Essays on Infinite Lifespans
Many humans today might recoil from the idea of living
only within a virtual realm. But from a philosophical per-
spective, there is truly no difference between the experience
of inhabiting a sufficiently advanced simulation, and the
everyday life that we experience today. Consider this: our
current physical bodies can be thought of as organic robots.
They go out into the physical world, carrying a brain/mind/
personality/identity around inside. My organic robot body
sees, hears, touches, smells, and tastes for me; it transmits
those experiences to my brain through electrical pathways;
parallel processing computation within my neurons and syn-
apses results in a pattern of thought so complex and elegant
that it generates meta-cognition, or self-awareness. I think it
is me that is out there in the world enjoying direct sensory
experiences, but it is not!
The part of me that is really me the part that is my con-
sciousness and my personality can never have such direct
experiences. Gray matter has neither hands, nor eyes, nor
ears, nor mouth, nor nose. My brain must rely on an indi-
rect interface to apprehend reality. That interface can be the
physical body I now inhabit, it could be a tele-robot exploring
the surface of Mars, or it could be a substrate of computation
providing a simulated environmental experience.
The point is that everything we experience is simulated.
Nothing is immediate. Over the next few decades, as we
spend more and more time in virtual environments, our
definition of reality will change. It is conceivable that within
a century or less, many human personalities may be living
full-time in cyberspace, inhabiting myriad simulations.
They will undoubtedly discover new sensations and emotions
we cannot even comprehend. Will their lives be less real than
It seems likely that millions of people, if not billions, will
make just that choice. Does this sound like science fiction?