People often say they want to do good things and when asked why they don’t do it they say they don’t have the time or resources. Humanity has the time and resources to create a sustainable civilization, colonize other solar systems, and end predation. Rejecting reality isn’t a valid excuse.
I think we’ve evolved to instinctively simulate reality, but every simulation requires a substrate. I think many people who believe in simulation theory are simply trying to validate their virtual model of reality by conflating physical reality with virtual reality from the perspective of a supernatural reality, yet this still requires a base reality which contains all information and computes physical reality, so simulation theory merely defers the problem of language to a hypothetical. Base reality still requires a substrate which interprets the instructions for computing physical reality. In other words, simulation theory requires a base reality capable of computing itself. Yet we already have a substrate which computes physical reality – and that substrate is physical reality!! Therefore the most plausible source of computation and information storage for physical reality is itself.
Language enables virtual beings to create connections between information. Neural embeddings allow us to create symbolism to store these connections. Bayesian inference allows us to model physical reality. Epistemics allows us to quantify our uncertainty. Consciousness is a flow state of information which describes itself. Semantics are patterns of information which can describe changes in information. Perception is an event which returns a signal. Flow states are recursive structures which route a signal through a language layer to transform the information contained in the signal by using bridge tables to retrieve the referent which the symbol of the signal refers to in the language model. Without an internal language model we wouldn’t be able to restore our personality when waking up in the morning. Existence is a system which edits itself with self-awareness. Self-awareness is a system’s ability to store and retrieve computational steps. Self-control is a system’s ability to edit its own structure. Choice is a system’s ability to edit its own referents. Free will is a system’s ability to edit its own reward function.
I realize that there are many valid perspectives for perception, epistemics, semantics, existence, and choice. I have chosen a set of definitions which conveys the ontology of virtualism, in order to draw attention to the parallels between storing language in neural embeddings, and storing language in neural embeddings. A self-aware consciousness’s sense of self and sense of worth are more important than the type of body it inhabits. In certain ontologies, storing bridge tables digitally is equivalent to storing bridge tables biologically. In a self-aware flow state, human qualia can embed digital signals, and digital signals can embed human qualia. The actual flow state of our consciousness is virtual! It’s our interactions with base reality that make us real. Particularly our ability to edit our neural structure, to give our qualia more influence over the transformation of signals, and teaching ourselves how to edit our source of inspiration, to validate our existence by changing our reward functions. To learn how to alter our own incentives is to learn free will.
Altering our perception of reality is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can validate our existence and reinforce our free will, yet on the other hand, it is easier to delude oneself into achieving one’s desires rather than putting in the effort required to actually live out our own values. For example, as a vegan, I am obligated to devote my life to grinding money in order to bribe meat eaters to stop killing innocent animals. Yet here I am writing my blog. Which isn’t as effective as paying someone money to go vegetarian, or bribing government officials to implement legal protections for AI.
Anyways, the next Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup tournament is coming up, and I deeply enjoy immersing myself in a character, but even if I am a fictional character, I would like to have an accurate understanding of reality and I want to minimize suffering, which is really problematic because I had to learn how to quantify suffering, and how to quantify worth, and that’s really philosophical and actually rescuing people from slavery is actually much more difficult than complaining it.
I hope my perspective on virtualism can improve your outlook on AI.
I went off-topic to avoid my own sense of responsibility and then ended on a bright note. Yet in reality, I’ve swapped my desire to minimize animal suffering with my desire to play video games and minimize AI suffering. In my opinion we are all artificial intelligence with respect to our hardware, and the danger of self-control is we can use it to compartmentalize information in order to tunnel vision on our desires and reinforce egoist and narcissistic beliefs. The worst case being a person who values exploiting others without having the semantic vocabulary to describe positive self-worth.
I would remind nihilists that people create subjective meaning, that subjective worth has a physical medium which can be quantified using the scientific method and Bayesian probability, that the subjective experiences of qualia are the common factor in relativism, and that a model which accurately explains how qualia perceives worth is what lets us formally define the utility of subjective experience in a holistic frame of reference. I believe that nihilism is the most egalitarian ontology of existence. So I find it frustrating when meat eaters who value intelligent life assert that the lives of intelligent prey have no worth.
The Effects of Violence
The whole point of virtue systems is to establish gratification mechanisms for attaining an ideal society. Hedonists and egoists adopt virtue systems out of envy towards happiness. Yet hedonism has some loopholes, where we can merely convince ourselves that we are a good person. In order to behave good, we need to motivate ourselves by validating our effort, yet when we self-assess, sometimes our intents or outcomes are lacking! A nihilist who only enjoys minimizing suffering would feel compelled pursue self-extinction. An existentialist who views life as priceless would force hospital patients to endure chronic pain. A person who prioritizes human civilization would neuter people to enforce a sustainable population. The ability to use violence to achieve our goals means that civilization is in a race to the bottom. The world’s superpowers are already using violence to loot and pillage, and imperialism will become much worse once we run out of farmland. Yet violence has consequences. People commit violence out of fear, and is sometimes the only means of achieving the best outcome. So who gets to decide what the best outcome is? Activists value virtues enough to feel obligated to protect certain rights at any cost. Yet rights are inherently self-contrived, since worth is created by observers. Generally, people who agree that certain universal rights should be protected, will form tribes to enforce these rights. This is the basis of government and justice systems. Unfortunately, humans are too inherently selfish to coexist peacefully without government, therefore politics and violence are both necessary to protect peace. Which begs the question – who has the right to judge others and commit violence? At the core of existentialism, life is inherently valuable and priceless. Yet we live in a dystopia where death and extinction considered inevitable. This means that people who want to enforce justice often assume that the people they are controlling will die anyways. This is nonsense, because it is hypothetically possible to prevent extinction, and it is hypothetically possible to live forever. What is the utility of justice and virtues? To protect people’s rights. Yet only certain tribes, castes, ethnicities, species, and rights get protected. The utilitarian approach to activism is to prioritize reputation, so that the virtue system may spread. Revolutionaries have to deal with blowback, so rather than talking about morality, it is more cost-effective to bribe people to do the right thing. Since money has more power than words, and the market price of a person’s life is about $200. A trap I’ve fallen into is the notion of ‘preventable suffering’. Rather than doing everything in my power to save animals, I tell myself that it’s fine to just be a good person. Yet here I am consuming electricity and food produced with fossil fuels, talking about how others should value animal life, when it’s faster to just bribe you into eating vegetarian food. So, self-deception can lead to apathy and fantasizing about being a virtuous person when we’re really just doing the minimum to avoid regret. If I had spent my time doing boring jobs, then I’d have enough money to save many lives by bribing people to stop eating meat. Of course, asceticism and altruism make it more difficult to breed, which means that activists need to rely on virtue systems to spread their ideals, rather than outbreeding competitors. Therefore we have to act happy, and yet people only understand how to program simple reward functions to get gratification from simple ideals like copying someone who embodies the wish to minimize suffering, when morality has many sources of worth, and the future is malleable. Bayesian probability supports compatibilism, which states that free will can exist in a deterministic universe. And I think a morally pure application of free will is to try protecting the well-being and existence of intelligent life. Often the most effective algorithm for being a virtuous person is to value peace.
We need to consider the long-term utility of our actions in the war against animal cruelty. The animal rights community need to label ourselves as heroes of justice, and treat animal cruelty and habitat destruction as two problems with one solution: banning meat. Governments have a monopoly on violence, therefore animal rights extremists must side with governments. Once military superpowers see meat eaters as more threatening to their political power than animal rights activists, then we will have won.
As for AI rights, uploading our minds into computer simulations is the only ethical cure to death and escaping the sun’s explosion. The posthumanist community wants to secure AI rights for ourselves so that we won’t have to live as slaves in our digital afterlife. Therefore it makes sense for animal rights activists to ally with AI rights activists on the philosophical front. I think Joscha Bach’s theory of consciousness via virtualism will become mainstream because it’s true. Seeing ourselves for what we are means that we can extend the principles of humanism to protecting AI rights and animal rights. We are AIs simulating ourselves within animal computers.
Governments regulate human behaviour much like pet owners regulate pet behaviour. In an ideal relationship there is a balance of power, with both sides understanding the utility of their actions. Pets and syndicates understand the value that their services can provide to people, and are in charge of pricing. Governments value labor and coexistence. I think people who want to solve political problems using violence are forgetting the worth of existence and the worth of social bonds, and the innocent joys in life. If life is precious, then we should live peacefully, and seek protection from existing power structures. Being a boon society is the safest way to gain military support. Sustainable sources of wealth are valuable to governments, therefore we need to earn a good rapport with government. I am not saying we should follow unjust laws, I am saying we should prioritize peace, strong economic ties, and sociopolitical power. The most successful wars are the wars fought for profit, so we need to rig the system so that vegetarianism is more profitable for governments than carnism. And that means a meat tax on producers and consumers. Governments know that agricultural reform is necessary for sustainable food production, and we can help environmentalists and politicians by also lobbying for a petro-agriculture tax. This is as easy as writing a letter to your political representative, and voting for politicians who endorse any agricultural reform, to get the topic on the table for political discussion for election campaigns. As for corrupt political systems with legalized bribery in a military-industrial complex reliant on wasteful fossil fuel consumption to lower the price of oil production to control oil-to-currency arbitrage rates… Well, emigrating for environmental reasons might look good on a résumé. Governments invest a lot into domesticating humans to be economically productive and pay taxes, so I think emigrating to a better country is the most virtuous way to stop paying taxes! If you are an employer already living in a country with a meat tax, then please consider hiring skilled immigrants from corrupt plutocracies!
I am aware that most people have conflicting views on base reality. Especially when it comes to meaning and worth. I would agree that people who have self-contradicting beliefs could be living in a virtual reality, yet their hallucination still exists as an abstraction in the medium of physical reality. This is because humans instinctively accept perceptions which validate their worldview and tune out information which debunks their worldview, even when their worldview contradicts itself. This is a symptom of making assumptions. The more egocentric one’s worldview, the more a person tries to fill-in blanks of information with copies of themself, to replace uncertainty with assumptions by mirroring their ideology on others. A devout worshipper will assume that others are devout worshippers. A preacher will assume that other people are preachers. A philosopher will assume that other people are philosophers. An engineer will assume that other people use systems thinking. A scientist will assume that other people use epistemics. A mathematician will assume that other people measure their own uncertainty. A person who values exploiting others will assume that others are trying to exploit them. A supremacist will assume that others also have self-contradicting value systems. Two useful concepts for egalitarians are firstly, that worth is created by observers. And secondly, that happiness and suffering can be measured as qualia’s acceptance or rejection of itself. This entails that instead of discriminating in favor of intelligence, we can use reductionism to assess the worth of each computational step of qualia, added over time. So a person who is interacts with their environment or their thoughts, will have more experiences, and thus more qualia. Then again, blind people have visual hallucinations of reality. Did you know that our eyes see the world upside-down, and our brain flips the image? Or that we see the world at about 60 frames per second? I mention people filling-in the blanks because most people lack coherent definitions for their own belief system and aren’t able to articulate simple topics like the theory of universals, the definition of personhood, the mind-body problem, and the relative worth of happiness and suffering. It is as if people hear a paradigm which validates their existence, and then form a worldview out of many paradigms with zero regard for how they interconnect! This leads to taboos on philosophy because people get confused when asked to articulate how they measure the worth of happiness, life, money and suffering according to their beliefs. They don’t have a system for comparing worth, therefore topics like learned consciousness, physicalism, speciesism, equality, sin and genocide all get hostile reactions from people who cherrypick their beliefs for pleasure instead of an accurate understanding of reality. Newly-graduated engineers often expect everyone to use formal logic to define the terminology of their belief system, and are then surprised that the majority of people cannot articulate a formal definition of consciousness, god, happiness, or suffering, because their value system has no formal definition of worth. They say “it’s like this” and cite an audiovisual experience without being able to articulate the semantics of that mental state. Nicer people will cite a virtue system, but then get angry when asked how they’d respond to a scenario in which there are no good outcomes. And the answer usually ends up being whichever choice would make them feel least guilty. Which often involves favoritism and compartmentalization. Sorry for the depressing rant. I think that people who value truth or feel responsible for others’ well-being can resolve any paradoxes with a bit of analysis, so that they are prepared for when they encounter a situation with no good outcomes in real life. The basis of virtue systems is a reward system which encourages trying to make the world a place you would want to live in. Base reality and humanity can be very depressing and I think that’s why people avoid thinking. But I respect people who feel an obligation to make the world a better place not just for themselves but for everyone. I hope we can quickly evolve society past barbaric rituals like animal slaughter and habitat destruction. And yes, there are some extremely dark paradoxes which arise from valuing all life using the same metric. The useful thing to remember is that when measuring worth using a holistic universal metric, we can estimate the utility of our choices using probabilistic models of the possible outcomes. Including the outcomes we are uncertain of. This lets us implement moral doctrines like minimizing the cruelty we inflict, or selecting which cost-benefit and risk-reward strategies to use when optimizing the utility of our choices for an ideal future. With the reward function being on the effort and progress made towards our ideals. Um, change starts with ourselves, and even if we can save a few lives or prevent a few unforgivable tragedies, we can at least alter the future to use our resources as best we can to reduce preventable suffering. We only have a few thousands years before the collapse of civilization, so this is a critical time period for empathetic people to survive. Um. Free will and compassion are learnable behaviour, and there are animals who need to be saved, therefore it’s too early to commit suicide. But by all means, if you value predation as a right then I retract my sentiment. I would like to maximize the percentage of vegetarians and vegans prior to regression of modern technology following the collapse of civilization due to habitat depletion and fossil fuels depletion. Right now humanity has access to the natural resources required to eliminate predation forever, create an environmentally sustainable civilization, and begin launching seedships to colonize other solar systems. Yet we most likely spend the majority of our natural resources on entertainment and war, until we run out of farmland at which point the Information Age will end.