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Saturday, 13 September 2014

What Living in a Computer Might Feel Like

What is the relationship between consciousness and sensory input?

Consider this: you are on a beach sipping a cocktail while the sun sets over the horizon. There is significant information which may be considered fresh, or renewed, which is being drilled into your perception of the surroundings - the breeze, sight, sound, taste, smell, gravity, balance, etc.

The continuous transfer of information into your brain is defining your conscious experience which feels unmistakeably "real".

Now consider the exact same scenario on the beach, but as a dream. Your subjective experience may feel quite identical, as long as you don't spontaneously realise within the dream that it's a dream (lucid dreaming). Even then, the sensations simulated - without a doubt, they are simulated because there is no beach, there is no breeze, etc. - you are after all sedated in your bed with your body under paralysis; those sensations still feel pretty convincing, and only upon waking are they deemed lesser than "reality".

Nonetheless, there must be a clear line dividing the dreaming consciousness and the awake consciousness if lucid dreaming is even possible, which it is.

I suggest that dreaming consciousness is supported by old information potentially being recycled in various ways, rather than intercepted live through sensory pathways. In a scenario where a mind is isolated from sensory input, for example as existing in a computer interface, and presumably pre-packed with information or programmed, the playing out of thoughts may end up feeling more like a dream than reality, due to the lack of live sensory input.

The scenarios played out in the mind soon after fainting also feel like dreams, despite not actually occurring in the same sequence as that leading up to sleeping dreams. It would appear that the backstage processing of information is actually ongoing regardless of an awake or asleep state.

So each night when you go to sleep, ponder for a second the sheer uniqueness of this experience: your body is sedated slowly and consciousness fades, only to resurrect itself back again intermittently in a dream world composed entirely of simulated imagery that nonetheless feels real, or almost real.

Ultimately, only experiencing reality can provide the backdrop to concluding the dream experience is inferior, and who's to say that if we were wandering through dreams for long enough, we wouldn't get a better sense of ourselves and learn to control the situations encountered rather than let them happen to us, much like a toddler explores a brand new world and slowly learns their way around?

And last but not least: if living in a computer that resembled continuous lucid dreaming i.e. being in control of the simulated environment and yourself to the point where you may be able to change anything and everything, essentially doing whatever you want to the full extent of the meaning, were possible for you - would you be tempted?