Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Experience Machines and Their Ratification II: Friendly Neighborhood Experience Machines

Friendly Neighborhood Experience Machines

In the Experience Machine hypothetical in Anarchy, State, and Utopia, Nozick assures us that we would not plug into an Experience Machine that could simulate great experiences for us. This is because experiencing life through this Experience Machine would not be real; it would not entail contact with the deepest reality, and would be limited to the creative power of human beings. It would not provide us with pleasing signals about our true selves, but only fictitious signals about an imaginary self.

Of course, contra Nozick, many people (myself included) would be more than happy to enter a nice Experience Machine rather than undergo the allegedly real slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. But my contention here is that we all utilize one or more genuine Experience Machines all the time. These real life, friendly neighborhood Experience Machines include, most notably, religions and aesthetics. These are socially created, culturally reproduced information artifacts that provide a framework for our experiences, allowing us to select experiences to some degree and to give meaning to all our experiences, selected or not. They are created solely by humans, further selected and shaped by generations of cultural evolution. They seem to suffer from the same problems as Nozick's hypothetical Experience Machines in terms of connection to deepest reality, offering information about the true self, and limitation by human creativity. To the extent that you buy that this is so, I argue that you must either deny the realness and desirability of experience mediated by these culturally evolved aesthetic and religious frameworks, or on the other hand allow for the choice to utilize other Experience Machines that may be superior to existing ones in the dimensions of effectiveness, voluntariness, and honesty. This manner of viewing human existence has implications for the desirability of suicide and of bringing new humans into existence.

1 comment:

  1. Religions and aesthetics are created solely by humans: but what part of humans? If the comparing, analysing, relative mind-part, then yes, no different from a machine (composed of comparing, analysing, relative components). If the wanting / not wanting relative emotion part, then yes again, no different from a machine (programmed with purpose). If your primary experience of reality is through mind and emotions, your premise will be accepted. The more you experience reality through some ontologically prior consciousness or sense-awareness, the more your basic assumption here will seem like total, rank insanity.

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