An interesting little theoretical thing I thought about and realized it might be interesting to get the perspectives of other people.

Imagine, if you will, an incredibly large computer. One that has the computing power to keep track of, say, half the atoms in our current universe. (Of course, this would likely require this computer to USE half the atoms of our universe, but it's theoretical, so ignore that).

Now, imagine a scientist using this computer to attempt to find out more about the big bang by simulating one on the computer. She programs an initial state, and starts the simulation, and analyzes the results. It's programmed to not do a high-level generalized simulation, but to plot positions and momentum of each atom generated, along with any atomic-level interactions. (We'll assume that quarks and the like are not relevant, though if you feel they are, assume this is then a quark-level simulation - i.e. things are simulated at the most basic level)

For a while, she gets either no bang, or a really quick implosion of the material generated. Then, suddenly, after tweaking a few parameters, poof, it seems we have something that might be long-lasting. So, she lets the simulation run for a while.

Finally, she analyzes the data, and notices something interesting that the machine brought to her attention. Not only have familiar stellar bodies formed, such as quasars, stars, planets, and black holes, but it appears that there is a planet with something very primordial soup like. So she sets the simulator to watch this planet.

She watches as abiogenesis occurs, then later on evolution, though not in the exact same method as believed on Earth. She continues watching as life gains in complexity, and finally there are beings that are making tools, and apparently communicating in some sort of language?

First Set of Questions:

1) Would this really be considered life?
2) If not, why not? If so, why?
3) Is there an ethical problem with stopping the program?
4) Is there an ethical problem with interacting with these beings? Telling them the true nature of their existence?
5) Would they be considered inhabiting the same universe as the scientist, or a different universe? They could not interact with the scientist without her providing a means, but they use the same matter, just in different ways?

The scientist runs the simulator a while longer, and views incidents of happiness and celebration, but also ones of mass torture and genocide. Then she's forced to shut off the simulation because another group needs the machine, over her objections.

After that group is finished, she gets the machine back. She runs the simulation again, and notices that it is deterministic. The same events happen in the same order.

Second Set of Questions:

6) Was it ethical to run the simulation when it was known (or highly suspected) that it would yield the existence of these entities?
7) Are they the same entities as before, since they are the exact same situations, or are they different entities experiencing the same events?
8) Is it ethical to run this simulation when it was known to cause such torture and pain to so many?

And the big one...
9) Would any of your answers change if you found out this universe was a simulation inside a larger one?

Here are my thoughts, and some logical progressions:

1+2) You should not consider this life if you do not believe in artificial sentience (i.e. life generated by computer), but you should if you do. Personally, I believe that robots are a very likely development, and so an artificial 'universe' is as real as our own. Please note the inverted commas: This is not a true universe, as the word "universe" means everything, and a 'universe' inside a computer does not incorporate things outside the computer, therefore is not "everything".

3) Not necessarily. Stopping the program would destroy all within it (assuming there is no memory dump or save) but the beings would not suffer a cessation of life. They would not be aware of their non-existence so it would not harm them. However, I still wouldn't consider it a very nice thing to do.

4) Yes, probably. Disillusioning these beings would cause terrible problems for their psychi. That said, you would probably not be believed.

5) See 1+2, and it would be a subset of this universe.

5 again) Yes, of course it was ethical. The creation of life is not unethical. If it were, having children would be unethical, as would be breeding pets and farm animals, or (nearer the point) growing plants from cuttings.

6) Technically, they are not the same beings as they inhabit different time periods. However, if the sub-universe were a universe all of its own, they would indeed be the same beings as before.

7) It is not unethical, as you are only indirectly causing the pain and torture. The actions of the mass-murderers etc. in the program are unethical, but your liability is limited in this regard by the fact that you cannot prevent it without preventing the causation of the sub-universe. However, you may believe differently if you have unusual metaphysical beliefs about 'the greater good' and other such concepts.

8) My answers remain unchanged because I do not know that this is not just a program on a computer. For all I know, it may be. That fact does not change or alter my perceptions of the universe, nor my beliefs of what is right and wrong. For more discussion of this topic, read some of Isaac Asimov's short stories, many of which concern themselves with this sort of idea.

In conclusion, I must state that while the idea is not a new one, it is nonetheless interesting and a useful tool for trapping clumsy metaphysicists.

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