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Truth and the Brain in the Vat
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Continuing the discussion of which is should be valued more, truth or falsehood...whether one should choose falsehood if it increases one's happiness, here is an interesting essay by neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran, mostly writing about mirror neurons (neurons that fire when you perform a particular action, but also when you watch someone else perform it), there's this bit:

Utilizing thousands of electrodes and appropriate patterns of electrical stimulation, the scientist makes your brain think and feel that it's experiencing actual life events. The simulation is perfect and includes a sense of time and planning for the future. The brain doesn't know that its experiences, its entire life, are not real.

Further assume that the scientist can make your brain "think" and experience being a combination of Einstein, Mark Spitz, Bill Gates, Hugh Heffner, and Gandhi, while at the same time preserving your own deeply personal memories and identity (there's nothing in contemporary brain science that forbids such a scenario). The mad neuroscientist then gives you a choice. You can either be this incredible, deliriously happy being floating forever in the vat or be your real self, more or less like you are now (for the sake of argument we will further assume that you are basically a happy and contended person, not a starving pheasant). Which of the two would you pick?

I have posed this question to dozens of scientists and lay people. A majority argue "I'd rather be the real me."


This would seem to counter the argument that most people value happiness over truth.

I guess I'd pose the question here and see how people answer. If you could live a dreamlife in an artifical world, or live your own life as it is now, which would you choose?

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