PsychNology Journal, Volume 9, Number 3, 193 – 222
(Tele)Presence and Simulation: Questions of Epistemology, Religion, Morality, and Mortality
Matthew T. Jones
County College of Morris, NJ, USA
Matthew Lombard, Joan Jasak
Temple University, PA, USA
This paper uses (tele)presence concepts to explore the philosophical and practical implications of the simulation argument: the notion that individuals may be trapped within manufactured realities. The purpose of such an exploration is twofold: First, to establish connections between (tele)presence, simulation and philosophy. Second, to re-evaluate some longstanding questions related to epistemology, religion, morality, and mortality in light of (tele)presence and simulation. In pursuit of this objective, six hypothetical simulation scenarios (descriptions of potential alternative constructions of simulated reality achieved through telepresence technology) are first described, and then investigated for their implications regarding the above topics. These scenarios are physical presence, intercept, avatar, android, infinite regression, and monism. The literature used to inform this investigation comes from both philosophy and (tele)presence. Ultimately, the following conclusions were reached. For epistemology: (1) Awareness of context through memory and prior knowledge, awareness of environmental anomalies/inconsistencies/glitches, skepticism, experimentation, and cross-validation of experience are essential to discovering the illusions of some simulations (i.e. extrinsic simulations). (2) The illusions of other simulations (i.e. intrinsic simulations) are impossible to discover. For religion and morality: (1) An “ultimate creator” (i.e. God) is unable to interact on the same ontological level as that which he/she/it has created. (2) Moral responsibility for the events occurring within a simulation is commensurate with the level of enhanced or diminished agency of the creator of the simulation. For mortality: The implications of (tele)presence and simulation technology to extend life indefinitely are unclear, though it seems that immortality has the potential to bring with it some vast human inequalities.
KEYWORDS: telepresence; simulation; illusion; physical presence; intercept; avatar; android; infinite regression; monism; philosophy; epistemology; religion; morality; death