Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Transhumanism and Antinatalism: Siblings Separated at Birth?

You know, antinatalism isn't the last hope for the world. I think I may have said this before, but if transhumanism DOES work out, then all of antinatalism's qualms are pretty much sated, at least by my understanding (about meaningful consent and such). Now while I understand while people may say that waiting for a transhumanist society to spring up from nothing but pure scientific effort is literally torture for some people, and suffering for EVERYONE, CONSTANTLY, DAY AFTER DAY AFTER DAY, you know the drill, the world antinatalism thing just might not happen. People do not like being told to stop making others suffer. None of us are saints, and we all jump at the prospect to manufacture another being to be a personal love-sponge for a decade or two. Selfishness overcomes empathy, and actually masquerades as empathy (for people not even born!) in this case. Unless the whole world is ruled by a series of antinatalist dictators, antinatalists will always be outbred. Any single surviving person who goes on to breed continues the agony and passes down memes to spawn more genes to spawn more memes and so on. Antinatalism is an unrealistic kind of philosophy in that respect, I think*. Transhumanism has the advantage, however, of being something easily intellectually parsed - do you want to suffer less? "Hell yes!". And that way a David Pearce utopia is created. Well, not quite that easily. Some people do feel that they should suffer as this makes them 'stronger'. However, as memes shift with the generations, I predict that it shall become more and more 'trendy' (this meme will become more frequent) to say that suffering should be abolished. I wager this because I think that already people would agree to have their boredom or their stressing or their unfulfilled desires removed, and these people are the ones that are in the majority. Eventually they SHOULD outbreed those with said minority opinion - and if they don't, maybe the transhumanity majority will actively force the 'real' human minority to stop breeding, if they're really concerned with eliminating suffering in the world (maybe their empathy drives have been increased to stop crime?).

Of course maybe this is too optimistic. Maybe religions will dominate in the future, and prevent science from marching on once and for all. I really can't tell. But I do know that while it's better to espouse antinatalism in this lifetime, supporting transhumanism is also a realistic alternative to ending suffering - sort of, maybe.


*THIS IS NOT AN "I AM LEAVING THE COMMUNITY" NOTE. I will always be an antinatalist, don't worry.

12 comments:

  1. The problem is that to reach the TH utopia a la David Pearce, humans have to already have the wisdom to use this powerful technology wisely. I think it far more likely that TH technologies will fall into the wrong hands, with some people using it for their own interests even at the expense of others well-being. This will likely start a TH Arms Race, which can well end up in a superhero/supervillian type battle (or something along those lines). Beyond this, we already know how readily elites abuse their power WITHOUT superhuman abilities. Imagine what they will try with such abilities.

    Their worse mistake is on a fundamental level - how to get rid of suffering itself. The only way to do it is to purge the "humanness" from their psyche (or more likely, their descendants).

    First, because the Universe's Entropy (aka "heat death"), death of anything is inevitable, albeit far off (theoretically, at least). That requires getting rid of our capacity to feel sadness at death. End Result: If I or other people are alive that's fine; if I or other people die, that's fine. Makes no real difference. With no motivation to avoid death, then there really is no reason to preserve one's self.

    Second, we have to get rid of the capacity to feel pain itself. That means no capacity to feel burned, frozen, stabbed, bludgeoned, etc. That means getting rid of the sensory nervous system (in these respects, at least). Because of the first point, there really is no point in having pain sensations at all.

    Result of all this: getting rid of all capacity to feel pain -physical or emotional (a prime way to up the odds of an organism's survival)- practically eliminates any concerns we have for survival, whether for self or for others. We'd also have no motivation to eat (no hunger pains). That includes eliminating any pain we get from not feeling pleasure (which pretty much kills Pearce's point). In the end, we'd be glorified robots in the classic connotation of the word. Somehow, I doubt most people will go for that one, but there's no other TRUE way around getting rid of pain.

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    1. I really doubt that many other people would have the same opinion as me, but I'd be pretty much fine with the scenarios you have outlined - arms race increases suffering initially, but will eventually result in either banning of modification (BAD, this is the one scenario I would not like) or the complete destruction of humanity via war (GOOD). That's fine by me. I don't particularly like the suffering needed to get to that point, but I don't like the suffering needed to reach a utopia either. If it's a realistic solution, it's a realistic solution.

      In the case of making robo-humans, I don't really mind that either. As long as they can't feel suffering, that's okay with me. They can have millions and millions of children, but if they don't come to suffer at all, then no harm done literally. But I understand what you mean about not exactly being so glamorous as a utopia to most people.

      Thanks for the well-thought out post, it made me think quite a bit. I'll think think a little harder of the possibilities that could potentially come about from transhumanism next time I post.

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    2. start: "arms race increases suffering initially, but will eventually result in either banning of modification", with end result being "robo-humans who have ABSOLUTELY ZERO capacity to have any desires at all". Why have that end at all? You might as well create a non-biological robot instead. Well, I suppose there are A VERY FEW people who would prefer their descendants be that robo-human rather than get snuffed out trillions of years too early.

      Even so, that still kills Pearce's point; which I presume is the point of most TH supporters - to have a painless, pleasurable life.

      Even if they do create a thing with all pleasure and no pain, so what? Entropy'll do them in anyway, and furthermore, because they cannot feel sadness at death by any means (even if only by Entropy), there will be no motivation to survive (assuming the TH disciples did their philosophical homework before designing such people - yeah, good luck!).

      You can't take happiness with you after you die. After death, you just...aren't. End of Story (barring supernatural views to the contrary, which one has to either take or leave).

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  2. Well you wouldn't necessarily have to get rid of all pain, just the worst extremes of it. I'd be down with a world with stubbed toes and mild annoyance but no major depressive disorder and Cluster Headaches.

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    1. From pure antinatalism's perspective, even a stubbed toe makes life a harm. Because of morality requiring us to not commit harm, you get into the situation where creating a life with a stubbed toe is a harm done to that person, while comparatively if you hadn't done that no life would have been born and no harm would have occurred. Remember too that we have no inherent moral feelings to induce pleasure, so no duty to produce pleasure, and hence cannot say that a life with one incident of a toe being stubbed is worth creating as pleasure cannot balance out suffering.

      BUT if antinatalism is not accepted, I do agree that it is less of a harm to create people without those diseases, but it is still a harm nonetheless.

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    2. Why not go ahead and eliminate all pain?...unless it is to preserve existing life somehow. But that implies an organism that is pre-programmed with a survival instinct, the likely core cause of all pain and suffering (physical or emotional). If it's preprogrammed with a survival instinct, then it involuntarily cares if it (and probably others) are living or deceased. That would inevitably cause sadness about dying (whether of themselves or others).

      No, the only brand of TH I can find even marginally feasable is one that completely eliminates BOTH our self-preservation instinct AND our ability to feel pain (both physical and emotional types). Which is fine if you don't mind being a DNA-based robot (which most people definitely would mind)!

      Because of the last sentence, it is highly unlikely that even if the wildest of TH fantasy technologies and techniques do come to pass, they WILL be misapplied, and grossly so at that. This doesn't begin to get into the selfish uses of TH-tech by power-hungry, selfish, or greedy individuals.

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  3. A brilliant summation of TH's flaws, Filrabat.

    I'm not too au fait with TH. Does it involve engineering biological immortality or is it merely a trip into the perpetual pleasure dome?

    It also strikes me that most people put a premium on what they consider to be 'real', genuine 'emotional' experiences. I don't think they'd be so quick to relinquish the normal human round, but who knows?

    I also wonder if TH did comeabout, would it mean a gradual end to breeding? If we can surmise that most reproduction occurs as a result of the inadeqacy of an individual existence as it exists at present, would a TH future of expanded horizons and physical pleasures disincentivise procreation? Or in other words would peoeple be enjoying themsleves to much to want to 'sacrifice' themselves for the sake of bringing another person into the game?

    I also wonder if an endless pleasure ride would in the end become wearisome and pointless and end up back in the original state of 'what the fuck is this life all about?' state.

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    1. A brilliant summation of TH's flaws, Filrabat.

      TY Karl

      I'm not too au fait with TH. Does it involve engineering biological immortality or is it merely a trip into the perpetual pleasure dome?

      Both scenarios are conceived. But TH, no matter how advanced, still must obey the laws of physics and chemistry - including the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (our death sentence!)

      It also strikes me that most people put a premium on what they consider to be 'real', genuine 'emotional' experiences. I don't think they'd be so quick to relinquish the normal human round, but who knows?

      I agree, for reasons given in my other posts, so I won't repeat.

      I also wonder if TH did comeabout, would it mean a gradual end to breeding?

      Yes, due to the 1st Law of Thermodynamics, if nothing else.

      If we can surmise that most reproduction occurs as a result of the inadeqacy of an individual existence as it exists at present, would a TH future of expanded horizons and physical pleasures disincentivise procreation? Or in other words would peoeple be enjoying themsleves to much to want to 'sacrifice' themselves for the sake of bringing another person into the game?

      My guess? some will, others won't. Depends on how much fun they find in reproduction and creating new descendants (I assume the vast majority of TH-enginners won't follow my philosophical paradigm)

      I also wonder if an endless pleasure ride would in the end become wearisome and pointless and end up back in the original state of 'what the fuck is this life all about?' state.

      The only way to avoid wearisome-ness is to program humans to have no concept of excitement and (most importantly) no need or capacity for it. "If I 'sit around' like a toadstool that's fine, if I don't 'sit around' like a toadstool, that's fine. Or, looking far-futureward, "If I float in space like a 20th century space probe, that's fine; if I don't float in space in the said manner, that's fine".

      If I'm an active agent that's fine; if I'm just a pinball bounced around by nature's flippers, that's fine.

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    2. I think the biggest problem of TH is that its inherently pointless to do anything in an inherently futile universe. Yes, we can eliminate suffering (and that's a big "if" and only if all TH fantasies are realized and that's a wet dream right now). Great. Now what? We are still not doing anything here as a species or as a universe apart form being dumb DNA robots.

      It's still participating in this stupid, retarded game which has no meaning or purpose beyond the needs/desires that need not exist.

      However you cut it, non-existence is better than existence TH or not.

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    3. "Great. Now what? We are still not doing anything here as a species or as a universe apart form being dumb DNA robots."

      So?

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    4. Disagree with non-existence always being better than existence. Yes non-existence is probably better AT THE MOMENT, but with no suffering in either (as Transhumanism may produce) makes non-existence and existence NEUTRAL at least - as in, it does not matter whether one lives or dies. But since humanity as a whole values pleasure, then the endless pleasure and fulfillment promised by transhumanism would make existence something most people would value. If you don't value it even with the pleasure, then you can always exit (as hopefully this will be allowed in the future) - and since no suffering would have impacted upon you during your existence, this is completely moral. Sorry if this sounds muddled, my brain is rather hazy today. Also, thanks for the comment!

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    5. While I agree that transhumanism will make people value life more and that imposing birth on consciousness in such an existence would be far preferable to the capitalistic and existential nightmare happening all around us, I still don't see the value of existence as such devoid of all sentient value judgements.

      Existence is simply futile. Just because an accident of chemistry happened on one planet in the vast infinity of space, why should it be perpetuated?

      Even if transhumanism becomes real, so what? Would you feel a moral imperative to seed this transhumanistic life at every corner of the cosmos that doesn't have it?

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