Monday, 4 August 2014

Is Real Happiness Better Than A Superior Simulated Happiness?


In addition to my Blog on happiness a few weeks ago - here is an interesting auxiliary thought I had: what would we choose when the offer on the table is real happiness or a higher level of simulated happiness induced through some kind of man-machine matrix? In other words, to what extent do we want the actual reality when an illusory, but happier, reality is offered to us instead?

Suppose you are faced with this dilemma for real.

Option 1) You can have your mind permanently plugged into a computer simulated machine that will increase your life's happiness by 30%.

Option 2) You can opt for carrying on your life as it would have been.

In fact, we can even substitute happiness for whole life experience (WLE). Option 1 certainly increases your WLE by a significant margin, but in doing so it robs you of the real life lived and replaces it with an enhanced simulacrum of that life.

Whether you'd choose Option 1 or Option 2 depends on whether you most value the literal way that your actual sensory experiences impinge upon your mind's engagement with reality, or whether that superior simulated engagement with reality could be chosen as a replacement for the actual lived experience. Perhaps this simulated reality takes you to a level of life experience unlike anything you'd experience if you picked the real life alternative. But if you're like me, you probably place a premium on actually having done the things that give your life fulfilment.

Even if the simulacrum could enhance my life quality by 30%, my instincts lead me towards choosing the inferior but real actual life lived. I want my relationship with my wife and kids, my holiday to New York, my visit to Mount Kilimanjaro, the books I write, the meals I eat, the friends I engage with, and the family I enjoy spending time with to be things I've actually done, not simulated illusions of those experience topped up with an extra 30% of qualitative improvement.

The strange thing about this is that we spend most of our actual life doing everything we can to enhance our engagement with reality and make it the best life possible - yet when offered the very thing we strive for through a simulated reality, most of us probably would reject it and instead opt for the actual. I suppose this has parallels with induced experiences through alcohol or drugs - sometimes the mind-altering experiences create a reality more interesting and exciting than everyday perceptions, but we know they are ersatz experiences compared with the lucidity of the un-altered state of mind.

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