Lucid Dreaming & Computer Simulations

G.E Moore’s “Certainty” tackles the concept of dreaming and how the possibility we may be dreaming alters our supposed conceptions of thought, reality, and knowledge. He presents us with the argument that at any point in one’s existence one cannot “know for certain that [they] are not dreaming”(Moore, p361). He utilizes the example of the Duke of Devonshire who is dreaming about giving a speech to the House of Lords and awakes to actually find himself giving said speech. Through the example Moore illustrates the paper-thin nature of reality and the powerful nature of our subconscious. As dreams can simulate images and correctly deceive many of our senses it becomes very hard to distinguish dream from reality. Moore further argues that despite the fact that we can argue that dreams have occurred, we can still not definitively state that we are not currently dreaming. Moore does make the single concession that it would be very unlikely for one to have all of their memories and sensory experiences and yet be dreaming, which points to the likelihood of one actually being awake. However, to this point I would like to raise a question, what if what we assume to be reality is actually in fact a massive evolving dream and the dreams we have when “sleeping” are just dreams within a dream?

Now to make sure we don’t get too Inceptionesque I would like to compare my proposed “dream within a dream” scenario with that of an “ancestor simulation within an ancestor simulation” proposed by Bostrom. Each is based on the same principal, a deviation from reality existing within another deviation from reality. Those in the first simulation would incorrectly assume that they are living in the “real” world, much like people in the first dream level would assume their world to be “real”. However, the second ancestor simulation and the second dream level would be assumed to be “false” but it’s inhabitants would not correctly “know” the second dream level and second ancestor simulation is false since they do not have correct preexisting assumptions regarding the nature of reality itself since their original world is in itself “false”.

I also want to raise a question regarding the nature of ethics in dreams and ancestor simulations. If our world is “false” and our actions have no bearing on the nature of the universe and the real world, and we become self-aware of this, then should we have any concern for ethics or morality? Bostrom argues that humans should act accordingly regardless of whether or not they believe they are in a form of a simulation since there is always a chance that they are assuming incorrectly. However, if we strongly believe that we are in some form of simulation, and are in fact correct in our beliefs, then our actions and their consequences would be rendered irrelevant. This would be the case providing our actions have no consequences on reality. For example if I was in an “ancestor simulation within an ancestor simulation” and my actions had consequences on the preceding ancestor simulation my behavior remain identical to my behavior in the world I believe is “true” i.e. the first ancestor simulation.

Based on these assumptions I would like to make the point that since we cannot correctly know that we are not in a simulation or dreaming, nor can we definitively assume that if we were in such a “false” world that our actions in our “false” world have no consequences on the “real” world. Therefore we must act as though or world is real despite our assumption that it may not be, and believe that our actions have consequences on all aspects of “reality”.


5 thoughts on “Lucid Dreaming & Computer Simulations

  1. I have a comment about your ethics argument. Specifically this part: “If our world is “false” and our actions have no bearing on the nature of the universe and the real world, and we become self-aware of this, then should we have any concern for ethics or morality?” I believe that even if our actions could be rendered “irrelevant,” they would not be irrelevant. If suddenly we realize that our entire world is a simulation, people would not jump to the conclusion that ethics no longer matters because people would still cling to their own cultures and moral patterns. People would be shocked, but ethics and individual morality would still matter, whether or not we knew of the simulation. I agree with your point that we should continue to act as though our world is real because there may not ever be a way to “know” about our reality. I think ethics would matter if the case were that we are in a computer simulation and if the case were that we are not in a computer simulation.

  2. I am not sure I agree with your counter-argument Natalie. If we were to suddenly realize that our entire world is a simulation, what would be the basis of our “culture” and “moral patterns”. There would be no societal measures of grounding people. This would undoubtedly lead to a lack of personal responsibility and as Jared suggests, could certainly lead people to disregard their sense of duty to uphold ethical behavior.

  3. I agree with Bostrom’s argument that humans should act accordingly regardless of whether or not they believe they are in a form of a simulation, and your last statement about how “we must act as though or world is real despite our assumption that it may not be”. I agree with this because of multiple reasons. Based on Bostrom’s conclusion, we have a 66% chance we are not living in a similuation so this is a huge reason on why we must act as if our world is real. Like stated previously, even if the 33% chance that we live in a computer simulation is reality, we will have no real way of knowing so we must act like we live in the real world. There are much more reasons to act accordingly then to act without morals.

  4. I also wanted to raise the issue regarding the mere postulation of computer simulation. If we are able to grasp the concept of computer simulated realities, and acknowledge the technological precursors to said simulation such as the Sims( silly I know). Furthermore, if we accept that technology has the possibility to evolve to be capable of such simulations then we must place further weight on the idea and or possibility that we ourselves are living in a simulated reality. If no such concepts existed today then we would have no reason to postulate such an existence, but due to the existence of basic computer simulations, we must at least recognize the possibility of the existence of more advanced simulations.

  5. I really like your comment Jared, in that I totally feel that if we as a civilization were to “not go extinct before reaching a post-human stage” (Bostrom 1) then we would no doubt begin to doubt our own realities. This then raises a serious concern on the ethics and morals that we humans would then be willing to accept because if we were to increasingly believe the possibility of being trapped in a simulation, then the need for ethics and morals and really effort would be increasingly pointless as there would be no consequence to our actions since we’d increasingly believe we live in a simulation.
    I also agree with Fernando’s comment in that I too have a positivist view on the world we live in. I choose to believe that “we must act as though or world is real despite our assumption that it may not be” (Friedman Post). This is because of what I said in my first paragraph: if our world wasn’t real and we began to seriously doubt that our world was real, then we would have decreased incentives to put forth actual effort and believe in strong morals which could be a huge detriment to society as a whole. Again, society could be a simulation, but the fact that I’m even considering that just shows the power that we already have and the power we could reach one day.

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