What kind of world do ems see? We have several reasons to expect ems to usually experience simulated “virtual” realities. First, compared with ordinary humans, it is easier to fully immerse ems in computer-generated virtual realities. One could feed computed inputs into an em’s emulated eyes, ears, nose, fingers, etc., and take outputs from that em’s emulated arms, legs, tongue, etc., to create a complete sensory experience of the sight, sound, smell, touch, etc., of being in contact with and partially controlling a constructed but vivid world. Humans get many sensory clues telling them that their virtual realities are not real. Ems need see no such clues. Second, the cost to compute a workable virtual reality can be very low, compared with the cost to compute an em. Now it is true that the cost to compute a virtual environment depends greatly on the level of realistic detail required. Consider the cost to give simulated inputs to an em that it could not distinguish, even with careful examination, from a real physical environment. For many familiar physical environments, such a simulation may cost many times the cost of running the emulation brain itself. However, humans today are routinely comfortable and moderately productive interacting with video game environments that require vastly less computing power than human-speed brain emulations will require. Also, instead of sending very fine-grain low-level signals of very particular sights and sounds, it may become possible to send cheaper-to-compute higherlevel signals that em brains interpret as their having seen the lower-level signals. For example, instead of sending individual light pixels to the eye, which then translates that to lines and areas, one might just send those lines and areas to the appropriate emulated neurons. Ems may prefer virtual reality environments that are expensive to compute, relative to the cost of running the ems themselves. Even so, cheaply computed environments seem sufficient to functionally support the vast majority of em activities, in both work and leisure. On the job, there is a tradeoff regarding whether to pay more for a more realistic virtual environment that might add to worker productivity.
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