• Pfhorrest
    Thank you for your response! If you don't mind, I have a few followup questions for clarification:

    An architecture of mind based entirely on information-sensitive gradients of well-being simply isn’t genetically credibleDavid Pearce

    I'm unclear what you mean here by "genetically credible", but my guess would be that you mean we are genetically predisposed to disbelieve in a wholly hedonistic morality (thus explaining why acceptance of it is so atypical, as you say). Is that an accurate guess as to your meaning? If not, can you elaborate what you mean?

    And on a related note, I'm wondering if your suggestions to self-label with things like "secular Buddhism” or “suffering-focused ethics” is intended to be a response to this bit of my initial question:

    Oh and also: does he know a good term for anti-hedonist views in general? Because I feel like I’m sorely lacking any catch-all term that doesn’t name something more specific than just that.Pfhorrest

    If so, then I think I was unclear. I was wondering if you know a good blanket term for the kind of position that's opposed to views like yours and mine, the kind of position that holds that reducing suffering is either unnecessary or insufficient for morality.

    Thanks again!
  • Olivier5
    Global warming? There are geoengineering fixes.David Pearce

    That strikes me as the kind of wishful thinking typical of people idolizing and idealizing science and technology. There are at present no such thing as a geoengineering fix for climate change. Technology and science are some of the root cause of global warming: they gave us the means to screw up the climate. Now of course, they might also give us the means to survive in spite of climate change, but they can't fix it. It's just too big.

    The future is not just some continuous, indefinite technological "progress". That's a sci-fi myth.
  • David Pearce
    god must be atheist
    Yes, humans are diverse – by some criteria. On the other hand, we tend to share the same core emotions, same pleasure-pain axis, same sleep-wake cycles, same progression of youth and aging, same kind of egocentric world-simulation (etc) as our primate ancestors. Above all, sentient beings are prone to suffer. Perhaps posthumans will find humans as diverse as we find members of an ant colony. Either way – and most relevant to your question – no one values the experience of unbearable agony or suicidal despair – or even plain boredom. Even ostensible counter-examples to the primacy of pleasure over pain, such as masochism, simply reinforce the sovereignty of the pleasure-pain axis. Masochists love the release of endogenous opioids as much as the rest of us. We’d all be better off if experience below hedonic zero is replaced by a civilised signalling system. We’d all be better off with a motivational architecture based entirely on information-sensitive gradients of well-being. Hedonic recalibration and uplift can radically enhance everyone’s quality of life.

    Naively, Heaven might sound monotonous compared to the torments of Hell, or even compared to everyday Darwinian purgatory. In practice, genome editing promises a richer diversity of genes and allelic combinations than is possible under a regime of natural selection. The diversification of sentience has scarcely begun. For example, transhumans will be able to access billions of exotic state-spaces of consciousness as different as is dreaming from waking consciousness. What they’ll have in common is they’ll all be generically wonderful.
  • Michael
    Hi David,

    Are there any practical examples of the types of changes you're suggesting in effect or is it all just theoretical? On the home page of your website you mention that many modern medical technologies would have been inconceivable or thought of as impossible in the past, but it would be a fallacy to then infer that our current ideas on what is possible are therefore false and so that the abolitionist project is therefore possible.
  • David Pearce
    Down The Rabbit Hole
    Thank you. Yes, I accept a version of the asymmetry theory. The badness of suffering is self-intimating, whereas there is nothing inherently wrong with inexistence. And yes, I’m a “soft” antinatalist. Bringing pain-ridden life into the world without prior consent is morally indefensible. Nor would I choose to have children on the theory that the good things in life typically outweigh the bad. Enduring metaphysical egos are fiction. That said, I don’t campaign for antinatalism. “Hard” antinatalism is not a viable solution to the problem of suffering. Staying childfree just imposes selection pressure against any predisposition be an antinatalist. As far as I can tell, the selection pressure argument against “hard” antinatalism is fatal (cf. https://www.hedweb.com/quora/2015.html#agreeantinatal).

    Contrast the impending reproductive revolution of designer babies. As prospective parents choose the genetic makeup of their offspring in anticipation of the behavioural and psychological effects of their choices, the nature of selection pressure will change. Post-CRISPR and its successors, there will be intensifying selection pressure against our nastier alleles and allelic combinations at least as severe as selection pressure against alleles for, say, cystic fibrosis. Imagine you could choose the approximate hedonic set-point and hedonic range of your future children. What genetic dial-settings would you choose?

    The Pinprick Argument? Recall that negative utilitarians want to abolish all experience below hedonic zero. So if any apparently NU policy-proposal causes you even the slightest hint of disappointment – for example sadness that we won’t get to enjoy a glorious future of superhuman bliss – then other things being equal, that policy-proposal is not NU. So NUs can and should support upholding the sanctity of life in law, forbidding chronic pain-specialists from euthanizing patients without prior consent, and many other political policy-prescriptions that are naively un-utilitarian. Not least, NUs are not plotting Armageddon (well, most of us anyway: https://theconversation.com/solve-suffering-by-blowing-up-the-universe-the-dubious-philosophy-of-human-extinction-149331).
  • TaySan
    Thank you for your time and expertise. Yes, technology should relieve human suffering. Of any kind.

    Evolutionary speaking we apparently needed all emotions to survive. So in case of a future survival event you'd still want to have the reptilian brain response. Increasing overall blissfulness seems like a good idea nevertheless. I just don't want to be the guinea pig (sorry for the term).

    Perhaps when psychology is treated as a philosophy, and neurology as the defining science I'll have more faith in the practical applications of transhumanism. As a philosophy it's really fascinating.
  • David Pearce
    Thank you.
    What is the relationship between superintelligence and super-wellbeing?
    It’s tricky. The best I can manage is an analogy. Consider AlphaGo. Compared to humble grandmasters, AlphaGo is a superintelligence. Nonetheless, even club players grasp something about the game of chess that AlphaGo doesn’t comprehend. The “chess superintelligence” is an ignorant zombie. I don’t know how posthuman superintelligences will view the Darwinian era that spawned them. Maybe posthumans will allude, rarely, to Darwinian life in the way that contemporary humans allude, rarely, to the Dark Ages. Most humans know virtually nothing about the Dark Ages beyond the name – and have no desire to investigate further. What's the point? Maybe superintelligences occupying a hedonic range of, say, +80 to +100 will conceive hedonically sub-zero Darwinian states of consciousness by analogy with notional states below hedonic +80 – their functional equivalent of the dark night of the soul, albeit unimaginably richer than human “peak experiences”. The nature of Sidgwick's "natural watershed" itself, i.e. hedonic zero, may be impenetrable to them, let alone the nature of suffering. Or maybe posthuman superintelligences will never contemplate the Darwinian era at all. Maybe they’ll offload stewardship of the accessible cosmos to zombie AIs. On this scenario, programmable zombie AIs will ensure that sub-zero experience can never re-occur within our cosmological horizon without any deep understanding of what they’re doing (cf. AlphaGo). In any event, I don’t think posthuman superintelligences will seek to understand suffering in any full-blooded empathetic sense. If any mind were to glimpse even a fraction of the suffering in the world, it would become psychotic.

    Whatever the nature of mature superintelligence, I think it’s vital that humans and transhumans investigate the theoretical upper bounds to intelligent agency so we can learn our ultimate cosmological responsibilities. Premature defeatism might be ethically catastrophic.

    Suffering and desire?
    Buddhists equate the two. But the happiest people tend to have the most desires, whereas depressives are often unmotivated. Victims of chronic depression suffer from “learned helplessness” and behavioural despair. So the extinction of desire per se is not nirvana. Quite possibly transhumans and posthumans will be superhappy and hypermotivated. Intuitively, for sure, extreme motivation is the recipe for frustrated desire and hence suffering. Yet this needn’t be so if we phase out the biology of experience below hedonic zero. Dopaminergic “wanting” is doubly dissociable from mu-opioidergic “liking”; but motivated bliss is feasible too. If you’ll permit another chess analogy, I always desire to win against my computer chess program. I’m highly motivated. But I always lose. Such frustrated desire never causes me suffering unless my mood is dark already. The same is feasible on the wider canvas of Darwinian life as a whole if we reprogram the biosphere to eradicate suffering. Conserving information-sensitivity is the key, not absolute position on the pleasure-pain axis:
  • Marchesk
    David, do you view transhumanism as a more likely outcome than the dystopian possibilities given the kinds of technologies involved? Potential dangers would include a nascent superintelligence not aligned with human values, CRISPR being used to make bioweapons, gray goo nanotech scenarios, and of course, the super rich receiving the lion share of the benefits, since they'll be to afford riding the early wave of accelerating improvements.

    In today's world, although we've reaped a great deal of benefit from the ongoing computing revolution, it seems the general public has become more cynical recently of how technology is being used to push ads, surveil citizens, radicalize people on social media and increase the wealth gap. I'm using that as an example of a technology that has transformed society with a lot of early utopian ideals.
  • David Pearce
    Thank you.
    Yes, transhumanists aspire to end involuntary suffering. It’s tempting to be lazy and normally say just “end suffering” but the “involuntary” is worth stressing. No one is credibly going to force you to be happy. Many of the objections one hears to the abolitionist project focus on the strange suspicion that someone, somewhere, intends to engineer coercive bliss and force the critic to be cheerful. As it happens, I cautiously predict that eventually all experience below hedonic zero will disappear in to evolutionary history (cf.
    https://www.express.co.uk/news/science/1239855/Transhumanist-writer-David-Pearce-technology-transhumanism-humanity-plus). But prediction is different from proscription. Perhaps the thorniest consent issue will be hedonic default settings. When the biology of suffering becomes technically entirely optional – and it will – should tradition-minded parents be legally allowed to have pain-ridden children “naturally” via the cruel genetic crapshoot of sexual reproduction? And must their children wait until they are eighteen (or whatever the legal age of majority) to be cured? Eventually, creating malaise-ridden babies like today’s Darwinian malware may seem to be outright child abuse. This prediction needs to be expressed with delicacy lest it’s misunderstood.

    Some conceptions of a superintelligence resemble a SuperAsperger. Ill-named “IQ” tests measure only the “autistic” component of general intelligence. “Superintelligence” shouldn’t be conceived as some kind of asocial singleton. Recall how human evolution was driven in part by our prowess at mind-reading, cooperative-problem solving and social cognition. True, contemporary accounts of posthuman superintelligence always reveal more about the cognitive limitations and preoccupations of the authors than they do about posthuman superintelligence. But full-spectrum superintelligences won’t resemble autistic savants – or “paperclippers”:
  • David Pearce
    I share your bleak diagnosis of Darwinian life:
    But David Benatar and other “hard” antinatalists simply don’t get to grips with the argument from selection pressure. Antinatalists can’t hope to win:
    See too my response to Down The Rabbit Hole above.

    By contrast, for first time a few mainstream publications are starting to realise that genome editing makes a world without suffering possible:
    Like you, I find knowing that billions of sentient beings will suffer and die before the transhumanist vision can come to pass is dispiriting. I just can’t think of any sociologically credible alternative.
  • Benkei
    I share your bleak diagnosis of Darwinian life:
    But David Benatar and other “hard” antinatalists simply don’t get to grips with the argument from selection pressure. Antinatalists can’t hope to win:
    See too my response to Down The Rabbit Hole above.
    David Pearce

    Not to derail the thread into an anti-natalist debate but I find that Benatar is just plain wrong because if suffering is intrinsic to life then life doesn't cause suffering, just like water doesn't cause itself to be wet. If suffering isn't intrinsic to life, then for ending all life to be the proper solution, life would have to be a sufficient cause for suffering. Yet I currently don't suffer, so life is merely a necessary cause for suffering and not sufficient. Since it's never a proximate cause, the statement "life causes suffering" means as little as "the big bang did it". Antinatalists are simply wrong because they don't understand causality and use words like "suffering" and "cause" in a way that's not commensurate with how they are understood in law, philosophy or ethics.

    Also plugging my previous question about superintelligence: https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/519298
  • Olivier5

    You might wish to take some of the questions related to the possibility that the future may not be better but worse than the past. There is this sense that transhumanism is just too starry-eye optimistic, that it is not just sci-fi but in many ways it is yesterday's sci-fi, a line of thought typical of the 90's (e.g. The Elementary Particles by Houellebecq) but obsolete today.

    The 90's were when the democratisation of IT was supposed to make us all friends, but we now can see that it has led instead to much irrationality, hatred and lies being spread in the culture. Inequalities are growing, the filthy rich are sucking up the incomes of the middle class. Climate change is not going away any time soon, meaning it will be a disruptive factor for several thousand years and most probably will result is a massive reduction of world population.

    It seems to me that transhumanism is an outdated form or style of imagining the future, when people thought that technology was inherently good. We know better now.
  • David Pearce
    Each of your points deserves a treatise. Forgive me for hotlinking.
    Two classes of humans, enhanced and unenhanced?
    Yes, it’s a possible risk. But the cost of genome sequencing and editing is collapsing. Likewise computer processing power. The biggest challenge won’t be cost, but ethics and ideology. Intelligence-amplification involves enriching our capacity for perspective-taking and empathy – and extending our circle of compassion to even the humblest minds. Transhumanists (cf. https://www.transhumanist.com) advocate full-spectrum (super)intelligence: https://www.biointelligence-explosion.com . The Transhumanist Declaration (1998, 2009) expresses our commitment to the well-being of all sentience – not a world of Nietzschean Übermenschen.

    One human invention worth preserving is liberal democracy.

    An end to evolution?
    On the contrary, the entire biosphere is now programmable:

    The beauties of Nature?
    Nature will be more beautiful when sentient beings aren’t disembowelled, asphyxiated and eaten alive:

    Persuading religious traditionalists?
    Well, a world where all sentient beings can flourish isn’t the brainchild of starry-eyed transhumanists. It’s the “peaceable kingdom” of Isaiah. Transhumanists fill in some of the implementation details missing from the prophetic Biblical texts. For instance, the talk below was delivered to the Mormon Transhumanist Association:

    Yes, it’s a potential threat. But Darwinian life is a monstrous engine for the creation of suffering. Animal life on Earth has been “programmed” to suffer. It’s a design feature, not a bug or a hack. Darwinian malware should be patched or retired.

    A “mere robot/non-human abomination?”
    I’d need to know what you have in mind. But if we phase out the molecular signature of experience below hedonic zero, then the meaning of “things going wrong” will be revolutionised too.
  • David Pearce
    The prospect of a “triple S” civilisation of superintelligence, superlongevity and superhappiness still strikes most people as science fiction. By way of a reply, I’m going to focus just on the strand of the transhumanist project that strikes me as most morally urgent, namely overcoming the biology of involuntary suffering. Technically but not sociologically, everything I discuss could be achieved this century with recognisable extensions of existing technologies. Nothing I explore involves invoking e.g. a Kurzweilian Technological Singularity or machine superintelligence as a deux ex machina to solve all our problems. Even helping obscure marine invertebrates and fast-breeding rodents is technically feasible now – although pilot studies in self-contained artificial biospheres would be wise. Technically (but not sociologically), a “low pain” (as distinct from a “no pain”) biosphere could be created within decades. And imagine if all prospective parents were offered preimplantation genetic screening and counselling / gene-editing services so their future children could enjoy benign versions of the SCN9A (cf. https://www.wired.com/2017/04/the-cure-for-pain/), FAAH and FAAH-OUT genes. Imagine if cultured meat and animal products lead to the closure of factory-farms and slaughterhouses worldwide. Imagine if we spread benign versions of pain- and hedonic-tone-modulating genes across the biosphere with synthetic gene drives: https://www.gene-drives.com . Imagine if all humans and nonhuman animals were offered pharmacotherapy (cf. https://today.rtl.lu/news/science-in-luxembourg/a/1542875.html) to boost their endogenous opioid function. Imagine if we took the World Health Organization definition of good health seriously and literally: “complete physical, mental and social well-being”. Biological-genetic inteventions would be indispensable. The WHO commitment to health is impossible to fulfil with our legacy genome. To stress, I’m not urging a Five Year Plan (as distinct from a Hundred-Year Plan) and certainly not delegating stewardship of the global ecosystem to philosophers! Rather, we need exhaustive research into risk-reward ratios and bioethical debate. How much pain and suffering in the living world is ethically optimal? Intelligent moral agents will shortly be able to choose:
  • David Pearce
    Utopia, dystopia or muddling through?
    It’s a question of timescales. I’m sceptical experience below hedonic zero will exist a thousand years from now – and maybe much sooner. I suspect quasi-immortal intelligent life will be animated by gradients of superhuman bliss. So I could be mistaken for an optimist. I don’t believe nascent machine superintelligence will turn us into the equivalent of paperclips (cf. https://www.hedweb.com/quora/2015.html#dpautistic); I discount grey goo scenarios; I reckon e.g. https://www.hedweb.com/quora/2015.html#engineering is more challenging than it sounds; and I think the poor will have access to biological-genetic reward pathway enhancements no less than the rich. Not least, I think we are living in the final century of animal agriculture, a monstrous crime against sentience on a par with the Holocaust.

    However, I’m not at all optimistic that humanity will avoid nuclear war this century. “Local”, theatre or strategic nuclear war? I don’t know.
    How can nuclear catastrophe be avoided?
    I could offer some thoughts. But alas "Dave’s Plan For World Peace" will make limited impact.
    So I fear unimaginable suffering still lies ahead.
  • David Pearce
    Could the future be worse than the past?
    It’s a horrific thought. I promise I take s-risks seriously – although not all s-risks:

    However, it’s worth drawing a distinction between two kinds of technology. Traditional technological advances do not target the negative-feedback mechanisms of hedonic treadmill. In consequence, there is little evidence that the subjective well-being – or ill-being – of the average twenty-first century human differs significantly from the average subjective well-being / ill-being of the average stone-age hunter-gatherer on the African savannah. Indeed, some objective measures of well-being / ill-being such as suicide rates and the incidence of serious self-harm suggest modern humans are worse off. By contrast, biological-genetic interventions to elevate hedonic range and hedonic set-points promise to revolutionise mental health. I’m as hooked on iPhones, air travel, social media and all the trappings of technological civilisation as anyone. I’m also passionate about social justice and political reform. But if we are morally serious about the problem of suffering, then we’ll have to tackle the root of the problem, namely our sinister genetic source code. Only transhumanism can civilise the world.
  • Olivier5
    Thanks for the response. I don't share your condemnation of "Darwinian life". I tend to like life as it is, suffering included. And then, we have made great progress in medicine, painkillers are affordable. Dentists do wonders, at least where there are some.

    Pain has also its rewards. Ever tried Thai massage? It's very painful but very good. It straightens you up.

    Only transhumanism can civilise the world.David Pearce

    Ironically, this vision of yours scares me far more than the possible collapse of our civilization. Because it wouldn't be the first civilization to collapse; these things have happened before. But a life without downsides or limits, that has never happened before.
  • David Pearce
    If I might quote Robert Lynd, “It is a glorious thing to be indifferent to suffering, but only to one's own suffering.” You say, “I tend to like life as it is, suffering included.” If you are alluding just to your own life here, cool! But please do bear in mind the obscene suffering that millions of human and nonhuman animals are undergoing right now. Recall that over 850,000 people take their own lives each year. Hundreds of millions of people suffer from depression and chronic pain. Billions of nonhuman animals suffer and die in factory-farms and slaughterhouses. I could go on, but I’m sure you get my point. Life doesn't have to be this way.

    You say the transhumanist vision “scares” you? Why exactly? Quasi-immortal life based on gradients of intelligent bliss needn't be as scary as it sounds.
  • Outlander
    You say the transhumanist vision “scares” you? Why exactly?David Pearce

    While I can't speak for Olivier, I can offer a plausible reason. Unlimited (or perhaps enhanced) pleasure could lead to unlimited (or enhanced) suffering, something that cannot be experienced as of yet. A person or animal can be tortured yes, horrendously even. I recall an old "king" used a method of coating his enemies in sugary substances, tying them to a boat, and sending them adrift in the ocean to be devoured, slowly, by insect larvae and vermin. Quite horrible, as were other forms of torture but nevertheless the human body has a limit to what it can take and will either shut down or succumb to traumatic insanity, thus alleviating the suffering. What Olivier's concern may be is that while you, as a decent person trying to help humanity by creating unlimited or constant pleasure without end, may be abused by those who wish to do the opposite and instead create unlimited and never-ending torment. As you say, the Darwinian life is a nightmare, and so, those who succumbed to it are probably more or less in charge. You wish to give them an indestructible sword, forged out of good belief and benevolence as well as the idea it will always be used for such, but he and others would protest that this is foolish.

    Also, there are humane ways of harvesting animals for meat (instant kill). Outlawing of meat is unlikely to be agreed upon by any majority anytime soon.
  • Olivier5
    Recall that over 850,000 people take their own lives each year. Hundreds of millions of people suffer from depression and chronic pain. Billions of nonhuman animals suffer and die in factory-farms and slaughterhouses. I could go on, but I’m sure you get my point. Life doesn't have to be this way.David Pearce

    People would take their lives in your ideal world too, if only because it'd be boring.

    Industrial farming we must abolish, I agree, primarily for animal rights reasons. I'm not ready to be vegetarian quite yet but can feel the appeal.

    But I can see that pain serves a purpose, it keeps animals alive, teaches them what to avoid. I can also see that this world's ecology depends on predation. That when you kill all the predators of a species, you often condemn it to destruction too. The European squirrel population once crashed like that, because its main predator (martens) had been hunted down for their fur. A deadly disease whipped out the squirrels soon after as the diseased animals were no longer taken out by martens. I heard of a similar case in the US with deers and wolves.

    Nature involves predation and parasites and diseases and what not. The whole animal kingdom can only exist by eating plants and/or other animals. Only plants are autotrophic. And plants have feelings too.

    You can't stop Darwinian evolution, it's too late to put that Djin back in his bottle. If anything, new diseases will keep appearing forever; not only diseases for our species but for all species, they keep sprouting. Darwin always wins.

    Quasi-immortal life based on gradients of intelligent bliss needn't be as scary as it sounds.

    Because to me, pain is not the real problem but a symptom. Oppression is the real problem, and it is everywhere. My sense of good and evil is political and moral, not technological. Now you could argue of course that we could edit out oppression from the human genome, but it may be impossible to do so.
  • David Pearce
    I share your dark view of humanity.
    Yet should we discourage a scientific understanding of depression and its treatment for fear some people might use the knowledge to make their victims more depressed? Should we discourage a scientific understanding of pain, painkillers and pain-free surgery for fear some people might use the knowledge to inflict worse torments on their enemies? Most topically here, should we discourage research into the "volume knob for pain" for fear a few parents might choose malign rather than benign variants of SCN9A for their offspring? If taken to extremes, this worry would stymie all medical progress, not just transhumanism. Indeed, one reason for accelerating the major evolutionary transition in prospect is to put an end to demonic male "human nature".
  • David Pearce
    Boredom? Its elimination will be trivial compared to defeating the biology of aging:

    (I didn’t write the headline.) No sentient being need be harmed by some light genetic tweaking.

    Plant sentience?
    It’s a hoax:
  • Olivier5

    In this gem of a philosophical novel called The Dimension of Miracles, by Robert Sheckley, an average New Yorker, Tom Carmody, wins at the galactic lottery due to some galactic mistake, and travels to the galactic capital to receive his (less than galactic) prize. His return back to earth is much delayed because he doesn't know his way back.

    He meets with all sorts of folks, including a god who has decided to anihillate all his creation because they kept complaining about material life on this valley of tears he had made for them... Ingrates. When his creatures started to seek and pray for reunification with their deity, he granted their wish and killed them all.

    One problem for Carmody is that, since he is removed from his home environment, he is left without his usual predators (car traffic, diseases, etc.). This contradicts the 'universal law of predation' which states that all organisms must have predators. So the universe creates ex nihilo a predator specific to Carmody, that perpetually pursues and aims to eat our hero, from one chapter to the next... :-)
  • Down The Rabbit Hole

    Thank you very much for the response.

    I brought up the pinprick argument, as despite being a NU myself, I believe it defeats Benatar's asymmetry theory. In his book he bites the bullet, concluding that the pinprick would make it so a life otherwise full of pleasure would have been better off not being started. Surely you can't agree with this?

    I also take it from your posts that you believe there are principles one must follow (sanctity of life etc), even if the likely consequences are more suffering? What is your answer to Smart's benevolent world-explorer?
  • David Pearce
    The conjecture that predation among species is inevitable is no more tenable than the conjecture that predation among races is inevitable. This isn’t because selection pressure is going to slacken; on the contrary, selection pressure will intensify. But intelligent moral agents can decommission natural selection. A combination of genetic tweaking and cross-species fertility regulation (immunocontraception, remotely tunable synthetic gene drives, etc) together with ubiquitous AI surveillance is going to transform life on Earth.
  • David Pearce
    Down The Rabbit Hole
    Many thanks. Should human intuitions of absurdity weigh more in ethics than in, say, quantum physics? That said, I defend what might be called "indirect negative utilitarianism", but is really just strict negative utilitarianism. Thus enshrining the sanctity of human and nonhuman animal life in law doesn’t lead to more net suffering. Naively, yes, the implications of negative utilitarianism are apocalyptic (cf. https://www.utilitarianism.com/rnsmart-negutil.html). Indeed, classical utilitarian philosopher Toby Ord calls negative utilitarianism a “devastatingly callous” doctrine. But whereas negative utilitarians can ardently support an advanced transhumanist “triple S” civilisation, classical utilitarians are obliged to obliterate it with a utilitronium shockwave:
  • David Pearce
    Bitter Crank
    Many thanks. Could environmental degradation derail transhuman civilisation?
    I'm sceptical. But I suspect a climate catastrophe such as the inundation of a major Western metropolis will be needed to trigger serious action on mitigating global warming. One possible solution might be coordinated international legislation to enforce drastic reductions in CO that become effective only in, say, 10 years’ time.

    A runaway “intelligence explosion” of recursively self-improving software-based AI?
    Again, I’m sceptical:
    Classical Turing machines can’t solve the binding problem:
    Digital zombies have profound cognitive limitations that no increase in speed or complexity can overcome. In my view, zombie AI will augment sentience, not replace us.

    The molecular signature of pure bliss is unknown, although its location has been narrowed to our ultimate “hedonic hotspot” in a cubic centimetre in the posterior ventral pallidum. Its discovery will be momentous. But the creation of superhappiness, let alone information-sensitive gradients of superhappiness, will depend on the solution to the binding problem. And the theoretical upper bounds to phenomenally-bound consciousness – whether blissful or otherwise – are unknown.
  • David Pearce
    Thank you. Suffering and the extended mind thesis?
    (cf. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extended_mind_thesis)
    One of the authors of the extended mind thesis, Andy Clark, is explicitly a perceptual direct realist. Clark’s co-author, David Chalmers, sometimes writes in a similar vein. If some version of the extended mind thesis were true, then the abolitionist project would need to be re-evaluated, as you suggest.

    However, as far as I can tell, the external world is inferred, not perceived. Strictly, it’s a metaphysical hypothesis (cf. https://www.hedweb.com/quora/2015.html#distort). Thanks to evolution, biological minds each run skull-bound phenomenal world-simulations that take the guise of their external surroundings. Within your world-simulation, your virtual iPhone is an extension of your bodily self. Within your world-simulation, you may perceive the distress of the virtual bodily avatars of other organisms. If you’re not dreaming, then their virtual behaviour causally co-varies with the behaviour of genuine sentient beings in the wider world.
    But suffering is in the head.
  • jkg20
    However, as far as I can tell, the external world is inferred, not perceived.David Pearce

    Hello David. Do you have an argument for why, as far as you can tell, the external world is inferred and not perceived? Is it some version of the argument from illusion/hallucination? If so, how do you respond to the usual criticisms of these arguments by externalists, i.e. that these arguments tend to confuse metaphysical with epistemological issues.
  • counterpunch
    However, as far as I can tell, the external world is inferred, not perceived.David Pearce

    Incorrect. How could we have evolved, swinging through the trees - looking to catch the next branch, running from lions, not falling over cliff edges, and so on and on - if our sensory equipment were not accurate to reality as it really exists? How could there be art or traffic lights, or colour coded electrical insulation if reality is subjectively constructed?

    Subjectivism is wrong. An objective reality exists, independently of individuals, and we perceive it - as it really is, albeit with limited sensory apparatus.

    Why do you not look more systematically to the potential benefits of science?
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