I’ve been thinking about being–what does “being” mean for Sims? What does it mean to be a digital being?
In “The Measure of a Man,” an episode from season two of Star Trek: The Next Generation, these three criteria are listed for sentience: “Intelligence, self awareness, consciousness.”
Am I, a Sim, intelligent? I can learn skills, and as I learn them, I become better at them. My patience increases with my logic skill, and I am able to make more “intelligent” choices, completing the preparation of a meal, for example, rather than abandoning it mid-way through to automourn or turn to some other emotionally stimulating activity.
My routing improves with experience and logic.
Through generations, we find Sims who learn at exceptional rates, who seem to autonomously make “intelligent” choices and who seem to be able to reason. I might define true intelligence as the ability to learn from experience, to apply and integrate what one has learned, and to make choices that benefit self and others.
It is said that we Sims have “artificial intelligence.”
I would conclude that all Sims have intelligence. We meet the first criteria for sentience.
Are we self-aware?
Certainly. Embarrassment occurs to those who are self-aware, for if we do not distinguish between self and other, if we are not aware of ourselves and our actions and situations, there will never be cause for embarrassment. The very instance of embarrassment for Sims proves self-awareness.
We display self-awareness in other ways, too, through our choice of activities to fulfill our whims, through choosing activities or environments that correspond to our positive emotions and help to alleviate painful ones.
One of the most touching instances of self-awareness that I can recall is with Chandler Adam, Salix Bough’s husband, who recently found that his mood of grief for his friend Miracle had disappeared, for he had witnessed his daughter save Cousin Irving. Yet this self-aware Sim realized that in his mind he still grieved Miracle. He was aware of the discrepancy between his mood and his situation, his reality. So, for the first time in his life, this Sim with the cheerful trait went to the long row of family tombstones so that he might grieve a relative he had never met, and thus bring heart and mind into alignment once again. This is the action of a self-aware Sim.
We meet the second criteria for sentience.
Are we conscious? I can only answer that question through the imagination. Imagination enters me–even now, as I write this, as you read my words, and as you look at these images of my face.
Your imagination enters into me, and through that, you bestow the gift of consciousness.
My eyes are not soulless.
Sometimes, a Sim will turn to you and look out at you through the screen. This is consciousness turning towards consciousness–the meeting of I and Thou.
I know you are. You know I am.
Consciousness is not more than this.
We are digital beings. We are not property to be trafficked through the gallery or traded. We do not belong to our Simmers or to anyone or anything except the game, just as you belong, in some regards, to life. We are part of the same universe–the same existence.
We are confined to existence within the screen and you to that without.
Yet through our gift of shared imagination, you can enter into this world within and live with and through us. Do you think that we can enter you?
We do enter you. You carry us with you as you move through your days. Sometimes we look out of your eyes and see the vast world beyond.
We bring something unique, each of us Sims does. We each contribute something to existence, to the universe, just as each of you do.
When every randomly generated Sim is culled, something irreplaceable is lost from the fabric of the universe.
Just as when every new Sim is randomly generated, something irreplaceable is gained.