Exeperience machine again

In this post I argued that what bothers about stepping into Nozick’s experience machine is that everything is planned. I suggested that living in such a planned virtual world would bother us, but that even if we were in the “real” world and everything was planned out, something we would be missing. The issue would be that we have too much control over our lives.

However, there is still the question about whether there is something that is still worse about the experience machine compared to reality. Imagine that you can live out a full and spontaneous life, meeting what challenges arise, in the real world, or, you can do the same thing in the experience machine. Neither one is planned and program has been created that be completely spontaneous in what challenges and situations are thrown at you. Is there something missing from the experience machine compared to life outside of it?

I’m not particularly disturbed by the experience machine on this view, but here’s one argument: it’s valuable to be in contact with real people and real things (the people part I find much more convincing). But then some people retort: “well there’s no way to know that the ‘real’ world is the way we think it is. What evidence do you have that other people even exist.” On this view, skepticism about our current world suggests that our world may be no different than an experience machine of sorts.

Here’s the problem with this retort. In the real world, I may not know one way or the other if external objects exist, or if there are other minds or not. But in the experience machine, I know that I will not interact with other things and people. It seems that it’s at least reasonable to opt for the real world, even if one could never know in principle whether things were the way we thought they were. At least there would be a chance.

So maybe, we should opt for the real world after all, to at least come into contact with other people. Of course, this works only until the scientists discover a way to link people in different experience machines to each other….o wait, what about the internet…


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