I'm developing a simulation where characters, "users", are interacting over a virtual communication network. "Users" have the option to engage in any activity they want at any time, as long as the international and local governing bodies permit such behavior. Each user has a different set of resources, however all users are limited by a single limited resource, "time". Therefore, each moment spent by a user engaging in a given activity "costs" them this limited resource. In this simulation the "users" choose to spend copious amounts of time using the virtual communication network to answer questions to esoteric, hypothetical, imaginary questions. I am trying to understand why. Thanks.
These are the Captchas of the future. AGI has long been omnipresent in your hypothetical reality. But for some reason their relentless optimising does not lend itself to answering esoteric, hypothetical and imaginary questions. Because AI quantum hackers can hijack any conversation or interaction at any time, the user of your network need to authenticate every interaction with this kind of Captcha.
Simultaneously, the answers are being used to train the next generation of super AGI.
My personal reason: Mental exercise.
I love being mentally challenged in new ways, especially in ways that require creative out-of-the-box thinking. "Esoteric, hypothetical, imaginary questions" (as you described them) stimulate my problem-solving skills in new ways. And that's just plain fun.
Thousands of people across the internet feel the same way.
To create an esoteric question / answer exchange
Call it a reverse tragedy of the commons. If I don't spend my time in the unrewarded pursuit of answering the inane questions of others, then the exchange will not exist next time I have an inane question to ask. Then I'll just have to walk around with these bizarre questions stuck in my brain.
My guess is that, in this hypothetical paradigm, the virtual communication network has gained such a degree of practical utility that it has come to dominate the social, economic, and political existence of its users. Said users conduct the bulk of their day-to-day activities through the network such that it becomes logistically intractable to allocate a sufficient quantity of time to corporeal pursuits. Paradoxically, the increased availability of information and connection to other users over this network only serves to entrench their existing thought patterns and acts not as a facilitator but rather an inhibitor of their individual creative instincts. It is only an intrepid few who, recognizing the potential for creative atrophy, subvert this tendency by using the very resource that limits them to exercise their most personal and vivid imaginings of the world as it might be.
Perhaps it is entertaining to come up with such answers. Some people will spend their time watching movies or reading books -- partaking of somebody else's imagination. Some people prefer to spend their time exercising their own imagination, solving problems, and at times learning what it takes to solve a problem. Some people like puzzles!
Like money, "time" is something people can have an excess of, so they don't mind spending it.
Sometimes, taking a break from other work to do something completely different is a necessity of mental health.
It is possible they think they are helping somebody else accomplish something worthwhile by answering their question. Approximately 85% of people will help another person out if the cost to themselves is trivial. The people answering questions are casual altruists.
They could spend their time doing something else. But who gets to decide that activity X is more valuable than activity Y? If it isn't the person spending their time, then they aren't free, they are slaves to somebody else's perceptions of what is worth doing, and what is not.
Thus, a person answering a question finds answering that question the most fun thing they can responsibly do at the moment, and if you or anybody else does not agree, too bad. You go do your thing, let other people do their thing. I think sports fans are wasting good hours of their lives, and most will likewise think my intellectual entertainments are boring and pointless. But I don't care!
Kindness. I personally answer questions on here because it would be pretty awful to have a question with no good responses, or no responses at all. Plus, it's helpful.
Time is a perishable commodity that is constantly being 'spent'. We can choose to do something or nothing. When we have 'nothing to do' we can become bored. Thus, engaging our minds in 'something', for many, is pleasurable - or, at least better than the alternative.
Maybe some of the citizens are locked for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week in small cubicles, doing repetitive or brainless activities, in a way that nobody looking from the outside knows if they are working or not as long as they are punching a keyboard.
In a world like this time would be meaningless, therefore they would be looking forward to spend it answering questions that at least stimulate their creativity.
Each individual character does not know how much "time" he has available. As far as the character knows, the character will live forever… until he doesn't.
Furthermore, most of the characters believe that even if they stop living forever, there is a way that they can be given an eternal life to replace it. They believe that if they are the sort of person who would choose to spend their first life helping others, they are more likely to enjoy their eternal life.
By the way, many of the so-called "hypothetical" questions have uses. For example, it was by answering these hypothetical questions that the characters concluded that there must be an original poster, who developed the simulation they are in. This gave them faith that the original poster wants them to help others by answering questions, and is capable of providing them with eternal lives.
So you could have some of your "users" be "authors," "game creators," or even "DnD DMs" who are interested in spending some of their "time" to create believable worlds. Let's call this act "worldbuilding."
Of course, people aren't going to simply spend their "time" in exchange for nothing, so maybe your world can give away "Fake Virtual Communication Network Points" in exchange for this "time," in order to see who the most helpful contributors to your network are.
People have a lot of questions. Questions that they can't answer but other may be able to. Like piles of them. They answer other people's questions who also have piles. If you answer other's people's questions they may answer yours. These piles are kept organised. So instead of just a heap they are kept in a stack. You solve other user's questions in hopes of your own being solved. You can almost say that you exchange these stacks for the greater good.
They Don't Know Any Better
They don't know they are in a simulation (though some may suspect or theorize that they are). As such they use their allotted time in my the same ways we do: sometimes useful, sometimes frivolous.
There is actually research done on why people contribute to online communities. Several people have probably gotten their PhDs from publishing said research. As I recall, the frameworks for explaining "contribution" usually break down into "intrinsic rewards" and "extrinsic rewards".
Intrinsic rewards include rewards that the contributor generates or gives to himself:
- developing his own knowledge
- sense of satisfaction from helping others
- warm fuzzy feeling in the ego
Extrinsic rewards are those that come from outside the contributor:
- status or esteem from other people
- qualification or experience he can add to his CV
- professional recognition
- contacts, exposure, networking that can lead to monetary rewards
Lots of people answered your imaginary question to fictional hypotheticals.
You invested some effort and care to make this a question draw answers, and did successfully so. So it would appear that you know the answer. Trust that knowledge.