• Metaphysician Undercover
    8.6k

    Wow, can you imagine the boredom of being in a spaceship flying to another galaxy? To see what? There must better reasons for wanting an extended life than this. But what are they exactly? If we remove all suffering, doesn't the extended life just turn into one long boring flight to nowhere. Might as well be an eternal brain in a vat.
  • David Pearce
    160
    Wow, can you imagine the boredom of being in a spaceship flying to another galaxy? To see what? There must better reasons for wanting an extended life than this.Metaphysician Undercover
    I'm inclined to agree. If we accept the contention of Rare Earthers that the rest of our galaxy is lifeless, then the allure of interstellar travel may pall. Granted, the biology of boredom is easier to retire than the biology of aging. Extrasolar space travel doesn't have to consist of decades or centuries of tedium. Even so, what's the point of it all? If lifeless rocks appeal to your sensibilities, then why not live in a barren desert closer to home?

    Perhaps it could be argued that vacant ecological niches tend to get filled. It's plausible that an advanced posthuman civilisation will decide to use AI to optimise matter and energy within its cosmological horizon. But here we are well into the realm of science-fiction.
    If we remove all suffering, doesn't the extended life just turn into one long boring flight to nowhere. Might as well be an eternal brain in a vat.Metaphysician Undercover
    Here it's possible we may differ. The suggestion one sometimes hears that we should conserve suffering because "heaven" would be tedious is ill-conceived:
    https://www.hedweb.com/quora/2015.html#heaven
    Perhaps consider the most intensely rewarding experiences of human life. They are experienced as intensely significant by their very nature. Thus no one says, "I feel sublimely happy but my life feels empty and meaningless." Replacing the biology of misery and malaise with life based on information-sensitive gradients of bliss will also solve the problem of meaninglessness. Indeed, despite being a pessimistic, button-pressing negative utilitarian, my tentative prediction is that the least meaningful moments of posthuman life will be experienced as vastly more significant than any human "peak experience" in virtue of their richer hedonic tone.

    "Transcendent" meaning is a different question; it's not clear that the idea is even intelligible. But just as I anticipate the world's last unpleasant experience will be a precisely dateable a few centuries (?) from now, likewise the last time anyone reflects that life is meaningless is likely to be a precisely datable event too. The end of the Darwinian era will be a moral and intellectual watershed in every sense.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    8.6k
    Perhaps consider the most intensely rewarding experiences of human life. They are experienced as intensely significant by their very nature.David Pearce

    Let's take an example then, competition. Winning a competition is one of the most intensely rewarding experiences for some people. Even just as a spectator of a sport, having your team win provides a very rewarding experience. But we can't always win, and losing is very disappointing. How do you think it's possible to maintain that intensely rewarding experience, which comes from success, without the possibility of disappointment from failure? It seems like a large part of the rewarding feeling is dependent on the possibility of failure. We can't have everyone winning all the time because there must be losers. And there would be no rewarding experience from success, without the possibility of failure. How could there be if success was already guaranteed?
  • David Pearce
    160
    Let's take an example then, competition. Winning a competition is one of the most intensely rewarding experiences for some people. Even just as a spectator of a sport, having your team win provides a very rewarding experience. But we can't always win, and losing is very disappointing. How do you think it's possible to maintain that intensely rewarding experience, which comes from success, without the possibility of disappointment from failure? It seems like a large part of the rewarding feeling is dependent on the possibility of failure. We can't have everyone winning all the time because there must be losers. And there would be no rewarding experience from success, without the possibility of failure. How could there be if success was already guaranteed?Metaphysician Undercover

    "It's not enough to succeed. Others must fail", said Gore Vidal. “Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little.” Yes, evolution has engineered humans with a predisposition to be competitive, jealous, envious, resentful and other unlovely traits. Their conditional activation has been fitness-enhancing. In the long run, futurists can envisage genetically-rewritten superintelligences without such vices. After all, self-aggrandisement and tribalism reflect primitive cognitive biases, not least the egocentric illusion. Yet what can be done in the meantime?

    Well, one of the reasons I've focused on hedonic uplift and set-point recalibration is that the dilemmas of social competition can be side-stepped. Depressives and hyperthymics alike prefer winning to losing. But if you're an extreme hyperthymic, losing doesn’t cause your hedonic tone to dip below zero, just as if you’re a chronic depressive, winning doesn't raise your hedonic tone above zero. So at the risk of sounding like a crude genetic determinist, I say: let's aim to create a hyperthymic society via some biological-genetic tweaking.

    I've outlined possible routes to explore such as ACKR3 receptor blockade and kappa opioid receptor antagonism; routine preimplantation genetic screening and counselling for prospective parents; germline gene-tweaking of FAAH and FAAH-OUT genes (etc); and a whole bunch of stuff to help nonhuman animals. If society puts as much effort and financial resources into revolutionising hedonic adaptation as it's doing to defeat COVID, then the hedonic treadmill can become a hedonistic treadmill. Globally boosting hedonic range and hedonic set-points by biological-genetic interventions would certainly be a radical departure from the status quo; but a biohappiness revolution is not nearly as genetically ambitious as a complete transformation of human nature. And complications aside, hedonic uplift doesn't involve creating "losers", the bane of traditional utopianism.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    8.6k
    "It's not enough to succeed. Others must fail", said Gore Vidal. “Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little.” Yes, evolution has engineered humans with a predisposition to be competitive, jealous, envious, resentful and other unlovely traits. Their conditional activation has been fitness-enhancing. In the long run, futurists can envisage genetically-rewritten superintelligences without such vices. After all, self-aggrandisement and tribalism reflect primitive cognitive biases, not least the egocentric illusion. Yet what can be done in the meantime?David Pearce

    So this "intensely rewarding experience" which we get from succeeding in competition, you designate as seated in a vice, or vices, This would mean that it is a bad rewarding experience which ought to be eliminated. But on what principles do you designate some rewarding experiences as associated with vices, and some as associated with virtues? I would think that if you want to eliminate some such intensely rewarding experiences, and emphasize others, you would require some objective principles for distinguishing the one category, vice, from the other, virtue.

    If society puts as much effort and financial resources into revolutionising hedonic adaptation as it's doing to defeat COVID, then the hedonic treadmill can become a hedonistic treadmill. Globally boosting hedonic range and hedonic set-points by biological-genetic interventions would certainly be a radical departure from the status quo; but a biohappiness revolution is not nearly as genetically ambitious as a complete transformation of human nature. And complications aside, hedonic uplift doesn't involve creating "losers", the bane of traditional utopianism.David Pearce

    I think I've already mentioned the problem with this perspective. That is the divisiveness that such a proposal (which you admitted might be unethical) would induce. Global cooperation is not facilitated without consistent belief. Look at the issue of climate change for example, and even an immediate threat to the lives of many, like COVID, does not obtain unanimous consent to the designated required response. You might find a good example of global cooperation with the issue of CFCs and the ozone layer. That was a serious issue which seemed to obtain global cooperation.

    However, it appears to me like such cooperation is more likely to be obtained in the face of serious evil, rather than the effort to obtain some designated good. So I feel like the challenge to you would be to demonstrate that failing to follow your proposed program would be a great threat to humanity. I perceive three levels of attitude toward action, or inaction, in relation to such a proposal. There are those who say "do it", and may start such an action, those who say "do nothing" (status quo), and those openly opposed to doing it. It seems like those who say "do it" have a huge task to persuade the others, and bring them onboard, which must be carried out prior to starting any such action. This would require a huge effort of education and some very strong principles. That is because starting any action without first persuading the others, logically would shift those in the "do nothing" group over to the "openly opposed" group.
  • David Pearce
    160
    So this "intensely rewarding experience" which we get from succeeding in competition, you designate as seated in a vice, or vices, This would mean that it is a bad rewarding experience which ought to be eliminated. But on what principles do you designate some rewarding experiences as associated with vices, and some as associated with virtues? I would think that if you want to eliminate some such intensely rewarding experiences, and emphasize others, you would require some objective principles for distinguishing the one category, vice, from the other, virtue.Metaphysician Undercover
    Competing against earlier iterations of oneself or an insentient AI doesn't raise ethical problems. More controversial would be competing in zero-sum games against other (trans)humans where losing causes a drop in the well-being of one's opponent without their ever falling below hedonic zero. Such competition is problematic for the classical utilitarian, but not for the negative utilitarian. However, what I'd argue is morally indefensible is demanding that the loser involuntarily suffers when experience below hedonic zero becomes technically optional. Contemplating the pain of a defeated opponent sharpens the relish of some winners today. Let's hope such ill will has no long-term future.

    An antirealist about value might contest even this fairly modest principle. My response to the antirealist:
    https://www.hedweb.com/quora/2015.html#metaethics.
    But as I said, emphasizing hedonic uplift and set-point recalibration over traditional environmental reforms can circumvent most – but not all – of the dilemmas posed by human value-systems and preferences that are logically irreconcilable.

    However, it appears to me like such cooperation is more likely to be obtained in the face of serious evil, rather than the effort to obtain some designated goodMetaphysician Undercover
    If depression isn’t a serious evil, then I don’t know what is – human “mood genes” are sinister beyond belief. Anyhow, governance by philosophers isn't imminent. Nor is rule by transhumanists, though transhumanist memes appear to be spreading. Sadly, I don't foresee what I'd like to materialise – a Hundred-Year Genetic Plan of worldwide hedonic uplift and recalibration under the auspices of the WHO to fulfil the goal of its founding constitution. What’s more credible is genome-editing to tackle well-recognised monogenetic diseases followed by interventions to tackle a genetic predisposition to abnormal pain-sensitivity, low mood and other forms of mental ill-health. Yes, I find this a disappointingly slow prospect. All of what today pass as enhancement technologies will be recognised by posthumans as remediation.

    Wild cards? Well, part of me yearns for the hedonic equivalent of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_man_theory
    – a visionary politician who takes a biohappiness revolution from the margins to the mainstream. Alas, I’m not holding my breath.
  • counterpunch
    1.1k
    If depression isn’t a serious evil, then I don’t know what is – human “mood genes” are sinister beyond belief.David Pearce

    Mood genes? Sure - that's what it is! Are you saying I don't have good reason to be depressed? Are you saying that, in the same circumstances, that this isn't, necessarily - how I should feel about things? Now I don't know how I feel about anything, and yet seem evolved to emotionally navigate a complex environment, quite well. I'm not happy about the state of that environment, but imagine that, we looked first to the most fundamental implications of a scientific worldview, applied technology to harness limitless clean energy from magma, sequestered carbon, desalinated water to irrigate land for farming and habitation - away from forests and river valleys, recycled, farmed fish. Are you saying I would still be depressed because of my mood genes? I could be happy! I'm not, but I think I could be!
  • niki wonoto
    10
    I'm from Indonesia, and I have been really interested on Transhumanism especially after a lot of observations, readings, & thinking.

    Everything seems to come into the final conclusion that human species/humanity is not perfect, and in fact, have also made a lot of failures & slow progress in everything. That's why I'm thinking that the next evolution should, or even must be Transhumanism, to break away from all the disappointing limitations of reality.

    My question is simple but very urgent/important one:
    How can I, as just an ordinary person, can contribute to quicken the progress of Transhumanism?
    Also, do you think Transhumanism will have any possibility to finally become mainstream in public?
    How can we really make sure that Transhumanism will really work, instead of failing or eventually got diminished & slowly disappearing as if it never exists, considering how short attention span of our human species/humanity/mankind?

    Thank you, and looking forward to your responses.
  • David Pearce
    160
    My question is simple but very urgent/important one:
    How can I, as just an ordinary person, can contribute to quicken the progress of Transhumanism?
    niki wonoto
    Niki, awesome, would you consider getting your own website / YouTube channel with a version in bahasa Indonesia? People tend to be more receptive to a new idea if the message is conveyed in their native language.
    Also, do you think Transhumanism will have any possibility to finally become mainstream in public?niki wonoto
    It's been well said that humans tend to overestimate the effects of change in the short-run and underestimate its effects in the long run. Yes, all this grandiose talk about a glorious future civilisation of superintelligence, superlongevity and superhappiness may ring a little hollow when one is forced to confront the problems of everyday life – bills to pay, chores to do, and the messiness of interpersonal relationships. But Darwinian life as we understand it has no long-term future.
    How can we really make sure that Transhumanism will really work, instead of failing or eventually got diminished & slowly disappearing as if it never exists, considering how short attention span of our human species/humanity/mankind?niki wonoto
    Cognitive frailty, aging, death and all manner of physical and psychological suffering is "part of what it means to be human". But biotech and IT will shortly make such horrors optional. I don't want to sound like a naïve technological determinist, but just consider: if offered the chance to become immensely smarter, happier and indefinitely youthful, how many people will prefer to be intellectually handicapped, malaise-ridden and decrepit?

    At the risk of tempting fate, I'll say it: history is (probably) on our side.
  • David Pearce
    160
    Are you saying I would still be depressed because of my mood genes? I could be happy! I'm not, but I think I could be!counterpunch
    Many completely paralysed people with "locked in" syndrome suffer terribly. But the high genetic loading of default hedonic tone together with the negative-feedback mechanisms of the hedonic treadmill mean that a large minority if not a majority of locked-in patients report being happy:
    https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20162-most-locked-in-people-are-happy-survey-finds/
    Conversely, some able-bodied people "have it all", yet they are chronically miserable. I'm not trying to downplay the importance of social, economic and political reform in making the world a better place – or protecting the environment. Yet if we're ethically serious about solving the problem of suffering, we'll need to tackle its genetic source.
  • counterpunch
    1.1k


    I've endured months of attacks by subjectivist fundamentalists for suggesting there's truth value to scientific knowledge; and a good part of that I suspect, is inspired by a religious or spiritual disdain for science. Indeed, I believe Descartes was inspired by Galileo's arrest and trial, to drop physics and develop subjectivist philosophy in line with a religious emphasis of the spiritual to the de-emphasis of the mundane. Subjectivism has been promoted philosophically, to the cost of the objective - and this is the root cause of the climate and ecological crisis. With me so far?

    So, I'm trying to convince people who've got 400 years worth of religious and philosophical reasons to suspect science of heresy, that on the contrary, science can be trusted as a rationale to tackle the climate and ecological crisis.

    Do you not see how you confirm the worst fears of the regressives - by what seems to me, a castle in the air - with enormous, terrifying implications you seem almost deliberately unaware of - even when asked about them repeatedly. You say:

    I'm not trying to downplay the importance of social, economic and political reform in making the world a better place – or protecting the environment.David Pearce

    But you are undermining science as a rationale with your Frankenstein-esque suggestions, that we genetically engineer ourselves into a race of supermen, while ignoring the moral, social, political, economic environmental implications of using science in such a way. You propose genetically enhanced longevity for example, and do not seem to realise that longevity would be problematic in all sorts of ways, not least, environmentally.

    If you accept science is true, you have to approach the problem of the future systematically, and that begins with energy, not with:

    if we're ethically serious about solving the problem of suffering,David Pearce

    I am ethically serious about affording our species the chance of a future; and suggest that is the first ethical priority implied by a scientific worldview. I don't know where deliriously happy designer babies that live forever comes on such a list of scientifically rational ethical priorities, but I'm pretty sure limitless clean energy from magma is logically prior in the order condescendi.
  • David Pearce
    160
    But you are undermining science as a rationale with your Frankenstein-esque suggestions, that we genetically engineer ourselves into a race of supermen, while ignoring the moral, social, political, economic environmental implications of using science in such a way. You propose genetically enhanced longevity for example, and do not seem to realise that longevity would be problematic in all sorts of ways, not least, environmentally.counterpunch
    In what sense is aiming to phase out the biology of suffering "Frankenstein-esque"? Either way, the biggest obstacle to tackling man-made climate change and environmental degradation is short-termism. Yes, you're right, creating a world where people don't crumble away and perish has implications for the environment. But the impact won't necessarily be as pessimists suppose. Crudely, if you think you're going to be around for hundreds or thousands of years (or more), then you are more likely to care about the long-term fate of the planet than if you reckon it will be someone else's problem.
    I don't know where deliriously happy designer babies that live forever comes on such a list of scientifically rational ethical priorities, but I'm pretty sure limitless clean energy from magma is logically prior...counterpunch
    But transhumanists do not advocate "deliriously" happy designer babies. Delirium is inimical to cognition. Rather, they urge information-sensitive gradients of well-being. Intelligence-amplification is one of the core tenets of transhumanism.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    8.6k
    Maybe contemplating the pain of a defeated opponent sharpens the relish of some winners today. Let's hope such ill-will has no long-term future.David Pearce

    It's not the pain of the opponent which I am talking about here, it's the aspect of the pleasure derived by the winner, which is produced by knowing that the pain of losing has been avoided. So the winner does not wish ill-will on the loser, only attempting to avoid the potential of the pain for oneself. That's "sportsmanship", you do not intend ill-will on the opponent, only the best for yourself. But the game is designed such that there is a loser. In the competition, all competitors know that someone (or team) will suffer the pain of lose. In good sportsmanship, it is the goal of the competitors to win and avoid such pain. It is not their intent to inflict pain on others. The joy in winning is intensified not by the thought that others are in pain, but by knowing that the pain of lose, for oneself, has been avoided.

    So, competing against earlier iterations of oneself or an insentient AI does not address the issue, because we still must allow for the possibility that one loses, and therefore suffers from the lose. Replacing the opponent with an AI does not remove the necessity for the possibility of lose, and the consequent pain and suffering. The issue here is that much joy and happiness, and the drive, motivation, or ambition for success, comes from the desire to avoid the pain and suffering caused by failure. If we remove that pain and suffering, extinguish the possibility of failure, make the AI always lose no matter what, or whatever is required to negate the possibility of suffering, then there is no drive or ambition to better oneself.

    But as I said, emphasizing hedonic uplift and set-point recalibration over traditional environmental reforms can circumvent most – but not all – of the dilemmas posed by human value-systems and preferences that are logically irreconcilable.David Pearce

    So what would be the point to continually inducing the joy and pleasure of winning in a person, without requiring the person to actually compete and win, or even do anything, to receive that pleasure? If it is not required to do the good act, to receive the pleasure of doing a good act, then when is anyone ever going to be doing anything good?
  • David Pearce
    160
    If we remove that pain and suffering, extinguish the possibility of failure, make the AI always lose no matter what, or whatever is required to negate the possibility of suffering, then there is no drive or ambition to better oneself.Metaphysician Undercover
    But to return to the earlier example of playing chess, one can fanatically aspire to improve one's game and play to win even though one will invariably lose. I know of no reason why the "raw feels" of experience below hedonic zero need conserving. After all, our intelligent machines don't need to suffer in order to become smarter or competitively more successful. In future, suffering will be redundant for (trans)humans too.
    So what would be the point to continually inducing the joy and pleasure of winning in a person, without requiring the person to actually compete and win, or even do anything, to receive that pleasure? If it is not required to do the good act, to receive the pleasure of doing a good act, then when is anyone ever going to be doing anything good?Metaphysician Undercover
    Two invincibly happy (trans)humans can play competitive chess against each other and both improve their game. Honestly, I don't see the problem!
  • Outlander
    1.1k
    I know of no reason why the "raw feels" of experience below hedonic zero need conserving.David Pearce

    Honestly, I don't see the problem!David Pearce

    Have you ever suffered, David? Ever noticed or experienced hardship enough to motivate you to do something .. oh apparently you have as this is the purported moral and intellectual basis of this movement of yours. Where would you be without these occurrences? How impactful do you think they were for spurring positive change? Apparently great, if your mission is so dire. So tell me. What motivation, drive, and desire will others expect in your envisioned world? Any drive to even get out of bed? Any at all? Some may argue, this idea damns those confined by it to an even worse fate then the current mitigated Darwinian hell we have (civilized society, manners, rules, occasional decency, etc.). Your response?
  • David Pearce
    160
    Have you ever suffered, David? Ever noticed or experienced hardship enough to motivate you to do something .. oh apparently you have as this is the purported moral and intellectual basis of this movement of yours. Where would you be without these occurrences? How impactful do you think they were for spurring positive change? Apparently great, if your mission is so dire. So tell me. What motivation, drive, and desire will others expect in your envisioned world? Any drive to even get out of bed? Any at all? Some may argue, this idea damns those confined by it to an even worse fate then the current mitigated Darwinian hell we have (civilized society, manners, rules, occasional decency, etc.). Your response?Outlander
    What's in question isn't whether suffering in all its guises can sometimes be functionally useful; it sure can. Rather, what needs questioning is the widespread assumption that the "raw feels" of suffering are computationally indispensable. If the indispensability hypothesis were ever demonstrated, then this result would be a revolutionary discovery in computer science: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church%E2%80%93Turing_thesis
    For what it's worth, I hold the distinctly unorthodox view that phenomenal binding is non-algorithmic. What's more, the phenomenal unity of experience is often massively adaptive for biological minds. But we need only study the happiest hyperthymics to realise that suffering isn't indispensable to either to cognition or motivation. Neither is happiness, though happier people tend to be better motivated. See too the work of Kent Berridge on the double dissociability of "liking" and "wanting" (cf. https://sites.lsa.umich.edu/berridge-lab/research-overview/neuroscience-of-linking-and-wanting/), mu-opioidergic hedonic tone and dopaminergic motivation.

    In short, information-sensitive hedonic gradients are the key to intelligent, motivated behaviour – irrespective of one's absolute location on the pleasure-pain axis. And ethically, information-sensitive gradients of bliss are surely preferable to gradients of misery and malaise, the plight of so many sentient beings alive today.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    8.6k
    But to return to the earlier example of playing chess, one can fanatically aspire to improve one's game and play to win even though one will invariably lose.David Pearce

    I don't agree. One cannot play to win if the person knows that winning is impossible. In a similar way one cannot get the same enjoyment from winning if the person knows that losing is impossible. So there must be the real possibility of losing (suffering) if winning is to be enjoyable.

    Two invincibly happy (trans)humans can play competitive chess against each other and both improve their game. Honestly, I don't see the problem!David Pearce

    The point is that one must lose, and suffer from the loss, if the other is to win and obtain the enjoyment of winning. If we remove the winning and losing from the game, we can't call it a competitive game.

    Rather, what needs questioning is the widespread assumption that the "raw feels" of suffering are computationally indispensable. If the indispensability hypothesis were ever demonstrated, then this result would be a revolutionary discovery in computer science:David Pearce

    The issue, in my mind, is not whether suffering is indispensable, but the question of whether we can have gain without the possibility of suffering. If it is the case, as I believe it is, that all actions which could result in a gain, also run some risk of loss, and loss implies suffering, then to avoid suffering requires that we avoid taking any actions which might produce a gain. But if gain is necessary for happiness, and this is inevitable due to biological needs, then the goal of happiness cannot include the elimination of suffering. Therefore the goal of eliminating suffering must have something other than happiness as its final end. What could that final end be? If eliminating suffering is itself the final end, but it can only be brought about at the cost of eliminating happiness, then it's not such a noble goal.
  • David Pearce
    160
    The issue, in my mind, is not whether suffering is indispensable, but the question of whether we can have gain without the possibility of suffering. If it is the case, as I believe it is, that all actions which could result in a gain, also run some risk of loss, and loss implies suffering, then to avoid suffering requires that we avoid taking any actions which might produce a gain. But if gain is necessary for happiness, and this is inevitable due to biological needs, then the goal of happiness cannot include the elimination of suffering. Therefore the goal of eliminating suffering must have something other than happiness as its final end. What could that final end be? If eliminating suffering is itself the final end, but it can only be brought about at the cost of eliminating happiness, then it's not such a noble goal.Metaphysician Undercover
    Perhaps consider e.g.
    https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/dec/07/alphazero-google-deepmind-ai-beats-champion-program-teaching-itself-to-play-four-hours
    Competition doesn't inherently involve suffering. I'd love to win against the program I play chess against, but losing never causes me to suffer. Granted, the idea of zero-sum games, and the pain caused by losing to a human opponent, is so endemic to Darwinian life that it's easy to imagine that it's inherent to competition itself. But life doesn't have to be this way. Hedonic uplift can be combined with recursive intellectual self-improvement. Either way, we should all be free to choose. As biotech matures, no one should be forced to endure the substrates of involuntary suffering.
  • Down The Rabbit Hole
    99


    I'd love to win against the program I play chess against, but losing never causes me to suffer.David Pearce

    Do you think you'd enjoy it more if you put it on a slightly lower difficulty?
  • David Pearce
    160
    Do you think you'd enjoy it more if you put it on a slightly lower difficulty?Down The Rabbit Hole
    I'm sceptical! Either way, I think the point stands. The end of suffering isn't tantamount to the end of competition, let alone the end of intellectual progress. Sentience deserves a more civilised signalling system.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    8.6k

    The way I see it is that as human beings, we are first and foremost, animals. That's what defines us, although we like to separate ourselves from the other animals, to say that we're somehow a special type of animal. Let's say that specialness as "civilised". If we're already civilised, then what could it even mean to suggest making us more civilised? If civilised is a general category, then all sorts of particular instances qualify as civilised, and what would make one "more" civilised than another? If we are not yet civilised, then what really does "civilised" mean? Distinguishing us from the other animals, is not even justified now. Unless we answer this type of questions, assuming that such and such is "more civilised", is simply an unjustified assumption.
  • David Pearce
    160
    If we're already civilised, then what could it even mean to suggest making us more civilised?Metaphysician Undercover
    It’s uncivilised for sentient beings to hurt, harm and kill each other. It’s uncivilised for sentient beings to undergo involuntary pain and suffering – or any experience below hedonic zero. The nature of mature posthuman civilisation is speculative. But I reckon the entire Darwinian era will be best forgotten like a bad dream.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    8.6k
    It’s uncivilised for sentient beings to undergo involuntary pain and suffering – or any experience below hedonic zero.David Pearce

    Involuntary pain and suffering is most often derived in accidental ways, mistakes and not knowing the potential source, and how to prevent it. I do not think it is possible to eliminate the possibility of such pain and still remain living beings. Nor do I think we ought to attempt to eliminate the possibility of such involuntary pain, as this possibility is what inclines us to think, and develop new epistemological strategies for certainty.

    What I think is a far more significant and important issue is the matter of voluntarily inflicting pain and suffering on others. If your goal is to manipulate the human being towards a more civilized existence, then the propensity for human beings to mistreat others is what you ought to focus on, rather than the capacity for pain. See, you appear to be focused on relieving the symptoms, rather than curing the illness itself.
  • David Pearce
    160
    I do not think it is possible to eliminate the possibility of such pain and still remain living beings.Metaphysician Undercover
    Does suffering define what it means to be human? (cf. "A World Without Pain
    Does hurting make us human?" https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/01/13/a-world-without-pain)
    If so, then very well: let us become transhuman. I think you'd be on much firmer ground if you focused on the potential pitfalls of life without psychological and physical pain. They are legion. Done ineptly, an architecture of mind based entirely on gradients of bliss isn't just potentially risky for an individual, but a leap into the unknown for civilisation as a whole. Hence the need for exhaustive research.
    If your goal is to manipulate the human being towards a more civilized existence, then the propensity for human beings to mistreat others is what you ought to focus on, rather than the capacity for pain. See, you appear to be focused on relieving the symptoms, rather than curing the illness itself.Metaphysician Undercover
    Genetically eradicating the predisposition to suffer is more than symptomatic relief; it's a cure. I'm as keen as anyone on improving human behaviour to humans and nonhuman animals alike. We are quasi-hardwired to cause suffering – and to suffer ourselves in turn. And it's not just enemies who cause grief to each other. See e.g. The Scientific Reason Why We Hurt The Ones We Love Mosthttps://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/aggression-research_n_5532142.
    In the long run, maybe universal saintliness can be engineered. But the goal of eradicating suffering is modest in comparison.
  • Outlander
    1.1k
    Wow, can you imagine the boredom of being in a spaceship flying to another galaxy? To see what?Metaphysician Undercover

    "When you observe nature you will learn it is the pleasure of the bee to gather the honey from the flower"

    What are we not doing here and now? Earth is a.. vessel of a sort. Perhaps we may be going somewhere, perhaps not. Is the Sun the greatest gravitational body in the Universe? Not by far.

    To see what? Is the reveal not the greatest part of the trick? As you said, ignorance is bliss, mystery is the spice of life, and knowledge is Hell. Perhaps?
  • Outlander
    1.1k


    You sound passionate, David. I've asked this before and perhaps you may feel annoyed even by responding again but let this if nothing else be a rhetorical question.

    What interests you? Why is that? Perhaps because there is a problem to be solved. Imagine sitting in a room full of "solved" or completed Rubix cubes. Would you not wish for someone if not even yourself to twist one toward unexpected parameters? I once again challenge you to try this setting for yourself. And perhaps you may see, there is fire and water for a reason.
  • David Pearce
    160
    You sound passionate, David. I've asked this before and perhaps you may feel annoyed even by responding again but let this if nothing else be a rhetorical question.

    What interests you? Why is that? Perhaps because there is a problem to be solved. Imagine sitting in a room full of "solved" or completed Rubix cubes. Would you not wish for someone if not even yourself to twist one toward unexpected parameters? I once again challenge you to try this setting for yourself. And perhaps you may see, there is fire and water for a reason.
    Outlander

    Alien state-spaces of consciousness interest me:
    https://www.hedweb.com/funpages/sasha-dave.html
    A drug-naïve conceptual scheme recognises only two state-spaces, dreaming and waking consciousness. There exist trillions of unexplored state-spaces of consciousness, mutually unintelligible and incommensurable, in part at least. Whereas lucid dreamers have at least glimmerings of an understanding of waking consciousness, the drug-naïve have no insight into what they lack, nor even the privative terms with which to name their ignorance. A post-Galilean science of mind is still a pipedream.

    So why stick to wordy scholasticism rather than become a full-time psychonaut? Essentially, dark Darwinian minds can't safely explore psychedelia, nor responsibly urge others to try. For now, most knowledge of reality must remain off-limits. Scientists play around with the mathematical formalism (all science formally reduces to the Standard Model and General Relativity), but science has no real understanding of most of the solutions to the equations. Abolishing the molecular signature of experience below hedonic zero can allow serious investigation of the properties of matter and energy rather than idle word-spinning. The idea that abolishing suffering will abolish intellectual challenge or the growth of knowledge is a myth. Billions of years of investigation lie ahead. But let's investigate the properties of Heaven rather than Hell. And let's first discharge our moral obligation to eradicate suffering:
    https://www.abolitionist.com
  • TheMadFool
    9.4k
    Sorry to interrupt your, what I feel is, deep meditation but I have a question to ask. It isn't something that I've given the attention it probably deserves but my hunch is it might, at the very least, amuse you.

    The question is: What, in your opinion, lies beyond happiness?

    Transhumanists are working under a hedonic assumption and the journey along those lines began since the dawn of human civilization and transhumanists, benefiting from roughly 7 to 8 thousand years of effort, haphazard though it was, have now provided the clearest picture of what, to use a religious term, heaven would look like. What lies beyond heaven?
  • David Pearce
    160
    What lies beyond heaven?TheMadFool
    Posthuman heaven is probably just a foretaste of the wonders in store for sentience. Humans don’t have the conceptual scheme to describe life in a low-grade heavenly civilization with a hedonic range of +10 to +20, let alone a mature heaven with hedonic architecture of mind that spans, say, +90 to +100. The puritanical NU in me sometimes feels it’s morally frivolous to speculate on Heaven+ or Paradise 2.0. Yet if theoretical physicists are allowed to speculate on exotic states of matter and energy, then bioethicists may do so too – and bioethicists may have a keener insight into the long-term future of matter and energy in the cosmos.

    But first the unknowns. Neuroscience hasn’t yet deciphered the molecular signature of pure bliss, merely narrowed its location to a single cubic millimetre in the posterior ventral pallidum in rats, scaled up to a cubic centimetre in humans. Next, neuroscience hasn’t cracked the binding problem: https://www.hedweb.com/hedethic/binding-interview.html
    Unless you’re a strict NU, there’s not much point in creating patterns of blissful mind-dust or mere microexperiential zombies of hedonistic neurons. Rather, we’re trying to create cognitively intact unified subjects of bliss endowed with physically bigger and qualitatively richer here-and-nows. And next, how will tomorrow’s bliss be encephalised? The Darwinian bric-a-brac that helped our genes leave more copies of themselves in the ancestral environment of adaptation has no long-term future. The egocentric virtual worlds run by Darwinian minds may disappear too. But the intentional objects and default state-spaces of consciousness of posthumans are inconceivable to Darwnian primitives. Next, how steep or shallow will be the hedonic gradients of minds in different ranks of posthuman heaven? I sometimes invoke a +70 to a +100 supercivilisation, but this example isn’t a prediction. Rather, a wide hedonic range scanario can be chosen to spike the guns of critics who claim that posthuman heaven would necessarily be less diverse than Darwinian life with our schematic hedonic -10 to 0 to +10. Lastly, will the superpleasure axis continue to preserve a signaling function? Or will mature post-posthumans opt to offload the infrastructure of superheaven to zombie AI, and occupy hedonically “perfect” +100 states of mind indefinitely?

    Talk of “perfection” is again likely to raise the hackles of critics worried about homogeneity. But a hedonically “perfect” +100 here-and-now can have humanly unimaginable richness. Monotony is a concept that belongs to the Darwinian era.

    The above discussion assumes that advanced posthumans won’t be strict classical utilitarians who opt to engineer a hedonium/utilitronium shockwave. One political compromise is to preserve a bubble of complex civilization underpinned by information-signaling gradients of well-being that is surrounded by an expanding shockwave of pure bliss – not an ideal world by the lights of pure CU, but something close enough.
  • csalisbury
    2.8k
    @David Pearce

    (apologies if I'm treading already trodden-ground, I'm coming to the thread late)

    There's a story by Henry James I've always liked called The Beast In the Jungle. That story is about a man who, for as long as he can remember, was always convinced that somewhere in his future lay a terrible event. He didn't know what it was, only that it would be horrible. He has trouble expressing it to anyone, but eventually meets a woman who is very sympathetic to him. The story chronicles their meetings over the years, with her attentively, consolingly listening to his fears of the beast. Eventually she dies, and while standing at her grave he's struck with an intense flashing memory of their whole friendship - he realizes that the whole time she was trying to express her love for him through sympathizing with him, and that he never actually saw it, focused as he was on the beast. And, of course, that's when 'the beast' hits him - that is the beast.

    That's a story about focus on a bad/sad thing. He lives his life in preparation/constant thinking about the bad thing, and in doing so misses everything else. But I often worry that a version of it might hold for transhumanist visions of the future.

    Might it be the case that in focusing attention on an 'outside' ( a future, elsewhere, later) where the anti-beast (the very good) will happen -where it will be given to us wrapped and perpetually +100 - we're drawing attention away from learning how to see the modest +n's in life, and learning how to cultivate them into n+1s? Maybe experiencing +100s is inseparable from learning to recognize and cultivate +1s, here and now, struggling with them?

    I have trouble not thinking in narrative terms, and when I go into periods where I think a lot about future happiness, these periods usually terminate with me daydreamily 'seeing' the story of my life as someone focusing on a distant happiness while all the possibilities of that happiness passed me by. In the daydream story, I realize that the +100 has to begin with a +1 here I never began to cultivate, because I was focused on the +100 there.

    When I'm in those phases I'm always haunted by this Rilke line

    "A wave swelled toward you
    out of the past, or as you walked by the open window
    a violin inside surrendered itself
    to pure passion. All that was your charge.
    But were you strong enough? Weren’t you always distracted
    by expectation"

    Isn't there a danger that in entertaining transhumanism, we're always 'distracted by expectation' in just this way? (though you can also imagine in act II of such a story, there's always someone would come in and moralize in just this way)
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