Suppose I was able to create a simulation of the universe (I can't, but suppose I could). And in said universe, intelligent and sentient life evolved.

What would happen if I "unplugged" this simulation, or simply altered it and killed all the sentient life. Would I be killing these beings, or would they have simply not been alive?

In short, can anything existing in a computer program be alive?, and if say, we were living in a computer simulation, could the beings that created us consider us to be alive?

  • The basic answer I think is that like thoughts they would merely be modalities of the existing machine. But far more complicated answers can be offered if someone wants to argue that they are entities in their own right -- albeit contingent entities.
    – virmaior
    Jan 6, 2017 at 3:45
  • Are the characters in a video game alive? Helpful if you answer that first to put your question in context.
    – user4894
    Jan 6, 2017 at 5:13

1 Answer 1


This depends on one's definition of "being" (along with those terms related to it such as "alive", "sentient", and "life").

If one considers entities within the simulation which display sufficiently complex behaviour (where one must then precisely mark what exactly is sufficient) to be sentient, then yes, those beings would have been alive, and you would be killing those beings.

Note that the weight of the action being implied in this situation with the concept of "killing" is not necessarily equal to the weight of the corresponding action in the world with which we interact in our day-to-day lives, despite the words used being the same.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .