• darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    So, is the transhumanist dream just that - a pipe dream - or is it a rational, ethical, and viable solution to humanity's problems?

    The most notable of which would be the problem of suffering, as all the other problems are contingent on whether or not they cause us to suffer.

    First off I would like to define what suffering is. Suffering is not necessarily getting pricked by a needle. Suffering is any kind of negative feeling that a person cannot derive any meaning from or is quite difficult to cope with.

    We can identify what counts as suffering if we ask ourselves "would it be worth experiencing this".

    Getting pricked by a needle does not count as suffering, because we would be able to deal with this pain and most of us would realize that it is quite insignificant in the bigger picture of things. If getting pricked by a needle led to us experiencing great pleasure and meaning, most (if not all) of us would accept this. Therefore, something can be felt as discomfort, but is not suffering because we are able to cope with it.

    Now, "cope" is something that tends to make people (or maybe it's just me) imagine someone barely getting by. But "cope" does not reference one single feeling. It refers to any kind of enduring, big or small. It is perfectly acceptable to say I coped with being pricked by a needle and also say that I coped with breaking five ribs, but at the same time understand that just because I coped with both of them doesn't mean I'm okay with experiencing both. I would rather not cope with breaking five ribs. But nevertheless I can.

    If we could manufacture technology that would replace the crude nociceptors in our bodies with something like an alarm, a gentle reminder that something is harmful, but not make us feel discomfort, this would be the most important technological and ethical achievement in the history of mankind.

    And if replacing nociceptors is impossible or impractical, then we can surely make adjustments to our current lives using technology to help minimize suffering. We can develop flame-retardant paint, for example, to combat house fires. We can develop AIs to drive our cars for us so we don't crash and die. We can already monitor our lifestyles to help decrease the chances of later-in-life suffering, and the future for that seems fairly bright. New medicines conquer diseases. New technology heals wounds in months rather than years.

    Would it be wrong to think that technology, given time and effort, would be able to eliminate most, if not all, physical suffering?

    But suffering can manifest in other ways; psychologically. Psychological pain is usually quite less sharp as physical pain that is caused by nociceptors. But nonetheless, it hurts.

    Embarrassment after being rejected is psychological pain, but not necessarily suffering. Everyone goes through rejections and breakups, and it would be a bit decadent and absurd that life would not be worth living simply because of a few breakups.

    However, psychological pain can manifest as suffering. A person who is suicidal over their breakup is not experiencing the same thing as a person who broke up and is merely sad. The former is suicidal! They don't see any way of getting out of it. That is psychological suffering.

    So, how can psychological suffering be solved?

    Interestingly enough, much of our psychological pain can be solved today, and has been for millennium. Plenty of philosophies, from the Stoics to the Buddhist to the Taoists to the Cynics, Epicureans, and modern day Existentialists, preach different ways of overcoming these problems. It seems as if it is up to the person themselves to decide which path suits them best, or forge their own.

    Psychological problems, such as dementia, schizophrenia, anxiety, etc can be helped by the use of drugs and therapy. That is not to say they are solved, but they can be helped. And sometimes helping is enough to make something not suffering.

    If these two solutions do not work (philosophy and modern medicine), then what can be solve it? An experience machine? Ascetic contemplation? Suicide?

    Or is this entire approach wrong-headed? Like I said above, suffering is any type of negative experience that cannot be dealt with easily or is impossible to derive meaning from.

    However, when one achieves eudaimonia, suffering tends to cease. Eudaimonia makes the "itch of life" nonexistent for as long as the experience lasts. Everything becomes worth it, the subject feels energized and motivated, embracing life. Should technology be focused on getting everyone to achieve eudaimonia? We need to understand how eudaimonia is achieved, and I believe one step is to somehow cease suffering. So it is not that eudaimonia causes suffering to cease, it is that suffering ceases, which can lead to eudaimonia.
  • Marchesk
    2.4k
    Well, do you think that an alien civilization 1 million years older than our own would still have suffering members? Will we, if human civilization lasts that long in some form?

    What if machines are our progeny? Will they suffer? If the future of advanced life is machine based, maybe not? Then again, maybe machines need to be able to suffer to be fully alive? But then, why suppose that machines need to be anything like us? Some will be. Others will be very different.

    What if we could bioengineer new kinds of bodies? One's that don't have mental illnesses, don't get sick, aren't shortsighted and foolish, etc?

    Or perhaps an advanced civilization can upload their minds into virtual worlds to fulfil their deepest desires?

    There's a lot of possibilities if we're talking the truly long term, and not ruling out anything which can be physically arranged (at least in principle). Our current civilization could be infantile compared to one that's been around a very long time. Even a million years is a drop in the bucket of deep time.
  • Marchesk
    2.4k
    Focusing on what's doable in the shorter term, I'm guessing that over the next century, things like mental illness will be much more treatable as drugs become tailored for the individual, and you have increasingly better simulated brain models. Those are still a work in progress, but we can expect results of human brain simulation at some point. The primary purpose of simulating the brain, or different regions of it, would be to further neuroscience and to create more effective treatments.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    This is a problem that, ideally, needs to be solved within this generation. I find it unethical to continue to breed if there is the potential to suffer greatly, and the world we live in is filled to the brim with potentials to suffer. If we can make life safe and worthwhile, then progeny will be acceptable.
  • Marchesk
    2.4k
    I don't think you can end suffering in a generation. I don't know that it can be ended. Maybe the posthuman stuff is pie in the sky. Maybe not. I'm sort of on the fence. It's a mix of fanciful and feasible. Hard to disentangle what's realistic. Hard to ignore technological progress also. There's some technologies that are still immature, such as nanotech and 3D printing. It's hard to imagine what the world be like when the following is achieved:

    • Mature molecular nanotech (this implies self-replication and nano-machines)
    • Mature DNA engineering (CRISPR is a start in that direction)
    • Deep understanding of the brain (full brain simulation perhaps)
    • Very advanced computing (let's say we're half-way there, so maybe another 70 years of advances)
    • Strong AI

    If the above is realized (and there are other important technologies of course), then it's easy to imagine that the world could become a very different place. But who knows to what extent that ends suffering. There are dystopian scenarios. One can only imagine what a 22nd century warfare would look like.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    If the above is realized (and there are other important technologies of course), then it's easy to imagine that the world could become a very different place. But who knows to what extent that ends suffering. There are dystopian scenarios. One can only imagine what a 22nd century warfare would look like.Marchesk

    That's very true, technology could be used in a poor way. In fact, given our history, it seems like nothing will change. All the philosophy in the world is not going to stop an idiot from launching a nuke.
  • Marchesk
    2.4k
    The good thing about nukes is that they're hard to come by. A nasty designer virus might have a downloadable genome that you can 3D print in the future.
  • Marchesk
    2.4k
    As for antinatalism, the reality is that people are going to keep having kids, despite any philosophical arguments to the contrary. Some people here or there might be convinced to not bring new people into the world, but it won't make a big dent. So the alternative is to make a better world, if possible. Unless the antinatalist is thinking truly long term, and believes their arguments can win out over generations. I kind of doubt it, but who knows. Maybe future people will become bored with everything.
  • Soylent
    188
    If technology is the discovery of a method or apparatus to perform a function in a new or more efficient way (i.e., solve a problem), then you're asking if solving problems can solve all our problems. The answer is only the problems with solutions. The hard part is knowing which problems have solutions and which do not.
  • Bitter Crank
    6.8k
    "Does Technology have the Capability of Solving All of our Problems?"

    I understand the attraction of finding a solution to all our problems. Gee, wouldn't that be nice? But there is an infantile desire lurking there:

      "If only I could get back to the womb (or at least be 3 months old and breast feeding)! Everything was just great back then. No problems, my few needs promptly disposed of. The womb was warm, wet, dark, and comfy. Then reality came along! Birth into this wretched cold, dry, bright, and uncomfortable world. Solid food. Toilet training. Having to sit in school all day. Getting an advanced degree. Working under this fucking dictator at work! Life is terrible!!! Wahhhhhhh."

    No, technology is not going to solve all our problems. First, We have to invent technologies that can solve all our specific problems without causing more problems along the way (not so easy). Second, we have to learn how to be less of a problem to our selves (very hard). Third, if we did solve all our problems, what would we do with our time? We'd start creating new problems to solve!
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