In Anarchy, State, and Utopia, the philosopher Robert Nozick describes what he calls an “Experience Machine.” In essence, it produces a form of virtual reality (VR). People can use it to immerse themselves in a custom-designed dream: They have the experience of climbing a mountain, reading a book, or conversing with a friend when they are actually lying isolated in a tank with electrodes feeding perceptions into their brain. Nozick describes the Experience Machine as part of a philosophical thought experiment—one designed to show that a valuable life consists of more than mental states, like those we receive in this machine. As Nozick says, “we want to do certain things, and not just have the experience of doing them.” An 80-year sequence of experiences generated by the machine would not be of equivalent value to the lifetime of the identical set of experiences we derive from interactions with real people (who are not illusions, but have minds of their own), and with a physical universe that lies outside of us. On the contrary, says Nozick, a solipsistic life in the Experience Machine is a deeply impoverished one.
Marc J. Blitz,
The Right to an Artificial Reality? Freedom of Thought and the Fiction of Philip K. Dick,
Mich. Tech. L. Rev.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mtlr/vol27/iss2/6