Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Fulfilled Experience Machine

You have worked all your life toward this goal. You endured pain, years of schooling, setbacks, self-doubt, scattered peaks of exhilaration as you attained intermediate goals, but this. This is the pinnacle, the one goal you held before yourself as a goad, during those exhausting workouts, the hot summers, impossible academics, financial deprivation. You are now reveling in winning the championship of the NFL. YOU were the winning quarterback, and your last play scramble won the game. You are now spraying champagne, and drinking a goodly amount, laughing, congratulating, and crying a bit. You know this sort of indescribably, and barely contained feeling of satisfaction, accompanying accomplishment, is fleeting, and won't last. Your senses are acute, time seems to move slowly, as if to allow you more time to drink it all in.

Your life seems to be completed, full, satisfied, in a way that makes you recall Aristotle's dictum that a life cannot be deemed happy until its end, when you can say that it was filled with human accomplishment and also complete. You know your life isn't complete, but it sure feels that it is. Perhaps Aristotle was wrong. You can be counted as happy before you shuffle off this mortal coil.

Then, you notice something odd. The locker room seems to house swirls as if someone were running a wet paint brush through your field of vision. And, sound seems to pixilate. You hear someone, a voice seemingly from nowhere, and everywhere, filling the room, yet inside your head, "Mr. Jones? Mr. Jones? Can you hear me?" The locker room seems overwhelmed now by darkness, swept in by the unseen paint brush. Next. Blinding white light. Next, you open your eyes. They hurt as they adjust to the new scene, as if you had just left the dimness of a movie theatre. You are in a comfortably appointed room, that looks a bit like an upscale computer shop, You find yourself in a recliner, a weight on your head. There is a woman hovering over you. She reaches toward your head, and removes the weight. You see it's a helmet with quite a bit of wiring, and flashing lights. It is attached to a very large computer. It takes up an entire wall of the room, the wall to your right. You feel aches, as if you had just run. "Well, Mr. Jones, are you back with us? You hear yourself answer "yes..I think."

"Well, was it as realistic as you thought it would be?"

"Yes."

"So, it's everything we advertise."

"Yes"

"Now that you've had the trial run, would you like to commit?

"Commit?"

"Yes. That accomplishment, that satisfaction, and many others can be yours forever. We'll plug you into the simulator for the rest of your natural life. You have no one else to worry about. You're single. Your "real" life would undoubtedly not rise to this level. Believe me, you will never know the simulation isn't real. So, why not?"

The woman smiles. You begin to wonder if any of this is real. You do consider the proposal. You remember you had been curious enough to try the free offer. This must have been it. But, do you commit?

Do you? Why or why not?