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  • I want you to imagine a not too distant future where a company makes a super high-tech virtual

  • reality headset.

  • You can slip it on and experience anything that you want.

  • Everything that you experience would feel 100% life-like and, in fact, you wouldn't

  • be able to tell your experiences apart from real life.

  • This machine could maximize the total amount of pleasure you would experience in life.

  • If you think you need a little pain to have more pleasure, it can produce that for you.

  • No matter what, this machine can maximize pleasure over your lifetime.

  • There's also no reason to worry about anyone outside of the machine because they can plug

  • in too or you can assume that they are being taken care of by someone else (the government

  • for example).

  • So, don't let your worries about serving others prevent you from plugging in.

  • Once you plug in, you won't even know that you're plugged in.

  • You could do anything you want in that world but the only catch is that once you plug in,

  • you can't come out.

  • Knowing this, would you plug into this world?

  • When I asked this question on Twitter 45% of you said yes, you would plug in, and 55%

  • said no, you would not.

  • This question is actually a twist on an infamous thought experiment - posed by the philosopher

  • Robert Nozick in his book Anarchy, State, and Utopia - titledThe Experience Machine”.

  • The situation stays the exact same except instead of plugging into virtual reality,

  • Robert refers to it as an experience machine.

  • Robert assumed that most people would choose not to enter this machine.

  • I wanted to revisit this thought experiment because I feel as if the question it asks

  • is actually becoming more and more relevant in modern society.

  • We are seeing great advances in virtual reality and it doesn't seem impossible that we could

  • one day create something similar to an experience machine

  • I believe that one of the initial responses that someone might have to this modified thought

  • experiment is that they can control their usage.

  • “I would only play for a bit and plug out whenever I want - sort of like a video game

  • they might say.

  • I'd argue that it's actually not so simple for two reasons.

  • Video games are designed to be addictive in the same way fast food, and social media are.

  • It's a form of supernormal stimuli.

  • I mentioned this in one of my videos on self-discipline in the past and some viewers took it as a

  • knock against gaming.

  • I have nothing against gaming, I've been a gamer myself for most of my life.

  • I DO think it's delusional to deny that developers don't try to make their games

  • as addictive as possible similar to how fast food companies try to make their food as addictive

  • as possible, and social media sites try to make their feeds as addictive as possible.

  • It's in the creators best interest, financially at least, to make their creations as addictive

  • as possible.

  • In a lot of cases, their livelihood depends on it.

  • It might even be impossible to remove what makes a good product from being addictive.

  • If you accept this premise, that people, more often than not, try to make their products

  • or creations as addictive as possible, then we can move on to my next premise.

  • For better or worse, there are ways to take advantage of human biology.

  • Easy example: it can be hard to quit smoking cigarettes even when you really want to.

  • If you accept both of these premises, that people make their things as addictive as possible

  • and that it's possible to take advantage of human biology, then you would likely accept

  • my conclusion that VR will be a highly addictive experience.

  • If you can enter a world that feels real and can provide you with maximum pleasure, why

  • would you ever want to leave?

  • Coming out of that experience would make reality seem dull and drab by comparison.

  • The likelihood of you wanting to remain plugged in as much possible would be very high.

  • Now you see why I think this is a good thought experiment to discuss.

  • I don't think it seems as unlikely of a scenario as when Nozick first proposed it.

  • Keeping in line with the original thought experiment, we should also assume that technology

  • is at a point where they can connect us to this ultra-real VR experience and also keep

  • our bodies functioning and alive while we are in it.

  • Knowing this, would you plug in?

  • There are good reasons to plug in.

  • The primary one is a philosophy called hedonism.

  • Hedonists believe that everything in life boils down to two things: pain and pleasure.

  • Pleasure is what is intrinsically good and maximizing net pleasure over a life time is

  • the most important goal for a person.

  • Everything else is only good as long as it leads to the production of more pleasure or

  • avoids pain.

  • Another thing we hear people say often is, “just do what makes you happy.”

  • If doing what makes you happy is the most important thing - and this machine is designed

  • to maximize pleasure and therefore happiness - there would be no reason not to plug in,

  • right?

  • However, Nozick initially proposed this thought experiment to refute hedonism.

  • He said that if you don't plug into the machine, which he suspected most people wouldn't,

  • then there are things you value more than pleasure.

  • It means there are things you think are more important than just our inner feelings about

  • the world.

  • Judging by the poll I ran on Twitter, the majority of people, intuitively, do not want

  • to plug in.

  • Nozick actually laid out three arguments as to why he believed someone wouldn't want

  • to plug in:

  • We actually want to do things and not just experience them.

  • There is something intrinsically valuable about actually doing an activity as opposed

  • to merely experiencing it.

  • We want to become certain kinds of people.

  • Nozick said that entering the machine is a form of suicide because the person who enters

  • the machine has no character.

  • We don't know if they are kind, brave, loyal, or anything.

  • Consider this: do you want to win an olympic gold medal to have the experience of having

  • a medal and to feel the pleasure of winning that medal, or do you want to win it because

  • it means that you are a strong, hard-working, and brave person.

  • Something to think about.

  • Lastly, Nozick said that people would not want to enter because the machine would prevent

  • us from experiencing a deeper reality.

  • Everything that we experience in the machine would be man-made.

  • I believe here Nozick is saying that many of us would rather live in a world that is

  • true, rather than artificial, even if an artificial world produces more net pleasure.

  • When I first heard this argument, I totally agreed with it.

  • Everything Nozick said made sense.

  • Of course, I would want to live in a world that is real but less pleasurable than one

  • that is fake but more pleasurable.

  • That was, until I heard about The Reverse Experience Machine.

  • Now, I want you to imagine a different scenario.

  • Imagine that you suddenly wake up in a white room.

  • A scientist approaches you and says: “hey, you've been connected to this experience

  • machine for a decade.

  • Everybody you thought you knew, and all the experiences you had were manufactured by this

  • machine.

  • We're supposed to ask every decade whether you would like to plug back in.

  • Would you?”

  • This scenario was initially posed by Joshua Greene although I modified it a bit.

  • Knowing that everything you had just experienced was fake, would you want to return to it or

  • would you want to return to reality.

  • What if in this new reality you're actually living in poverty, would you want to go back?

  • What if in this new reality you're actually a billionaire, would you want to go back then?

  • Felipe De Brigard actually posed the idea that our reluctance to enter the machine in

  • the original experiment may be due to status quo bias.

  • We don't like change.

  • The reason we might be hesitant to enter the machine might be status quo bias and not the

  • reasons Nozick outlined.

  • If you find yourself hesitating to enter the machine in the first scenario but wanting

  • to connect back in the second scenario then you might have been a victim of the status

  • quo bias.

  • I'm not sure if I would want to enter reality, if it turns out that I'm actually living

  • in poverty.

  • This virtual life is pretty great.

  • So, maybe I don't value truth over pleasure?

  • But, let me hit you with another scenario.

  • You're in a relationship with a lovely spouse.

  • You work a great job with a wonderful boss and co-workers, and you have beautiful, amazing

  • kids.

  • Everyone loves you, except for that they don't.

  • You just think that everyone loves you but really they hate you.

  • Your spouse is constantly cheating on you, your kids laughing at and despising you, your

  • coworkers doing the same, and your boss thinks your the worst employee.

  • But, you have no idea.

  • Assume that finding out about this truth would reduce your net pleasure over a life time.

  • Would you want to know the truth and reduce your pleasure or live a delusional life and

  • have more pleasure?

  • What would you want for someone else whose not you but that you care about?

  • For the hedonist, someone who thinks that net pleasure over a life time is the most

  • important goal, living in delusion is the obvious answer.

  • This again brings up the question: what's more important, pleasure or truth?

  • If you picked truth, then you might agree with Nozick that there are things more important

  • than pleasure, happiness, and our inner feelings.

  • This is by no means an easy thought experiment to answer, and there are several complex answers

  • to it.

  • With VR technology improving, I think it's something important and interesting to think

  • about so I'd love to see what you guys think in the comments: would you plug in?

I want you to imagine a not too distant future where a company makes a super high-tech virtual

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B1 pleasure nozick machine plug addictive experience

Will Virtual Reality Replace Real Life?

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    Summer posted on 2020/11/23
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