Some of you may have played "games" like Second Life. If not, you probably know what it is. I'd like you to imagine that it's a few hundred years from now and that I'm a computer game designer working on an advanced version of this game.
Computers have changed a lot. Storage is basically unlimited and processing power is beyond anything you could comprehend. I finally have enough resources at my disposal that I can actually create sentience within the "game". That is, I can populate it with creatures who can pass a Turing test, who apparently have "free will". These pockets of sentience evolved from some of my original designs, and are pretty darn complicated, but of course I can still run any of it through a debugger if I want to. I can also change the physics of their little Universe...
In other words, I can "play god".
Would I? Would you? I think I can answer that I definitely would not, though certainly there would be temptation. But if I really thought that this computer generated world was very real to its software denizens, and really thought of them as sentient beings, how could I? I might want to, I might even sometimes try to convince myself that interfering in some specific place might be more moral than
remaining hands off, but I would hope that I would resist that temptation because it's all downhill from there.
The atheists in the group have likely already guessed what comes next. Some of those little programs (that's what they are, right?) have become religious. They have imagined a "Creator" and are busily begging it for various actions and non-actions, any of which I could easily provide - if I wanted to "play god".
How would you feel about those beseechers of favors great and small? I'd feel sorry for them. Sorry that they don't understand that it was all only a game. Sorry that they weren't smart enough to see how the game works yet - and I'd wonder if they ever could be smart enough: can a computer program realize that it is just a bit of code?
I wouldn't play god. If these little programs were as bent on self destruction as we seem to be, I don't think I could even watch. I couldn't turn the game off - that would be immoral too. I'd just let it run by itself and make a promise to myself to never create anything like that again. I'd also warn everyone I knew that they shouldn't dabble with such games either.
How about you?
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