TALKS ON THE ABOLITION OF SUFFERING
(2011, 2012, 2013, 2014)
delivered by David Pearce
e-mail: dave@hedweb.com


Date: 13 & 14 November 2014
Venue: University of Reno, Nevada, USA.
Abolitionist Bioethics & The Future of Consciousness

Date: 3 November 2014
Venue: Hoam Faculty House, Seoul National University, South Korea.
Transhumanism and ASia

Date: 23 October 2014
Venue: Alberta University, Canada (via Skype)
Event: Q and A. Technology and the Future.

Date: 18 July 2014
Venue: Alte Teppichfabrik | Alt-Stralau 4 Berlin 10245, Germany.
Transhumanism and Happiness

Date: 26 June 2014
Venue: London Vegans, Millman Street, Bloomsbury, London, UK.
Global Veganism and a Pan-Species Welfare State

Date: 23 March 2014
Venue: Birkbeck College, London, UK
Event: Anticipating 2025.
(on-air warm-up event, 16 Feb. Action (?)

Date: 2 March 2014
Venue: Efringerstrasse 25, 4057 Basel, Switzerland.
Event: Q-and-A with Brian Tomasik.

Date: 27 February 2014
Venue: Faculty of Medicine, Univ. of Alberta, Canada
Event: Will Humanity's Successors Be Our Descendants?

Date: 1 December 2013
Venue: Melbourne, Australia
Event: Science Technology and the Future.

Date: 4th November 2013
Venue: Stanford University, CA., USA.
Event: Fostering Post-Darwinian Life: The case for paradise-engineering

Date: 30 October 2013
Venue: Stanford University, CA., USA.
Event: Consciousness, psychedelics and (in)sentience in digital computers.

Date: 19 October 2013
Venue: Alberta University, Canada (via Skype)
Event: Q and A.

Date: 17 October 2013
Venue: Oslo, Norway
Event: Humanity 2.0: Transcending Evolution.

Date: 15 October 2013
Venue: Singularity Weblog (via Skype)
Event: Technological Singularity?

Date: 28 August 2013
Venue: University of Nottingham
Event: Nottingham Transhumanism Society
Countdown to a Utilitronium Shockwave.

Date: 7 August 2013
Venue: BBC Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London.
Event: BBC Radio 4 "The Moral Maze"
The Pursuit of Happiness.

Date: 25th June 2013
Venue: Cafe Scientifique, Portsmouth.
Event: The Hedonistic Imperative.

Date: 11 May 2013
Venue: Birkbeck College, London
Event: The Springer "Singularity Hypotheses" book launch
video (with Amnon Eden)

Date: 2 May 2013
Venue: The World Transformed: Will We Ever Upload?
(audio) (with Ben Goertzel)

Date: 30 April 2013
Venue: UNC School of Medicine
Towards The Abolition of Suffering.

Date: 2 December 2012
Venue: H+, San Francisco. PDF and PPT

Will Humanity's Successors Also Be Our Descendants?

ABSTRACT

Accelerating technological progress leads some futurists to predict the imminent end of the human era and the dawn of posthuman superintelligence. But what is superintelligence? How does intelligence relate to sentience? What are the Explanatory Gap, Moravec's Paradox, and the Binding Problem? Will nonbiological machines ever be more than zombies?

This talk explores three different scenarios for the major evolutionary transition in prospect.

In the first scenario, biological humans will rewrite our genetic source code, recursively self-edit our own minds, and bootstrap our way to full-spectrum superintelligence. Mastery of our reward circuitry will deliver life based on information-sensitive gradients of bliss.

In the second, Kurzweilian scenario, cybernetic brain implants will enable humans to fuse our minds with artificial intelligence; and also allow humans to scan, digitise and "upload" ourselves into a less perishable substrate. In digital nirvana, the distinction between biological and nonbiological machines will effectively disappear.

In the third scenario, most closely associated with mathematician I.J. Good and The Singularity Institute, a combination of Moore's law and the advent of recursively self-improving software-based minds will culminate in an ultra-rapid Intelligence Explosion and an era of nonbiological superintelligence. Posthuman superintelligence may or may not be human-friendly.

How strong is the supporting evidence for each of these prophecies?


Date: 27 November 2012
Venue: University of Alberta

Date: 26 November 2012
Venue: Warwick UK

Date: 8 November 2012
Venue: Lund, Sweden.

Date: 19 June 2012
Venue: Santa Maria, RS, Brazil. (PDF)

Conservation Biology versus Compassionate Biology

ABSTRACT
PPT

Since the Cambrian explosion, pain and suffering have been inseparable from the existence of life on Earth. However, a major evolutionary transition is now in prospect. One species of social primate has evolved the capacity to master biotechnology, rewrite its own genetic source code, and abolish the molecular signature of experience below "hedonic zero" throughout the living world. This talk explores one aspect of the evolutionary transition ahead, namely interventions to phase out the cruelties of Nature. The exponential growth of computer processing power promises to let us micro-manage every cubic metre of the planet. Responsible stewardship of tomorrow's wildlife parks will entail cross-species fertility regulation via immunocontraception, "reprogramming" predators, famine relief, healthcare provision, and eventually a pan-species analogue of the welfare state. Can science and technology engineer the well-being of all sentence in our forward light-cone?


Date: 15 June 2012
Venue: IEEFH, Sao Paolo

Date: 29 April 2012
Venue: UCSD, San Diego (PDF)

Date: 23 March 2012
Venue: Reddit AMA (online Q & A)

Date: 20 February 2012
Venue: SEBI, Univ of Texas

Date: 13 December 2011
Venue: Människa Plus

Date: 1 December 2011
Venue: The Stanford Transhumanist Association

Date: 28 November 2011
Venue: Haverford Transhumanist Association

Date: 25 October 2011
Venue: Sussex Humanist Society

Date: 19th October 2011
Venue: Singularity Seminar, Univ. of Essex

Singularity Hypotheses:
The BioIntelligence Explosion

ABSTRACT
PPT

Genetic change in biological humans is slow. Progress in digital computing is fast. Software run on serial, programmable digital computers is executed exponentially faster (cf. Moore's Law); it's copyable without limit; it runs on multiple substrates; and it can be rapidly edited, tested and debugged. Singularitarians like Ray Kurzweil or SIAI's Eliezer Yudkowsky prophesy that human programmers will soon be redundant because AI run on digital computers will undergo accelerating cycles of self-improvement (cf. Kurzweil's Law of Accelerating Returns). Artificial, greater-than-human nonbiological intelligence will swiftly be succeeded by artificial posthuman superintelligence.

This talk examines, and then discounts, the prospect of a "robot rebellion". Biological humanity is on the brink of a Biointelligence Explosion. Humans are poised to exploit "narrow" or "weak" AI to enhance our own code in a positive feedback loop of mutual enhancement. Starting with individual genes, then clusters of genes, and eventually hundreds of genes and alternative splice variants, a host of recursively self-improving organic robots ("biohackers") will modify their own source code and modes of sentience: their senses, their moods, their motivation, their world-simulations, their cognitive apparatus and their default state of consciousness. As the era of open-source genetics unfolds, tomorrow's biohackers will use high-level gene editing tools, insertion vector applications, nonviral gene-editing kits, and user-friendly interfaces to add, delete, edit and customize their own legacy code in a positive feedback loop of cognitive and emotional enhancement. Recursively self-improving biological humans are going to bootstrap their way to full-spectrum superintelligence - and indescribable bliss.


Date: 8 October 2011
Venue: Birkbeck College, London
Humanity Plus UK

The Anti-Speciesist Revolution

"Nothing more strongly arouses our disgust than cannibalism, yet we make the same
impression on Buddhists and vegetarians, for we feed on babies, though not our own."

(Robert Louis Stevenson)

ABSTRACT
PPT

Each year humanity kills over 50 billion sentient beings. We confine and kill our animal cousins in ways that would earn the abuser a life sentence in prison if our victims were human. This talk will explore how Humanity+ can overcome the moral and cognitive limitations that have shaped our traditional relationship with members of other races and species. As transhumanists, can we consistently support the Transhumanist Declaration's commitment to the well-being of all sentience without adopting a cruelty-free vegan lifestyle? How close are technologies that will allow us to abolish the biology of experience below hedonic zero throughout the living world? What kind of "sentience explosion" do we want to create in our forward light-cone?


Date: 2 October 2011
Venue: Människa+ Maskinhallen, KTH, Stockholm

The Biointelligence Explosion

FULL TEXT

How recursively self-improving organic robots will modify their own source code and bootstrap their way to full-spectrum super-intelligence.


Date: 1 - 3 June 2011
Venue: University of Santa Maria Brazil
Colloquium on Ethics and Applied Ethics

Can Value Be Naturalised?

ABSTRACT

Empirical evidence suggests that the behaviour of the stuff of the world is exhaustively described by the formalism of physics. Physics is causally closed and complete, at least within the energy range of the Standard Model. There is nothing to be found in the world - no "element of reality", as Einstein puts it - that isn't captured by the equations of physics and their solutions. This is a powerful formal constraint on our theory of value and consciousness. Yet our ultimate theory of the world must also close Levine's notorious "Explanatory Gap". Thus we must explain why consciousness exists at all ("The Hard Problem"); offer a rigorous derivation of our diverse textures of qualia from the field-theoretic formalism of physics; and explain how qualia combine ("The Binding Problem"). These are powerful constraints on our ultimate theory too. How can they be reconciled with physicalism? Why aren't we zombies?

This talk will argue that the pleasure-pain axis discloses the universe's inbuilt metric of value. What "breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe" is utterly different from what naive intuition and materialist metaphysics suppose. Personal experience of agony, bliss, and other states on the pleasure-pain axis discloses that some states of matter and energy have intrinsically normative properties. The nature of these intrinsically normative properties will be discussed; and the significance of how fields [superstrings, branes, etc] in contemporary theoretical physics are defined purely mathematically. The "fire in the equations" is a topic on which physics is silent. The talk will conclude by (tentatively) predicting that our descendants will enjoy hypervaluable states of mind orders of magnitude richer than today's peak experiences.


Date: 29 January 2011
Location: Conway Hall, London
Humanity Plus UK

What Is Empathetic Superintelligence?

Powerpoint Presentation

ABSTRACT

Our current conception of intelligence as measured by IQ tests is "mind-blind". IQ tests lack ecological validity because they ignore social cognition - the "mind-reading" prowess that enabled one species of social primate to become the most cognitively successful on the planet. In this talk, I shall examine how to correct the ethnocentric and anthropocentric biases of our perspective-taking abilities. What future technologies can enrich our capacity to understand other minds? I shall also discuss obstacles to building empathetic AGI (artificial general intelligence) - and why old-fashioned "autistic AI" may always be vulnerable to the cunning of "Machiavellian apes". In an era of global catastrophic and existential risks, developing ways to enrich and "de-bias" mankind's capacity for empathetic cognition will be vital. This is because the greatest underlying risk to the well-being of life on Earth is the dominance behaviour of other male human primates.


Date: 17-19 November 2010
Venue: University of Santa Maria Brazil
Colloquium on Ethics and Applied Ethics: "Evolution and Transhumanism"

The Abolitionist Project

Day One: Project Overview
Day Two: Homo sapiens
Day Three: Non-human animals


Date: 28 October 2010
Venue: University of Edinburgh
Edinburgh Philosophy Society

The Future of The Pleasure-Pain Axis

ABSTRACT

Over the past half-billion years, life on Earth has been governed by the pleasure-pain axis. Nature is typically "red in tooth and claw". Consequently, life has typically been "nasty, brutish and short". However, a major evolutionary transition lies ahead. Natural selection has evolved organic robots with the capacity to rewrite their own source code. Humans will shortly be able to redesign our own reward circuitry, decommission natural selection, design compassionate ecosystems, and abolish suffering throughout the living world.

In this talk, I shall outline how selection pressure in an era of "designer babies" will differ radically from the era of natural selection. As the imminent reproductive revolution gathers pace, genetically programmed gradients of bliss orders of magnitude richer than today's peak experiences can animate everyday posthuman life. In a more speculative vein, I shall explore a number of so-called "utilitronium shockwave" scenarios. Does a classical utilitarian ethic oblige us to propagate posthuman bliss throughout our Galaxy and beyond?


Date: 24 October 2010
Venue: Milan, Italy,
Transvision 2010

Fostering Post-Darwinian Life
The case for paradise-engineering

ABSTRACT

In the state-space of all possible minds, presumably only a tiny percentage can ever be physically realized – since matter, energy and information in the accessible universe are all finite. So we need to consider not just whether intuitively it is ethically good or bad for a sentient being – or species of sentient beings – to exist, but also the cost of such existence in terms of opportunities forgone. Some minds are clearly much more beautiful than others. For example, when the technology matures, would it be better if all our matter and energy were converted into different species of posthuman “smart angel”?

Our response to this question may depend at least in part on how it is posed. Thus if asked whether you’d take a wonderpill that overnight made you several orders of magnitude smarter, happier and more ethically sophisticated than you are now, then one might say yes. On the other hand, if asked whether you’d consent to having your brain reformatted and its matter reprogrammed into a different sentient being who was unimaginably more wonderful, then one might say no. For such a supermind wouldn’t be “me”.

More generally, a problem with being a classical utilitarian is that one is (apparently) obliged to seek the extinction of all existing species, including humans. This is because our matter and energy could be used more efficiently to produce utilitronium – whether in the guise of orgasmium, hedonium, pleasure plasma or Jupiter brains is still unclear. Critics might see this conclusion as a reductio ad absurdum of classical utilitarian ethics. Yet in a world run on utilitarian principles, it’s hard to see how such an outcome could be avoided, in the long run, on pain of inconsistency. True, the physical capacity to manufacture utilitronium is decades away at best, and perhaps centuries or more. So this argument might seem idle philosophizing. But the classical utilitarian is supposed to recognize that time-discounting at a rate different from zero is morally unacceptable too.

In this talk, I shall argue that we should strive for an impartial, “God's-eye-view” in ethics, just as we do in natural science. Thus we should aim computationally to maximise the cosmic abundance of subjectively hypervaluable states in our Hubble volume. This entails fostering the emergence and spread of post-Darwinian life. I predict our descendants – and maybe our mature selves – will be wiser and happier beyond the bounds of normal human experience.


Date: 16 October 2010
Venue: Birkbeck College, London
UK H+

TOWARDS THE ABOLITION OF SUFFERING:
Reflections on the Abolitionist Project

ABSTRACT

The Transhumanist Declaration advocates "the well-being of all sentience, including humans, non-human animals, and any future artificial intellects, modified life forms, or other intelligences to which technological and scientific advance may give rise."

Yet is "the well-being of all sentience" serious science - or just utopian dreaming? What does such a commitment entail? On what kind of realistic timeframe might we command enough computational power to police an entire ecosystem?

In this talk, I shall review recent progress in understanding the neurobiology of pleasure, pain and our core emotions. Can mastery of our reward circuity ever deliver socially responsible, intelligent bliss rather than crude wireheading? I shall also examine and respond to criticisms of the abolitionist project that have been levelled over the past decade - and set out the biggest challenges, as he sees them, to the prospect of a totally cruelty-free world.


Date: 12 June 2010
Venue: Harvard University
H+ Summit

The Fate of the Meat World

ABSTRACT

Some transhumanists speculate about a future of post-biological superintelligence, and even "uploading" ourselves to a less perishable medium. This involves some fairly radical metaphysical assumptions. Viable or otherwise, universal "destructive" uploading is sociologically implausible to say the least. So what will be the fate of old-fashioned organic robots in the primordial biosphere? This talk explores a more bioconservative scenario - a future of superintelligent, supersentient and superhappy organic life in a cruelty-free global ecosystem. What are the pitfalls and opportunities of using biotechnology to abolish suffering throughout the living world?


Date: 3 May 2010
Venue: Exeter College, Oxford
Oxford Transhumanist Society

The Post-Darwinian Transition

ABSTRACT

"Advances in biotechnology will shortly allow us to decommission natural selection and abolish suffering throughout the living world. Further ahead, our descendants may be animated by gradients of intelligent bliss orders of magnitude richer than today's peak experiences. This talk explores some of the pitfalls and opportunities of the new technologies in navigating the transition to post-Darwinian life.

In this talk, David Pearce will present his radical vision for the future of humanity. David co-founded the World Transhumanist Association with Prof Nick Bostrom and he currently sits on the board of the journal Medical Hypotheses. David is honorary president of the Abolitionist Society and author of the book-length online resource, the Hedonistic Imperative. He is also well-known for his controversial Good Drug Guide, subtitled "the responsible parent's guide to healthy mood-boosters for all the family"."


Date: 24 April 2010
Location: Conway Hall, London
Humanity Plus UK

The Abolitionist Project
Can biotechnology abolish suffering throughout the living world?

[a review of the abolitionist project]


Date: 16 April 2010
Venue: Tucson, Arizona
"Toward a Science of Consciousness" Conference

Quantum computing: the first 540 million years

ABSTRACT

Is the mind/brain best modelled as a classical computer or a quantum computer? No classical computer can solve the binding problem - the creation of a unified percept from widely distributed neural processing of individual object characteristics. Hence even the most sophisticated silicon robots are lame in a real-world setting. By contrast, evidence that the mind/brain is a quantum computer lies right before one's eyes in the form of the unity of perception - an unfakeable signature of quantum coherence. The evolutionary success of organic robots depends on the ability of our central nervous system to generate dynamic simulations of fitness-relevant patterns in the environment. Unlike classical computers, organic quantum computers can "bind" multiple features (edges, colours, motion, etc) into unitary objects and unitary world-simulations with a "refresh rate" of many billions per second (cf. the persistence of vision as experienced watching a movie run at 30 frames per second). These almost real-time simulations take the guise of what we call the macroscopic world: a spectacular egocentric simulation run by every vertebrate CNS that taps into the world's fundamental quantum substrate. Our highly adaptive capacity to generate data-driven unitary world-simulations is strongly conserved across the vertebrate line and beyond - a capacity attested by the massively parallel neural architecture of the CNS. Unitary world-simulation enables organic robots effortlessly to solve the computational challenges of navigating a hostile environment that would leave the fastest classical supercomputer grinding away until Doomsday. By contrast, the capacity for serial linguistic thought and formal logico-mathematical reasoning is a late evolutionary novelty executed by a slow, brittle virtual machine running on top of its quantum parent. Contra Tegmark, the existence of ultra-rapid thermally-induced decoherence in the mind/brain doesn't refute the case for naturally-evolved quantum computing. For just as a few cubic millimeters of neocortical tissue can encode an arbitrarily large immensity of phenomenal space, likewise each ultra-short quantum-coherent "frame" can encode hundreds of milliseconds of phenomenal time. Contra the Penrose-Hameroff "Orch OR" model of consciousness, quantum mechanics can't explain the Hard Problem as posed by materialist metaphysics i.e. how a brain supposedly composed of insentient matter could generate consciousness. But macroscopic quantum coherence can explain how a unitary experiential field is constructed from what would otherwise be a mere aggregate of mind-dust (cf. Galen Strawson's "Does physicalism entail panpsychism?") The theory presented predicts that digital computers - and all inorganic robots with a classical computational architecture - will 1) never be able efficiently to perform complex real-world tasks that require that the binding problem be solved; and 2) never be interestingly conscious since they are endowed with no unity of consciousness beyond their constituent microqualia - here hypothesized to be the stuff of the world as described by the field-theoretic formalism of physics. By contrast, tomorrow's artificial quantum computers may manifest modes of unitary consciousness unknown to contemporary organic life.



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MDMA : Utopian Pharmacology
The End of Suffering? (H+, 2010)
Critique of Huxley's Brave New World
World Transhumanist Association / H+
Quantum Ethics? Suffering in the Multiverse
Top Five Reasons Transhumnism Can Abolish Suffering

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