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The movie Yesterday sort of tackled this in an interesting way. Imagine a parallel universe where everything is the same but the Beatles never came together. Would someone releasing their exact music in 2021 still become highly successful and considered a musical icon? In the movie the answer is yes. In real life I imagine the answer would be no - the same exact music would no longer sound innovative and would thus not become particularly successful. This New-Beatles band might reach the level of a Top-100 artist but they'd never see the same level of admiration as the Beatles did and still do.

So I believe we're simply not judging more recent art works by the same standards, resulting in a huge bias towards older works. Beethoven is only noteworthy because his works are a cultural meme at this point - he was a great musician for his time, sure, but right now there's probably tens of thousands of musicians who could make music of the same caliber straight on their laptops. Today's Beethoven publishes his amazing tracks on SoundCloud and toils in obscurity.

Wouldn't a true utopia include something like:

  1. Every single human spending their entire lives high on a futuristic opiate-like drug
  2. Special AI working day and night to optimize the human brain to sustain this level of opiates for hundreds of years without losing the sense of please or dying
  3. Another AI working to convert all matter in the universe into human brains and opiates (without destroying other brains of course)

Its not very fun to read or discuss but isn't this the true endgame for humanity? Why settle for a "good life" when everyone could have a "perfect life"?

What do you think of a "Matrix" scenario where instead of bothering to capture the entire universe, humans achieve just enough to create a sustainable virtual simulation for a billion people, and then disconnect from the real world forever as AGI robots manage the server farms? Would be especially easy with digital humans, but seems doable with physical humans too.

But I'd guess the ability to do this sort of tweak would follow pretty quickly.


After reading your latest post on temporary copies, I'm thinking that this would quickly become the #1 priority for brain simulation research. In a real life analogy, humans very quickly abandoned horses in favor of cars, as having a tool that works 24/7 without complaint is much better than a temperamental living being. So the phase of copies being treated with dignity would be relatively short-lived up until the underlying circuitry could be tweaked to make it morally okay to force simulations to work 24/7 without them "suffering" in any way, as they would be incapable of negative emotion.

Now, allowing for unlimited tweaking of brain circuitry does make for bad science fiction (i.e. the mmacevedo short story breaks down in a world where its possible) but I suspect it would be the ultimate endpoint for virtual workers. 

The reason I think digital people could come in the next few decades is different: I think we could invent something else (mainly, advanced artificial intelligence) that dramatically speeds up scientific research.


I'm a little confused on this part. If we have advanced AI that is capable of constructing a digital human simulation, wouldn't it also by proxy be advanced enough to be conscious on its own, without the need for anything approximating human beings? I can imagine humans wanting to create copies of themselves for various purposes but isn't it much more likely for completely artificial silicon-first entities to take over the galaxy? Those entities wouldn't have the need for any human pleasures and could thus conquer the universe much more efficiently than any "digital humans" ever could.

Then people might make digital copies of themselves that they ran experiments on, forced to do work, and even open-sourced, so that anyone running a server could make and abuse copies.

If we get to a point where "digital people" are possible, can we expect to be able to tweak the underlying circuitry to eliminate the concept of pain and suffering altogether, creating "humans" incapable of experiencing anything but joy, no matter what happens to them? Its really hard to imagine from a biological human perspective but anything is possible in a digital world and this wouldn't necessarily make these "humans" any less productive.

As a corollary, do we have a reason to believe that "digital humans" will want to experience anything other than 24/7 heroin-like euphoria in their "down time", rather than complex experiences like zero-g? Real-life humans cannot do that as our bodies quickly break down from heroin exposure, but digital ones won't have such arbitrary limitations.