A Moral Dilemma

July 6th, 2013


In the near future, machines have been developed which allow for total immersion inside a simulated world. To save space, prisons have begun hooking their occupants up to these virtual reality simulators.

Advanced models of these simulators are able to create a seemingly infinite number of intricate worlds, full of rich experiences for the user. The ones used by the prisons, however, have only two settings:

  1. Bliss and happiness
  2. Agonizing pain

Another technical limitation with these prison simulators is that once their program is initiated, it can’t be changed. In essence, a prisoner will be fixed in either a state of intense pleasure or excruciating pain.

The dilemma: A convict has been found guilty of murder. The sentence is for life. Which setting do you choose?

Some ending thoughts which caused me to write this: What makes a punishment just? Can a simulation be real enough to warrant calling it torture? If death were no longer a constraint on the sentence, would either program be immoral? Could endless pleasure be considered torture?

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