• David Pearce
    160
    If humans were to abolish all forms of suffering with technology, as you say, I think the only way of fully accomplishing this would be by constraining the limits of consciousness itself. Just like in the early dystopian We, people would have their imaginations removed, or carefully adjusted so that they could only ever imagine pleasurable things.darthbarracuda
    With a hedonic range of, say, +20 to +50, our imaginations could be stunningly enriched.
    In which case, humans would be incapable of feeling negative feelings regarding things we usually find important to feel negative feelings towards. For instance, the death of a loved one invokes sadness. Would technologically-enhanced humans feel sadness?darthbarracuda
    I feel entitled to want my death or misfortune to diminish the well-being of loved ones. I don't think I'm entitled to want them to suffer on my account. There can be diminished well-being even in posthuman paradise – although death and aging will eventually disappear, and posthuman hedonic dips can be higher than human hedonic peaks.
    What about other feelings, like that of accomplishment, that require some degree of struggle beforehand? Would there be an "accomplishment pill" that people would take when they want to feel accomplished, or a "love pill" when people want to feel loved (even if they have accomplished nothing, and have nobody to love)?darthbarracuda
    Engineering enhanced motivation and a consequent sense of accomplishment is feasible in conjunction with a richer default hedonic tone. The dopamine and opioid neurotransmitter systems are interconnected, but distinct.
    Would the removal of all forms of negative feelings include feelings that are important for morality?darthbarracuda
    Information-sensitive gradients of well-being are consistent with a strong personal code of morality and social responsibility. Depression, undermotivation and anhedonia tend to subvert one's values; conversely, depression-resistance makes one stronger, in every sense.
    I can imagine a situation in which blissful slaves work constantly, die frequently, all with a happy smile and no sense that what is being done to them is wrong.darthbarracuda
    Low mood is the recipe for subordinate behaviour; elevated mood promotes active citizens:
    https://www.huxley.net
    How would we be compassionate?darthbarracuda
    Compare a "hug drug" and empathetic euphoriant like MDMA ("Ecstasy"):
    https://www.mdma.net
    How would we feel guilt?darthbarracuda
    The functional analogues of guilt may be retained; but let's get rid of its ghastly "raw feels":
    https://www.gradients.com
  • David Pearce
    160
    Which version don't you agree with?Down The Rabbit Hole
    David Benatar's version of the asymmetry argument purports to show that existence is always comparatively worse than non-existence. After intelligent moral agents phase out the biology of suffering, this claim will no longer hold.
  • Outlander
    1.1k
    After intelligent moral agents phase out the biology of sufferingDavid Pearce

    Sure, and after dark becomes light it's no longer dark. Anything can be changed by this view of "oh after such and such" is applied. We need solutions. Concrete results. At least suggestions. You have a vision, that's great, so does everyone. What will you do in the here and now to see it follows through?
  • darthbarracuda
    3.2k
    I feel entitled to want my death or misfortune to diminish the well-being of loved ones. I don't think I'm entitled to want them to suffer on my account. There can be diminished well-being even in posthuman paradise – although death and aging will eventually disappear, and posthuman hedonic dips can be higher than human hedonic peaks.David Pearce

    I'm having a hard time imagining what a hedonic dip would be like that did not involve some form of suffering. How do I remember that times were better without being disappointed with the present moment?

    I don't want the people I care about to suffer either, but if nobody cared if I were gone, that would be a very lonely existence. Loneliness that would have to be eliminated with technology. Companionship would not be genuine. If you feel sad when a loved one is gone, that is good, it is good that you feel bad, because it means your relationship was genuine.

    It seems like authentic, genuine experiences may not be possible in a world without suffering. Things would no longer have any weight or meaning. Which of course would be a negative feeling that would need to be eliminated. The importance of meaning would be lost, and nobody would even care.
  • David Pearce
    160
    Sure, and after dark becomes light it's no longer dark. Anything can be changed by this view of "oh after such and such" is applied. We need solutions. Concrete results. At least suggestions. You have a vision, that's great, so does everyone. What will you do in the here and now to see it follows through?Outlander
    I'm a researcher, not the leader of a millenarian cult with messianic delusions. Yes, just setting out a blueprint of what needs to be done feels inadequate. I'd like to do more. But reprogramming the biosphere will take centuries.
  • David Pearce
    160
    I'm having a hard time imagining what a hedonic dip would be like that did not involve some form of suffering. How do I remember that times were better without being disappointed with the present moment?darthbarracuda
    Compare the peaks and dips of lovemaking, which (if one isn't celibate) are generically enjoyable throughout.
    I don't want the people I care about to suffer either, but if nobody cared if I were gone, that would be a very lonely existence. Loneliness that would have to be eliminated with technology. Companionship would not be genuine. If you feel sad when a loved one is gone, that is good, it is good that you feel bad, because it means your relationship was genuine.darthbarracuda
    Relationships in which one wants a loved one ever to suffer are inherently abusive, another cruel legacy of Darwinian life. Thinking about the biological basis of human relationships can be unsettling, but they are rooted in our endogenous opioid dependence.
    It seems like authentic, genuine experiences may not be possible in a world without suffering. Things would no longer have any weight or meaning. Which of course would be a negative feeling that would need to be eliminated. The importance of meaning would be lost, and nobody would even care.darthbarracuda
    The happiest people today typically have the strongest relationships. By contrast, depression undermines relationships not least by robbing the victims of an ability to derive pleasure from the company of friends and family. Critics sometimes say we face a choice between happiness and meaning. It's a false dichotomy. Superhappiness will create a superhuman sense of significance by its very nature:
    https://www.hedweb.com/quora/2015.html#david
  • Outlander
    1.1k
    — Outlander

    I'm a researcher, not the leader of a millenarian cult with messianic delusions.
    David Pearce

    Was Jesus not a teacher? A leader or dealer in hope? You tell us here, against all currently possible odds a heaven of infinite currently unimaginable bliss awaits, if we only listen to you, and if not, a Hell also awaits, a lifetime of Darwinian hell? You two could be brothers at this rate!

    But reprogramming the biosphere will take centuries.David Pearce

    The similarities continue. What did Jesus say to the first follower when asked what they are to do? : the response was "Change the world"!
  • David Pearce
    160
    You tell us here, against all currently possible odds a heaven of infinite currently unimaginable bliss awaits, if we only listen to you, and if not, a Hell also awaits, a lifetime of Darwinian hell?Outlander
    I spoke in jest. But there's a serious point here. Evolution via natural selection is a fiendish engine for spreading unimaginable suffering. But selection pressure has thrown up a cognitively unique species. Humans are poised to gain mastery over their reward circuitry. Technically, we could phase out the biology of suffering and reprogram the biosphere to create life based gradients of super-bliss – yes, "Heaven" if you like, only much better. What's more, hedonic uplift doesn't involve the proverbial "winners'' and "losers". Biological-genetic elevation of my hedonic set-point doesn't adversely affect you any more than elevation of your hedonic set-point adversely affects me. Contrast the zero-sum status games of Darwinian life ("Hell"). Anyhow, a genetically-driven biohappiness revolution deserves serious scientific and philosophical critique. A big thank you to the organizers of The Philosophy Forum. But to answer your point, this transhumanist vision of post-Darwinian life ("Heaven") also deserves a larger-than-life billionaire or charismatic influencer to take these ideas mainstream.
  • Outlander
    1.1k
    Evolution via natural selection is a fiendish engine for spreading unimaginable sufferingDavid Pearce

    Yet it created you, did it not? So, it is therefore now, in addition to this, an incredible engine for spreading unimaginable bliss, if your ideas are to be believed. Some bite the hands that feed them, but are you not attempting to amputate it altogether?
  • Tzeentch
    1k
    Transcending humanity through reverence of its basic drives: fear of death and desire for pleasure.

    This should be called hyperhumanism!
  • Cuthbert
    227
    O brave new world!
  • David Pearce
    160
    Yet it created you, did it not? So, it is therefore now, in addition to this, an incredible engine for spreading unimaginable bliss, if your ideas are to be believed. Some bite the hands that feed them, but are you not attempting to amputate it altogether?Outlander
    Hell has an escape-hatch. Reaching it is a daunting challenge. But biotech offers tools of emancipation. Maybe posthumans will indeed enjoy eons of indescribable happiness. I certainly hope so. But Darwinian life is monstrous. No amount of bliss can somehow morally outweigh such obscene suffering. I wish sentient malware like us had never existed. It's not a fruitful thought, I know. May posthumans be spared such knowledge.
  • David Pearce
    160
    Transcending humanity through reverence of its basic drives: fear of death and desire for pleasure.

    This should be called hyperhumanism!
    Tzeentch
    "Hyperhumanism" might be a more reassuring brand than transhumanism. But the pain-pleasure axis discloses the world's inbuilt metric of (dis)value. It's not some species-specific idiosyncrasy. By contrast, fear of death may be peculiar to a handful of intelligent animal species. Fear and death alike will eventually be preventable.
  • David Pearce
    160
    O brave new world!Cuthbert
    So they say. But compare:
    https://www.huxley.net/
  • Tzeentch
    1k
    Fear and death alike will eventually be preventable.David Pearce

    What reason is there to want to prevent death, if not for a fear of it?
  • David Pearce
    160
    What reason is there to want to prevent death, if not for a fear of it?Tzeentch
    Bereavement and the loss of loved ones cause immense heartache.
  • tim wood
    6.7k
    Bereavement and the loss of loved ones cause immense heartache.David Pearce
    Just hmm. Taking these words as expressing what of your thoughts you thought worth presenting, a practice at once necessary, obligatory, correct, and no doubt unjust, it seems to me that if you do not have a whole raft of qualifying thoughts that you might have added, your whole enterprise goes into question. I am going to assume you actually have those qualifying thoughts and just didn't at that moment think them worth including.
  • David Pearce
    160
    it seems to me that if you do not have a whole raft of qualifying thoughts that you might have added, your whole enterprise goes into question.tim wood
    I could have said much more, e.g. about personal identity (or rather its absence) over time:
    https://www.hedweb.com/quora/2015.html#parfit
    However, I may be misunderstanding your worry; if so, apologies. Please let me know!
  • Cuthbert
    227
    ".....the god-like super-beings we are destined to become...." But I have heard this rhetoric before and I have seen what happens to the ones who fail to qualify for super-being status. And I am afraid.
  • David Pearce
    160
    ".....the god-like super-beings we are destined to become...." But I have heard this rhetoric before and I have seen what happens to the ones who fail to qualify for super-being status. And I am afraid.Cuthbert
    Will God-like superintelligences be akin to Nietzschean Übermenschen – contemptuous of the weak, the vulnerable and the cognitively humble? Or does superhuman intelligence entail a superhuman capacity for perspective-taking and empathic understanding? For sure, talk of an expanding circle of compassion can make proponents sound naive. Most students of history or evolutionary psychology will be sceptical of moral progress too. But we can't just assume that God-like superintelligences will be prey to the egocentric illusion. Ultimately, egocentrism is no more rational than geocentrism – and presumably destined to go the same way:
    https://www.hedweb.com/quora/2015.html#purpose
  • boethius
    852
    Just hmm. Taking these words as expressing what of your thoughts you thought worth presenting, a practice at once necessary, obligatory, correct, and no doubt unjust, it seems to me that if you do not have a whole raft of qualifying thoughts that you might have added, your whole enterprise goes into question. I am going to assume you actually have those qualifying thoughts and just didn't at that moment think them worth including.tim wood

    I think this is very well said and summarizes my own basic question of what the foundational ethical theory is used or implied to justify the transhumanism project.

    If there's a framework taken for granted -- such as one of the "big tents" like utilitarianism or kantianism or even Nietzscheism or a variation on post-modernism (none of which, insofar as the label is concerned, might give a clear idea, but it would point in a general direction and terminology) -- it would give some context to the underlying moral or ethical purpose transhumanism is addressing.

    Of course, I'd also have no issue with the idea of researching the subject as a technological tool without any moral judgements about its proper use, if any (i.e. just doing the objective scientific investigation), just as a nuclear physicist may say their research does not imply they are making the judgement nuclear bombs or even nuclear reactors should be built, and if so in what context (that the moral and political questions are complex and "science" doesn't take a position on them), but in reading parts of the conversation it definitely seems there is an underlying moral and political project and in clear opposition to specific philosophies (such as the evangelical Christians) "standing in the way of progress". In other words, it's clear what the "others" are that this project is against , but it does not seem clear what this project is really "for".

    Not that I am defending the evangelical or otherwise conservative Christians (I criticize them harshly all the time), but if one takes specific and clear issue with one world view, it is my disposition, that one has oneself a clear and specific position from which one makes clear and specific criticisms (if one's criticism are used to justify one's own project, and not just critical thinking for the sake of it without pointing to an alternative "better" position).

    As with other posters, the answers to "why is it good?" seem vague.
  • David Pearce
    160
    the answers to "why is it good?" seem vague.boethius
    The claim: aging, death, disease, cognitive infirmity and indeed involuntary suffering of any kind are wrong. A transhumanist civilization of superlongevity, superintelligence and superhappiness can overcome these ancient evils. If we act wisely, then future life will be sublime.

    Apologies, you're right. The moral underpinnings of the transhumanist project as outlined are indeed poorly defined. Yet there's another problem. In my answers, I've glossed over differences in personal values among extremely diverse transhumanists:
    https://www.transhumanist.com/
    The transhumanist movement embraces moral realists and antirealists; the secular and the religious; negative, classical and preference utilitarians; ethical pluralists and agnostics; and folk whose views defy easy categorisation. Only a minority of transhumanists share my NU conviction that our overriding moral obligation is to mitigate, minimise and prevent suffering – everything else being icing on the cake:
    https://www.hedweb.com/hedethic/sentience-interview.html
    What transhumanism isn’t is gung-ho technology-worship. Everyone acknowledges that the potential risks of AI and biotechnology are far-reaching:
    https://www.hedweb.com/quora/2015.html#downsides
    But we’ll shortly have the technical tools create posthuman paradise – quasi-eternal life animated by gradients of intelligent bliss. On some fairly modest assumptions, life in a "triple s" civilisation will be orders of magnitude better than life today.
  • counterpunch
    1.1k
    The claim: aging, death, disease, cognitive infirmity and indeed involuntary suffering of any kind are wrong. A transhumanist civilization of superlongevity, superintelligence and superhappiness can overcome these ancient evils. If we act wisely, then future life will be sublime.David Pearce

    Maybe all that is possible, but there's a lot of science and technology needs developing before super-longevity could be sustainable. If the future is sublime or not, will not depend primarily on CRISPR. It will depend primarily on energy technology, carbon capture and storage, desalination and irrigation and recycling technology being applied first. Or do you suggest that people can be blissfully happy with the sky on fire?

    Maybe that is your suggestion - and herein lies the question: how far would you go with the genetic toolkit to survive in a world where you've developed genetics to a fine art, but let the environment run to ruin? Alligator skin?
  • Outlander
    1.1k
    The claim: aging, death, disease, cognitive infirmity and indeed involuntary suffering of any kind are wrong. A transhumanist civilization of superlongevity, superintelligence and superhappiness can overcome these ancient evils. If we act wisely, then future life will be sublime.David Pearce

    David, thou art a gentleman and a scholar of the highest degree. Here and now that is. Your presence and engagement here is appreciated beyond the words received. I would much enjoy to share a few drinks with you at your preferred pub in your native England, what's left of it that is. That said, if you don't mind, what are your responses to the following criticisms of the words or rather common understandings and generally assumed beliefs behind:

    Aging: Is this not proof of progress? Proof of the journey at the destination? A fine wine is aged, and is worth a considerable amount. Perhaps you refer to the physical and biological affects of aging being essentially decreased ability and fortitude. Well, in a race with no timer, why bother to move?

    Death: I view death as a necessity in this world, not as you might think however but more of an escape hatch. For example, being trapped in a cave. In such a scenario one would rather starve to death then sit there for eternity. It's complicated, though without death what appreciation would there be for life really, would it not simply be just another prison?

    Disease: I'm a firm believer in overpopulation, that things happen for a reason. If I were to be infirmed myself in a clinical setting perhaps I would be encouraged to rethink this, if not revealed as somewhat of a hypocrite. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and what one brings upon themselves (this is to exclude random cases of illness) one should learn or at least desire to pass on a lesson.

    Cognitive infirmity: While I don't have an effectual or "actual" philosophical counterargument or "justification" for as it's a simple biological reality, I'll offer an anecdote. Well a sentence that one can be derived from. There's two water guns, the first ones which casually lose pressure as the tank depletes, and the newer ones (granted from a score ago) that maintain constant pressure (CPS "constant pressure system") until the tank is actually depleted. Which would you prefer?

    Involuntary suffering: Welcome to Earth or life. Is it a blessing or curse? A reward or a sentence? Either way we're all going to be here for possibly a while, best do your time. There's no true escape, David. Other than to avoid true eternal bliss.

    --

    Onto your three supers:

    Longevity: Again, I challenge you to be alone or perhaps even with friends (or more realistically mixed company who hold opposing views to yours as this is reality) for an extended period. Everything is fine, no one has to worry about anything, all needs are met, and it's just you and other people. How long could you take it? Until you do this, some may say, accurately I might add, you're just talking or blowing smoke. A non-religious person (ie. when you die, you're dead and cease to exist in any possible, real or imagined form or state of existence) one of course would cleave to this like a frightened lamb in the presence of a pack of wolves.. and this is the only reality that can be proven so is thus understandable, but what if we don't really know all there is to know? Can you not be wrong?

    Intelligence: Simply put, they say ignorance is bliss. Perhaps they could be wrong. Perhaps you may be. Let me ask you, what were the best times of your life? I'll wager money that it was discovering new things, emotions, or moments. You know I'm right. What fun is a game you've already beat or a book you've already read compared to one you haven't?

    Happiness: What is happiness? Why would one seek or even value peace if one could never pursue or make war? Love if one never knew hate or fun if one never knew boredom? Duality I believe some speak of. They may have it wrong or corrupted but perhaps they don't. What makes you happy David, if you don't mind sharing? What makes you sad? Why is that? If either were removed (incidents, experiences, or knowledge behind said emotions), would you feel the same toward the other?

    Again, these are just criticisms meant to prod your response and beliefs on the matter, a response which I am eager to receive. "Just curious", as they say.
  • David Pearce
    160
    If the future is sublime or not, will not depend primarily on CRISPR. It will depend primarily on energy technology, carbon capture and storage, desalination and irrigation and recycling technology being applied first. Or do you suggest that people can be blissfully happy with the sky on fire?

    Maybe that is your suggestion - and herein lies the question: how far would you go with the genetic toolkit to survive in a world where you've developed genetics to a fine art, but let the environment run to ruin?
    counterpunch
    There's no tension between radical life-extension, genetic mood-enrichment and responsible stewardship of Earth. For instance, one reason that many people are unwilling to accept even modest personal inconvenience to tackle global warming is the assumption they won't be around personally to suffer the consequences. Let's face it, a 3mm rise in the mean sea levels each year doesn't sound too alarming unless you happen to live on a low-lying island or a coastal floodplain. Therefore willingness to accept tax-hikes for the benefit of posterity is limited. By contrast, indefinite youthful life-spans would also radically lengthen our normal time-horizons. Moreover, troubled people aren't necessarily more environmentally-conscious than unusually happy people. Indeed, other things being equal, the happiest people probably tend to care most about conserving what they conceive as our beautiful planet. After all, paradise (cf. "A Perfect Planet": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Perfect_Planet) is usually reckoned more worth preserving than purgatory.
    In short, I know of no tradeoff.
  • David Pearce
    160

    Thanks for the kind words. They are very much appreciated. A lot to chew on. Let me start with your question:
    What makes you sad? Why is that?Outlander
    Knowledge. The suffering in the world (more strictly, the universal wavefuction) appals me. I long for blissful ignorance. Alas, it would be irresponsible to urge invincible ignorance until all the ethical duties of intelligence in the cosmos have been discharged.
    Until then, knowledge is a necessary evil.
  • Shawn
    11k
    Hello again David,

    I have wondered about the psychological attitude of human beings to accept death as an inevitable consequence of living, where evil is a disregard for life.

    It seems strange that people seem to accept these facts as tautological, and instead continue saving money in a bank account instead of investing it in something so fundamental as to live longer or potentially for as long as possible.

    Why is this all so?
  • David Pearce
    160
    It seems strange that people seem to accept these facts as tautological, and instead continue saving money in a bank account instead of investing it in something so fundamental as to live longer or potentially for as long as possible.

    Why is this all so?
    Shawn
    A high capacity for self-deception is probably critical to what now passes for mental health. Until recently, helping people rationalise aging, death and suffering was wholly admirable: nothing could be done about the "natural" order of things. Despite my dark view of Darwinian life (cf. "Pessimism Counts in Favor of Biomedical Enhancement: A Lesson from the Anti-Natalist Philosophy of P. W. Zapffe" by Ole Martin Moen: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12152-021-09458-8), I urge opt-out cryonics, opt-in cryothanasia, and a massive global project to defeat the scourge of aging.

    One tool of life-extension is mood-enrichment. Happy people typically live longer.
  • Shawn
    11k


    So, it's essentially pessimism, right? What about being not optimistic about this all; but, rather pragmatic in stating that aging should be lessened or decreased.

    In the grand picture of things, 70-80 years is miniscule for a species to collectively survive or undertake grand projects like space exploration or multiplanetary colonies, yes?
  • David Pearce
    160
    In the grand picture of things, 70-80 years is miniscule for a species to collectively survive or undertake grand projects like space exploration or multiplanetary colonies, yes?Shawn
    Yes. Human lifespans are inadequate for interstellar travel, let alone galactic exploration. Human lifespans are inadequate for investigating the billions of alien state-spaces of consciousness accessible to exploration by future psychonauts. Only the drug-naïve (cf. John Horgan's The End of Science (1996)) could believe that the world's greatest intellectual discoveries lie behind rather than ahead of us. I won't pretend the pursuit of knowledge is my motivation for wanting humanity to defeat aging. But then most people – and certainly most transhumanists – aren't negative utilitarians.
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