mardi, août 14, 2007

Whose mind is it anyway?

Yeah, I know I've been grappling with this problem of mine for a while, but I still haven't digested the notion of avatar sex (see February ). What the heck is so arousing about three-dimensional, virtual men and women performing sex acts on furniture on a computer screen? Thanks to my exposure to swingers (and my undiagnosable fondness for one particular voyeur) I can at least imagine why someone would get a charge out of watching real people have sex-but watching avatars sounds as exciting as viewing Shrek and his wife do the wild thing.

Aren't you intrigued, though, by the interesting ways in which Second Life, with its laws and buildings and political parties, mimics real life? The trial over sex-act software will be the first time two avatars have slugged it out in court-the moment we have been waiting for.

Silly me, thinking that this technology, and the ability to create virtual civilizations, was so avant-guarde.

Little did I know that there is a possibility, at least so says the New York Times' John Tierney in today's paper, that we are all computer simulations. You see, Tierney's been talking to Dr. Nick Bostrom, the director of the Future of Humanity Center at Oxford.

If you knew about this think tank (this story makes one want to revisit that phrase) you might have believed Bostrom and his colleagues were only pondering what would happen in the event of uncontrollable global warming or nuclear catastrophe-apparently not.

"Dr. Bostrom assumes that technological advances could produce a computer with more processing power than all the brains in the world, and that advanced humans, or “posthumans,” could run “ancestor simulations” of their evolutionary history by creating virtual worlds inhabited by virtual people with fully developed virtual nervous systems."

Tierney seems to think there is a very good chance that, indeed, we are nothing but a bunch of computer circuits constructed by superior beings.

Hard to tell how much tongue is planted in cheek here. But one of his observations certainly has the disturbing ring of truth.

"It’s unsettling to think of the world being run by a futuristic computer geek, although we might at last dispose of that of classic theological question: How could God allow so much evil in the world? For the same reason there are plagues and earthquakes and battles in games like World of Warcraft. Peace is boring, Dude."

So what do you think? Are we just a bunch of chips? Can we find our creator? Is there a "First Designer?"

Check out Tierney's story at the link above...and then let me know what you think.

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