In Mark Silcox (ed.), Experience Machines: The Philosophy of Virtual Worlds. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 183-201 (2017)

Dan Weijers
University of Waikato
Experience machines, popularized in print by Robert Nozick and on the screen by the Wachowskis’ film The Matrix, provide highly or perfectly realistic experiences that are more pleasant and less painful than those generated in real life.1 The recent surge in virtual reality and neuro-prosthetic technologies is making the creation of real-world experience machines seem inevitable and perhaps imminent.2 Given the likelihood of the near-future availability of such machines, it behooves ethicists to consider the moral status of their potential uses. In this chapter, we investigate the use of experience machines in palliative and end-of-life care situations. We pair up various kinds of experience machines with patients in a range of conditions, to illuminate the moral problems and benefits of using experience machines in this way. We argue that the use of Nozickian experience machines to treat patients in most conditions would be morally problematic, most notably for the negative effects on patients’ characters and real-world relationships. Informed by this initial moral analysis, we describe an experience machine that is more closely related to a virtual reality game, and argue that it can avoid the moral problems encountered by Nozickian experience machines. In fact, we argue that this new kind of experience machine could improve some patients’ characters and relationships with real-world people. We conclude that some kinds of experience machines could benefit many patients, especially those in extreme pain and those not in the position to meaningfully interact with their loved ones in reality. We also note that certain kinds of experience machines could be useful for religious people, for whom the range of palliative and end-of-life care options is often thought to be relatively narrow.
Keywords Experience Machine  End-of-Life Care  Nozick  Palliative Care  Virtual Worlds  Computer Games  Isolation from God
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References found in this work BETA

Anarchy, State, and Utopia.Robert Nozick - 1974 - Philosophy 52 (199):102-105.
Brave New World. Huxley - 2006 - In Thomas L. Cooksey (ed.), Masterpieces of Philosophical Literature. Greenwood Press.

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Middle Age: Setiya’s Philosophical Reflections.Ivan William Kelly - 2018 - Open Journal of Philosophy 8 (4):343-354.

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