Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Experience Machine

When you go into the experience machine, you can experience anything you like: eating the finest Swiss chocolate, climbing Mt. Everest, bringing about world peace. You can even experience the bad things, if you want, to make the good things seem better. The machine is designed to stimulate your brain so that you would think and feel whatever you liked. You're not really eating Swiss chocolate, you never really climbed Mt. Everest and countries all over the world are still fighting with each other. But the feelings that come with the fake experiences are very real indeed.

If someone gave you the opportunity to live in the machine for the rest of your life, would you? You can't go in for just 5 minutes - you can either go in for the rest of your life, or never.

Most people hesitate because there's a catch: we're never really going to see our loved ones again; we're never really going to make a difference. We are no longer of any use in the real world. In the words of Robert Nozick, going into the machine makes us an "indeterminate blob".

So what does this say about us humans? It says that we value things beyond pleasure and happiness. We value reality. One might see this as having implications for the theory of Psychological Egoism, which suggests that we do things only to make ourselves happy.


Further Reading:
  • Nozick, R., 1974, "The Experience Machine", Anarchy, State and Utopia, pp. 42 - 45

8 comments:

Stereo Soup said...

It seems as if, upon entering the machine, I've forgotten how to use the controls. Oh dear.

Doctor Marco said...

I probably would not go into the expereince machine. The idea that all those experiences are really false makes me stay away from it. Besides, there is a component of risk that we all humans like from real experiences. If I go to Mount Everest, there is a chance that I will die from high altitude pulmonary edema or high altitude cerebral edema.

N B Saunders said...

well actually, the machine can make you think that you might die when you climb mount everest. once you step into the machine, you don't necessarily have to know that you are in it.
i wouldn't go in either

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