Sunday, December 18, 2005

The PC/NPC Dilemma: A Refutation of Solipsism & Egoism

Here's another portion of my term paper, written in a somewhat casual style, in the spirit of my blog. Probably not the best approach for an academic paper, but hopefully it's somewhat easier on the eyes for the reader. Some philosophy is insanely difficult to read.

Anyway, read on:

For all of its merits, philosophy cannot provide a concrete proof that ‘you’ exist. This ‘you’ that I refer to is better stated as the ‘other’, everyone that is ‘not-me’. Empirical evidence on my behalf might reveal observations that there are others who seem to look and behave similarly to myself on various levels, but because I cannot ever fully experience the ‘other’, I can never have a full proof that anyone else, aside from myself, exists. This position in philosophy is referred to as solipsism.

This is rather problematic from an ethical standpoint, even for HUA. If I am the only one that exists, then everyone else is just a non-player character, or NPC, in this MMO universe: computations of sufficient sophistication to interact with me to some degree, but not necessarily as sophisticated as myself. It would seem that solipsism could be a byproduct of adopting HUA.

For that matter, if everything is a computation, then it’s equally possible that what I perceive to be myself is just a highly-sophisticated computation that is infinitely more gnarly (to borrow Rucker’s term) than typical NPCs, but could just be another NPC myself! But no, I find myself in the same place as Descartes: cogito ergo sum. It’s highly unlikely that I’m just someone else’s NPC, well, unless there is some uber-being in the role of PC (player character) that is playing in this MUD.

Well, so at least I exist. However, another problem still remains: if I am the only one who exists, then why should I act kindly towards others at all? Why not act purely out of self-interest since everyone else is just a NPC? This doctrine of pure self-interest is the position of the egoist, and it would seem likely that if HUA leads to solipsism, then solipsism leads to egoism.

The egoist, in terms of MMOs, essentially becomes a sort of ‘grief player’, described by Chek Foo as “a player who derives his/her enjoyment not from playing the game, but from performing actions that detract from the enjoyment of the game by other players.” (Foo) The only stipulation in this case would be that it wouldn’t necessarily be griefing if I was the only player and there were no other players.

However, this still leads to problems. Acting purely out of self-interest, assuming that everyone else is a NPC, leads to the ways of the sociopath. In going this route, I could justify killing anyone I didn’t like, raping any woman I found attractive, and taking anything I desired…all because none of those other people exist, and the only duty I have as an egoist is to myself.

Is this the way for a HUA believer to live? Possibly. Some terrorists, cults, and serial killers/rapists/thieves might buy into this and justify their actions in such a manner…perhaps not to this degree, but in a similar fashion.

However, even if the HUA-solipsist-egoist were correct, it wouldn’t be practical to act in such a fashion because the theory also includes that the other NPCs are highly sophisticated enough to emulate my own behavior to the point where I might consider them other people. That sophistication also includes the ability to fight back and/or seek recourse for harmful actions which I might engage in…the result of which could potentially be very bad for myself. Therefore it is in my best interest to act as if all of the NPCs around me were real people, and probably to consider them as individuals like myself – resulting in the abandonment of solipsism and egoism (at least overtly).

More coming soon.


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