Can your emotions get involved in a video game? Yes, but not much. Whatever sympathetic echo of triumph you experience on destroying the Evil Empire in a video game, it’s probably not remotely close to the feeling of triumph you’d get from saving the world in real life. I’ve played video games powerful enough to bring tears to my eyes, but they still aren’t as powerful as the feeling of significantly helping just one single real human being.
Because when the video game is finished, and you put it away, the events within the game have no long-term consequences.
I know, I sound like a broken record, but the easy solution to this is wireheading/an experience machine. If the only thing that matters is that humans have fun, why not put them in experience machines?
But Yudkowsky disagrees:
Asking what happens often, and binding happy emotions to that, so as to increase happiness—or asking what seems easy, and binding happy emotions to that—making isolated video games artificially more emotionally involving, for example—
At that point, it seems to me, you’ve pretty much given up on eudaimonia and moved to maximizing happiness; you might as well replace brains with pleasure centers, and civilizations with hedonium plasma.
I think Yudkowsky misses the point. Experience machines allow you to have complex and highly sophisticated, well, experiences. Wireheading can be more than merely maximizing happiness. Sure, your mental states don’t correspond to reality, but if there isn’t anything objectively meaningful apart from human preferences. I just don’t see why this would matter, as long you don’t know you’re living in the matrix.
Of course, there could be some objective purpose, or maybe am I’m merely mistaken about my own values, so I wouldn’t wirehead myself even if I could. But if Yudkowsky’s metaethics and metaphysics were right, I(probably) would.
Stories without sorrow and conflict are boring reads. Is this also true for our own lives? Do we need to suffer from time to time in order to appreciate the good stuff?
Obviously, many of our current problems are totally unnecessary andtoohorrible, like losing a loved one, being sexually abused or tortured, listening to humans with double-digit-IQs, etc. Also, it’s much easier to experience pain than happiness.
Even so, wouldn’t life be more interesting if we could still feel e.g. romantic feelings like heartache?
Yudkowsky is not sure. And a part of me agrees with him. The Super Happy People seem – I don’t know how to put it – not noble-minded, not serious, not profoundenough. (On a related note: Bad trips are almost always more profound and enlightening than good trips. Similarly, many people begin to think about existential questions, read philosophy, etc. when they are depressed or experience a crisis. Nietzsche was right: “Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker.”)
But maybe I’m wrong, and we probably should err on the side of happiness.
The phenomenon of the “hedonic treadmill” suggests that we have to continuously improve our living conditions in order to be happy. Of course, we could change our emotional make-up, but since Yudkowsky is kinda bioconservative, he prefers to change the environment first.
Ok, let’s assume that changing the emotional make-up is a no-no. Yudkowsky performs then some calculations which show that in many cases our exponential self-improvement could only last for about 30.000 years. Which isn’t that long, if you think about it.
As an aside: At around 18 or 19 I was quite depressed because of the second law of thermodynamics and the (seemingly) inevitable heat death of the universe. These days I’m more worried about Everett-branches or other universes in which I’m tortured for all eternity through some malicious god or a uFAI. (I really, really hope that these Multiverse-theories turn out to be false. Or that there exists something that prevents shit like that from happening. Srsly.)
Yudkowsky hopes that the laws of physics somehow permit true immortality, which is obviously far from certain. I agree, that would be pretty neat, but as I said above, I’m not that hard to please in eschatological matters.
On second thought, screw that.
I want the Omega Point.
Most proposed utopias are way too dull and boring.
Life in a true Utopia has to be unpredictable and exciting – it has to be scary.
Totally. LSD dwarfs alcohol. (I know. Most of my analogies are related to drugs. Sorry.)