Virtual reality rate-of-time preference conflicts
posted by Michael Abramowicz
Suppose we believe futurists who anticipate that someday, we (or our descendants) will gradually replace our brains with computers that are trillions of times more powerful, and we will spend much of our time interacting in virtual reality, unencumbered by the annoyances of physical space (like the need to travel).
The general assumption is that we would use our new brain/computer power to make ourselves much more intelligent. But it also might be possible to use some of the power to speed up our perception of reality. So, one might enter a virtual reality space and have an experience, perhaps participation in what Nick Bostrom calls an ancestor simulation, that feels like a hundred years in a second or two.
The problem is that different people might have different preferences about how quickly they want to perceive the world. Larry might want to have a billion-to-one ratio of perceived time to real time, because he wants to have as many experiences as quickly as possible. His wife Cheryl, though, might prefer to live only in real time (whether in real or virtual space), pointing out that with the miraculous improvements in medical science that occurred at the same time as virtual reality, we’ll all live to have plenty of experiences eventually anyway. This could put some real strains on Larry and Cheryl’s marriage. Even if he only spends a few minutes a day in virtual reality, he would be living only a tiny percentage of his existence with Cheryl (or at least with the real Cheryl). On the other hand, if he picks his virtual reality simulation carefully, he won’t need Cheryl or anyone else to be entitled to use the HOV lane.
How will individuals mediate such conflicts? Should the legislature step in and mandate that everyone perceive reality at the same rate?