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Tuesday
Feb282017

Computer-simulated worlds as tools for producing exceptional people 

What if we were living in a computer simulation created with the purpose of producing people with specific abilities?

A complex world-simulation would inevitably produce consciousnesses that had specialized gifts and abilities. A simulated world (or many of them) would inevitably produce geniuses of various sorts; scientific geniuses, musical geniuses, very empathetic people, people well-suited to interstellar travel, etc. 

The civilization running these simulations would then, when they found the types of people they were looking for, transfer those consciousnesses into fully-grown adult bodies. For example, the simulation-producing civilization wants to produce scientific geniuses, so it runs organic simulations until it produces an Einstein, then places that consciousnessness into a body. This is theoretically a much more efficient way to produce geniuses and other types of people than waiting for such things to happen organically, the old-fashioned way. 

(Or, more simply, the simulations might be “DNA simulations”, testing how different genetics lead to different types of people in different situations, in which case the simulation-runners would just use the simulation to decide on what kind of DNA they’d to match the real-world situations present for the babies in the simulation.)

If your goal was to create exceptional consciousnesses, and you had the resources to run complex simulations, it might make sense to run extremely deep and varied simulations. For example, with enough computing power, you could seed entire universes from scratch, and let different large-scale evolution produce different types of beings. Some of those alien consciousnesses might have different strengths and abilities.

This use case for complex simulations jibes with easily imaginable visions of the future. Some examples:

  • A utopia. A civilization that has solved most major problems would be, as many have pointed out, boring. A utopia would be unlikely to produce exceptional minds due to a lack of pressure and necessity. (This could also be related to the kind of "dumb people breeding more than smart people" problem depicted in Idiocracy.)
  • A civilization where disease or other problems have created an environment where the civilization can’t produce enough exceptional people. (For example, maybe disease makes humans infertile, as in the movie Children of Men.)
  • A civilization that has conquered death and so is a society of immortals. Because they can't just breed willy-nilly, they have to be very selective about who they bring into the world. 
  • A world where certain extreme, taxing jobs (like interstellar travel) requires people with certain aptitudes and strengths. (For example, you might run a simulation to see who naturally becomes someone who is comfortable and stable being in a space shuttle/station for long stretches of time.) 

This use case for simulations is reminiscent of God testing Job and others in the Old Testament with horrible circumstances in order to see if his followers were loyal and disciplined. So one might call these types of simulations Job simulations, which also has a nice double-meaning because they might be looking for people to do certain jobs.

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