I’m interested to see whether people think the value of human life is worth less if our existence is the result of a simulation created by a “higher being.” Would living in base reality give more meaning and purpose to our lives?

I have heard many arguments saying it wouldn’t matter either way as the simulation would be so advanced that it would be indistinguishable from base reality.

  • 2
    Answers to this might be primarily opinion based. Is there someone you are reading who motivates this question? That reference might put this in some context that an answer can focus on. Can you reference some of the arguments you have heard? Jun 15, 2019 at 16:48
  • it's an incidental comment, but aren't simulationists committed to solipsism?
    – user38026
    Jun 16, 2019 at 21:27
  • @another_name solipsism is the theory that nothing can be known but your own mind. Simulationism on the other hand postulate at least that their is a simulation, some hardware to run it, a designer, maybe even other minds in the simulation like an MMORPG. Even if one claims to be alone in the simulation, at least the simulator is outside of his own mind.
    – armand
    Jun 17, 2019 at 5:58
  • i don't see the difference between a MMORPG version of simulationism and a (fancy) idealism @armand anyway, while MMORPGism does make sense, i'd guess most sophisticated simulation paradoxes are solipsistic. we're solipsist in our dreams, as we are, i'd assume, as Boltzmann brains. bostrom's argument may not assume we are alone in our simulation, if only because we can't understand what post humans are, nor their tech. however, he does talk about simulated realities (plural) which suggests that he has no answer to the solipsistic view
    – user38026
    Jun 17, 2019 at 6:58
  • @another_name idealism and solipsism are different beasts altogether. If you are speaking about idealism, then the difference is that the simulator could be part of the material world. The question then become "can we leave the simulation ?". I agree that if the simulation is considered inescapable and undetectable, then we have a fancy kind of idealism, but it does not have to be so. I would also agree that both theories are nothing but useless unfalsifiable speculation for the entertaining of people with too much spare time.
    – armand
    Jun 17, 2019 at 7:01

2 Answers 2


Nick Bostrom introduces the idea of 'mind crime' in his book Superintelligence, in the context of a 'mal8gnant failure mode' of AI instantiation.

As we begin to approach an era of sentient programs, if artificial general intelligences, a logical model ti follow is Peter Singer's idea of The Expanding Circle from the book of that name. He argues that we have to shift from an essentialist position that there is something unique about humans, to an evidence based stance. And, that moral progress consists in expanding the circle of our concern with the welfare of other beings as a result. Opposition to this is increasingly dismissed by AI thinkers as 'meat chauvinism'.

So I would go further than saying it's about whether a simulation is indistinguishable from 'reality', to saying any being with apparent sentience is worthy of moral concern.

We discussed the simulation hypothesis here Are we living in a simulation? The evidence


This, of course, depends on what you think gives value to life. If the only value is in the experiences that we have, and we can have the same experiences in a simulation as in base reality, then it seems to not matter whether we are in base reality. (There may be a question about whether simulated beings can be conscious at all, but since your question presupposes that we are in a simulation, that is implied.) If, on the other hand, value derives from affecting the outside world, and it is inherently more valuable to affect base reality, then it does matter whether we are in base reality.

Somewhat relatedly, David Chalmers has argued that what happens in virtual reality is real in a sense (http://consc.net/papers/virtual.pdf).

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