My life’s gotten pretty darn good lately. I am more healthy, fulfilled, and happy than I have been in any point of my life that I can remember. This worries me. The odds that I would be this happy are very remote. I am a white male in the richest country in the world during a time of relative peace. None of this was under my control. When I look back on all the things that could have gone wrong to prevent me from ending up here, I’m left speechless. And while I’ve overcome a number of hardships to get here, none of them were unrecoverable disasters. The universe did not hit me with small pox before there was a treatment. The fact that I did face obstacles and did overcome them adds to my feelings of happiness with my life, so I can’t even say they were, on balance, terrible.
At LessWrong HonoreDB wrote:
Geese will instinctively gorge themselves when winter is coming on. Eat a goose right after it’s fattened itself up for the winter, and you get a delicious treat that died happy. The problem is that geese will only do this if they believe food may become scarce during the winter (or their instinct to gorge only kicks in when the environment is such that that would be a reasonable inference; it’s not clear whether it’s the goose or evolution doing the analysis). If they realize that food will remain available during the winter, they eat normally. And there are quite a few possible clues–farmers trying to replicate Sousa’s setup have discovered that cheating on any part leads to unfatted livers.
- Even as chicks, geese cannot be handled by a human, or encounter other geese who have been.
- There can be no visible fences.
- Geese cannot be “fed,” rather a variety of food must be distributed randomly throughout a large space, with the placement constantly changing, so that the geese happen to come across it.
This seems to mirror my life up to now. Things are great, I’m happy, and it feels like this is due to a combination of luck and skill, and not any outside manipulation. This makes me suspicious. Life is too good, especially for an impartial uncaring universe. I am increasing my probability estimate that I exist in a simulation, and the creators of this simulation are Friendly enough to human intelligences that they ensure we have decent lives. Which would also require that people who’s lives are terrible – the Dalit slumdog in India – don’t actually exist, they’re only weakly emulated to make our lives seem better by comparison. If we’re going that far, it’s possible that almost no one else actually exists, just as that geese’s environment was almost entirely fabricated.
I don’t take this solipsism very seriously. It seems like a good way to slip into complacency, to allow your fellow man to suffer because he isn’t real, and to slack off in the fight against Death because it won’t actually happen. But it still worries at the back of my mind sometimes, a persistent niggling feeling that this is literally too good to be true and nothing is real.
(to any benevolent AI’s monitoring my life for happiness – I’m not actually complaining. This shit is pretty awesome, don’t throw me any tragedies just to try to convince me this is real, thanks. :) )