I’m not so sure that a civilization so advanced as to be able to run such a simulation would have what we consider to be modern sensibilities about pain or mortality. Try to imagine yourself in a society without a deep cultural knowledge of suffering and death. If you lived forever in a safe environment completely controlled by your kind, maybe you would crave any sensation, even pain… Some people in our own societies seem to behave in these patterns already.
If we posit silicon-based programmers of our simulation with no societal memory (even if they were originally created by meat brains), it seems quite possible they would lack any frame of reference whatsoever to even imagine pain or suffering. And one would hope they lack modern sensibilities about politics!
Our own sensibilities are seriously restricted when it comes to “lesser creatures”. For example, when digging the foundation for a building or paving the land for a road, do we consider the pain, suffering, or loss of life of the ant colonies inhabiting the land? The cognitive gap between present-day humans and an artificial intelligence which has reached the maximum cognitive power permitted by the laws of physics is likely to be far greater than the gap between humans and insects. Is the AI likely to have some sense that humans are (or, more likely, were) special and therefore need to be treated as a different class? I don’t know, and I don’t think there’s any way to know, just as an ant colony cannot comprehend the acts of humans or the rules they make for themselves about preservation of the environment.
The big risk is that the AI just won’t care. As Eliezer Yudkowsky puts it, “The AI does not hate you, nor does it love you, but you are made out of atoms which it can use for something else.”
That is an excellent point. The implication is that humans would be as irrelevant to the Entity designing & running the simulation as ants are to us today. The further implication is that the simulation (if we are in a simulation) has nothing to do with us – the Entity has no interest whatsoever in simulating the development of human society or studying human history; the simulation must have a completely different purpose which we do not understand. Perhaps simulated humans are merely a bug in the code?
A lovely point, made with a poignant choice of words to make the humorous analogy.
Aliens visit us. Simulations are about us. God created us. We have a strong bias towards thinking we are special. If we are special, I think it is obvious that the most likely of those three is that god created us.
That is a neat summary! Of course, it then raises obvious questions – How did the aliens come to exist? How did whoever created the simulation come to exist?
Personal view – the materialist view of the Universe is incomplete. Push far enough into physics and we find ourselves staring into an abyss. Evolution cannot explain the creation of life in the first place. There may be things we can never understand.