anymore or have been wiped out by an apocalyptic event. The second that humanity would choose to not create a simulation as they would not want us to suffer the atrocities we have. Three is that we are indeed in a simulation and we do not know it.
And this final option is the one which the likes of Elon Musk to the common joe at the local pub have begun to think, but why is this line of thinking such a scary such a scary precedent as surely if we are in a simulation it has not made our lives feel any less complete as it is the life we have always lived, but this doesn’t sit quite right. For some reason the idea of our lives being carried out through an algorithm created by what could be an infinite set of simulations makes our existence feel minute and meaningless. If our life is a simulation then are loved ones are and the experiences we have had with them to. For that to be the case then basic premise that love is what is at the centre of a persons life falls out the window and so too does Christopher Nolans plot for interstellar.
Though how this is tied together with hedonism and how we can find solace to the situation is through the experience machine. The experience machine was a thought experiment put forward by Robert Nozick a Harvard professor in order to break down the hedonist perspective. The notion is that there is a machine in which if you chose to plug into and would give you your perfect experience of life whilst wiping your memory of the fact that it is a simulation. The hedonist would say that we should plug in as we gain pleasure and do not feel suffering however Nozick argues that this is true only if our one value is pleasure, but it is not.
This seems overwhelmingly true as most people do not see pleasure as the ultimate virtue or well being and really most would not plug into the machine. This is for the same reason that we love polaroid photos, that we have the common trope of rich being unhappy, that the road is the best part of the journey. People need authenticity and when you take that away you threaten our existence and our being. And Nozick experience machine puts this into perspective in a way other thought experiments have not, humans are more then just pleasure seeking animals at our core we would like to think we are loving beings who prefer a reality with pain to pair with love then a one in which everything was given, because at the end of the day the pain is what makes love love and the decisions we make and the actions we take to mend our decisions are what decide who we are. To undermine this for the belief that pleasure is our ultimate well being or that we are in a simulation takes away the core virtue of the human race, love.