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”.