Ancestor Simulations and Ayer

In response to a comment on my first post I wrote another one, as I wanted to connect A. J Ayer’s examination of moralism and determinism to the concepts of skepticism discussed earlier in the course. However, I felt my original post would have been too long winded if I included all of these thoughts.

If we are in fact living in a computer simulation or a false world of some sort then it becomes increasingly difficult to reconcile the argument with the moralist with that of our false reality. However, if we postulate that the determinist is indeed correct in his thoughts that we cannot change the past, future, or any part of our destiny, then reconciling these thoughts with that of a false world is actually quite simple. As our world itself is false then our actions are simulated, pre-determined, and any actions we take in our false world would have absolutely no bearing on the future as our world has no connection to any “true” future, and no connection to the true world in which the computer simulating our world exists.

However, coming back to the argument of the moralist. If all of our actions are our own, and we are responsible for the consequences of our actions which in turn shape the future, then it is required that our simulated world have some preexisting connection to the “real” world, which can be found in the simulating computer and the scientists observing the aforementioned simulation. So if we postulate that scientists are observing our simulation and that these observations somehow alter the scientist’s mentality or perspective on life or the human experience, then our actions in our false world did in fact have consequences that shaped the future and can be accounted for.

I recognize for the moralist view to be reconciled with a ancestor simulation people from the “real world” must observe the simulation and gain some experience from the observation. However, if an ancestor simulation were to be created it would surely have some observers of some sort because without people to study the ancestor simulation creating the simulation itself would become pointless. Furthermore, for the argument of the moralist to succeed in an ancestor simulation the simulations cannot merely be “zombies” but rather need to be unaware simulated beings that believe themselves to living in a “true” reality. If all simulated beings were zombies then they would not develop any organic thoughts that would lead to any significant observations from the simulation. So based on this previous postulation we can indeed infer that the simulations would indeed by unaware organic simulations, and that people would be observing and learning from these organic simulations. So the actions of these simulations do indeed shape the future and we can indeed reconcile the argument with of ancestor simulations with that of the moralist.

I understand that one could attempt to refute my argument through postulating that by creating the ancestor simulation the scientists observations would be “pre-destined” as his observations were induced by actions in the simulation that would have not taken place if the simulation had not been created. So if he is pre-destined to learn from the ancestor simulation, which he himself created, then did, the actions of the scientists really alter the future at all? All I can say in response to this argument is that there is no degree of certainty to what the scientist will learn from observing the simulation. He could learn people are evil, people are lazy, or people are philanthropic and generous. And while one could predict what the scientist could learn by examining his character and his life experiences, one could never be 100% certain with that prediction. And once again, I postulate that this randomness associated with the human experience, is what enables realism and determinism to be reconciled, because while stimuli and experiences may shape one’s destiny, it does not make it 100% certain.

5 thoughts on “Ancestor Simulations and Ayer

  1. With the idea of determinism, who would be deciding what the people within the simulation would be doing? If the scientists choose the people’s decisions, then is the simulation really an accurate simulation? The “point” of an ancestor simulation would be to study how humans are naturally, with no intervention. If a scientist were intervening and determining how an “unaware simulated being living in a “true” reality would act,” the simulation would be pointless and creating a simulation simply to create one would also be pointless. In my perspective, I think this idea can only be supported from a moralists point of view.

  2. I largely agree with the previous comment. The ‘point’ of an ancestor simulation would to observe how people behave ‘naturally’ and to what degree determinism is complicated –or even overcome- by free will. But I think we could accomplish that in several ways, and one of them would be for the creators to include deterministic factors the background of the simulated characters. The aim of the simulation would then actually be to figure out what percentage of people would transcend seemingly deterministic factors and make moral choices based on a pure form of altruism that flies in the face of the individual’s self-interest and also, of his or her past – of what he or she has done, in Ayer’s construction – to “make” his or her character. We would be looking for free will in the particular form of altruism. And of altruism whose own moral rectitude could be questioned.
    For example, the creators might produce a character who comes from a poverty-stricken family in which stealing is viewed as a necessity. The individual might have been taught that it is ‘right’ to steal money for food and necessities, and that choosing NOT to steal is immoral. In the simulation, the individual is given the choice of stealing food from a weak, elderly person who will die without it, or of letting his own family go hungry for a period of time that might verge on the physically dangerous. Does this character opt to ignore the ‘determinism’ of his upbringing and character and behave altruistically? If he behaves altruistically, by allowing the elderly person to have the food, can the character be said to be doing the ‘right’ thing in terms of his own family or not? How would the character explain his actions? Similarly, a character could be created with what Ayer would call “a habit of obedience” that is so strong as to be a deterministic force. Let’s say that this character is a battered woman who has learned to placate her abusive husband to survive. In the simulation, she sees her husband doing something cruelly unfair to one of his employees. Does she exert ‘free will’ and make the moral choice of stepping out of her accustomed role by challenging him? And if she does so, is she right or wrong? Is she endangering herself (and possibly her children, if her husband sees them as extensions of her, at whom he vents rage)? Or is she exerting true free will by transcending deterministic factors and engaging in altruism for the pure sake of moral good and to save the employee from some abuse?

  3. I agree with the previous two commenters as well. If what you are saying is true and the simulated individuals do in fact influence the future and the “real world” what would be the reasoning for running an ancestor simulation in the first place? Why is it required that the pre-existing world have any connection to the simulation? Apart from the desire to observe humans interact naturally with each other, I see no reason why (from the moralist perspective) either world has to influence the other.

  4. I understand what all of you are saying but I think that you can’t really bring determinism or moralism into the idea of a simulation because I think both theories revolve around the actual existence of humans. I understand that in this example some humans do in fact exist (the scientists and maybe the humans that once existed who are now being simulated) but I don’t think you can apply the ideas of determinism or moralism to the simulations who themselves are not in fact human.

  5. Isn’t it possible to live in a simulation that is not being observed? Say, for example, the scientists who made the simulations have thousands of simulations and have stopped observing the one we are in for one reason or another. This would make it so that our actions in our false world don’t influence anything at all. In addition, if we are observed, I think we can have zombies in a simulation, as long as at least one person is not. Maybe the scientists would only like to see how one person acts by controlling the people around him/her. It wouldn’t be that far-fetched.

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