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The Philosophical Implications of the Creation of a Purely Digital Universe

By Tokugawa Iesuwa
Written originally for The Weekly Philosopher

Recently, it has come to the attention of the general populous that the previously affluent but now destitute Dr. Sepulveda has created what can be regarded as a purely artificial, yet completely self sustaining and learning digital universe. While the computer science regarding this creation is apt for debate, the philosophical implications of this new most amazing advance are equally susceptible for multiple levels of impassioned analytical analyses.

The first question that we have to consider is whether or not the creatures present in this world, quite appropriately named "Darwinia", are alive in any sort of meaningful sense. Previously in history, life has been defined as the presence of cognisance, or the availability of a level of biological and chemical activity. This new creation has thrown all this into question. Does a Darwinian, those fastidious little sprite creatures, have what can be referred to or acknowledged as life?

In my opinion, one has to keep in mind the classic mantra of Descartes, "I think therefore I am." Darwinians certainly do think, as evident through their increased level of development through time. Sources assure me that Darwinians do learn, and learning is a mantle of cognisant mental processes. But does the ability to think make these digital creations alive? It seems that this question is yet to be answered.

The question of life has several implications in our analogue world. Primarily, there are many questions as to the legal implications of Darwinians. Do Darwinians have legal rights in any sort of technical sense, the right to citizenry, even rights to receive welfare? Are Darwinians technically employed? When they reproduce, what procedures lead up to and follow this? Do Darwinians get married? As a philosopher, I have to admit that these questions do "boggle the mind." The subject of Darwinia is simply too large to address in a single article.

Allow me to be concise on this subject. The only thing completely certain about Darwinia is that the creatures therein have the ability to think, ipso facto have the ability to make decisions, and therefore are at an equivalent level to human beings. Ironically enough, this revelation does not assist in simplifying this analysis in any way whatsoever. Instead, this only adds to the layers of this philosophical conundrum.

For example, it may be possible in the near future to access Darwinia and participate in events therein. The ethics of this are disputable. If one believes that Darwinians are truly alive, then to disrupt in their affairs is questionable. Kantian philosophy makes it explicitly clear that rational beings can not be exploited, and therefore to actively intervene in Darwinian affairs is equivalent to "pre-emptive war."

This being said, I have entered Darwinia, and took a quick look around. Despite all my ethical qualms, it proved to be fantastically interesting to see these little creatures in action. They are truly amazing, building, creating, and surviving.

Recently, a virus has managed to infiltrate the Darwinia system, and now we must assist the Darwinians in their struggle against this most menacing of foes. I have to say, it is great fun. Quite quickly I was taken in by the action and strategy of this remarkable world.

While ethical and philosophical questions certainly remain as to the precise nature of this new world, I have no qualms in saying that I am happy to participate therein. I would advise, as a philosopher, that this is certainly open to examination. However, as a fan of the digital medium, I would recommend that anyone with an interest should purchase a ticket to this most interesting of worlds.


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