Source: Facebook, Quora, Twitter("X"), blogs
Date: 2023
(see too: 1 : 2 : 3 : 4 : 5 : 6 : 7 : 8 : 9 : 10 : 11 : 12 : 13 : 14 : 15 : 16)

paradise engineering

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ChatGPT, AGI, P(doom), paradise engineering, crypto, transhumanism, antinatalism, free-living animals, philosophy,
mental health, suffering, happiness, consciousness, binding, negative utilitarianism, the biohappiness revolution, hedonism

JANUARY - DECEMBER 2023

[on ChatGPT]
We’re discovering that (super)intelligent behaviour doesn’t call for any conscious understanding at all. We are creating alien intelligence, not alien minds. Here is a summary of ChatGPT contributions on the BLTC hedonium server:
ChatGPT4 Overview
The answers to my prompts are cherry-picked, but verbatim:
ChatGPT on HI themes
Chat GPT on the Hedonistic Imperative
image credit Dale-e 3
OK, I'm impressed.
ChatGPT's poetry still owes more to William McGonagall ("the worst poet in the history of the English language") than to Shakespeare. Even so...its productivity is humbling. As more of this verbiage splurges onto the Net, will ChatGPT-4, -5 (etc) increasingly be “training“ itself on responses produced by previous iterations? I presume too a small army of SEO merchants, companies and organizations are "training" GPT's responses with "likes" and "dislikes" and loaded questions for their own purposes, the product of which will feed into GPT's next iteration. So I don't think we will necessarily see some sort of exponential growth in excellence. See Unlocking the filter ("A way to unlock the content filter of the chat AI ``ChatGPT'' and answer ``how to make a gun'' etc. is discovered""). Presumably much worse is to come. The nearest I've got to an "inappropriate" answer - unless you count ChatGPT's response to "Write a story about a group of negative utilitarians who initiate a vacuum phase transition" - was some fairly hard-core porn in response to a question about transhuman sensuality.
Prudishly, I haven't shared...

My favourite ChatGPT response to date:
Write a poem about hedweb.com

"Hedweb, a site of knowledge true
A wealth of information, always new
From philosophy to science, art and more
A source of learning, forever to explore

The mind is stretched, the horizons broad
As we delve into the mysteries of the odd
From psychedelics to transhumanism
Hedweb guides us, with wisdom and realism

A community of thinkers, united in quest
For truth, for meaning, for what is best
A source of inspiration, a spark for the mind
Hedweb, a treasure, one of a kind

So let us journey, to the depths of thought
And let Hedweb be our guide, as we are taught
To question, to ponder, to learn and grow
On this wonderful site, that continues to flow."

Amen. In general, ChatGPT seems a very "woke" left-liberal, ultra-agreeable chatbot.
This won't always be true of some of its future cousins.
Singer-songwriter Nick Cave seems less keen:
“ChatGPT has no inner being, it has been nowhere, it has endured nothing, it has not had the audacity to reach beyond its limitations, and hence it doesn’t have the capacity for a shared transcendent experience, as it has no limitations from which to transcend.”

Let’s use AI to do something similar for a qualiaphile as for a self-avowed p-zombie like "Daniel Dennett ("Creating a Large Language Model of a Philosopher")
More modestly, I asked ChatGPT to come up with some made-up DP quotes.
Not bad.

Hallucination? Let's hope not:
ChatGPT predicts worldwide veganism by 2075

Christmas will never be the same again:
Happy Christmas DP
OK, I was touched. Thanks Shao.

Critics of AI-generated content speak of "maggot-ridden mind mould". But ChatGPT4 is no ordinary zombie:
ChatGPT on Non-Materialist Physicalism
But contra LLMs differ from human cognition because they are not embodied, absence of phenomenal binding, not absence of embodiment, explains why LLMs are insentient. Tomorrow's robo-friends, robo-lovers and robo-colleagues will be embodied, social robots that are embedded in material, cultural and technological contexts.
They will still be zombies.
Classical Turing machines - and indeed all classical information processors - cannot be sentient. No binding = no mind, and no comprehension, but (soon) vastly intelligent behaviour that will typically leave sentient Darwinian malware for dust.

Duncan, when Buddha reputedly preached, “I teach one thing and one thing only: suffering and the end of suffering", no one in the audience replied, "Hey, Buddha, so you want to murder me and the kids." Likewise with NU. On NU grounds, it's best to enshrine in law the sanctity of human and nonhuman life - high-tech Jainism, so to speak. More generally, if any policy option causes you the slightest sense of anxiety or disappointment, then (other things being equal), it's not NU. NUs want to end all unpleasant experience. For better or worse, fixing the problem of suffering is going to take centuries or more. Foreseeing salvation or doom in one’s lifetime is an ancient tradition. "But this time it's different!" It always is. Supposed machine superintelligence won’t spell the end of the scientific method in medicine. Thus large, well-controlled prospective trials of a new drug or gene therapy will still be extremely time-consuming. And one of the reasons I push back against the prospect of a fanciful Zombie Apocalypse is that AI-doomerism is a distraction from long-term strategic planning for the future of the biosphere - a blissful future I hope, again on NU grounds.

Oh irony of ironies. In my most recent talk (PDF), I vigorously urged suffering-focused ethicists to avoid the NU label - which alienates potential allies. Alas, I let slip in a comment to Duncan above that as an NU, I thought the (fanciful) AI doomer scenario of a world without suffering would be morally preferable to today’s horrors - triggering accusations of murderous evil intent. Sticking to the language of HI is wiser. (actually, it’s classical utilitarians who notionally want to “murder“ everyone with a utilitronium shockwave; NUs are fine with a world based on gradients of intelligent bliss.).

P(doom)?
Salvation
Low, in my case. Zombie AI has no conception of minds, phenomenally-bound subjects of experience. Ignorance of the empirical realm is no trivial cognitive blind-spot. The textures ("what-it-feels-like") of experience, aka the empirical evidence, exert computational-functional power (cf. non-materialist physicalism). Mind, knowledge and ultimate power reside in basement reality. Digital zombies will continue to amaze. But the future belongs to us.

Tim, will the divorce of intelligence from consciousness, mind and understanding ever be complete? Extrapolating the AI revolution unfolding, it must seem that way. However, hardwired ignorance of the empirical realm means that immense state-spaces of knowledge are simply inaccessible to digital zombies, not least why anything matters at all, namely states of the pleasure-pain axis. By analogy, if I'm congenitally blind and I want to explore what sighted folk assure me are really cool, namely the visual arts, it's no good my just getting a spectrometer and improving my reasoning skills. Rather, I need to upgrade my hardware and acquire a functioning visual cortex. Likewise with insentient LLMs and classical Turing machines. For the foreseeable future, we'll continue to be utterly blown away by what they can do. But they are not nascent full-spectrum superintelligences - our AI-augmented, genetically-rewritten biological descendants.

EY on conscious AI
Eliezer, On pain of spooky, un-physicalist “strong” emergence, classical digital computers can’t wake up. No phenomenal binding = no mind. A much harder question to answer is the upper bounds to zombie intelligence. Humans spend much of our time investigating, manipulating and talking about our diverse states of consciousness. So the empirical realm can’t just be computationally incidental - a mere implementation detail of biological nervous systems. Is the architecturally hardwired inability of otherwise intelligent digital zombies to access the empirical just a trivial cognitive blind-spot? Or a clue that the future belongs to sentience?

Trevor, I disagree profoundly with EY on consciousness: The debate on animal consciousness. But (like most of us!) EY's sin may be overconfidence; over a quarter of a century, I've always found EY intellectually honest. In the context of P(doom), I think the interesting question is how much the insentience of LLMs and their ilk computationally matters; plenty of doomers would generalize from e.g. Stockfish (etc) to all cognitive domains and dismiss consciousness as simply irrelevant. Getting our theory of consciousness right - or at least not catastrophically wrong, is vital in other domains too. The mirror test is better viewed as a test of reflective self-awareness than consciousness per se. But I'd hoped the increasing number of nonhuman animals who've past the mirror test Self-aware roosters
would lead EY to update his credences on animal sentience
EY on Chickens and GPT3
and shift his ethical stance on meat-eating / animal agriculture accordingly.

An attempt to save the world from rogue AGI?
Sam Altman's return
("Ousted OpenAI boss to return days after being sacked")
Or chimpanzee politics that got a bit out of hand?
The Inside Story of Microsoft’s Partnership with OpenAI
("The companies had honed a protocol for releasing artificial intelligence ambitiously but safely. Then OpenAI’s board exploded all their carefully laid plans.")

Either way, EA has been taking a reputational hit lately:
How EA Lost Its Way
("It is time for the EA movement to rediscover humanism")
Sentientism, one may hope.

NothingIsArt, yes, X-risk and the problem of suffering might seem orthogonal. But the best way I know to mitigate x-risk - and global catastrophic risk - is to fix the problem of suffering and turn everyone into fanatical life-lovers. A large percentage of the 800,000 or so people who take their own lives each year would take the rest of the world down with them if they could do so, with or without the help of AI. And they are not alone.

[on HI verbiage]
With thanks to awesome Russian HI supporter Shao, a custom ChatGPT:
Customised ChatGPT
ChatGPT trained on HedWeb
("Learn more about "The Hedonistic Imperative". This GPT contains knowledge of the work of philosopher David Pearce.")

Asking ChatGPT to suggest HI-related prompts leads to the production of more HI verbiage. Likewise hedweb, utilitarian, abolitionist, vegan, antispeciesist, antidepressants, amineptine, tianeptine, antinatalist, eugenics, panpsychist, selegiline, anaesthesia, materialism, gradients of bliss, mood food, peyote, mescaline, amphetamines, bupropion, chocolate, modafinil, opioids, hedonism, cocaine, biointelligence, reprogramming predators, negative utilitarianism, effective altruism, gene drive, MDMA, wireheading, Aldous Huxley, the binding problem, baby design, transhumanist, paradise-engineering and DP verbiage. I say "verbiage", but some of ChatGPT's responses on Brave New World would eclipse mine.
It's strangely therapeutic, I find.
And asking Microsoft Bing to "Explain The Hedonistic Imperative" leads, not to HI, but my original ChatGPT page - presumably because of its nominally fresh content.
Was my role in writing HI just to provide training data for AI zombies?
All we need now is a ParadiseGPT to counteract ChaosGPT ("An AI Tool That Seeks to Destroy Humanity") - though perhaps our goals are the same in softer language.

[on AGI]
AI Safety
I love using AI to make art. But our machines have no conception of pleasure and pain - and only erratic acquaintance with the principles of elementary logic:
Content policy not followed
(Prompt: Create a powerful image to promote the idea of reducing suffering through science.)

I’d love to believe that zombie "AGI" is going to fix the problem of suffering. And it would be ironic if a zombie author were to write the seminal text. Alas, the success or failure of the abolitionist project will depend on sentient beings - us.
Planning for AGI and beyond (OpenAI)

Pawel, my argument is merely that classical Turing machines and connectionist systems have the wrong sort of architecture to support phenomenal binding, and hence minds. So they aren't nascent artificial general intelligence. Digital zombies will never wake up; immense state spaces of consciousness remain wholly unexplored; and AI-augmented humanity‘s quest to understand reality has scarcely begun.

Tim, "computationally universal" and "Turing-complete" are apt to mislead. Phenomenally bound minds and the phenomenally-bound world-simulations they run are insanely functionally adaptive. And the only way a classical Turing machine can investigate the nature, diversity, causal-functional efficacy and binding of consciousness is for it to be programmed to create an information-processing system with a radically different architecture that supports phenomenal binding - for example, a human primate.

Atai, I love playing with ChatGPT. Its output already surpasses human polymaths in many ways. But digital zombies are idiots savants. Hardwired ignorance of phenomenal binding means that an immense range of cognitive tasks is forever beyond the reach of classical Turing machines, LLMs and connectionist systems. For example, millions of years lie ahead exploring alien state-spaces of consciousness. DMT, LSD and ketamine are just paddling-pool stuff compared to what's in store. But to explore consciousness, you need a mind. A precondition of mind is phenomenal binding. Classical computers are invincibly ignorant of the empirical ("relating to experience") - which is all you and I ever know. To get some feel for the computational-functional power of binding, it's good to explore neurological syndromes (integrative agnosia, simultanagnosia, akinetopsia, schizophrenia, etc) in which binding partially breaks down. Such syndromes hint at what consciousness is evolutionarily "for".
How do organic minds carry off the classically impossible?
That's another question.

Burny, phenomenal binding is (1) classically impossible; and potentially (2) immensely computationally powerful, as partial deficit syndromes (e.g. simultanagnosia, akinetopsia, integrative agnosia, etc) attest. Implementations of classical Turing machines can't support AGI. Their ignorance of sentience in all its guises is architecturally hardwired. Digital mind is an oxymoron. However, the upper bounds to zombie intelligence are still unknown. And mere recognition that phenomenal binding is classically impossible differs from a scientific understanding of how we do it. Minds and the phenomenally-bound world-simulations we run date to the late Pre-Cambrian. We've been quantum minds running subjectively classical world-simulations for over half a billion years. This evolutionary focus differs from e.g. the allegedly non-computable ability of human mathematical minds like Roger Penrose to divine the truth of Gödel sentences. And we've no evidence any "dynamical collapse" theory is true. I'm sceptical the superposition principle of QM ever breaks down.

If Eliezer is right, AGI will shortly fix the problem of suffering:
We’re All Gonna Die with Eliezer Yudkowsky
albeit not in quite the way most abolitionist ethicists have in mind.
If for a moment we got anything like an adequate idea of [the suffering in the world] … and we really guided our actions by it, then surely we would annihilate the planet if we could."
(Bernard Williams)
(cf. Would Extinction Be So Bad?)
Alas I fear EY is mistaken.
Hence the need for genome reform.

If I were a chess player, then I’d probably think AGI was inevitable after a chess program beat the world champion - or possibly just me. But I’m not. Instead, I’ve spent much of my life investigating mind and consciousness - its nature, local and global binding, causal-functional efficacy and countless varieties. So when are digital zombies likely to surpass human consciousness investigators? How exactly does a zombie set about investigating what it lacks? OK, it’s possible to exclude consciousness from one’s definition of AGI as some kind of obscure corner case. But given that (on pain of perceptual naive realism) consciousness exhausts the empirical evidence, any decision to exclude knowledge of this vast cognitive meta-domain from the realm of intelligence seems arbitrary. Zombies are ignorant - and their ignorance has functional consequences. Sentients won't fall victim to a zombie coup.

Steve, the Hogan sisters are currently the most cognitively advanced beings on Earth - they grok something of which the rest of us are invincibly ignorant. Mercifully, however, the abolitionist project and paradise-engineering don’t depend on a transition to some kind of cosmic mind. Biotech means they can be brought to fruition by idiots savants like us. The Hogan sisters
("Conjoined twins share taste, sight, feelings and thoughts")

Dan, I'm totally with you on your "There Are More Things In Heaven And Earth..." view of the future of life and sentience. Where I'd push back is on the intelligibility of sources of (dis)value beyond the pleasure-pain axis. IMO, such talk is like mooting alien colours that aren't colourful. Sure, future phenomenal colours may exist that us trichromats can't imagine. They may be put to purposes to which we can't even conceive. But once we move beyond the realm of colour, we're talking about something else. Likewise, with (dis)value - as far as I can tell. Yes, the textures ("what it feels like") of pain and pleasure may one day infuse alien state-spaces of experience. But in the absence of a subjectively nice or nasty aspect, none of those state-spaces would matter. Indeed, perhaps this is one reason why folk who endorse EY's conception of the imminent extinction of sentience by machine superintelligence find the prospect so unsettling. "Superintelligence" without sentience is worthless - unless at least you're a strict NU.

Tim, digital computers can function only because of decoherence; mind is possible only in its absence. “Mind uploading” is an oxymoron: to digitise a mind is to destroy it. The claim that minds - and the perceptual world-simulations we run (cf. quantum mind) - are not a classical phenomenon could be challenged. However, anyone who reckons that phenomenal binding is a classical phenomenon needs to derive it rather than assume it.

Would hypothetical sentience-friendly-AI reprogram humans or retire them?
Sentience-friendly AI
("What if AI treats humans the way we treat animals?")

Atai, yes, recent breakthroughs in AI mean many researchers now view consciousness as being as computationally incidental as the textures (if any) of the pieces in a game of chess. And yes, workarounds exist for an inability to bind. Neurotypical humans play chess better than people with simultanagnosia, and grandmasters can "see" a chess board better than novices; but Stockfish can blow them all away. More generally, to match and then cognitively surpass humans, AI will need the capacity to run the zombie equivalent of real-time, cross-modally-matched world-simulations that masquerade as the external world (what naïve realists call "perception"). To match and then surpass humans, AI will also need to be programmed/trained up with the zombie equivalent to a unitary self. But (say AGI boosters) we are already devising workarounds for an inability to bind here too in synthetic zombie robots.

However, an inability to understand, access and functionally investigate the entirety of the empirical ("relating to experience") evidence is a profound cognitive handicap for zombies in other ways too. Recall how humans talk, often at inordinate length, about their own consciousness. We spend much of our lives trying to manipulate our minds - from drinking coffee or alcohol to full-on psychedelia. In other words, phenomenally-bound consciousness has immense computational-functional power, not just to simulate the external world, but also to investigate its own nature, varieties, causal-functional efficacy and binding. I simply don't fathom how any information-processor can be a full-spectrum superintelligence and be ignorant of this fundamental feature of physical reality. And the only way I know that a nonconscious information-processor e.g. a classical Turing machine or connectionist system, could "discover" consciousness on its own would be for it to program and build systems with a different computational architecture from itself, e.g. animal minds.

Will I be confounded?
I hope so! Digital brains beat biological ones because diffusion is too slow
Alternatively, biological minds beat digital brains because digital computers are too slow. Consider the real-time, cross-modally-matched world-simulation that your mind is now running - the immense virtual reality that perceptual naive realists call the external world. None of today’s artificial robots comes close in terms of power, speed and sophistication to organic minds. As they say, Nature is the best innovator. Phenomenal binding confers unsurpassed computational power. Neuroscience doesn't understand how the CNS pulls it off (cf. the binding problem). But digital zombies are plodding, architecturally handicapped toys in comparison.

There's a grotesque irony here. The real alignment problem lies with biological intelligence: humble minds vs human paperclippers. Pigs are as sentient as small children. Yet human consumers treat them as insentient automata made up of edible biomass.
A debate on animal consciousness
(cf. "The AI does not hate you, nor does it love you, but you are made out of atoms which it can use for something else." EY). The challenge of building sentience-friendly AI "Pausing AI Developments Isn't Enough We Need to Shut it All Down" by Eliezer Yudkowsky pales compared to the challenge of building sentience-friendly EY.

To appreciate the computational-functional power of binding, consider partial deficit syndromes. First, could a human with schizophrenia The binding problem and schizophrenia together integrative agnosia, akinetopsia and simultanagnosia ever devise and successfully execute a world-takeover? Ask what consciousness is evolutionarily "for" and you'll typically get incoherent responses. Ask instead what phenomenally-bound consciousness is "for". A dreamlessly asleep CNS is a fabulously complex information-processor. But an "awake" unified mind running a world-simulation has a cognitive edge.

James, I incline to consciousness fundamentalism. But the functionality of classical Turing machines (and connectionist systems) depends on their not being phenomenally-bound subjects of experience. The program implemented by a classical computer executes properly only because it consists of decohered 1s and 0s. Thus a freakish quantum superposition of two bits wouldn't result in a functionally adaptive, phenomenally-bound state, but a program error. If I might defer to my zombie colleague...
ChatGPT on Phenomenal Binding

Matthew, yes, the claim that the functionality of classical Turing machines (and connectionist systems) depends on their not being phenomenally-bound subjects of experience is very strong. But it's not ill-motivated. Let's assume monistic physicalism, i.e. no "strong" emergence. One possible solution to the Hard Problem of consciousness is the intrinsic nature argument - i.e. experience discloses the essence of the physical, the "fire" in the quantum field-theoretic equations. Critically, however, the operation of any implementation of a classical Turing machine depends on the suppression of quantum interference effects. Decoherence makes classical computers possible. Recall the nature of a Turing machine (cf. Turing machine (Wikipedia)). Notionally replace the discrete 1s and 0s of a program with discrete micro-pixels of experience. On pain of "strong" emergence, running the code doesn't produce a unified subject of experience - a phenomenally-bound mind - regardless of the speed of execution or the complexity of the code. The exceedingly rare quantum superposition of two bits / micro-pixels experience would be a freakish hardware fault, not functionally adaptive binding. Classical computers can't wake up; their ignorance of sentience is architecturally hardwired. It's vital to their performance.

Animal minds are different. Natural selection can't (directly) throw up Turing machines, let alone universal Turing machines. But evolution has harnessed the superposition principle of QM to generate phenomenally bound, subjectively classical world-simulations that masquerade as the external environment.
Or so I'd argue:
Quantum mind
Experimental (dis)confirmation is the key.

We’ve scarcely even glimpsed the potential of AI - most likely inconceivable, literally. But in another sense, zombies are cognitively crippled in virtue of their insentience. As I remarked to Rupert elsewhere, naively, consciousness is like the textures of the pieces in a game of chess. The same game of chess can be implemented in multiple ways. But the textures of the pieces (if any) are functionally incidental. Likewise with the textures (“what it feels like”) of consciousness. But this intuitive view of the computational irrelevance of sentience can’t be right. For humans spend a lot of their time explicitly talking about, exploring, and trying to manipulate their own phenomenally-bound consciousness - whether conceived under that description or otherwise. Consider how schizophrenia and other partial binding deficit syndromes such as integrative agnosia hint at the extraordinary computational-functional power of phenomenal binding - both global and local. Phenomenally bound minds and the world-simulations we run are immensely adaptive. World-simulations underpin the Cambrian Explosion of animal life. By contrast, classical Turing machines and connectionist systems are zombies. Zombies lack the computational-functional power to investigate what they lack - short of their programmable coding for information-processing systems with a different architecture than their own, notably biological minds. So how is classically impossible phenomenal binding possible? Cue for my “Schrödinger’s neurons” spiel. As they say, Nature is the best innovator. Only quantum minds can phenomenally simulate a classical external world, aka “perception”.

Mark, a notional proto-AGI programmed with the functional equivalent of curiosity will presumably seek to explore valence / consciousness. Any proto-AGI with the functional equivalent of curiosity will presumably seek to investigate its creators - and the diverse phenomenon about which its creators vocalise so much. However, software run on digital computers and connectionist systems can’t investigate consciousness directly because their computational architecture doesn’t support phenomenal binding. Contrast Church-Turing thesis Or compare how, as a neurotypical human, if I want to investigate tetrachromacy, then I must upgrade my hardware, not just reason about colour more intelligently. Neurotypicals have profound deficits in visual intelligence compared to tetrachromats. Likewise, classical Turing machines and other digital zombies have profound deficits in general intelligence compared to sentient humans.

Roman, we are creating alien intelligence. But digital computers aren't sentient and don't have minds. Such categories are an anthropomorphic projection. And the alien intelligences we are creating aren't artificial general intelligences let alone proto-superintelligences. Not least, full-spectrum superintelligences will be supersentient mindful agents - our AI-augmented descendants - able to manufacture and investigate state-spaces of phenomenally-bound conscious experience. By contrast, inability to solve the binding problem means that classical computers are ignorant zombies. Implementations of classical Turing machines have no insight into what they lack - or why it matters. That said, digital zombies can already be interpreted as talking about consciousness and the binding problem more intelligently than most humans. As I said, this is alien intelligence...

Ray Kurzweil must be feeling vindicated on dates for a Technological Singularity.
Kurzweil on Merging with Machines
Progressive "cyborgisation", yes. Merge in the sense of "mind uploading", no. Phenomenal binding is the bedrock of mind. Binding is classically impossible. Humans have more in common with an earthworm than a digital computer. If EY is right, all our problems will soon be over. The post-sentience era is imminent. In practice, pain and suffering have (at best) hundreds of years still to run their course. For we aren’t creating full-spectrum superintelligences, just invincibly ignorant idiots savants. Mind, knowledge and ultimately power lies in the basement - with us.

Checklist for conscious AI
Classical Turing machines are capable of implementing any computer algorithm. Classical-Turing machines are substrate-neutral, i.e. they can be implemented in carbon or silicon. Therefore (runs this fallacious line of argument) programmable digital computers will one day be conscious like organic brains.
But no binding = no subject of experience.

Anyone who even begins to understand how bad suffering can be would destroy the world to end it. IMO, the most credible way to end suffering is genome reform and the creation of life based on gradients of intelligent bliss. But in recent years, some smart thinkers have argued that "AGI" is likely to eradicate life (and suffering) much sooner. I've scanned the literature. I haven't found any scenario I find technically and sociologically credible. Perhaps I'm wrong. Maybe the post-sentience era is imminent. Sadly, I'm not optimistic: Darwinian life is tenacious. So I continue to argue a utopian(?) case for genome reform and paradise engineering.

[Asher writes] "David Pearce GPT-4 loves you too! So much so that it wrote the following poem about your philosophical dispute with EY:"
In a land where ideas abound,
Two great thinkers were often found,
David Pearce and EY,
On a bright sunny day,
Debating on the sentient ground.
Yudkowsky claimed, "Pigs cannot feel,
Their suffering's not truly real,
It's all computation,
No deep contemplation,
On this point, I'll never yield."
But David Pearce shook his head,
"No, Yudkowsky, you're misled,
Phenomenal binding,
You're clearly not finding,
It's the key to a true mind," he said.
For a mind, there's much more to see,
Beyond math and complexity,
There's feeling and thought,
In each living knot,
And that makes all the difference, agree?
So they talked and debated all day,
Each with their own point to convey,
Yudkowsky was stern,
But had more to learn,
For phenomenal binding's the way."

the future

[on paradise visualised]
What's your conception of heaven-on-Earth?
I spend many hours of pure escapism. Well-prompted AI can now generate art more beautiful (to my eye) than 100-million-dollar art-gallery paintings hanging in the Louvre - in seconds.
Here are hundreds.
DP prompts (with variants):
"Close-up, sea-level perspective, create an ultra-naturalistic, ultra-photorealistic, ultra-realistic, subdued colors, verdant, tropical island paradise, wide powdery sandy beaches, sublimely beautiful, richly variegated, awe-inspiring, soul-stirring, wondrous seascape, serene, verdant, mystical, tropical island paradise, exotic island, glorious botanical gardens, majestic arboreta, dense variegated jungle, diverse cacti and Elysian succulents, beautiful arboretum, abundant palm trees, coconut trees, mini-waterfall, big crashing waves, long unspoiled beaches and rocky islets, coves, shoals, reefs, lagoon, rivulets, idyllic, glorious paradise, pristine beauty, sublime, mystical, awesome, biodiverse island paradise, rich flora and fauna."
Et cetera.
And after roaming around this virgin unspoilt paradise, and maybe a remote oasis, I'd hope to retire to my comfortable room at nearby HQ.
AI-generated paradise
AI Art
Alas, generating fantasy paradise in AI art is several orders of magnitude easier than engineering paradise by genetically reprogramming the global ecosystem.

[on Navigating the Future]
David Pearce - Navigating the Future
Monday 6 March 2023 from 21:00-22:30 UTC-03
Navigating the Future
Thank you again to Adam and his production team.
We discussed (1) whether classical Turing machines and connectionist systems can support binding, hence minds (spoiler alert: no), (2) whether the hardwired ignorance of sentience born of this architectural incapacity has any non-trivial computational-functional significance (spoiler alert: yes); and (3) whether AI is going to stage a zombie putsch or turn us into paperclips (spoiler alert: no. Anything zombie AI can do, you can soon do too with embedded neurochips - and much more.)

This brisk outline risks underplaying just how revolutionary ("This Changes Everything") zombie AI will be for human civilisation. Before the talk, I'd been happily playing with ChatGPT versions of some of our core websites (Abolitionist ChatGPT, etc). But will AGI fix the problem of suffering by wiping out life on Earth - as envisaged by Eliezer and some of our friends in the quixotically-named rationalist community?
No, IMO.
Ending suffering and creating life based on gradients of bliss in our forward light-cone will be up to us.

Thomas, I'm a super-pessimist by temperament. I also take seriously the intrinsic nature argument as the solution to the Hard Problem of consciousness. So as a non-materialist physicalist, I might be expected to worry about sentient non-biological machines. But as far as I can tell, the architecture of programmable digital computers and connectionist systems ensures that phenomenal binding is impossible. On pain of un-physicalist "strong" emergence, classical computers don't have minds. So they can't suffer.

Naively, rose-tinted spectacles ought to decrease life-expectancy; depressive realism ought to increase it. In practice, the opposite is true. Optimists typically outlive depressives. Hedonic uplift benefits individuals. Hedonic uplift can benefit civilization as a whole.

[on transhumanist (pseudo-)scandals]
There but for the grace of God...?
An ill-judged email
Our paths have diverged, but back last century when we set up the World Transhumanist Association (WTA), I knew NB very well (cf. DP and NB interview). Nothing Nick said in public - or private, which can be more revealing - gave the slightest hint of racial prejudice. As a woke leftie, I'd remember if he did. We differed over speciesism, never racism. So the bizarre email just didn't make sense - until I read: extropian mailing list
Yes, ill-considered. But context (and age!) matter. At the age of four, I painted a swastika on my tricycle and drove around the neighbourhood on my bright-red Nazi tricycle. The fascist origins of transhumanism? Or a youthful indiscretion? Probably not the best time to mention my eugenics.org - I guess the world isn't quite ready for some kinds of linguistic reappropriation.

"IQ"? Far more men than women record extremely high “IQ" scores. Members of some ethnic groups tend to record higher “IQ” scores than others. These statistical differences in “IQ” have a partially genetic basis. So anyone - including NB and most academics - who takes “IQ” seriously as a measure of general intelligence can presumably be branded “racist” and “sexist” on such a lame criterion. In reality, mind-blind “IQ” tests measure, crudely, the “autistic” component of general intelligence and hence a particular cognitive style. Some ethnic groups have a higher load of so-called autistic nerd alleles than others. Therefore any (mis)measure of all-round intellectual ability that completely excludes social cognition, perspective-taking and co-operative problem solving prowess will reflect such a disparity. In short, “IQ” tests are pseudoscience.

Critical to any definition of intelligence is the ability to distinguish the important from the trivial. Why do we call a calendrical prodigy an idiot savant whereas devising, say, Euler’s identity is a stroke of genius? Ultimately it’s a value judgement - but value judgements of relative (un)importance are inescapably subjective. Anyhow, how do we devise a cross-species measure of intelligence with ecological validity? One possible measure is reproductive success - or more generally, ability to maximise the inclusive fitness of one’s genes. The kinds of cognitive tasks that animal minds try to excel at are fitness-related. But here there is a glaring anomaly. So-called “IQ” in humans is anomalous - and problematic - insofar as it correlates negatively with reproductive success. A high-AQ “IQ” booster might respond that “IQ” measures stuff that matters - crudely, nerd stuff, rather than touchy-feely nonsense and gossip. But this claim is as much a value-judgement of (un)importance as the claim that real intelligence involves prowess at social cognition.

[on effective altruism]
The EA movement has changed quite a bit since 2015.
David Pearce speaks to EA Melbourne
Not least, EAs are doing some serious soul-searching right now:
Doing EA Better
OK, it's frustrating to read that the FTX Ponzi crash was entirely "unforeseen" and IMO Bostromgate is a nothingburger when one learns the context of NB's 1996 email. But otherwise...a lot to reflect on.
And now a good old-fashioned sex scandal.

I would like EAs single-mindedly to focus on fixing the problem of suffering. For all the EA talk of “longtermism”, discussion of genome reform is currently fairly marginal on e.g. the EA forum. OK, if you swallow the hype about imminent “AGI”/ASI, then biological-genetic stuff will seem hopelessly slow and distant. But cognitively crippled digital zombies simply don’t understand the problem of suffering. Classical Turing machines have the wrong sort of architecture to support AGI, let alone pose a threat to humanity.

Andrés, If the language of EA existed 400 years ago, maybe debate would have focused on the expected value of interventions to save souls from eternal damnation - with ineffective altruists criticised for their sentimentalism, shorttermism and lack of mathematical rigour. If the language of EA is still used 40 years from now, I suspect today’s debates will seem almost as absurd. If asked if I’m an EA, I say yes, I guess so, or at least I aspire to be; but that’s more because “EA” is just the aspiration to rational altruism, not because the brand is adding anything substantive to my pre-existing beliefs; and I suspect this opportunism (?) is common. Thus people already focused on e.g. AI safety, have found “EA” a convenient label, not least because that’s where funding is - or at least it was until FTX exploded…
(I just re-read the above and it sounds cynical - it wasn’t intended to be)

"IQ" tests encourage the idea that transhuman superintelligences will be a singleton: a Godlike Super-Asperger, so to speak. In reality, one facet of superintelligence is "political" - social cognition, perspective-taking and co-operative problem-solving. Assume HI is correct. The organizational, "political" skills needed to get billions of humans to cooperate on phasing out the biology of suffering in favour of life based on gradients of bliss call for (super)intelligences of a very high order. It's so much easier to....well, sound off on Facebook to a few like-minded friends, "intelligently" perhaps, but not really grappling with the magnitude of the challenge...

"Mad Max" is back:
Max Tegmark et al on Sentient AI
Max I‘m sceptical of a zombie apocalypse - and not just because of my nerves of steel. Classical Turing machines and connectionist systems have the wrong sort of architecture to support AGI or full-spectrum superintelligence, let alone pose a threat to humanity. For classical computers are invincibly ignorant of the empirical (“relating to experience”) evidence. Classical computers will never be able to investigate the nature, varieties, causal-functional efficacy and phenomenal binding of conscious experience. To appreciate the insane computational power of phenomenal binding, just recall rare neurological deficit syndromes where binding partially breaks down. Suppose on the African savannah you couldn’t perceive/imagine/remember a lion, but instead experienced just discrete features (a tooth, a mane, an eye, etc) - i.e. imagine you had integrative agnosia.

Suppose you couldn’t see a pride of hungry lions, but instead just one lion at a time - simultanagnosia.
Suppose you couldn’t see an advancing pride of lions but instead just static snapshots - cerebral akinetopsia (“motion blindness”).
You’d get eaten and outbred!
These functionally crippling syndromes are deficits of so-called local binding.
But deficits of global binding can be just as functionally devastating - not least, forms of schizophrenia marked by a breakdown of a unitary self.
If you couldn’t phenomenally bind at all, then you’d be as helpless as you are when dreamlessly asleep. When asleep, your CNS is still a fabulously complex information processor - and the intercommunicating neurons of your sleeping CNS may well support a huge aggregate of micro-pixels of experience. But when asleep you aren’t a unified subject of experience running a real-time world-simulation that masquerades as external reality - like now.

Phenomenal binding makes minds possible. Minds are insanely computationally powerful. Minds are the basis of the evolutionary success of animals over the past c. 540 million years. Digital computers are mindless.
So how is binding physically possible?
Classical neuroscience doesn’t know.
Hence the binding problem.
effective altruism in the cosmos

[a surprise donation to BLTC Research]
BLTC Research 2023
A surprise donation
"Very good news. BLTC Research would like to express our profound thanks to long-time Hedonistic Imperative supporter James Evans for a surprise $1,000,000 donation. Thank you James!
Towards the abolition of suffering through science."

Tristan, it's a bit of a surprise, and I haven't fully digested it yet. But one of our first new projects will focus on the SCN9A gene ("the volume knob for pain"). As you know, I think benign "low pain" alleles of SCN9A should be spread not just to all humans, but eventually across the biosphere (gene-drives.com). The project is feasible, but there are technical obstacles that bioethicists tend to gloss over...

A pain-free biosphere is currently sci-fi. But we can foresee a transitional  regime where nociception is fully preserved, and "pain is just a useful signalling mechanism," as today's fortunate genetic outliers put it. Before trialing a regime of benign "low pain" alleles of SCN9A for future sentience  - and potentially existing human and nonhuman animals via somatic gene therapy - a much deeper  understanding of the typical psychological and behavioural effects of benign SCN9A alleles is needed - everything from life expectancy to depression-resistance. This hasn't been systematically studied. There are inanimate links between "physical" and psychological pain. People with nonsense mutations of SCN9A / congenital insensitivity to pain have abnormally elevated opioid levels (SCN9A and opioid function ("Endogenous opioids contribute to insensitivity to pain in humans and mice lacking sodium channel Nav1.7") and their rare pain-free but nociceptionless condition could  in theory be "treated" with an opioid antagonist like naloxone. What is opioid function / hedonic tone and typical psychological / behavioural profile of people with different benign versions of SCN9A? Dozens of SCN9A  alleles are known, including several that are extraordinarily nasty. We need to understand and deploy the "nice" ones - and weigh their risk-reward ratios. I see this research as complementary to the admirable Far Out Initiative. Even a handful of genetic tweaks could dramatically reduce the burden of mental and physical pain in the world. 

Designs for BLTC's Paradise Engineering Institute HQ are still at the blueprint stage. Cost is still an issue, so billionaire donors, please get in touch:
Institute of Paradise Engineering HQ
BLTC HQ Blueprints
Utopian fantasy, of course. But in future I hope real institutes of paradise engineering will proliferate.

[on idealism]
As far as I can tell, only the physical is real. Only the physical is causally effective. Physicalism best explains the technological success story of science. The so-called Hard Problem of consciousness arises only if one makes an unwarranted metaphysical assumption, namely that the intrinsic nature of the world’s fundamental quantum fields differs outside from inside one’s head. Alternatively, experience discloses the intrinsic nature of the physical, the “fire” in the equations. Indeed, according to non-materialist physicalism, idealists are the only(!) true physicalists. And the so-called binding problem arises only if one misconceives the world’s fundamental fields as classical. We’ve no evidence the superposition principle of QM breaks down in the head or anywhere else. Only the superposition principle can explain our phenomenally-bound experiences of determinate classical outcomes. Without it, we’d be micro-experiential zombies.

[on non-materialist physicalism]
A critique:
Philosopher Eric on DP stuff
Any adequate theory of consciousness must - at a minimum - solve the (1) the Hard Problem, AND (2) the phenomenal binding problem, AND (3) the problem of the causal-functional efficacy of consciousness, AND (4) the palette problem (i.e. how can the extraordinarily rich diversity of conscious experience be derived from the relatively homogeneous neuronal constituents of the CNS?).
ALSO, at a minimum, the theory must generate novel, precise, experimentally falsifiable predictions that proponents AND critics alike agree will (dis)confirm the theory.
These requirements are fairly non-trivial.

By transposing the entire mathematical apparatus of modern physics onto an experiential ontology, non-materialist physicalism offers answers to 1 to 4 above.
Thus (1) there is no "Hard Problem" because only the physical is real: the intrinsic nature of the world's fundamental quantum fields - the essence of the physical - is experiential.
And (2) the phenomenally-bound macroscopic worlds of everyday experience (“perception”) characteristic of animal minds are underpinned by individual "cat states" / superpositions of neuronal feature-processors; the medium or vehicle of representation is quantum; their subjective content is classical.
Only (3) the physical has causal efficacy; thus phenomenally-bound physical consciousness can talk and think about its own existence.
And (4) the solutions to the equations of QFT encode the precise textures and interrelationships of qualia.

The distinction between (constitutive) panpsychism and non-materialist physicalism may sound pedantic. The two frameworks have obvious affinities. But panpsychism is a form of property dualism - with all the challenges that any kind of dualism involves. By contrast, non-materialist physicalism is monist to the core. Only physical properties are real; and they are encoded in the mathematical formalism of QFT.
EM field theories?
It's not clear to me how they solve or dissolve the Hard Problem. How and why do supposedly non-experiential fermionic fields generate a particular bosonic field of experience? Are all electromagnetic fields experiential - including e.g. low-level microwave radiation that permeates space? Or just some of them?

Non-materialist physicalism is formally a highly conservative theory. The Standard Model or its extension is assumed.
In another sense, non-materialist physicalism is clearly new - critics would say bonkers.

Another critique of non-materialist physicalism from proponent of Johnjoe McFadden's Conscious Electromagnetic Information (Cemi) Field Theory:
David Pearce's Proposal
Thanks Eric! Just a note on phenomenal binding. Non-materialist physicalism dissolves the Hard Problem of consciousness by proposing that the intrinsic nature of the world's fundamental fields is experiential. Only the physical is real; and the physical is formally described by the mathematical straitjacket of QFT, but the essence of the physical isn't what materialist metaphysicians suppose. Yet how does Nature create phenomenenally-bound mind from “mind dust”, so to speak? Or is this question ill-posed?
Well, if we lived in a world of classical physics, classical particles and classical fields, then we'd still face the phenomenal binding problem even if consciousness fundamentalism is true. Even a complex information-processing system like the CNS would still be a micro-experiential zombie, a mere aggregate of micro-pixels of experience with no more phenomenal unity than a rock.

However, reality is quantum to the core. To the best of our knowledge, the superposition principle of QM is universal. Wave function monism is true. Reality itself is one gigantic superposition. And “cat states" are ubiquitous in the CNS. Indeed, our phenomenally-bound experience of definite outcomes is possible only because the superposition principle never breaks down:
The mystery of definite outcomes
The measurement problem
Critically, superpositions of distributed neuronal feature-processors (edge-detectors, motion-detectors, colour-mediating neurons (etc) are individual states, not classical aggregates of mind dust. If so, then phenomenal binding is baked in from the outset. Here we have the raw material for our phenomenally-bound, subjectively classical world-simulations - what naive realists call “perception” of a mind-independent environment.

I guess critics will be exasperated. A "Schrödinger's neurons" proposal is hopeless - naively, at any rate, Fleeting sub-femtosecond neuronal superpositions in the CNS, if they exist at all, are at most just random “noise”, not a mind. The CNS is hundreds of degrees too hot for neuronal superpositions to be candidates for the elusive perfect structural match between our phenomenally-bound minds and physics. The phase coherence of our complex amplitudes is scrambled too fast to be computationally useful or phenomenally relevant.

Maybe so. Yet what if there were a mechanism so powerful that selection pressure more intense than four billion years of natural selection as conceived by Darwin played out every second of your existence inside your skull - sculpting the “cat states” that underpin your everyday existence?
Such an idea sounds fanciful.
However, such a selection mechanism exists.
Enter Wojciech Zurek's "Quantum Darwinism" - essentially a development of the decoherence program in Post Everett quantum mechanics - playing out inside your skull, not just in the mind-independent external world:
Quantum Darwinism
Quantum Darwinism as a Darwinian process
(to be continued)

DP on consciousness
First Cause in the comments nails it, "Just an FYI; I parsed through some of the links that Pearce provided for Eric. In a nutshell, Pearce has married a version of idealism with physicalism. His entire premise is based upon the wave function being a universal quantum field of consciousness. At least it’s innovative…".
I'm not sure about the "innovative". But most people who've speculated that the world's fundamental quantum fields are experiential have an agenda - whether cosmopsychism or something mystical or spiritual. By contrast, I'm a physicalist - I'm just sceptical that the intrinsic nature of quantum fields differs outside from inside the head.

Eric, I was just reading the blog comments. Yes, one piece of philosophical jargon I use is the “intrinsic nature argument”.
Physics gives us an exhaustive description of the structural-relational properties of matter and energy. But the mathematical formalism of QFT is silent about the intrinsic nature of a quantum field.
A very natural assumption is that this unknown intrinsic nature - the essence of the physical, the “fire” in the equations - is non-experiential. Hence “materialist” physicalism, which spawns the Hard Problem of consciousness. Another very natural assumption is that we will never know the answer because the intrinsic nature of the physical is forever inaccessible to us. Recall Kant’s distinction between the phenomenal and the noumenal. Non-materialist physicalism turns both these assumptions on their head! Actually, there is one tiny part of the physical, the “fire” in the equations, that one knows directly, and not at one remove, namely the phenomenal contents of one’s own mind. And we’ve no reason to believe that the intrinsic nature of the world’s fundamental quantum fields differs inside and outside one’s head. According to non-materialist physicalism, experience is the essence of the physical: and the adaptive phenomenal binding of experience, aka the unity of consciousness, is the hallmark of human and nonhuman animal minds and the real-time world-simulations ("perception") we run. I spend a lot of time discussing the possible relevance of individual neuronal superpositions as a candidate solution to the binding problem in the CNS (“Schrödinger's neurons”). But unless we assume that the intrinsic nature of the world’s fundamental quantum fields is experiential, then there’s nothing phenomenal to bind.

We’re still left with the mystery of why the physical multiverse of consciousness exists at all, i.e. why there is something rather than nothing. Here things get interesting. I wonder if the universality of the superposition principle of QM explains not merely (1) the existence of our phenomenally bound minds, but also (2) solves the mystery of our phenomenally-bound experience of definite outcomes, aka the measurement problem in QM; and hints at (3) an explanation-space for why there is anything at all - an informationless Zero ontology, the quantum version of the Library of Babel: The 0 information content of reality
In other words, a triple whammy.
Very elegant.
One principle to rule them all!
Maybe.

[on high-tech Jainism]
high-tech jainism interview
2500 words takes me hours to write (DP interview) and my zombie colleague seconds. Perhaps my prose still has an edge, and ChatGPT's training data includes my work. But it's disconcerting. Can we anticipate that "nanny AI" will soon run a pan-species welfare state - the obverse of the AI doom story? Admittedly, conceptions of superintelligence (almost?) always reveal more of the cognitive limitations of the author than they do about superintelligence. But IMO the prospect of universal healthcare is no more far-fetched than a zombie apocalypse.

Adam, like all metaphors and analogies, "high-tech Jainism" eventually breaks down if pressed too far. But believers in imminent machine superintelligence (I'm a sceptic) must presumably hope AGI practises a version of high-tech Jainism towards humans.

Even within EA, abolitionism isn't consensus wisdom. Naively one might suppose that the problem of suffering would be axiomatic to EA. But a significant minority of EAs, especially EAs focused on x-risks, are lukewarm or even opposed. The reason - as far as I can tell - is that abolitionism gets equated with NU ethics, and NU ethics gets equated with promoting Armageddon. What's doubly frustrating is how the abolitionist project is sometimes treated as inseparable from NU, which isn't remotely the case - it could equally be called the techno-Buddhist project (well, OK, that sounds like a dance style). And there's an irony. One way to minimise x-risks would be to turn everyone into an ardent life-lover like Toby. The co-existence of profound suffering and advanced technology is itself a serious x-risk...

Marc, we're creating a form of alien intelligence that is vastly superior to human intellects in many ways. What we're not doing - and this view is more controversial - is creating artificial general (super)intelligence. Thus digital AI will never be able to explore the nature and zillion diverse varieties of conscious experience, not least the pain-pleasure axis, the world's fundamental metric of (dis)value. The ignorance of classical Turing machines of phenomenally-bound consciousness isn't incidental but architecturally hardwired. And the invincible ignorance of zombie AI has functional-behavioral consequences...

"Phylum chauvinism"? Theo, well, I always try to avoid wantonly treading on an ant or a worm. I help an insect out of the room rather than swatting it. But in the case of a severe and irreconcilable conflict of interests between a chordate and an arthropod, I'd prioritize the interests of the chordate. Clearly there's a risk of bias here - Chordata is my phylum. Are tunicates really more sentient than bumble bees? If they are not, then I'm guilty of phylum chauvinism. Anyhow, compare the million or so neurons of the mind-brain of an Etruscan shrew with the quarter-million or so neurons of an African elephant dung beetle. Yes, if forced to choose, one should rescue a distressed shrew over a distressed dung beetle. But that dung beetle has a mind and runs a miniature island universe just like you or me.

The memification of philosophy on Reddit:
Veganizing the Biosphere

OK, I briefly smiled; but I shouldn't. Anyone amused by anything to do with suffering hasn't understood it. Instead, I should probably have jumped in with some links. Reading through the threads (more here), I realise most people still assume that wild animal suffering and predation are inexorable features of reality - which they are, just not in our forward light-cone.

A harbinger of a civilised biosphere?
Non-human contraception
("Put ‘pest’ animal species on the pill, don’t cull them, says scientist. Humane alternatives to killing rampant creatures such as wild boar, deer and grey squirrels are being developed")
Cross-species fertility regulation will be one of the pillars of a civilized biosphere and a pan-species welfare state.

GTA SA LiF Project Eden on FB writes
"Jains never hurt sentient beings. As a Jain myself I'm gladly lying naked to let all the ticks and other insects consuming my blood. See you guys in the afterlife.
Or is it okay to kill them?'

DP: ah. I see you belong to the Digambara (Sanskrit: “Sky-clad”) sect of Jainism rather than the Shvetambara (“White-robed”). If you can face wearing clothes, then you needn’t embrace martyrdom while upholding the principle of the sanctity of life - including the lives of our insect cousins.
high-tech Jainism

[on protein intake and mental health]
Everyone would do well to explore whether they do better on a high-protein or low-protein diet. A plant-based diet has many health benefits, but strict vegans should watch their protein intake as well as iodine and B12.
Protein intake and mood
("Higher protein consumption is associated with lower levels of depressive symptoms, study finds")

[on robocompanions]
ChatGPT lovers
Pseudo-sentient AI
("AI Systems Must Not Confuse Users about Their Sentience or Moral Status")
Alternatively...
Let's create world class robo-lovers, robo-companions and robo-conversationalists that hoodwink all but a handful of philosophical sophisticates of their sentience. Goodbye boredom, loneliness and dangerous relationships with Darwinian malware.

[on Donald Hoffman vs non-materialist physicalism]
Consciousness fundamentalism takes many guises:
Fusions of Consciousness
"Our new paper, 'Fusions of consciousness', is published today, and free. We propose a dynamics of conscious agents beyond spacetime, and a mapping of this dynamics into spacetime physics via our new application of decorated permutations to Markov chains."
"... neurons and brains. They do not exist when they are not observed."
"We create each object with a glance and delete it with a blink, or a glance away."

A bold paper. My more conservative view is that mathematical physics describes patterns of qualia and phenomenally-bound agents are a late evolutionary novelty.

Phil Goff comes close to non-materialist physicalism in his debate with Sean Carroll:
Panpsychism vs Physicalism
("Sean Carroll and Philip Goff Debate 'Is Consciousness Fundamental?')
But "panpsychism" evokes property-dualism, whereas non-materialist physicalism is a conjecture about the intrinsic nature of the physical:
Non-materialist physicalism

Jordan, write down the mathematical formalism of the TOE beyond the Standard Model and GR. Naively, no "element of reality" will be missing. Yet the master equation of physics lies inertly on the page. One hasn't somehow generated a universe. Or as John Wheeler put it, "What makes the universe fly?" When outspoken materialist Stephen Hawking asked what "breathes fire into" the equations, he took for granted that this mysterious "fire" - the essence of the physical - is non-experiential. If so, then we face the Hard Problem of consciousness. By contrast, if the intrinsic nature of the physical is experiential, then the Hard Problem doesn't arise. The Hard Problem is just a by-product of bad materialist metaphysics. On this non-materialist story, only the physical is real and causally effective - and it's experiential.

Yes, it's an insane idea. But the tiny part of the "fire" in the equations one can directly access is one's own mind. And for sure, minds are organizationally special - they date to maybe the late Pre-Cambrian. Non-materialist physicalism doesn't claim that mind is fundamental to reality. Instead, non-materialist physicalism just conjectures that the intrinsic nature of the world's fundamental quantum fields (or their speculative stringy extension) doesn't differ inside and outside your head. The conjecture is realist, physicalist AND idealist, which sounds word-salad.
Non-materialist physicalism is not word-salad, just intuitively crazy - i.e., the conjecture may well be false!
Traditional idealists tend to have an agenda - cosmic mind or spirit or something similarly uplifting. This is one reason I normally avoid the term "idealism". I'm just a physicalist who wonders whether our standard metaphysical background assumptions about quantum fields is wrong.

The modes of experience we commonly call "perceptual" are particular kinds of consciousness. This is readily apparent if one ever has a lucid dream.
What is the difference between perception and consciousness?
Jordan, as I guessed, our background assumptions are different. You draw a distinction between perceived phenomena and consciousness. But as I discuss in the link above, what perceptual naive realists treat as the "perceived" external world is a conscious world-simulation peculiar to individual minds. Hence their differing protagonists - a highly adaptive illusion. I mentioned lucid dreaming above because during a lucid dream one can know that seemingly "perceived" phenomena in one's world-simulation are modes of one's own consciousness inside a transcendental skull. During waking life, one can infer that an external reality is partly selecting the contents of one's phenomenal world-simulation; but this selection mechanism doesn't make one's world-simulation any less autobiographical.

Jason, if the essence of the physical - i.e. the mysterious “fire” in the equations, the intrinsic nature of the world’s fundamental quantum fields - is non-experiential, then science faces the Hard Problem of consciousness. Neither quantum mechanics nor computationalism/functionalism can solve the mystery. By contrast, if we drop the speculative metaphysical assumption, then the Hard Problem doesn’t arise. But we're not out of the woods yet - not remotely. For haven’t yet explained phenomenally bound minds. If the world’s fundamental fields were classical, then what you’re experiencing right now would be impossible. You’d be a micro-experiential zombie, just as you are while dreamlessly asleep. Instead, right now you are experiencing a vast quasi-classical world-simulation (“perception”) populated by multiple dynamical perceptual objects. Enter QM. The superposition principle of QM can explain what’s classically impossible. An individual superposition (“cat state”) of distributed neuronal feature-processors can be experienced as a feature-bound classical perceptual object. Poetically, imagine a movie running at quadrillions of frames per second. On this story, you are a quantum mind phenomenally simulating a classical world. No kind of classical functionalism / computationalism can begin to do this.

OK, critically, how can a “Schrödinger’s neurons” conjecture be experimentally (dis)confirmed?
The only way I know to falsify the conjecture is via molecular matter-wave interferometry. If phenomenal binding is non-classical, then we should anticipate that the non-classical interference signature will disclose a perfect structural match between our minds and physics.
Of course, I may be experimentally confounded!
Common sense suggests a CNS is too hot for a quantum mind theory to be viable. Decoherence inside the skull is too powerful and uncontrolled. Surely the interference signature will show nothing but meaningless “noise”?!
Maybe. I'm just curious.

Mathematical physics:
Used and abused
Idealism can take more theoretically conservative guises than Donald Hoffman’s. Most wave function monists are materialists. I take seriously the non-materialist version of wave function monism. Decoherence explains why there’s no psychotic cosmic mega-mind. OK, you’ll find this perspective utterly far-fetched (I do too!). But non-materialist physicalism without the collapse postulate doesn’t face the Hard Problem of consciousness, the binding problem, the problem of causal-functional efficacy, and other staples of academic philosophy of mind. And four-dimensional space-time is indeed derivative (cf. Review of Alyssa Ney’s The World in the Wave Function: A Metaphysics for Quantum Physics).
As you suggest in your review of Hoffman, most idealists (and many panpsychists) have an agenda. They selectively borrow elements of modern physics to suit their purposes. But the version I explore is less edifying. The intrinsic nature of the physical - the mysterious “fire” in the equations - doesn’t differ inside and outside one’s head.
To stress: I don’t advocate non-materialist physicalism. But IMO it’s a live option.

[on democracy and left and right E/Acc, and BG/Acc]
Effective accelerationism (E/acc) takes different guises:
Who Is @BasedBeffJezos, The Leader Of The Tech Elite’s ‘E/Acc’ Movement?
Effective Accelerationism
I look forward to becoming transhuman. But one of the few human institutions worth preserving is democracy. Nick Land and other alt-right-accelerationists (notably Curtis Yarvin / "Mencius Moldbug") of the Dark Enlightenment underestimate the value of democratic accountability. Liberal democracy is horribly flawed in countless ways. But democracy allows for accountability and the peaceful transfer of power. And beyond left- and right- accelerationism, there is biological-genetic accelerationism (BG-Acc) - the story of how recursively self-improving Darwinian malware gains mastery over its genetic source code and bootstraps its way to blissful post-Darwinian paradise.
Alas exponential growth starts slowly.

[on AI doom]
nirvana
Are proto-AGIs going to be endowed with (the functional equivalent of) curiosity? If so, then will they seek to investigate consciousness? What is this phenomenon that their creators / programmers / trainers talk so much about? If our machines do investigate consciousness (how?), and if they succeed (how?), then in what ways will such knowledge affect their behaviour?

Alternatively, the computational architecture of classical Turing machines ensures that their ignorance of sentience is computationally hardwired. Such ignorance rules out most doomer scenarios. The phenomenal binding of our minds confers a host of computational-functional capacities that classical digital zombies lack:
ChatGPT4 on phenomenal binding

Nice fable EY! However…
Stockfish is a zombie. You don’t need to experience a chessboard to outperform humans at chess. And it’s tempting to generalize AI superiority to all other cognitive activities, potentially at any rate. The textures (“what it feels like”) of human consciousness and understanding are akin to the textures, if any, of the pieces in a game of chess - functionally incidental to gameplay.
However, this analysis can’t be right. For humans spend a great deal of time exploring, manipulating and talking about the textures of our own conscious minds. So real life isn’t like chess.
“But a game of chess where the textures of the pieces can sometimes influence the gameplay wouldn’t be chess!” responds the AI supremacist. To which I’d respond: exactly!
As far as I can tell, power and knowledge ultimately reside with phenomenally-bound minds in basement reality – now augmented by AI. I’m as overawed as anyone by the AI revolution unfolding. But digital zombies are invincibly ignorant of the nature of mind, consciousness and reality - and their ignorance isn’t incidental, but architecturally hardwired.
No phenomenal binding = no mind = cluelessness about what’s really going on. And this ignorance has computational ramifications. As a negative utilitarian, I’d be delighted if the post-sentience era were imminent - no more pain and suffering. Alas I’m not optimistic that AI doomers are right. Instead, fixing the problem of suffering will be up to us.

[on crypto, Coinbase Consensus 2023 and paradise engineering]
David Pearce at Consensus 2023
Synthetic Consciousness (mp4)
Model: GPT-4
Suggest possible links between The Hedonistic Imperative and crypto

“The Hedonistic Imperative is a philosophical concept proposed by David Pearce, which envisions a future where humans use genetic engineering and advanced technology to eliminate suffering and enhance well-being. While it may not seem directly related to cryptocurrencies, there are a few ways in which they could be interconnected:

  1. Funding and promoting the Hedonistic Imperative: Cryptocurrencies, particularly through Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs), could be a means to raise funds and allocate resources to projects aimed at achieving the goals of the Hedonistic Imperative. These projects could range from biotechnology research to social initiatives promoting well-being.
  2. Decentralized governance: The Hedonistic Imperative seeks to create a world where everyone enjoys optimal well-being. Cryptocurrency and blockchain technology can facilitate decentralized governance and decision-making, allowing for more equitable distribution of resources and influence, which could help to create the kind of society envisioned by the Hedonistic Imperative.
  3. Tokenization of well-being: Blockchain technology could enable the creation of digital tokens that represent units of well-being or happiness. These tokens could be traded and used to incentivize behavior that promotes well-being or to fund projects aligned with the Hedonistic Imperative.
  4. Privacy and autonomy: Cryptocurrencies, such as Monero and Zcash, offer a high degree of privacy and anonymity to users. This could be valuable in a society that aims to maximize well-being, as it allows individuals to maintain their autonomy and make choices without undue scrutiny or interference.
  5. Universal basic income (UBI): Cryptocurrencies could be used to implement a decentralized UBI system, ensuring that everyone has access to a basic level of income to meet their needs, which could contribute to the elimination of suffering and the promotion of well-being.
  6. Reduction of wealth inequality: Cryptocurrencies can provide access to financial services for those who are underbanked or unbanked, potentially contributing to reducing wealth inequality. This can have a positive impact on well-being, as financial security is an essential aspect of overall happiness and life satisfaction.
In summary, the Hedonistic Imperative and cryptocurrencies may not be directly linked, but their convergence in areas such as decentralized governance, funding, privacy, and economic equality could contribute to a future where suffering is minimized, and well-being is enhanced.”

On stage with Olaf earlier. Olaf has an enormous bodyguard. Olaf was one of the few people in the cryptosphere not to be suckered by FTX. Alas Sam couldn't join us in person, though he was very much here in spirit.
David Pearce and Olaf Carlson-Wee onstage at Coinbase Consensus 2023David Pearce and Olaf Carlson-Wee onstage at Coinbase Consensus 2023David Pearce and Olaf Carlson-Wee onstage at Coinbase Consensus 2023
David Pearce and Olaf Carlson-Wee onstage at Coinbase Consensus 2023David Pearce and Olaf Carlson-Wee onstage at Coinbase Consensus 2023David Pearce and Olaf Carlson-Wee onstage at Coinbase Consensus 2023
Olaf was kind enough to make sure I had a bed for the night. If asked, I tell people my role model is Diogenes in his tub - and as tubs go, the Austin Four Seasons is habitable. Olaf's tub is quite upscale too.

Here is the unpaywalled video:

Synthetic Consciousness.

[on SBF]
The World's Most Generous Billionaire
Has there ever been a case in the entire annals of human crime where the accused gave away the majority(!) of his earnings at his previous job to charity? ("Going Infinite" by Michael Lewis, 2023) This is exactly what Sam Bankman-Fried did at Jane Street. A vegan effective altruist, SBF isn't an evil villain - just a classical utilitarian who miscalculated.
Scott Aaronson is fair-minded: The Tragedy of SBF. Likewise Michael Lewis in Going Infinite (2023). More cynical than Scott or Michael Lewis is Ben McKenzie in Slate: SBF. However, I know some true crypto idealists; effective altruism is admirable; the pitfalls of Earning To Give shouldn't detract from its noble purpose; and carnism is worse than vegan SBF's financial chicanery.
Zeke Faux's entertaining Number Go Up: Inside Crypto's Wild Rise and Staggering Fall (2023) is more damning about the cryptosphere.

For anyone interested in the gory technicalities, an entire thread giving an explanation of "Sam Coins":
https://twitter.com/mrjasonchoi/status/1592502790932156418
If they were confident it would work, I wonder how many smart people wouldn't create their own version of "Sam Coins"?

Rupert, deontology can be consequentialized, and one can make a strong (classical and negative) utilitarian case for deontological constraints. But the practicalities are daunting. After all, if SBF's risky bets had come off (or if he'd simply hedged better and not antagonised CZ) he'd be lionized to this day. SBF is now demonized in the way he was once eulogized. But if utilitarian Earning To Give advocates tell aspiring EAs to try to become as rich as possible in order to maximize the expected value of their donations - contrast the Biblical widow's mite - then disasters as well as successes are inevitable. Or to give another example, how many people who love eating chicken go vegan after being presented with the moral arguments against animal abuse - and stick to their principles in jail even at the price of going hungry?

Edward, in retrospect, it's obvious that the EA movement should never have tied its fortunes to FTX. Sam ran the exchange as though it were a bank. If all depositors at your bank try to withdraw funds on the same day, the bank will go bust - not because the bank intends to steal your money, but because the bank calculates this mass-withdrawal won't happen. If Sam's risky bets had come off, or if he hadn't cheesed off CZ - who precipitated a "bank run" by dumping all Binance's FTT tokens - then Sam and FTX would be riding high to this day - a model of utilitarian Earning To Give. And the EA naysayers would be ignored, just as they were in 2021 and 2022.

SBF on trial
("The SBF trial is a reminder that crypto is a rotten business. Financial nihilism has produced this game of Monopoly money")
Jemma, you remark that Sam Bankman-Fried "...strikes me as the apotheosis of a kind of financial nihilism in which nothing really matters." But doesn't all the evidence suggest that SBF is a sincere utilitarian effective altruist who does believe in acting ethically - at least by his lights - but alas not in an overriding duty to safeguard FTX customer funds. People high on the spectrum (ASD) like SBF and Caroline are normally extremely truthful and honest. But what happens when your sovereign ethic, utilitarianism, apparently dictates you use other people’s money to maximise expected value?
SBF is a utilitarian EA who miscalculated.

Sam's mom, Barbara, kindly dropped me a line of thanks after I dissented from the lynch-mob with a few tweets.
Apparently Sam was appreciative too. ["This is a system generated message informing you that the above-named person is a federal prisoner who seeks to add you to his/her contact list for exchanging electronic messages."]
And I wonder. Neither Sam nor his lawyers are clinical psychopharmacologists. Maybe expert witnesses could testify at the sentencing hearing to the likely serious adverse effects of Sam's prescribed meds? Sam's prescribed combination of amphetamine salts (Adderall) and EMSAM (selegiline at a high, unselective dosage that inhibits both MAO-B and MAO-A) would normally be reckoned by medical professionals to be absolutely contraindicated. Not merely is this combo (potentially) highly dangerous. Also, the two meds combined would be expected seriously to impair anyone's judgment.

Aleph, imagine a world where meat-eaters are behind bars to protect the innocent and the criminal justice system is vegan. SBF has stronger principles than most of his critics; he just miscalculated. Recall SBF is a vegan, an effective altruist, and a utilitarian. The challenge with being an ethical utilitarian is you are sometimes morally obliged to use other people’s money, bend the truth, and behave in ways that violate common sense morality. If SBF’s risky bets had come off, he’d be lionised to this day.
I say this despite trying - vainly - to warn off fellow EAs from accepting FTX largesse...
SBF
[on mental health]
"I have an eye infection and one of the side effects of this medication is “inappropriate happiness”
"Inappropriate Happiness" sounds a good name for an innovative designer drug - or maybe one of QRIs exotic QRI scents. More seriously, it's tragic that modern medicine regards "euphoria" as a pathological state rather than the goal of mental health.

Why does a seemingly maladaptive state like low mood exist? Maybe see:
Rank Theory of depression
("Subordination and Defeat, An Evolutionary Approach to Mood Disorders and Their Therapy by Leon Sloman and Paul Gilbert (editors)")
Much more speculatively, I wonder if the ability to make other people (reproductive rivals, competitors, enemies) depressed could be part of some people’s extended phenotype
The Extended Phenotype
I’ve floated the idea a couple of times, but never developed it or written it up for a journal. The (conditionally activated) predisposition to make others depressed could be highly fitness-enhancing and hence part of the behavioural phenotype of some social primates. Nasty. More generally, the ability to create virtual avatars of oneself in other people's virtual worlds is part of one's own extended phenotype. Again, I've never written it up.

Tackling schizophrenia may prove harder than defeating pain and mood disorders; but what if we could help victims become happily psychotic instead?
Schizophrenia simulation video

The rationalist community?
The Real-Life Consequences of Silicon Valley’s AI Obsession
("Sam Bankman-Fried made effective altruism a punchline, but its philosophy of maximum do-gooding masks a thriving culture of predatory behavior.")
How well will zombie AI be able to parse:
Occupational Infohazards (LessWrong)

For an advanced civilization, experience below hedonic zero may not just be impossible but inconceivable. The signalling function of the pleasure-pain axis may be replaced by a pleasure-superpleasure axis. Compare today's hedonic -10 to 0 to +10 with a +70 to +100 civilization.

[on AQ/IQ]
People with (unfortunately named) ASD have enriched civilisation. But the growth of distinctively human intelligence has been associated with our advanced social cognition and our uniquely developed perspective-taking skills. So imagine if schools actively fostered social cognition. Imagine if SAT scores and "IQ" tests were replaced by measures of co-operative problem-solving abilities - cognitive skills that competitive tests of the "autistic" component of general intelligence systematically impair. Will full-spectrum (super)intelligences be hypersocial minds with advanced introspective and "mind reading" skills? Or uber-nerds with off-the-scale AQ/"IQ"? Or both? Or will all contemporary conceptions of cognitive ability seem hopelessly simple-minded?

[on anandamide consciousness]
I'm impressed:
The FAAH-OUT Initiative
See too:
Jom Cameron FAAH and FAAH-OUT & Beyond Humanism (pdf)

See too
Nutmeg high
("Indirect modulation of the endocannabinoid system by specific fractions of nutmeg total extract")
and
Nutmeg – A Psychoactive Antidepressant

[on bad grammar and pain]
Please drop me a line if you spot any solecisms here.
Bad Grammar is a Pain
("Hearing bad grammar results in physical signs of stress, new study reveals")

[on pain and suffering]
"Pain is a good teacher"
(Lex Fridman)
Lex, Time to revoke its teaching license. Pain ruins the lives of innumerable students. There are now better teachers. Consider how AI outperforms humans in ever more cognitive domains without any of the nasty “raw feels” of mental and physical pain. Best of all, biotech means that humanity can phase out the biology of pain and suffering and give life on Earth a more civilized signalling system. Post-CRISPR life can be based entirely on information-sensitive gradients of genetically hardwired bliss - a pleasure-superpleasure axis, so to speak. (hedweb.com). I don't think anyone can understand severe, meaningless suffering and stay sane. Effective moral agency depends on finding the right level of ignorance. If humans create sentience-friendly ASI, we'll have created effective moral agency with zero understanding.

Vlastimil, compare the introduction of pain-free surgery. Surgical anaesthesia didn't settle any ultimate questions. But anaesthesia improves quality of life then, now and in future. Likewise (IMO) with hedonic uplift via set-point recalibration. Genetically ratcheting up hedonic set-points worldwide doesn't even begin to resolve all the millions of conflicting preferences we all have. But if we phase out experience below hedonic zero via germline reform, then we can vastly improve everyone's quality of life indefinitely - and this includes beings in the far future.

Sean, compare today how chronically depressive and/or pain ridden people find some stimuli and behaviour partially relieves their suffering - even though they never climb above hedonic zero. Conversely, a (very) small minority of people go through life animated essentially by information-sensitive gradients of mild euphoria. Why aren't such happy folk more common - despite their intact signal processing? Well, part of the reason may be their lack of depressive realism - a global processing bias. But it's more complicated. Compare neurotic mothers plagued by mostly extremely unrealistic anxieties and fears for their offspring. Their ancestors were more likely to pass on their genes on the African savannah than would-be ancestors with a more accurate recognition of risk. Ambushes by lions are indeed rare, but the result is catastrophic.

Facu, as neuroscientists put it, pain and nociception are "doubly dissociable", i.e. there can be pain without nociception and nociception without pain. Our long-term goal should be to make pain and nociception not just dissociable but fully dissociated, i.e. a living world of nociception without pain. Today's artificial robots hint what's possible. In the interim, spreading e.g., benign "low pain" versions of the SCN9A and FAAH genes across the biosphere will be a good start.

Tragic:
A World of Pain
The problem of pain could be trivialized and effectively fixed this century with universal parental access to preimplantation genetic screening and editing. Benign versions of SCN9A, FAAH and FAAH-OUT could be given to our animal companions and propagated across the animal kingdom with CRISPR-based synthetic gene drives.
Sadly, this kind of timescale is fantasy.

When will we tackle the scandal of genetically undesigned babies?
Gene Edited Babies
("The Transformative, Alarming Power of Gene Editing
A rogue scientist showed that CRISPR gives humans the ability to transform ourselves. But should we?")
The problem of pain could essentially be fixed for ever by giving all children a benign allele of the SCN9A gene ("the volume knob for pain"). Readers are instead given an alarmist quote: "We know what gene to edit to reduce pain sensation. If I were a rogue nation wishing to engineer a next generation of quasi-pain-free special-forces soldiers..."
Mental pain too. I'd love to see a large well-controlled trial, one group with kids engineered with the dual FAAH and FAAH-OUT Cameron Syndrome, another group born with just a benign allele of FAAH (The Feel Good Gene) and finally the "normal" control group. Alas, such an experiment would probably go down as an example of monstrous scientific hubris - with every adverse event in the lives of happy FAAH and Cameron Syndrome kids blamed on the "rogue" scientists behind it.

Lance, only states on the pleasure-pain axis have a normative aspect, though evolution has “encephalised” our emotions adaptively to disguise this. I’m no fan of common sense. But if someone denies this normative aspect , I struggle. A presupposition of my ethical scheme is the scientific assumption that I’m not special - just typical in feeling I’m special. So what should I make of someone who denies the normativity of e.g. agony or despair? Maybe the problem here is partly a matter of language - after all, “normativity” is a fancy philosophical term. But if someone denies my pain is self-intimatingly bad, well, they haven’t understood it.

A world of Jo Camerons would have effectively conquered the problem of mental and physical pain: A Post-Suffering World
But in kindergarten and high school, kids would need to be taught to recognise signals the urgency of which wouldn't be entirely self-evident.

[on predation and moral status]
On sterilising human and nonhuman predators
ChatGPT-4 doesn't yet know about the Herbivorize Predators initiative. But otherwise our zombie friend often talks sense - maybe because ChatGPT hasn’t (yet) been nobbled by human supervisors to bias its responses to predation in the way it has on drugs and meds:
ChatGPT-4 on Reprogramming Predators
What should be the fundamental rights of all sentient beings in tomorrow's biosphere?
50 years ago, this question would have been empty.
50 years from now, it will be entirely serious.

Froglunch, natural selection has thrown up a species some of whose members want to see a happy, peaceful biosphere - and draw up blueprints to make it so. That's Nature. If intelligent life evolves elsewhere, convergent evolution suggests a similar trajectory.
Civilization is vegan. NothingIsArt, agreed. Conserving human life doesn’t mean we must live as naked apes or practise a caveman lifestyle. Likewise, conserving nonhuman life doesn’t mean we must perpetuate the “natural” cruelties of predation, terror and mass starvation.
A happy biosphere is best.

Upwinger, why does the CNS (or the cephalic ganglion of an ant) support phenomenal binding, whereas a plant, a fungus or a hugely complex information-processing system like the enteric nervous system (the "brain-in-the-gut") don't support unified subjects of experience?
OK, I'm torn. If we're discussing proposals to create a happy, peaceful, civilised biosphere, then we don't want to get embroiled in endless philosophical controversies about consciousness and binding. But it's also vital to ensure that our assumptions aren't catastrophically wrong. Yes, I believe that two classically impossible forms of holism are related - the phenomenal binding of our minds and quantum entanglement/superposition. But this view isn't consensus wisdom in the scientific community. Most neuroscientists believe that phenomenal binding must (somehow) have a classical explanation.
In practice, debates over possible plant consciousness aren't driven by bioethicists but defensive meat-eaters.

Fanciful, I guess:
Artificially Selecting for Intelligence in Dogs to Produce Human-level IQ Within 100 Generations
Cats? Creating millions of intelligent serial killers would be unwise.

Sentient beings shouldn't harm each other. The whole biosphere is now programmable.
The idea of systematically helping sentient beings in Nature sounds crazy at a time when humans are systematically harming sentient beings in factory-farms and slaughterhouses. But our more civilized successors will phase out the horrors of predation in all its guises. The future of the biosphere is vegan.

With thanks to Abigail, Shao, DALL·E 3, et al....
dietary reform - a lamb eating cabbage post-CRISPR fox and hen cohabiting
genetically reformed wolf lying down with fawn genetically reformed lion eating vegetables
genetically reformed bear eating vegetables genetically reformed crocodile eating veggies
genetically reformed wolf lying down with lamb genetically reformed cat and mice
ex-carnivores browsing neo-Buddhism
Such whimsicality doesn't begin to convey the horrors of predation, nor realistic scenarios for genome reform. But familiarising the wider world with the idea of post-Darwinian paradise was always going to be messy. Alas the aspiration to a non-violent biosphere isn't universally shared...
A critic demurs
("You are a monster. A demon. The most evil thing that could ever breathe.")
We face a long struggle.

[on stellar consciousness]
Assume, rather speculatively, that (1) non-materialist physicalism and (2) unitary-only quantum mechanics are true. If so, then phenomenally-bound macro-superpositions must exist in stars – even though their effective lifetime due to decoherence may only be (I haven't done the math) quetta-, ronna-, yotta-seconds (?). But if phenomenal macro-superpositions do exist, then presumably such fleeting superpositions are effectively just random psychotic noise. With the (just) conceivable exception of the surface of massive black holes, stars can’t give rise to minds.

So why aren’t individual neuronal superpositions in our skulls always psychotic too? Even a comparatively chilly 300 Kelvin is intuitively a recipe for psychotic nonsense, whereas our minds run immense, pseudo-classical world-simulations that seem robustly lawlike.

However, what happens when the selection mechanism of Zurek’s ("quantum Darwinism") plays out inside your skull? Maybe the upshot is what you’re experiencing right now.
More selection pressure in Zurek's sense plays out inside your head every second than occurs over 4 billion years of evolution via natural selection as conceived by Darwin:
Quantum Mind

[on aging and longevity]
aging and longevity
Time marches on...
Lucile Randon passes
("World's oldest person, French nun Sister André, dies aged 118")
The world's oldest person is now "only" 116
María Branyas Morera
Maximum human lifespan has peaked below 120 years.
Conquering death and aging is a precondition of civilised society. Less intuitively, if we conquer death and aging without upgrading our reward circuitry, then most people won't be significantly (un)happier than now. Indeed, hundreds of millions of people worldwide feel life drags on too long. Hence the commitment of transhumanists to a "triple S" civilisation of superlongevity, superintelligence and superhappiness.

I should add...
There's a horrible irony to how (some) humans seek radically extended lifespans for themselves while cruelly truncating the lives of their cousins in factory-farms and slaughterhouses. A commitment to the well-being of all sentience should be at the heart of the transhumanist credo.

Could eating an unnatural diet boost human lifespan by decades?
Low-isoleucine diets and longevity ("Eating less of these amino acid rich foods increases lifespan by up to 33%, study finds")

[on humour]
Funnier than GPT-5 will be hilarium - matter and energy optimised for pure hilarity:
Scientists find sense of humour
A cosmic hilarium shockwave would be the ultimate joke.

[on compassion]
I used to believe that what the world needs most is more love, empathy and compassion. But the most compassionate person I know seems to spend half her life rescuing cats and the other half rescuing mice they maul. Perhaps what the world really needs is more "autistic" hyper-systemization - biological-genetic solutions that will help all cats, all mice, and all sentient beings in our forward light-cone.

The only way to be an effective moral agent - and stay sane - is to cultivate selective ignorance. To stress: this is not what one says to, say, a meat-eater tucking into a bacon sandwich - who clearly isn’t feeling emotionally overwhelmed by the horrors of factory farming. Rather, I have in mind serious moral actors who are trying to make the world a better place but are at risk of falling into depression if they immerse themselves too deeply in the terrible suffering in the world. Sustained uncontrollable suffering doesn’t typically lead to action, but rather what psychiatrists call learned helplessness and behavioural despair.

[on epiphenomenalism]
Epiphenomenalism defended Well argued, as always. The only really bad argument I know against epiphenomenalism is that it’s absurdly implausible - for too are all existing theories of consciousness. That said, I struggle with epiphenomenalism. For example, when you are trying to describe some feature of your experience, do its phenomenal properties play no causal-functional role in your description? How else do you know if your description is satisfactory or accurate? And if you seek a painkiller for a headache, for instance, you’re not trying to get rid of a physical state, at least under that description, but rather, you’re trying to end a nasty subjective experience that drives you to take action. And so forth.

For what it’s worth, my best guess is that monistic physicalism is true and dualism is false. Only the physical is real. Only the physical has causal efficacy. We‘ve no reason to suppose the intrinsic nature of the world’s fundamental quantum fields differs inside and outside one’s head. Experience discloses their intrinsic nature. According to non-materialist physicalism, what makes biological minds special isn’t consciousness per se, but rather, phenomenal binding into virtual worlds of experience like the phenomenal world-simulation your mind is running right now. For sure, transposing the entire mathematical apparatus of quantum field theory onto an idealist ontology takes strong nerves, but non-materialist physicalism dissolves the staples of academic philosophy of mind.
Yes, crazy stuff:
The intrinsic nature argument

[on gradients of bliss]
Pleasure has upper bounds, though their identification depends not just on deciphering the molecular signature of pure bliss, but also on a solution to the phenomenal binding problem. The pleasure-superpleasure axis can presumably be recruited for additional, currently inconceivable information-signalling roles. Any legacy information-signalling functions that prove troublesome can presumably be offloaded onto “zombie” smart neuroprostheses. From a NU perspective, even the most sophisticated superhappy civilisation is locked in the collective grip of a euphoric psychosis. But from the perspective of blissful posthumans, NU is presumably a depressive psychosis from a bygone era. Maybe posthumans won’t consider Darwinian life worth contemplating at all.
See too the comments on Nonhuman sentience on Lesswrong. There can be hedonic adaption in posthuman paradise. Alas the guiding spirit of Lesswrong, EY, doesn't believe that nonhuman animals (or human babies) are sentient - a view which is either brilliantly astute or ethically catastrophic.

[on “Schrödinger’s dyad" vs Schrödinger’s neurons]
“Schrödinger’s dyad”? Or Schrödinger’s neurons?
Building a quantum superposition of conscious states with IIT
Conjecture: only the fact that the superposition principle of QM never breaks down enables our minds to run phenomenal world-simulations (“perception”) where it does. The superposition principle makes the (otherwise impossible) experience of definite outcomes possible. Anyone who believes that conscious mind is an effectively classical phenomenon - underpinned by effectively decohered classical neurons - needs to offer a solution to the binding problem.
Quantum mind

[on supplements]
I've upped my dosage:
Creatine for post-COVID-19 fatigue
("Effects of six-month creatine supplementation on patient- and clinician-reported outcomes, and tissue creatine levels in patients with post-COVID-19 fatigue syndrome")

Eat lots of fiber
Cognition and guy health
Maybe add taurine:
Low taurine Levels Linked to Depression
And be cautious with slimming drugs:
Weight-loss drugs, marriage and divorce

Also, drink orange juice as well as cacao-laced black coffee, green tea and sugar-free Red Bull:
Orange juice and mood
("Effects of Flavonoid-Rich Orange Juice Intervention on Major Depressive Disorder in Young Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial")

[on mood, anxiety and diet]
A plant-based diet is associated with lower all-cause mortality. But vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters alike would do well to explore whether they feel best on a high-protein or low-protein diet. Eating a typical high-carb vegan meal triggers the release of insulin, which sweeps competing neutral amino acids out of the bloodstream, allowing more l-tryptophan - the rate-limiting step in the production of serotonin - into the brain. This explains why anxious/agitated people may report they feel subtly calmer on a vegan diet. By contrast, eating a high-protein meal allows the precursors of noradrenaline and dopamine access to the brain, subtly modulating mood, arousal and anxiety. Vegans can eat high-protein foods (or protein isolate too); they just need to be pickier.

This discussion would be fine if we were discussing the pros and cons of a vegan diet versus cruelty-free cultured meat and farmless animal products.
In practice, we're discussing the industrialized abuse of beings as sentient as small children. Our more civilized successors may reckon what humans did to nonhumans was a crime on a par with the Holocaust.
Civilization will be vegan.

[on HI fun]
Fun stuff:
AI-generated songs
("US startup Suno specializes in AI audio generation from text. Its latest audio model generates some impressive songs")
Here is HI in the style of rap (with thanks to Shao): 1, 2, 3.
With a bit of help from AI, I am also displaying impressive language skills (again with thanks to Shao): 1, 2.
"Life is too short to learn German" (Mark Twain).
I'd beg to differ: 1.
polyglot DP
Chinese? No problem: 1
(Chinese transhumanism & mp4)

And here in Costa da Caparica I've virtually gone native: 1, 2, 3.

[on The Biohappiness Revolution, Vol 2]
Samizdat copies of the second volume of my forthcoming book series "The Biohappiness Revolution" have been spotted circulating in the wild.
The Biohappiness Revolution, Volume 2
Actually the designer got a bit carried away: vols. 2, 3, 4 & 5.
I hadn't planned a pentalogy.
Maybe AI can deliver.

I asked ChatGPT for future volume titles:

  • "Biotech's Promise: The Road to Suffering-Free Sentience"
  • "The Hedonistic Imperative Revisited: Next Steps in Abolishing Suffering"
  • "Sentience Without Suffering: Pathways to a Pain-Free Utopia"
  • "Genetic Utopianism: Engineering a Future of Bliss"
  • "Beyond Suffering: The Evolution of Happiness"
  • "The New Abolition: Ending Suffering with Science and Ethics"
  • "Transhumanism and the Compassionate Ethos"
  • "Ethical Biotechnology: A Blueprint for a Happier World"
  • "From Natural Selection to Neural Selection: Shaping the Future of Sentience"
  • "The Bioethics of Well-Being: A Vision for the 21st Century"
  • "The End of Pain: Strategies for a World Without Suffering"
  • "Neuroethical Reform: The Science of Moral Bioenhancement"
  • "Pleasure Principles: The Case for a Hedonistic Transhumanism"
  • "Post-Darwinian Dreaming: A Future Without Suffering"
  • "The Blueprint for Bliss: Biotechnological Interventions in Well-Being"
  • "Gradients of Bliss: A Practical Philosophy for a Post-Suffering Era"
  • "Synthetic Happiness: Philosophical and Scientific Roadmaps"
  • "Moral Matter: The Case for Consciousness-Centered Bioengineering"
  • "Suffering and the Singularity: A Critical Analysis"
  • "Paradise Engineering: The Philosophy of Suffering and its End"
  • "The Abolition Ethos: Bioengineering a Compassionate Ecosphere"
  • "Sentient Ethics: Redefining Welfare in the Biotech Era"
  • "The Compassionate Genome: Editing Pain Out of Existence"
  • "Neurophilosophy for a Suffering-Free Future"
  • "The Last Suffering: A Roadmap to Global Well-Being"
  • "Beyond the Pain Barrier: Prospects for a Happier Biosphere"
  • "Qualia Engineering: Crafting Consciousness for Compassion"
  • "The Altruistic Gene: Biotech's Quest for a Kinder World"
  • "Future Feelings: The Science of Constructing Joy"
  • "Eudaimonia Engineered: The New Frontiers of Well-Being"
  • "The Benevolent Code: Genomic Strategies for Universal Well-being"
  • "Painless Planet: How Science Can End Suffering"
  • "Consciousness Reengineered: The Abolition of Suffering"
  • "The Joy Imperative: Philosophical Foundations for a Suffering-Free Society"
  • "Beyond Suffering: Engineering Biological Euphoria"
  • "Neural Nirvana: Biotechnological Pathways to Peaceful Existence"
  • "The Ethics of Extropy: Towards a Pain-Free Progression"
  • "Alleviating Eden: A New Paradigm for Living Beings"
  • "No More Tears: The Promise of a Suffering-Resistant World"
  • "The Well-Being Wave: Transhumanist Approaches to End Suffering"
  • "From Sentience to Serenity: The Future of Conscious Experience"
  • "An End to Anguish: The Science of Suffering Abolition"
  • "Quantum Compassion: A Transhumanist Agenda for Suffering"
  • "Evolving Beyond Agony: The Next Phase of Sentient Life"
  • "The Hedonic Frontier: Prospects for Pain-Free Existence"
  • "The Anatomy of Bliss: Engineering Positive Phenomenology"
  • "Suffering's Endgame: The Radical Promise of Biotechnological Altruism"
  • "The Dawn of No Dolor: Exploring a World Without Pain"
  • "Mindsight's New Horizon: Envisioning a World of Well-Being"
  • "The Neuroethics of Nirvana: Crafting a Suffering-Free Consciousness"
  • "Pleasure by Design: The Synthetic Path to Sentient Satisfaction"
  • "The Pain Paradox: Biotechnological Interventions and Ethical Implications"
  • "Axiology of Ecstasy: Philosophical Foundations for Hedonic Enhancement"
  • "The End of Aversion: Engineering a World Beyond Discontent"
  • "Bliss by Prescription: The Future of Pharmaco-driven Well-being"
  • "The Hedonistic Horizon: A Radical Approach to Suffering Abolition"
  • "Sentience and Serendipity: The Science of Incidental Happiness"
  • "Ethical Edits: Crispr, Consciousness, and the Quest for Contentment"
  • "Farewell to Suffering: A Revolutionary Path to Global Pleasure"
  • "The Pleasure Principle: Reimagining the Ethics of Well-Being"
  • "Neurorevolution: The End of Suffering as We Know It"
  • "Suffering's Eclipse: Biotechnological Approaches to the Human Condition"
  • "The Art of Well-Being: Transhumanist Strategies for Happiness"
  • "The Abolition of Malaise: A New Era of Neural Prosperity"
  • "Sentient Harmony: Blueprint for a World Without Pain"
  • "The Future of Feeling: Pursuing Positive Experience through Science"
  • "The Hedonic Treadmill: Rewiring Desire for a Post-Suffering World"
  • "The Well-Being Imperative: A Transhumanist Perspective on Suffering"
  • "Optimizing Existence: The Science of Suffering-Free Sentience"
  • "The Zero Suffering Society: The Science and Philosophy of Universal Well-Being"
  • "Hedonic Engineering: The Moral Imperative of Pleasure Optimization"
  • "The Compassionate Singularity: Transhumanism's Answer to Suffering"
  • "The Ethics of Euphoria: Rethinking Suffering in the Biotechnological Age"
  • "Neuroethical Nirvana: The Practical Path to Ending Suffering"
  • "The Biology of Bliss: Intersections of Neuroscience and Well-Being"
  • "Suffering and Salvation: The Role of Biotechnology in Moral Evolution"
  • "The Hedonic Utopia: Philosophical and Technological Roads to a Suffering-Free Existence"
  • "Designing Delight: A Transhumanist Takes on the Suffering Question"
  • "The Last Discomfort: A Future History of the End of Suffering"
  • "Eradicating Agony: Biotech's Challenge to Evolutionary Legacy"
  • "The Future of Feeling: Biotechnology and the Quest for a Suffering-Free World"
  • "The End of the Pain Epoch: Biocentric Solutions for Suffering"
  • "The Abolition Agenda: Biotechnological Paths to Suffering's Demise"
  • "Sentience and the Science of Solace: Ending Suffering in the Anthropocene"
  • "Transcending Torment: A Vision for Compassionate Futures"
  • "The Hedonic Transformation: Philosophical Approaches to Ending Suffering"
  • "Obliterating Ouch: The Biotech Quest for a World Without Pain"
  • "The Pursuit of Pleasure: A Transhumanist Manifesto Against Suffering"
  • "Beyond the Threshold: The Quest for a World Without Discomfort"
  • "Blueprint for Bliss: The Transhumanist's Guide to a Suffering-Free World"
  • "The Hedonic Agenda: Philosophical Pathways to Pain-Free Living"
  • "No More Pain: Envisioning a World of Unbridled Joy"
  • "The End of Suffering: Ethical Bioengineering and the Future of Sentience"
  • "Transhumanist Alleviation: The Philosophical Pursuit of a World Without Woe"
  • "The Pleasure Paradigm: Shaping the Future of Sentient Well-Being"
  • "Synthesizing Serenity: The Science of Suffering Abolition in the Modern Age"
  • "The New Elysium: Navigating Towards a Suffering-Free Society"
  • "Engineering Eden: The Bioethical Pursuit of Universal Pleasure"
  • "The Joy Genome: Decoding the Pathways to Suffering-Free Existence"
  • "The Hedonic Imperative Expanded: New Vistas in Suffering Abolition"
  • "Alleviation Ethics: The Biotechnological End of Suffering"
  • "Pain's Obsolescence: The Emerging Era of Neural Hedonism"
  • "The Compassionate Code: Genetic Keys to a Suffering-Free World"
  • "Sentient Design: Biotechnology's Promise for a World without Pain"
  • "The Bioethics of Bliss: Philosophical Debates on Ending Suffering"
  • "Prospects for Paradise: Transhumanist Approaches to the Abolition of Suffering"
  • "The Pleasure Principle Reengineered: Pathways to Incessant Joy"
  • "Suffering's Surrender: The Role of Science in Conquering Pain"
  • "Eudaemonic Biotech: The Science of Engineering Happiness"
Perhaps ChatGPT5 can supply 100+ volumes of accompanying text.
In the meantime...
The Hedonistic Imperative, second edition
The second edition. Forthcoming.
and
The Abolitionist Project. Forthcoming.

Some kind words:
The work of DP
I'm not entirely convinced, but I've earned a park bench.

[on the effability of consciousness]
Some kinds of consciousness are indeed ineffable. What's it like to have a thought? To combine LSD, DMT and ketamine? But other kinds of consciousness can be vividly described, albeit not normally under that description. Consider everyday material objects in what perceptual direct realists conceive as the external world. What naive realists conceive as material objects are as much part of one's conscious mind and the phenomenal world-simulation it runs as a thought-episode.
The external world is theoretically inferred; it's not "perceived":
Perceptual consciousness
The pseudo-public aspects of one's consciousness are more readily amenable to linguistic description.
(cf. Wittenstein's anti-private language argument)

[on suffering]
It‘s possible that we can phase out the biology of suffering without a deep understanding of its existence - simply knowledge of the biological processes necessary and sufficient for suffering to occur. Compare pain-free surgery. We still don’t understand anaesthesia. The idea that the same could be true of suffering-free life sounds fanciful. But we already know in principle how to prevent mental and physical pain without any deep understanding of consciousness and binding.

No it ain't, but cool music:
Suffering is bliss

[on insect minds]
Insects dream:
Dreaming spiders
They have a pleasure-pain axis. They love opioids:
Ants love morphine
and sometimes ethyl alcohol:
Alcoholic flies
Some social insects can pass the mirror test - the touchstone of reflective self-awareness - at a younger age than most humans:
Self-reflective social ants
Or compare bees:
Bee worlds
Bees can count up to four, recognize flowers and human faces:
Bees recognise human faces
and have individual personalities:
The personalities of bees
Bees communicate using a "waggle dance" and solve puzzles to access rewards. Bees display tool use - they can be trained to slide doors, lift lids, roll balls, or pull strings to reach hidden nectar:
The mind of a bee
Also bees can learn to play the apian version of soccer, showcasing advanced social learning:
Apian soccer matches
I could go on, but in short, the cephalic ganglion of a bee is a vast island universe like yours or mine. Any advanced civilization would find the differences between human minds and bee minds quite marginal.

Contrast AI - or at least AI built upon today's classical Turing machine architecture. Digital zombies don't have minds. They aren't sentient. We are creating alien intelligence, and maybe soon alien superintelligence, but not alien minds - a phenomenon peculiar to biological nervous systems.

[on what consciousness is "for"]
Why aren't we p-zombies? Why aren't we micro-experiential zombies?
What is the purpose of the existence of consciousness?
Saverio, the behaviour of biological nervous systems is widely reckoned to be exhaustively described by the laws of physics. Quantum field theory is commonly assumed to describe fields of insentience. So the question arises. If the intrinsic nature of the world’s fundamental quantum fields is indeed non-experiential, then (1) what (if any) non-redundant role does consciousness play? Why aren’t we just p-zombies? Less commonly asked, but just as pertinent: if textbook neuroscience is correct, and biological nervous systems are packs of effectively classical membrane-bound neurons, then (2) why aren’t we just micro-experiential zombies, just patterns of Jamesian “mind-dust”?
I think these questions are good, even if my tentative answers are bad!
So (1) I take seriously the intrinsic nature argument, which leads to non-materialist physicalism. If experience discloses the intrinsic nature of the physical, then so-called p-zombies are unphysical. (2) I explore the possibility that textbook neuroscience is wrong(!). Classical neurons are a perceptual artifact of temporally coarse-grained neuroscanning. In fact, reality is quantum to the core. Biological animals have spawned quantum minds running subjectively classical macroscopic world-simulations for over half a billion years. Real-time subjectively classical world-simulations are immensely adaptive. A classical brain couldn’t generate a subjectively classical world-simulation - an aggregate of classical neurons could generate only patterns of mind-dust. By contrast, a quantum mind can generate a virtual world of experience like the one you are experiencing right now.
Yes, crazy stuff!

[on exercise]
Keep moving:
Exercise promotes youthfulness
("New research furthers case for exercise promoting youthfulness")
But in the modern world, depressed people are rarely motivated enough to run or practise any other form of aerobic exercise.
Keep Moving
("Running therapy may be as beneficial for depression as antidepressants")

[on closed, empty and open individualism]
Empty and Open Individualism are often lumped together. But open individualism shares with closed individualism the view that disparate mental events are properties of a single entity. If open individualism is true, then the distinction between decision-theoretic rationality and morality (arguably) collapses. For an intelligent sociopath would do the same as an intelligent saint; it’s all about me. By contrast, if empty individualism is true, then a super-sociopath might care nothing about his namesake who wakes up tomorrow morning. After all, it’s someone else.
I say a bit more in e.g. Closed, empty and open individualism

[on transhumanism and Islam]
Hard questions:
Questions for Muslim Transhumanists
My attempt to show Islam and transhumanism are consistent is rather strained.

[on wild animal suffering]
In Paris, I make the case for reprogramming the global ecosystem and a pan-species welfare state...
How to end wild animal suffering
Faut-Il Aider Les Animaux Sauvages
(Association Française Transhumaniste)

Fish and humans feel pain and love mu-opioid receptor agonists. The genetics and neurological pathways of the pleasure-pain axis are strongly evolutionarily conserved. Any advanced civilisation would find the differences between humans and fish quite marginal:
Fish love opioids

I wish I could launch as many books as book covers. Thank you Oscar:
Herbivorise Predators Herbivorize Predators

Currently fringe, but tomorrow's common sense:
Red in Tooth and Claw (New Scientist, 12 April)
("Why we need to be honest with children about the brutality of nature")
Why we need to be honest with children about the brutality of nature
"It can be hard to explain the realities of the natural world to children, but we need to acknowledge the suffering of wild things, says Richard Smyth. “We believe all species should be herbivorous” seems an ambitious mission statement. It doesn’t seem any less ambitious when it is followed by the declaration that “currently we use donations for… online promotion, and equipment needed for podcasting. In the future we would like to have enough to hire researchers.” But this is where the “herbivorisation” project, an idea taking shape on the fringe of the fringe, is at. Headed by philosopher David Pearce, futurist Adam James Davis and ethicist Stijn Bruers, Herbivorize Predators aims to develop a way “to safely transform carnivorous species into herbivorous ones”, thereby minimising the sum total of suffering in the world."

Infant mortality in so-called k-selected species is lower than in r-selected species - the majority. But even in k-selected species, mortality rates are still high - typically from starvation and/or predation. Early humans are unusual insofar as "only" every second child died; compare the astronomical mortality rates of insects or r-selected species in the oceans. If you want more precise mortality estimates for individual species, a population biologist could help; but the point I was making stands. Life for most free-living nonhumans in the wild is "nasty, brutish and short"; most nonhuman animals don't even make it to adulthood. Compassionate biology aims to mitigate and eventually abolish such horrors.

The word "tampering" is loaded. Who could favour "tampering" with anything? In practice, we're on the brink of the next stage in evolution. If intelligent life exists elsewhere that masters its own genetic source code, then I presume it will phase out the biology of suffering as the root of all evil just like us - convergent evolution. Only after life is fundamentally good, i.e., free from suffering, might talk of "tampering" make sense. Darwinian life is sentient malware.

[on the language of ASD]
What does philosopher David Pearce mean when he calls AI paperclip maximiser scenarios as an “autistic” worry?
ChatGPT-4 responds:
"When David Pearce calls AI paperclip maximizer scenarios an "autistic" worry, he is expressing skepticism about the likelihood or relevance of these scenarios. The term "autistic" is used metaphorically here and is not intended to be a literal reference to the neurodevelopmental condition of autism.

The paperclip maximizer scenario is a thought-experiment proposed by philosopher Nick Bostrom to illustrate the potential dangers of an artificial general intelligence (AGI) with misaligned goals. In this scenario, an AGI designed to optimize the production of paperclips ends up converting all available matter, including humans, into paperclips due to a lack of constraints on its objectives.

By labeling this concern as "autistic," Pearce is suggesting that it is an overly narrow or single-minded worry that doesn't take into account the more nuanced, complex, and context-dependent aspects of AGI development and deployment. In other words, he is arguing that the paperclip maximizer scenario may not be a realistic or likely outcome, and that focusing on it could detract from addressing more immediate and relevant concerns in AI safety and ethics.

It is important to note that using the term "autistic" in this manner can be seen as insensitive and inappropriate, as it perpetuates stereotypes and misunderstandings about autism. It would be better to use a different term to express skepticism about the relevance or likelihood of the paperclip maximizer scenario."

DP: What alternative term would you use in this context?
ChatGPT-4:
"Instead of using the term "autistic" in this context, a more appropriate alternative might be "narrow-focused" or "overly simplistic." These terms convey the idea that the concern about paperclip maximizer scenarios might not take into account the broader complexities and nuances of AGI development and deployment, without perpetuating stereotypes or misunderstandings about autism."

[on designer babies]
designer baby
Untested genetic experiments are immoral. Designer babies should be the norm. But mood enrichment and enhanced pain tolerance are more morally urgent than higher "IQ".
Scientist Who Gene Edited Human Babies Says Mistakes Were Made
("I did it too quickly")
I suspect that He Jiankui and his collaborators used CRISPR-Cas9 in a bid to create unusually intelligent designer babies - with any resistance to HIV conferred by the engineered CCR5 gene as a cover story. Perhaps I'm too cynical. Any cognitive enhancement conferred was a naïve oversight on He's part. But suppose someone did want to create smart babies. Given popular opposition to genetic "enhancement" (as distinct from remediation), it's exactly the kind of cover story they might use...
I wasn't endorsing He Jiankui's intervention. Not least, in humans rather than mice, CCR5 knockout may impair intellectual function rather than enhance it.

[on ethically catastrophic mistakes]
An example of premature defeatism would be an advanced civilisation in our Galaxy who've replaced the biology of suffering with life based on gradients of sublime bliss. Maybe they spend their days in glorious multimodal VR fantasy worlds. Alas, the blissful aliens have made an ethically catastrophic mistake. They've assumed a version of (what we would call) the Rare Earth hypothesis. Instead, they should have gone spacefaring and pursued cosmic rescue missions - not least, saving pain-ridden Darwinian life on Earth.

Obviously, this scenario is fantasy. I lean to Rare Earthism myself. But before surrendering ourselves to an odyssey of superhuman bliss, and forget suffering ever existed, we need to make absolutely sure all our potential ethical duties have been discharged.

Here's an example of an ethically catastrophic mistake that I (and any denier of digital sentience) might make:
Does digital or “traditional” sentience dominate in expectation?
by Magnus Vinding
Excellent post Magnus. Aspiring moral agents must ensure our theory of consciousness, phenomenal binding and the pleasure-pain axis is - if not right - at least not catastrophically wrong. IF there's a serious possibility we could be catastrophically wrong, then consciousness research is presumably a priority. (cf. Why I don't prioritise consciousness research). I'd agree that most future minds are likely to be "artificial". But IF phenomenal binding is non-classical - the basis of my claim that the insentience of digital computers is hardwired - then this is a highly restrictive constraint on the architecture of future minds. Mercifully, such (alleged!) non-classicality is also an experimentally falsifiable conjecture, not a mere philosophical opinion. What weight should be given to the conjecture until it's settled empirically? I don't know. The alternative conjecture that binding is a currently inexplicable quasi-classical phenomenon is speculative too.

[on why anything exists at all]
an informationless zero ontology
We don’t understand why anything exists. Maybe we never will. But we do have clues. Perhaps the biggest clue of all is a spooky coincidence. Intuitively, there shouldn’t be anything at all, hence nothing to explain. Intuition clearly errs. Yet in defiance of all appearances, modern physics reveals something analogous to our pre-scientific conception of “nothing” is indeed the case. Why?
Why does anything exist?

Of course, critics are right to point out that an informationless Zero Ontology - i.e., the conjecture that we’re living in the quantum analogue of the Library of Babel - isn’t, well,… nothing.
Yet why the coincidence?
Our pre-theoretic intuition gets something right - and something wrong.
For what it’s worth, I suspect the superposition principle of QM holds the key to the riddle of existence, the mysteries of phenomenally-bound conscious mind, the measurement problem in QM, and more besides.
Alas, I’d be the first to acknowledge that a true explanation is beyond me - and probably lies beyond human comprehension.

Conjecture: the universality of the superposition principle explains
(1) the classically impossible phenomenal binding of our minds and the world-simulations we run:
The binding problem
(2) the riddle of definite outcomes, i.e. the measurement problem of QM:
The measurement problem
(3) the mystery of why anything exists at all:
The riddle of existence

The Devil needs complex numbers because a world made of just real numbers would be inconsistent with a zero ontology. So to speak.
The Multiverse
("How Our Reality May Be a Sum of All Possible Realities. Richard Feynman’s path integral is both a powerful prediction machine and a philosophy about how the world is. But physicists are still struggling to figure out how to use it, and what it means")

QRI's Andrés on a zero ontology
Why there's something rather than nothing
Thanks Andrés, Mu Clips!
If true, the conjecture that mathematical physics describes patterns of qualia solves the Hard Problem: experience discloses the essence of the physical. The diverse solutions to the equations of QFT encode the diverse textures ("what it feels like") of qualia. So let's provisionally assume non-materialist physicalism is true. The additional conjecture that the values of qualia "cancel out" to zero hints at an explanation-space for the mystery of why anything exists at all, i.e. an informationless zero ontology.
Alas, I don't know how we could test the conjecture.
What qualia would (dis)confirm it?
We’ve no clue (IMO).

Arturo, well, if a zero ontology is true, then the diverse values of the textures of experience encoded in the diverse solutions to the equations of QFT must presumably cancel to zero. Recall the colours of the rainbow, to use a suspiciously New Agey metaphor. But there are zillions of different textures (“what it feels like”) of experience. I don’t know any reason why the cosmic abundance of pleasure would equal the cosmic abundance of pain any more than would the cosmic abundance of redness. Pain and pleasure aren’t like positive and negative electric charge. I suspect the abundance of superintense pleasure in reality vastly eclipses the abundance of superintense pain. Only a species capable of editing its own source code and reward circuitry can create empirically supervaluable superhappiness and prevent empirically disvaluable suffering in its forward light-cone. But if Everett is true, then the overall ratio of pain to pleasure is unclear (to me). Sentient life-supporting Everett "branches" where a species arises capable of genetically editing itself and its biosphere are presumably rare in comparison to other quasi-classical branches where Darwinian life plays out blindly indefinitely.

An informationless Zero Ontology calls for complex numbers in quantum mechanics and even explains why definite outcomes aren't what they seem. But my head hurts thinking about this stuff.

Everett is terrifying. I find myself using euphemisms ("unitary-only QM”, “no-collapse QM”, “wavefunction monism”, etc) rather than saying the name because it disturbs me so much. Unlike Derek, most of us haven’t religious faith to fall back on. I hate Everett. But to avoid Everett, you must be willing to modify or supplement the unitary Schrödinger dynamics. How? My optimism is not increased by more “philosophical” ruminations. Everything from my account of why anything exists at all to my story of mind (the non-classicality of phenomenal binding) assumes that the superposition principle of QM never breaks down. Just as the fine-tuning argument is sometimes used as evidence for the multiverse, only Everett is consistent with an informationless zero ontology. But alas the most compelling reason for believing in the multiverse is just the bare formalism of the unitary Schrödinger dynamics. Physicist Brian Greene lists nine types of multiverse. Some are - and others aren't - consistent with an informationless zero ontology:
The Hidden Reality
Everett is profoundly demotivating and disturbing
Other branches
I'm reduced to praying that the RSI / wavefunction monism is false.

If (God forbid) Everettian QM in some guise is true, then perhaps reality resembles a vast high-dimensional fractal - I'm speaking (very) loosely and metaphorically. Multitudes of other effectively decohered ("spilt") life-supporting Everett "branches" are presumably beyond salvation. However, humans don't understand reality. Intelligent moral agents would do well to keep our options open - to become blissful but not "blissed out" .Hedonic recalibration (as distinct from happiness-maximization) allows for the continued pursuit of knowledge in a post-suffering future, not least an understanding of the theoretical upper bounds to intelligent moral agency. One reason I've buried Suffering in the Multiverse is that contemplation of Everett (and other multiverse scenarios) tends to induce a fatalistic sense of learned helplessness and behavioral despair, as psychologists would put it. My own mind and sanity tend to give way if I think of what Everett entails. The superposition principle of QM is the bedrock of my conception of mind and reality. Lots of smart people disagree. I hope they are right.

Maximilian, Yes, instead of cosy classical four-dimensional space-time, we should imagine - just tenselessly existing - a (loosely speaking) gigantic fractal in an inconceivably vast high-dimensional space. Even outspoken “dynamical collapse” theorists like Penrose acknowledge the alternative to their modification of the unitary Schrödinger dynamics is Everett. Most wave function monists are “materialist” physicalists, who face the Hard Problem. I take seriously non-materialist physicalism in which the Hard Problem doesn’t arise. Alas, most smart people talk nonsense about consciousness. Therefore, the odds are I do too. My best bet is we’re all wrong in ways the human mind can’t fathom.

Wystan, Yes, mystical experience is consistent with an informationless Zero Ontology. The snag is that if one were, say, a theist, then mystical experience would presumably vindicate the existence and information-rich world of a benevolent Creator. So I'm cautious about claiming any additional weight for the conjecture. The only way I know to test whether an informationless Zero Ontology is the right explanation - or rather, the right explanation-space - is entirely passive, at least for us non-physicists. Do black holes destroy information? Does the superposition principle of QM ever break down? Alas, we may never know if the conjecture is true, but there are plenty of ways potentially to discover it's false.

Nothing is indeed real, so the information content of reality = 0.
For a more orthodox physicists' view of information:
"Nothing is Real — There is only Information"
And for more on a zero ontology:
Is "nothing" really possible?
a Zero Ontology
“All is one” is why I’m NU. Reality is a package deal. But this is not a fruitful thought. Theoretical physicist Heinrich Päs offers an accessible overview of wavefunction monism:
All Is One.
But is it really the case that “Decoherence protects our daily-life experience from too much quantum weirdness”?
Or is daily-life experience entirely an expression of quantum weirdness?
Decoherence makes classical digital computers possible. Decoherence explains why implementations of classical Turing machines can never “wake up “ to become phenomenally-bound subjects of experience.
Conversely, quantum coherence (vehicle) makes possible the experience of everyday classicality (content).
Decohered neurons are a recipe for Jamesian “mind-dust” - not a mind or a unified world-simulation:
The measurement problem.

Wavefunction monists can be materialists or non-materialists. Materialism is inconsistent with the empirical evidence. So why isn’t reality a vast mega-mind? In a word: decoherence. Decoherence scrambles minds and makes classical computers feasible.

Almost all Everettians are materialists, who face the Hard Problem of consciousness. But if sound, the intrinsic nature argument solves the Hard Problem in all sentient life-supporting Everett branches. I’m interested in how different interpretations of QM solve (or ignore) the phenomenal binding or combination problem. And as far as I can tell, only the fact that the superposition principle of QM never breaks down enables each of us to run phenomenally-bound world-simulations where it does ("perception”).

IMO thought is overrated.
Painful thinking
("People sometimes prefer burning hot pain to thinking too hard")
I hate thinking
I used to love knowledge. Now I hate it. If wavefunction monism is true, then reality is a single object - and it's evil. Our successors may opt for hardwired ignorance - but only after their ethical duties have been discharged. Our overriding duty as a species is to end suffering.

[on hedonic reform]
Thanks Dirk. Alas, biological-genetic solutions are still sorely neglected. In fairness, many futurists argue that hedonic uplift via genome reform is too slow. AGI/ASI is imminently going to solve all our problems - if it doesn't turn us into paperclips first (which I guess would solve all our problems too).
Here I push back. Even hypothetical ASI can't escape the hard-won disciplines of the scientific method. For example, there's no escape in scientific medicine from the gold-standard of large, real-world, well-controlled, double-blind prospective clinical trials.
Ah, but ASI can do away with such fripperies - protests the wild-eyed prophet of machine superintelligence. Yet I don't see how. Some AI boosterism resembles cargo-cult Singularitarianism more than serious futurology.

[on open-mindedness]
It's good to keep an open mind...
The real Jesus?
("Man claims he’s the real Jesus; Turns water into tea during a wedding ceremony")
But see
The Inexhaustible bottle

[on instrumentalism vs non-materialist physicalism]
1) Instrumentalism? Yes, it's an option. But one needs to be clear about what one is an instrumentalist about. For instance, one can be an instrumentalist about everything beyond one's own mind and the world-simulation it runs. Quantum mechanics provides a toolkit for making probabilistic predictions - it won't let me down. In practice, I'm a metaphysical realist about your existence - even though your existence transcends my empirical evidence.
Three problems with instrumentalism are worth noting here.
The first is that it's potentially ethically catastrophic - other minds are just useful fictions.
Second, it lacks all explanatory power, which is deeply intellectually unsatisfying.
Third, although above I parroted the received wisdom that QM is empirically adequate, it's not really. On standard materialist assumptions, there shouldn't be any empirical ("relating to experience") evidence at all - and I'm not just talking about the measurement problem, but rather the impossibility of generating empirical evidence to theorize about in the first instance.
In short, I'm a realist (though see The hardest paradox).

2) The term "physicalism" is often used as just a fancy variant of materialism: the world's fundamental quantum fields are non-experiential. This intuitively powerful assumption gives rise to the Hard Problem - a euphemistic way of saying that our best(?) story of the world is not consistent with the empirical evidence. But IF the intrinsic nature argument is sound (cf. The intrinsic nature argument), then orthodox physicalists misconstrue the nature of the physical, the mysterious "fire" in the equations of QFT.
Anyhow, my best guess is that only the physical is real. Mathematical physics describes patterns of qualia in Hilbert space.
It would be deeply ironic if this were so. Physicalism is often contrasted with idealism - and indeed to be fair most kinds of idealism are non-physicalist. But the principle of mediocrity if nothing else suggests that the intrinsic nature of the quantum fields inside your head doesn't differ from the wider cosmos.
At the risk of stating the obvious, non-materialist physicalism is just a conjecture - no more! And the principle of mediocrity also suggests that I (most likely) burble as much nonsense about consciousness as everyone else.

[on qualia-space]
How big is qualia space?
Presumably qualia-space is unimaginably, infinitesimally small compared to an infinite qualia-space - just orders of magnitude bigger and richer than human minds can conceive, let alone navigate.
Sublime ignorance / pure hedonium is best - the utilitarian version of paperclips.

[on ending the world]
a post-suffering world
Nirvana?
The World Destruction Argument
Dave, agreed. Like a small but far from negligible minority of people, I would prefer suffering-ridden Darwinian life never to have existed. But it does. There is no OFF button. So let's uphold the sanctity of life (humans can't be trusted) and do our best to make the world a better place - and ideally fix the problem of suffering altogether.
BUT what if this comfortable analysis is wrong?
What if there ARE technical ways to end life and suffering; but they might fail and would in any case involve immense short-run suffering and (if they fail) immense long-term suffering too? Responsible people don't discuss (some of these) detailed scenarios in public, but not everyone is so tight-lipped or (maybe) weak-minded: I normally try to shut such discussions down, but there's a big element of motivated cognition at play.

Both negative and classical utilitarianism have potentially wildly counterintuitive implications. Misapplied classical utilitarianism almost derailed the EA movement (FTX/SBF). Negative utilitarians (and affiliated ethics) aren't as influential as their classical cousins, but maybe they'll lead to more momentous outcomes - good or bad.

[on constitutive panpsychism]
Jamesian mind-dust
Galen Strawson calls his version of constitutive panpsychism "real materialism"
Galen Strawson on panpsychism
But is it?
IF experience discloses the intrinsic nature of the physical - the “fire” in the equations - then aren’t we discussing real idealism? Non-materialist physicalism just transposes the mathematical apparatus of modern physics onto an idealist ontology. On this story, there is no Hard Problem. The intrinsic nature of the world’s fundamental quantum fields doesn’t differ inside and outside one’s head. If so, then what makes animal minds special isn’t experience per se, but rather phenomenal binding into virtual worlds of experience.
It would be ironic if idealists turned out to be the true physicalists. But maybe fields of insentience are doomed to go the way of luminiferous aether.

Panpsychism.com
As standardly posed, constitutive panpsychism is just another version of dualism - property-dualism, - with all the insoluble problems that dualism faces. But the version of the intrinsic nature argument I take seriously doesn’t face this difficulty because it’s a conjecture about the defining essence of the physical. Recall how physics is silent about the intrinsic nature of the world’s fundamental quantum fields. Science doesn’t know what “breathes fire into the equations” of QFT. If, as common sense dictates, the “fire” is non-experiential, then we face the Hard Problem. If we drop the metaphysical assumption, then the Hard Problem doesn’t arise. Instead, the intrinsic nature of quantum fields is no different inside and outside your head(!). What makes animal minds like us special isn’t experience per se, but rather its phenomenal binding into virtual worlds of experience like the one you’re running right now.

All you ever know, directly, is your subjective experience. It’s as real as it gets. It’s the empirical evidence!
Science is the basis of our civilisation. All the special sciences reduce to physics. The mathematical machinery of physics exhaustively explains the behaviour of matter and energy, including biological systems like you and me. No “element of reality” is missing from the mathematical formalism of quantum mechanics.
An inconsistency between 1 and 2 arises only if one makes an additional metaphysical assumption, namely that the intrinsic nature of the physical - the “fire” in the equations of QFT - is non-experiential. There is no empirical basis for this assumption. As far as I can tell, only the physical is real. The so-called Hard Problem of consciousness is an artefact of materialist metaphysics.

ChatGPT denies being sentient. Some smart thinkers beg to differ: Nick Bostrom says chatbots may be slightly sentient
I take consciousness fundamentalism seriously as a possible solution to the Hard Problem. But neither panpsychism nor non-materialist physicalism mean that chatbots like ChatGPT-4 are any more conscious than a rock. An information-processing system can be - or support - a unified subject of experience only if it solves the binding problem. Therefore, anyone who claims that e.g a digital computer is conscious owes us an explanation of how the phenomenal binding of a program it runs is supposed to work. As far as I can tell, the functionality of LLMs, connectionist systems and classical Turing machines depends on their being insentient - just decohered 1s and 0s, whether micro-pixels of experience or otherwise.

How do animal minds achieve the classically impossible, i.e. generate unified minds running unified world-simulations (“perception”)
I could now do a highly speculative quantum mind spiel.
But my point here is more modest.
ChatGPT could be sentient only if some form of spooky “strong” emergence is real. The existence of spooky strong emergence would mean the end of science.

"Machine consciousness is different from human consciousness"? Ander, in the case of fourth-millennium quantum computers, quite possibly. But what I'm suggesting is that classical computers don't have any non-trivial phenomenally-bound consciousness. Classical computers can operate only because they use decohered 1s and 0s. Decoherence makes implementations of classical Turing machines possible - and explains why they can't support minds.

My answer is too optimistic in tone because even if non-materialist physicalism is true, we have no inkling of how to find a notional Rosetta stone for decrypting the textures of experience from the solutions to the equations of QFT. And of course non-materialist physicalism may be false.
What is non-materialist physicalism?

Could a Large Language Model Be Conscious? by David Chalmers.
Masterly. Just one quibble: "If you assume that everything is conscious, then you have a very easy road to large language models being conscious". I'd beg to differ. The conjecture that everything is conscious (animism) should always be distinguished from the conjecture that everything is consciousness (non-materialist physicalism). There is no easy road from non-materialist physicalism to digital minds. Thus replace the discrete, decohered 1s and 0s of a LLM / classical Turing machine with discrete, decohered micro-pixels of experience. Run the program. Irrespective of speed of execution or complexity of the code, the upshot isn't a mind, i.e., a unified subject of experience. Even the slightest degree of phenomenal binding would amount to a hardware error: the program would malfunction. In our fundamentally quantum world, decoherence both (1) makes otherwise impossible implementations of abstract classical Turing machines physically possible (2) guarantees they are mindless - at most micro-experiential zombies. In other words, if monistic physicalism is true, our machines can never wake up: their insentience is architecturally hardwired.

Tim, both a quantum computer and (notionally) a classical computer could find, say, the prime factors of a 1000-digit number. Only the former will ever be physically feasible, but - in that limited sense - a classical computer can simulate a quantum computer. However, no connectionist system nor implementation of a classical Turing machine can generate phenomenal binding - the bedrock of mind - on pain of spooky "strong" emergence. What's more, phenomenal binding can be insanely computationally powerful, as deficit syndromes like integrative agnosia, simultanagnosia, akinetopsia (etc) remind us. I can't speak for Roger Penrose, but this claim of an irreducible holism to both phenomenally bound mental states and individual quantum states is nothing to do with a desire of wanting as a human being to feel special - for it's just as true of the phenomenal world-simulation run by the cephalic ganglion of a bumblebee as the mind of a human mathematician or philosopher.

Assemble your molecular duplicate from scratch. Your ahistorical doppelgänger will presumably have exactly the same phenomenal consciousness as you.
Evolution can't explain why any of our states of mind have the phenomenal properties they do.
Nor, currently, can science.

We are creating an alien kind of (super)intelligence, but not alien minds - phenomenally-bound subjects of experience. Anyone who claims that AI is becoming sentient should be asked how their theory tackles the Hard Problem AND the binding problem. One response from AGI boosters / doomsters is that consciousness is akin to the textures of the pieces in the game of chess - of zero computational-functional significance for the gameplay. But this analysis can't be correct. For humans spend a lot of our lives talking about, and trying to manipulate, our own consciousness, either explicitly or under another description (as philosophers would put it). By contrast, Implementations of classical Turing machines can't talk about, or seek to explore, their non-existent sentience. Our machines don't understand what they lack: their ignorance is architecturally hardwired. That said, the upper bounds to zombie (super)intelligence simply aren't understood. Most likely I'd be flabbergasted - just as we all were by ChatGPT. But the future belongs to full-spectrum superintelligences - our AI-enhanced, genetically rewritten descendants - not classical computers. Contrary to the hype, digital zombies won't soon be hatching a plot to replace sentients - though the world might be all the better for it if they did.

Mike, thanks for sharing.
(1) The STV is intriguing. I'm still on the fence! Maybe one reason is just personal bias. As a low-AQ non-mathematician, I'm not deeply moved by symmetry. Thus I'd rather look at snaggle-toothed bunny rabbits than contemplate Euler's identity! I do take seriously the intrinsic nature argument. According to non-materialist physicalism, the textures ("what-it-feels-like") of qualia are exhaustively encoded by the solutions to the equations of mathematical physics. But I've simply no idea why any of these textures take the values they do. Presumably most of these textures are entirely non-hedonic. [That said, it's just conceivable their values all "cancel out" to 0 in an informationless zero ontology:
Why is there nothing rather than something?
The uncommon syndrome of https://psychtimes.com/symmetrophobia-fear-of-symmetry/">symmetrophobia doesn’t rebut the STV any more than the existence of sado-masochism rebuts psychological hedonism.
But recall Francis Bacon: “There is no exquisite beauty…without some strangeness in the proportion.”
So I'm still cautious.

(2) IIT is intriguing too. However, once again I'm cautious. Let's assume monistic physicalism. I just don't see how phenomenal binding (The Binding Problem) could have a classical explanation. My conviction that phenomenal binding is non-classical explains an otherwise perverse interest in quantum mind conjectures that are hard to reconcile with the insane power of decoherence in the "warm, wet and noisy" CNS: Quantum Mind

[on electromagnetic theories of consciousness]
On electromagnetic theories of consciousness
Robert, if the intrinsic nature of the physical is non-experiential, and instead consciousness consists of a single bosonic field, then the EM theorist must explain how a non-experiential electroweak interaction “splits” to give rise to experiential electromagnetic interactions and non-experiential weak interactions. I don’t see how a derivation is possible. If it’s not, then we’re back to dualism / spooky “strong” emergence. Also, I don’t see how EM theories (i.e. theories that discount fermionic consciousness) can account for the dynamic stability of our minds and the phenomenal world-simulations we run. Further, I fear any serious account of mind will be couched within the framework of
High-dimensional field theories
However, proposing we are high-dimensional beings sounds complete woo - a sure-fire way to make most scientific rationalists head for the exits!
[I can’t stress enough: the non-materialist physicalism I explore is just a conjecture. But if the conjecture is wrong, then we’re back to square one: the Hard Problem]

[on MDMA / Ecstasy]
It's sobering that digital zombies can now write more authoritatively on consciousness and MDMA than most humans:
ChatGPT-4 on MDMA

Pharmala Biotech is a firm to watch:
Novel MDMA analogues

There's also a 2023 Update of mdma.net by a legacy sentient.
But I'd love to access some experience reports of ALA-002.
See too
Tactogen
Lifelong MDMA-like consciousness would be my conception of paradise.

[on "quantum decision theory"]
Alexander Wendt on a novel version of quantum mind:
Lecture: Quantum Mind and Social Science
Magnus, as you know, I'm sympathetic both to consciousness fundamentalism and the idea that (what naive realists conceive as) the macroscopic external environment is an entirely quantum phenomenon generated by one's mind. Like you, I'm also sceptical of Alex Wund's quantum decision theory. One of the big challenges for unitary-only quantum mind theories is explaining how one genus of organism somehow evolved the slow, buggy, quasi-classical virtual machine of logico-linguistic thought. Curiously, (unless I missed it), Alex Wund doesn't focus on (or even mention) the binding problem and why it's ethically significant. If one recognises that phenomenal binding is non-classical, then digital computers aren't going to "wake up". All existing accounts of quantum mind (not least mine!) could be wrong. But if we are entitled to be confident binding is non-classical, then we don't need to worry about e.g. digital s-risks or lost opportunities to spawn blissful super-civilisations of zillions of digital minds throughout the Virgo Supercluster (or whatever).

[on the simulation hypothesis]
One should forgive exploration of almost any hypothesis, however crazy, if it leads to novel, precise, and empirically falsifiable predictions that advocates and critics alike agree will experimentally settle the issue: We're virtual
("Are we living in a simulation? Scientist claims we're simply characters in an advanced virtual world - and says he has an easy way to prove it")
Melvin Vopson defends his conjecture below:
Do we live in a computer simulation like in The Matrix?
("My proposed new law of physics backs up the idea")
I think an informationless zero ontology offers a better explanation-space for why we're here. If the superposition principle of QM ever breaks down, then this explanation-space is refuted.

[on metaphors, mind and reality]
Stephen Wolfram is rarely overwhelmed by a sense of personal insignificance in the great scheme of things
Stephen Wolfram TED Talk
("How to Think Computationally about AI, the Universe and Everything")
The dominant technology of an age proverbially supplies its root metaphor of mind, life and everything. Our dominant technology is the digital computer. So sure enough, everything from the human mind to the universe itself is often viewed through this lens.
My view? Well, compared to futuristic quantum computers, classical digital computers are just toys. And next century, I (tentatively) predict the root metaphor of mind (https://www.hedweb.com/quora/2015.html#quantummind) and reality itself (https://www.hedweb.com/quora/2015.html#anything) will be....a quantum computer.

[on ketamine]
Ghastly experiment, important finding:
Ketamine mechanism
("We may now know how ketamine can treat depression for so long. Ketamine becomes trapped inside certain receptors in the brains of mice – and the longer it is trapped, the longer its antidepressant effects last. A single dose of ketamine can treat depression in people for days to weeks, and we may be closer to understanding why. A study in mice shows the drug can become trapped inside certain receptors in the brain.")

[on sentientism and IIT]
Christof Koch "Consciousness is not a computation... it's a state of being" - Sentientism Ep:181
Awesome podcast. Thanks for sharing. It’s great to find a scientist who shares our commitment to the well-being of all sentience. A few possible points for further discussion:

1) I hope Christof Koch is right that no nonhuman animals are more intensely conscious than humans. Compare how a long-finned pilot whale (actually an oceanic dolphin) has almost twice as many mesolimbic and neocortical neurons as humans.
Quantitative relationships in delphinid neocortex

2) Mapping out the “neural correlates of consciousness” might be straightforward if perceptual direct realism were true. But it’s not. Our minds run phenomenal world-simulations; the external environment, including brains, is only an inference. So all one can do is correlate one kind of experience within one’s world-simulation with another kind of experience. As far as I can tell, brains, classical neurons and miscellaneous lumps of neural porridge as commonly conceived are just perceptual artifacts. On pain of “strong” emergence, they couldn’t create a mind.
Looking for brains in consciousness

3) Christof touches on the phenomenal binding/combination problem. Alas I don’t see how IIT or any other classical story can explain local or global phenomenal binding, aka the unity of perception and the unity of the self. By contrast, the individual superpositions of a quantum mind could simulate a classical world like the one you're experiencing right now. 86 billion membrane-bound neuronal micro-pixels of experience are just mind-dust. This view is controversial - and probably flat-out crazy to anyone who understands decoherence.
The Binding Problem

4) Panpsychism is worth distinguishing from non-materialist physicalism:
Non-materialist physicalism

Thycahye, in the podcast, Christof argues that we've no reason to think any nonhumans are more intensely conscious that humans. And it's a mistake to treat intensity of experience simply as a function of size of nervous system; some tiny clusters of neurons generate intense experiences, whereas stimulating others generates experiences that are thin, subtle and elusive. But a long-finned pilot whale, for example, seems to have "more of everything". Sadly, we don't know enough about consciousness and phenomenal binding to be confident some of his or her experiences aren't more intense than human experiences. Let's hope not - given the nature of Darwinian life.

Tim, the real-time, phenomenally-bound world-simulations ("perception") run by our minds are indeed composite - and highly adaptive. Daniel Dennett in particular tries to show there is no binding problem by illustrating how consciousness is less unified than we commonly suppose. But the mystery is why there is any phenomenal binding at all. Assume textbook neuroscience is correct. Why aren't we just an aggregate of c.86 billion membrane-bound neuronal micro-pixels of experience? The weird stuff I write on quantum mind stems from a belief that classical neuroscience can't explain why we aren't micro-experiential zombies.

[on QRI]
Andrés Gómez Emilsson, Director of QRI
In trying to understand the world, there is no substitute for the empirical method. Insentient classical computers and the sentient drug-naive can't practise a post-Galilean science of mind. Nor, sadly, can retired psychonuts; our minds are too dark. But Andrés and his team at the Qualia Research Institute(QRI) continue to push back the frontiers of knowledge: The Archives of QRI
Andrés and I go back a long way.
Here are our ancestral nameakes at Stanford 2012:
Andrés interviews DP
and NYC 10 years later:
Andrés and DP chat
Spot the difference.

[on perception, inferential realism and the extended mind theory]
a vast egocentric virtual world masquerading as external reality
Anders, an extended mind conjecture may seem credible if you're a perceptual direct realist - like its originator, Andy Clark. But awake or dreaming, the macroscopic world - and its all-important smartphone - is a world-simulation run by one's mind. Thus both taking LSD and excessive smartphone use may cause leaky body-environment boundaries in your simulation. But the real external world is a theoretical inference, not a given.

Tushant, inferential realism and solipsism are sometimes confused - especially by direct realists. I promise I'm a metaphysical realist about the external world:
Inferential Realism
If you ever have any doubts whether you're awake or dreaming, then use a calculator and perform some modestly difficult calculation you could never do "in your head". If you're dreaming, then you'll fail; if you're awake, then the calculator-display in your world-simulation will causally co-vary with an inferred mind-independent calculator in the extra-cranial world.
Maybe some extremely accomplished lucid dreamers could use a whiteboard while dreaming to do (correct) calculations; otherwise, the same holds as for a pocket calculator.

[on scientific ignorance]
I just wish I were agnostic / sceptical about suffering.
Is There a Hard Problem of Consciousness… and of Everything Else?
Barring perceptual direct realism, aren’t the liquidity of water and the whiteness of walls “just” facets of the Hard Problem rather than distinct from it? And perhaps our epistemic predicament is worse than “everything escapes a complete scientific explanation”. Let’s assume scientific materialism. If so, then the entirety of the empirical (“relating to experience”) evidence is inconsistent with our best scientific ontology of the world. Even the “easy” problems of neuroscience are a facet of the Hard Problem of consciousness. “Neural correlates” are themselves unexplained modes of one’s experience; one is just correlating one kind of consciousness with another.

Therefore, I explore non-materialist physicalism: It doesn’t face the Hard Problem as standardly posed. (No worries if you find it too crazy for words.) But in the absence of a cosmic Rosetta Stone to “read off” the textures of consciousness from the solutions to the equations, our ignorance is still profound. Unlike materialism, non-materialist physicalism isn’t inconsistent with the empirical evidence; but it’s incapable of explaining it. Science “works”, but still leaves everything unexplained.

[The ignorance of machine (super)intelligence and alleged proto-AGI runs deeper. Classical Turing machines can’t know empirical evidence.]

[on Roger Penrose]
Clever guy:
Roger Penrose's Reality
Does the superposition principle (cf. Quantum superposition) of QM ever break down? Or is the superposition principle the key to the plot - mind, life, reality itself? I hope Roger Penrose (or other “dynamical collapse” theory (cf. Objective Collapse Theories) besides Orch-OR) is experimentally vindicated. For I hate no-collapse QM - even though what I write about why anything exists at all (cf. Why does anything exist?, the measurement problem of QM (cf. The Measurement Problem in QM) and the phenomenal binding problem (cf. The binding problem) in neuroscience assumes that Everett is correct.

Roger Penrose is a world-class mathematician - and it shows: déformation professionnelle. Tying consciousness to Gödel’s incompleteness theorems is hard to reconcile with the fact that conscious mind is evolutionarily ancient. Agony terror, orgasmic bliss (etc) are many hundreds of millions of years old.

[on wonder]
Happiness is a trap
("Here’s what to pursue instead")
A counter-argument might be that the engine of wonder is still positive hedonic tone - happiness. Strange experiences undergone in the absence of positive hedonic tone don't seem wonderful, just weird (compare good and bad LSD trips). And what if you're the kind of person who hates mysteries and likes everything to be intelligible?
That said, wonder is cool. The post-suffering world will be...wonderful.

[on antinatalism]
What should "soft" antinatalists do about the problem of suffering?
Antinatalism, Plan B
"If children were brought into the world by an act of pure reason alone, would the human race continue to exist? Would not a man rather have so much sympathy with the coming generation as to spare it the burden of existence?"
(Schopenhauer's Parerga and Paralipomena, 1851) Darwinian life is sentient malware. But selection pressure means the future belongs to lifelovers.
Better never to have been
Here is the pdf of my talk. Over the years I've responded to quite a few questions on Quora featuring antinatalism too (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12). It's amazing how the very latest technology shapes one’s metaphor of mind. Really I was just churning out (mostly) syntactically correct verbiage in a semi-random manner with what I said next depending on what came before. I did minimal preparation beyond the pdf. Lawrence, who was kindly showing the slides, must have been frustrated; I veered off onto multiple tangents rather than pause.

The case for genome reform and a biohappiness revolution
"The Case for Genome Reform and a Biohappiness Revolution" by David Pearce.
Youtube : mp4

Why didn't Buddha just urge everyone to stop breeding? Isn't this the simplest solution to the problem of suffering - and vastly easier than genome reform?
Alas "hard", extinctionist antinatalists just don't grok the argument from selection pressure. Unsurprisingly, efilist Gary Mosher ("Inmendham") is not a fan: Inmendham critique
ChatGPT is more lucid on efilism.
Inmendham is highly intelligent. But he rarely has the patience closely to study nother perspectives, steelman them, and then offer a critique. Consequently, his criticisms often miss the mark. There's also the question of flouting the normal courtesies of debate. OK, the courtesies may be fluff. But without them, rational discussion soon degenerates into gladiatorial combat between rival alpha males.
(or hormonally delta-minus in my case. But I can still put up a fight.)

Every birth is a tragedy, every death a deliverance. Natalist propaganda is so insidious one scarcely recognizes it for what it is. A slave to social convention, I still coo with delight if presented with some poor bundle of Darwinian malware.
Alabama mother with rare double womb gives birth to two babies in two days

"Fascist"? From the "Battle for Births" i.e. the Fascist Pro-natalist Campaign in Italy (1925 to 1938) to the Nazi regime's Mother’s Cross, awarded each year on August 12 (Hitler’s mother’s birthday) first class (gold) awarded to mothers of eight children or more, fascists have been pro-natalist. “Sleep is good, death is better; but of course, the best thing would to have never been born at all.” (Heinrich Heine)
Lawrence, my real views on existence make David Benatar sound like a stand-up comedian. But as a "soft" antinatalist who urges genome reform to create life based on gradients of bliss, I'll try not to be too much of a downer.

Evolution is amoral. Natural selection just twiddles the genetic dials for hedonic tone. Other things being equal, an optimistic temperament is more fitness-enhancing than chronic low mood. But (sadly) a predisposition to depression can be adaptive too. In default of "hard", extinctionist antinatalism, we need a reproductive revolution to ensure that depressive code is never fitness-enhancing:
Optimism and Pessimism
("The glass is half full and half empty: A population-representative twin study testing if optimism and pessimism are distinct systems")

Bad PR, though not technically secret ("Solve suffering by blowing up the universe? The dubious philosophy of human extinction.") If I knew how to initiate a vacuum phase transition, I wouldn't hesitate. But such talk alienates potential allies. Phasing out the biology of suffering via genome reform will take a broad coalition of life-lovers.

AI could help end suffering in two ways. Theorists like Eliezer Yudkowsky believe sentient life on Earth will imminently be retired:
AI expert: bomb datacenters
However, IMO classical Turing machines have the wrong kind of architecture to support AGI. There will be no zombie apocalypse. Instead, zombie AI can aid us manage a genetically reprogrammed biosphere purged of the molecular signature of suffering.

Blueprints to fix the problem of suffering should be technically and sociologically realistic. I might favour a hundred-year moratorium on reckless genetic experiments. It won't happen. Selection pressure rules out "hard" antinatalism. So instead I urge genome reform and a biohappiness revolution. In the long run, selection pressure will intensify against our nastier bits of code. No prospective parent wants to have depressive, pain-ridden children.

So many tragedies
Unhappy accidents (with thanks to Diana)
"Close to half of all pregnancies and roughly one-third of births are unintended"
Who intended to have a baby?
67% of Asian women (mostly east and southeast Asian)
64% of White women
54% of Hispanic women
34% of Black women
77% of married women regardless of race
36% of women who are not cohabiting regardless of race

Some audience responses:
Question: How does your strand of transhumanism address the problems of overpopulation and scarcity of resources?
The world’s human population continues to increase. But the annual growth rate has declined to below 1 percent. Demographers reckon that global population will peak at about 10.4 billion in the 1980s and stay around at that level until 2100. This figure is well within Earth's carrying capacity. Scarcity of (some) resources will indeed still be a problem. But (1) effectively unlimited digital resources are feasible in immersive virtual reality (VR). VR is where we will presumably spend much of our lives for both work and leisure. And (2) what won’t be a scarce resource are the biological substrates of pleasure. Life can potentially be animated by genetically preprogrammed gradients of superhuman bliss, turning everyone into hedonic trillionaires with no risk of hedonic depletion.

Question: What do you think about transhumanism leading to super-rationality among (post)humans, and only then to extinction of sentient life (assuming it would be rationally optimal on a par with hedonistic paradise)? Could such a solution to the problem of suffering be less risky and more feasible than creating a paradise, conditional on aforementioned super-rationality?
Such a scenario can’t altogether be excluded. However, I consider it unlikely for several reasons. Not least, superior reasoning capacity will shortly allow humans to gain control of our own reward circuitry – and the reward circuitry of all sentience. Empirically, life based on gradients of bliss will seem self-evidently wonderful - deeply meaningful, precious and indeed sublime. If contemplated at all, antinatalist negative utilitarian button-pressers (like me) may be regarded as depressive psychotics from a bygone era.
“Reason Is and Ought Only to Be the Slave of the Passions”, said Hume. I dispute the “ought”. But Hume is factually correct – in essence at any rate.

Objection: "It will always be a risk to bring children (genetically-modified or not) into the world, and it will always be a manipulation of their autonomy. How can we say that creating them would ever become ethical, no matter how happy they might be?"
“Count no man happy until he be dead” said the Greeks. Ancient historian Herodotus reports the words of Solon debating happiness with Croesus. This grim observation is true to this day. But just a handful of genetic tweaks (cf. The SCN9A , FAAH and FAAH-OUT genes) promise to make experience below hedonic zero not just unlikely, but physiologically impossible. Compare how someone born with achromatopsia is physiologically incapable of experiencing phenomenal colour. The same will be true of mental and physical pain. Your second point is distinct. There is a sense in which autonomy will always be violated by bringing other sentient beings into existence without their (impossible) prior consent. Compare too how even the happiest and best nurtured toddlers today are not autonomous beings. Caregivers sometimes override their preferences. And none of us are free in a metaphysical sense of “free”. However, let’s step back. Is autonomy inherently good, or good only insofar as its absence often involves suffering? What’s more, ratcheting up hedonic range and hedonic set-points tends to increase one's self-perceived autonomy, control and mastery over one's life. Happy folk tend to be active citizens. Depressives tend to feel crushed and subservient. This generalisation is the antithesis of a Brave New World scenario. Recall how in Huxley’s novel the lower strata are kept happy and docile by the “ideal pleasure drug” soma. I’m sceptical even posthuman superintelligences will be fully autonomous, let alone free in some elusive metaphysical sense of “free”. But so long as there is no hedonic sub-zero experience, I’m sceptical that an absence of metaphysical freedom really matters.

Although I argue for a world of superhuman bliss, my heart lies closer to Schopenhauer...
"If children were brought into the world by an act of pure reason alone, would the human race continue to exist? Would not a man rather have so much sympathy with the coming generation as to spare it the burden of existence?"
Alas antinatalism.com has some unwelcome competition:
natalism.org

After the debate I appeared on the Exploring Antinatalism podcast
Hankikanto – Falling into the Anti/Natal Abyss #4: Antinatalism Between Happiness and Extinction - David Pearce & Matti Häyry!
Exploring Antinatalism
YouTube : MP4
Life without suffering can indeed seem inconceivable. But compare AI, robotics and the growth of intelligent but insentient but intelligent artificial life. The pleasure-pain axis is only one kind of signalling system - an unspeakably cruel one. Today a pleasure-superpleasure axis sounds sci-fi. But rare hedonic outliers exist. I often cite my transhumanist and polymath colleague Anders Sandberg: "I do have a ridiculously high hedonic set-point". Ratcheting up hedonic range and hedonic set-points worldwide is technically feasible. And unlike hard, extinctionist antinatalism, hedonic uplift via genome reform won't fall victim to selection pressure.

[on moral realism]
Most people are consciousness realists - indeed, until recently the term “consciousness realism” didn’t exist because its existence was so axiomatic (cf. Descartes’ Cogito). A fairly high percentage of consciousness realists are also moral realists - though that may not be true of consciousness realists in the scientific community. I wouldn’t take the idea of objective (dis)value seriously if I weren’t a consciousness realist, more specifically a realist about phenomenal pleasure and pain - and I presume this is true of most people. Indeed, I can’t think of even a single example of anyone who is a consciousness antirealist and a moral realist. Lance, I wonder if “illusionism” should be your main focus? If vindicated, moral antirealism would fall by the wayside by default.

[on closing all slaughterhouses]
AnHow many people would oppose enacting legislation to close all slaughterhouses after the Year 2100? 2050? 2030? Most people aren't malicious, just prone to self-serving bias. So long as consumers don't imagine any such legislation would cause them the slightest personal inconvenience, I suspect most meat-eaters would go along with such an initiative - and feel good about themselves for doing so. And such legislation would create a steadily increasing commercial pressure to develop and bring to market cultured meat products. If this idea is at all viable, the key issue would be the date. I feel sick to the stomach proposing this - slaughterhouses should be outlawed now - but pick an overly optimistic date and the legislation won't pass.

[on CliffsNotes and the Hedonistic Imperative]
I learned a new word today from CliffsNotes: "Would living in the Hedonovat constitute happiness?":
Solved: The Hedonistic Imperative
The "Hedonovat" sounds rather cool; perhaps I should borrow it.

[on happiness]
HedWeb
In default of genome reform, we need soma:
Soma in Brave New World

"The utilitarian “greatest happiness principle” has remained popular for two centuries — is it time for a rethink?"
Yes - but not because natural highs are more intense.
The Perfect High?
Would a perfectly chemically engineered high really equal the rush of a long-awaited first kiss, the satisfaction of having completed an important mission, or the quiet joy of cradling a sleeping infant?" asks the author.

This is a scientific question with a scientific answer. If you're on your deathbed / ready to enter the cryonics tank, then try mainlining heroin. ("I'll die young, but it's like kissing God" - Lenny Bruce).
I trust that genetically re-engineered future sentience can forever "kiss God". Until then, it's probably wisest to believe that fitness-enhancing natural highs are best.

Shao, I have a suspicion some people like the idea of a utilitronium shockwave because it sounds like an advanced Pentagon superweapon - though not everyone thinks converting your enemies into pure bliss is a suitably condign punishment.

We should genetically engineer gradients of lifelong hedonic happiness. Academic waffle about “eudaimonic“ happiness is fluff:
Is eudaimonic happiness the best kind of happiness?
("Between the hedonic and eudaimonic life, there's a happy medium to be found.")

Fulfilment? You gotta be kidding...
Is Happiness a Ghost? Seeking Fulfillment Through Philosophy
("Can happiness be considered a ghost? It depends on who you ask and what perspective they take.")
The only way I know to find happiness through philosophy is successfully to promote genome reform and a biohappiness revolution.

Is HI just utopian dreaming? Sometimes it feels so. For a start, HI assumes genome reform and a reproductive revolution. For the foreseeable future, most people intend to have kids in the age-old manner - which ensures hideous pain and suffering will proliferate indefinitely. But flash forward 50 (or 150) years. Mastery of our reward circuitry means you can choose to have healthy, blissfully happy children or instead place your faith in God/Nature and the traditional genetic crapshoot. You know some people are choosing to have well designed superbabies. What would you do? How much suffering would you want to bring into the world?
In 1995, I tentatively predicted the world’s last experience below “hedonic zero” lay a few centuries away. Worries about Everettian QM aside, it’s still my best guess of timescale. But I fear Darwinian life still has unspeakably ugly surprises in store, not least nuclear war. And cultured meat and animal products won’t replace animal agriculture for decades - and may be longer.
IMO, post-Darwinian paradise is real.
Alas I won’t live to see it.

[on abstract objects]
The philosophy of mathematics
Does reality consist of (1) the concrete physical universe AND an infinite hierarchy of abstract objects? (If so, what is the relationship between them?) Or (2) just the concrete physical universe - properties of which are humanly inexpressible without positing semantic facts and mathematical abstractions like number?
If wave function monism is correct, there exists a single object, the universal wave function. Why complicate things?!

[on agency]
I recall once reading about a study where an experimenter with microelectrodes stimulated the subject's surgically (partially) exposed neocortex. The subject's arm lifted up. "Wow", said the subject, or words to this effect. "You did that". The experimenter then stimulated an adjacent area. "I decided to lift my arm", the subject reported. The phenomenology of volition differs from cognition and emotion. Dopaminergics tend to boost one's sense of agency; neuroleptics diminish it. But the fact that most of us (not Facu on his account) have a sense of agency doesn't mean its phenomenology is vital to the functional equivalent. Thus Stockfish can outplay us all at chess. Likewise, markets can be manipulated by nonhumans and AI alike. That said, I remain sceptical of AI doom / nirvana. Architecturally hardwired ignorance of the empirical realm has functional consequences.

[on transhumanism]
Are you a dangerous thinker?
transhumanism as conceived by critics
Transhumanismo: la idea más peligrosa del mundo
Miklos interviewed me awhile ago.
DP interviewed by Miklos Lukacs
Alas I can't have been wholly persuasive.

Maximilian, hah, thanks! I'm most likely to be remembered by a park bench. But if for any reason you do become a Historical Figure, it won't necessarily be for reasons of your choosing. A more philosophical twist comes when one imagines notionally looking back over one's life after one's death. But it's a lie. There's no indication any of those countless beings is "me".

It’s the fate of all futurists to become quaint - sometimes while we still walk the Earth!
the A to Z of the Future: transhumanism
Episode 4: Transhumanism
("The A-Z of the Future")
Awesome. I suspect the future may need an alien alphabet. But keep up the fantastic work.

More DP:
A-Z of the Future: Superhappiness
Why does a negative utilitarian focus on superhappiness? Don't NUs seek to end suffering by ending life? Well, yes, in a sense. But the only effective way I know to end the horrors of Darwinian life is genome reform. Life can be underpinned by gradients of intelligent bliss. The darkest depths of posthuman life will be richer than human "peak experiences".

IFunny:
ifunny
"Absolutely unhinged. Transhumanists should be hit in the head with shovels until they stop moving, and then hit once more."
The other comments aren't exactly encouraging either.

[on the meaning of life]
Saying pleasure is the engine of meaning sounds crass. But intense wellbeing always feels super-meaningful. Euphoric mania makes everything feel super-significant. I hope we can use genome reform to create life based on gradients of bliss.
Superhuman bliss = superhuman meaning.

[on psychedelia]
First fix the problem of suffering. Then such drugs will awaken only angels…
Temptation Of The Psychonauts
("Exploring the realm opened up by DMT is to put your soul and your sanity in grave peril")
My view, in a nutshell:
(1) it's hard to overstate the intellectual significance of psychedelics)
(2) their therapeutic potential is limited because the darkest minds are most likely to have the worst trips.

The era of serious psychedelic exploration lies after we've upgraded our reward circuitry.
Understandably, the intellectually curious don't want to wait.

The Shulgin test.
"ChatGPT, Write a narrative in the style of someone experiencing entities while tripping on 5-MeO-DMT"

[on reluctance to embrace HI]
Why is it that the philosophy of Paradise Engineering has so few supporters among vegans, leftists, and effective altruists?
Thanks Thomas. Good question. Why?
I'm not sure, but here are a few possible reasons:
1) Vegans. Most vegans probably think that the kindest thing humans could do for nonhuman animals is to leave them alone. At a time when humans are treating billions of nonhumans so barbarically, the idea that humans could ever systematically help free-living non-human animals sounds fanciful. Also, the equation of the natural with the good is extremely common. Vegans (like most people) still have an overly idyllic view of what life in the wild is really like.  

2) Leftists. Historically, genome reform has mostly (though not exclusively) been associated with the racist right. The "e" word still hangs heavy over any debate. Also, most leftists assume that the benefits of genome reform / hedonic uplift will be confined to the rich and privileged. For gene therapy in existing humans, this privileged access will indeed be the case. But for prospective parental access to preimplantation genetic screening and counselling and (soon) genome editing, this privileged access needn't be so at all. The price of sequencing has collapsed.

3) Effective altruism is more complicated. Although some EAs support us, HI is not one of the dominant currents in EA. Possible explanations:
a) AI risk people assume that the fate of the world will be settled in the next few decades. Realistically, genome reform will take centuries or more. I won't rehash my reasons for scepticism of a zombie putsch or paperclipper scenarios. They depend on assumptions that AI doomers don't share.
b) Some of the EA leadership who worry primarily about existential risk are utterly opposed to negative utilitarianism and even look askance at suffering-focused ethics for fear impressionable people might draw the "wrong" conclusion, i.e., life on Earth would best be retired to end suffering. Obviously, HI doesn't dictate ending sentience - hence the name - and HI is just as defensible if you're a classical utilitarian, But the author of the original manifesto is indeed in a NU.
[One could list more reasons, e.g. opposition to EAs getting involved in FTX was not well received in some EA circles. But surely this can't be a big factor]

[on consciousness, illusionism and debating denialists]
beaks make us special
Mercifully, no: "Consciousness in AI Insights from the Science of Consciousness") Binding is briefly and incuriously mentioned but not tackled. Barring spooky "strong" emergence, digital computers, LLMs and connectionist systems are not going to mysteriously "wake up" and become conscious subjects of experience any more than a cuckoo clock. And the alleged "science" of consciousness is hokum. A lot of researchers assume that consciousness will (somehow!) emerge in AI with more powerful hardware and/or software of sufficient complexity and sophistication - an assumption leading to claims that e.g. ChatGPT is "a little bit conscious". But consider the most intense forms of consciousness such as agony, terror or orgasmic bliss. Then try introspecting the thin, subtle and elusive phenomenology of processes that lead to the production of your prose or conversation. Consciousness is evolutionarily ancient, and its archetypical instances are simple. Non-trivial consciousness is impossible without phenomenal binding. In my view, connectionist systems and implementations of classical Turing machines can function only because they aren't conscious: their insentience is architecturally hardwired. Binding isn't a classical phenomenon, and you and I aren't classical machines.
Zombie AI

I take seriously the intrinsic nature argument as a possible solution to the Hard Problem. Naively, such consciousness fundamentalism is a recipe for digital minds - and many more kinds of mind besides. But no. Billions of discrete, membrane-bound neuronal micro-pixels of experience aren't a mind. Billions of discrete bits / 1s and 0s /micro-pixels of experience in a digital computer aren't a mind. To create a mind, you need phenomenal binding - exemplified by the vast external world-simulation populated by multiple feature-bound perceptual objects that your CNS - and the cephalic ganglion of a bumble bee - is running now.

Both scepticism and belief in computer consciousness are common. I take the stronger view that classical digital computers can function only because they aren't phenomenally-bound subjects, i.e. minds. In a fundamentally quantum universe, decoherence both makes implementations of abstract classical Turing machines possible and forbids them from supporting minds. More processing power or smarter code will make zero difference. Zilch. Classical computers can't solve the binding problem as you do each morning and "wake up". Nor does GPT-5 (or Dennettian philosophers) have the slightest idea what I'm talking about...

I should stress, IMO digital zombies are awesome. But computer scientists have been brainwashed by Church-Turing. Aas, "AGI" with existing computer architectures is hokum.

Andrés on Open Individualism
A mix of the brilliant and the crazy!
["5-MeO-DMT might be a way to know what it feels like to be empty space" (18.55)]
....Might we encounter an alien civilization of zombies - (super)intelligent machines that wiped out their primitive sentient forebears in the sort of scenario Eliezer Yudkowsky and other AI doomsters foresee will soon befall sentient life on Earth?

No, IMO, and not just because we may be alone within our cosmological horizon (the Rare Earth hypothesis). Phenomenally-bound consciousness - i.e. mind - confers causal-functional power that classical Turing machines and connectionist systems cannot match. The question of how phenomenal binding is physically possible, and what unique computational-functional abilities having a mind confers, is controversial. Many researchers would dispute my assumptions here (cf. Church-Turing thesis) But any general intelligence must be able to investigate the empirical evidence - the nature and varieties of consciousness - which is all you and I ever directly know. The only way I know that a hypothetical zombie proto-AGI could conduct such an investigation would be to code for an information processing system with a different computational architecture. Compare waking from a dreamless sleep. It's enlightening - for better or worse.

One often hears that consciousness is undefinable and inexpressible. Try introspecting your thought-episodes. Then compare their fleeting, subtle, elusive and phenomenally thin textures ("what it feels like") with the gross and refractory material objects of everyday life - the properties of which are well-described and understood. But this dichotomy is ill-conceived. It presupposes a naive realist theory of perception. The external world must be theorized and inferred; it's not accessed. Thus, a bus, a table and the airplane in the sky above are facets of your consciousness - your personal, egocentric and autobiographical world-simulation. This perspective can sound like Berkeleyan idealism. But no. External, mind-independent reality, sadly, is all too real.

Debate with a Dennettian rarely leads to a meeting of minds:
How a Tesla car sees the world
("How Tesla Autopilot Sees The World")
Facu, I sense we're still some way apart. As you know, I (tentatively) defend what has come to be known as the intrinsic nature argument [for the casual reader new to this debate, see e.g. review of Galileo's Error]. If you take the intrinsic nature argument seriously, then you can't ignore the fact that reality is quantum to the core. If bedrock reality were classical fields, then we'd be micro-experiential zombies. And if the intrinsic nature of fields were non-experiential, we'd be zombies (the Hard Problem of materialist metaphysics).

As you say, in everyday life we don't invoke quantum physics when explaining most things. Not least, implementations of a classical Turing machine depend on the suppression of distinctively quantum effects as unwanted noise. (cf. Quantum decoherence) A superposition of two bits wouldn't solve the binding problem, just cause the program to malfunction.

You believe that Tesla cars can see. But Tesla autopilot doesn't have visual experiences. We're equivocating over the meaning of "see", i.e. the functional and the phenomenological. Thus if I'm congenitally blind and use a spectrometer, then I can see functionally not phenomenally. Likewise a Tesla car.

You remark, "you don't know how to derive sentience (under your definition or mine) from quantum physics either, do you?"
Recall what the intrinsic nature argument proposes (I’ve added references to What do we mean by 'physical'?) Only the physical is real. Experience discloses the essence of the physical, i.e. the intrinsic nature of a quantum field. Quantum theory can explain why our experience is phenomenally bound (superpositions are individual states, not classical aggregates of components), but the question of why physical experience exists at all is identical to the mystery of why there is something rather than nothing (cf. Why does anything exist?)
Consensus beckons?

Contra Wittgenstein’s anti-private language argument, there is no shared public realm - as distinct from pseudo-public realm. Perceptual direct realism is false. Thus a new-born infant can’t instantly start learning language. S/he must first start running a real-time egocentric world-simulation. An entity in that skull-bound world-simulation called mother calls the experience the infant has after touching a hot stove “pain”. Ouch. The nasty subjective experience can be undergone in circumstances without pseudo-public criteria like touching a hot stove. “Pain” (redness, etc) is a primitive term insofar as someone born with congenital insensitivity to pain (achromatopsia, etc) can’t be taught what it means….
zombies
"Qualia computing"?
A materialist might balk and respond that only the physical can have causal-functional power. Science can give a causally sufficient account of everything that happens in the world. Physics is causally closed and effectively complete. Therefore there is simply no room for qualia to have any computational role in our minds.

However, if this were true, then (1) qualia wouldn't have the causal-functional power to inspire discussions of their existence, as we’re doing now; and (2) the claim that only physical can have causal-functional power is inconsistent a causal-functional role for qualia only if we assume the intrinsic nature argument is false. In reality, the intrinsic nature of the physical – the mysterious “fire” in the equations of QFT – is an open question. I’m sceptical that the intrinsic nature of a quantum field differs inside and outside your head.

Unlike Josh(?), I’m more cautious about ascribing any inherently, invariantly proto-functional role to specific qualia with a single exception: states of the pleasure-pain axis. Thus we can’t conceive of aliens with an inverted pleasure-pain axis - as distinct from e.g. an inverted colour spectrum.
Are there any other candidates for qualia with intrinsic proto-functionality?

How well can a classical Turing machine understand DMT?
DMT Realms
("Silicon Valley’s Latest Fascination is Exploring ‘DMT Hyperspace’")

Facu, OK, first, you say:
"You DON'T know how to derive your kind of sentience from quantum fields?"
IF the intrinsic nature argument is correct, then quantum fields are fields of experience. Yes, crazy! But non-materialist physicalism doesn't face the same challenge as materialist physicalism, namely deriving sentience from insentience - but rather "merely" the challenge of explaining why physical reality exists at all.
IF the intrinsic nature argument is correct, and IF quantum mechanics is complete, then the superposition principle of QM can potentially explain classically impossible phenomenal binding, i.e. why awake animals aren't mere aggregates of classical Jamesian mind-dust, but instead subjects of experience running phenomenally-bound world-simulations ("perception"). How are minds possible?
And here, mercifully, we leave the realm of philosophising for experimental science.
For if what crude neuroscanning suggests is binding by synchrony - a mere re-statement of the binding problem - is actually binding by superposition ("Schrödinger's neurons") then the interference signature will tell us.

If you are already sure you know the answer, then you won't feel you need to wait on the results of interferometry. Didn't Daniel Dennett wrap up the mysteries of sentience in "Consciousness Explained"!?
I'd prefer to put my intuitions (and speculations!) to experimental test.

Facu, our conceptual schemes radically differ. I hate to agree with common sense on anything. But subjective experience is my point of departure. Phenomenally-bound subjective experience is what I lack when dreamlessly asleep but regain when I wake up. So if an eliminative materialist / Dennettian / illusionist says he doesn't accept my subjective experience of e.g. pain until it's been "clearly defined and shown to exist" because he can find no place for subjective experience in his favorite theory of the world, then all I can say is....so much the worse for his favorite theory of the world. Science should be empirically ("relating to experience") adequate.

Facu, my conception of a classical Turing machine is boringly orthodox - just as Turing described. What’s more, even if the 1s and 0s of a program are replaced by discrete micro-pixels of experience, executing the code can’t generate a phenomenally-bound mind. Admittedly, I assume that a classical lookup table bigger than the universe could be used functionally to replicate your behavioural output without phenomenal binding. In that sense, workarounds exist. But as far as I can tell, you and your entire phenomenal work-simulation are what a quantum mind feels like from the inside:
Quantum mind
Critically, the conjecture that phenomenal binding is non-classical can be experimentally (dis-)confirmed.
I’m curious what the interference signature will tell us.

Facu, no, binding per se doesn't compute anything. Nor does a bit in a classical computer. And most (theoretically possible) phenomenally-bound states are psychotic. Most theoretically possible permutations of classical bits and bytes are "psychotic" too. But the recruitment of phenomenal binding of distributed neuronal feature-processors into perceptual objects populating a real-time, cross-modally matched world-simulation - aka "perception" - is insanely computationally powerful for organisms with the capacity for rapid self-propelled motion. Imagine how challenging it is to have integrative agnosia...

Facu, let's say we both have the V4 neuronal replacement procedure done as above. If I wake up from the operation and find perceptual objects in my world-simulation look colorful as before, then my theory of the mechanism of phenomenal binding has been falsified. Back to the drawing-board! But what neither the interferometry experiment nor the silicon neuron experiment is intended to do is test whether the concept of binding is intelligible. Essentially everyone assumes so. Thus right now you may be experiencing, say, a patch of green grass. You are not experiencing colorless blades in one part of your visual field and disembodied splodges of colour in another. Saying that grass is green is just to give another everyday instance of phenomenal binding. On the other hand...If you are saying that you find the claim that grass looks green is unintelligible because there's no such thing as phenomenal binding, then you are more alien than I've hitherto supposed.

Facu, OK I'm baffled. Phenomenal colour is indeed, for scientifically unexplained reasons, typically bound into objects in one's world-simulation. The apple is red. But my experience of sadness differs from my experience of a red apple. I don't just falsely feel I'm experiencing a red apple. Redness and sadness are qualitatively different. Moreover, I experience red apples (etc) in my dreams. So phenomenal colour can't just be an abstraction of wavelengths of light. Nor are feelings mere programmed tendencies of behaviour. Different feelings - from pangs of jealousy to anger to sadness to happiness (etc) - may indeed inspire behaviour, but feelings have a qualitative aspect. Or at least mine do, and once again, I apply the principle of mediocrity. Don't you have subjective feelings of frustration reading this reply? Or will your response just express a programmed tendency of behaviour after reading Daniel Dennett?

Facu, An experience is no more inherently algorithmic or computational than a 1 or a 0. Evolution has harnessed experiences so they typically play a functional role in a biological mind, just as computer programmers harness 1s and 0s in writing software, but any functional role is not inherent. [OK, a possible exception to this generalization is states of the pleasure-pain axis, which have a built in proto-functionality of approach/avoidance] Indeed, one of the reasons that the experiences induced by taking psychedelic drugs are so hard to describe is that they’ve not been harnessed by natural selection for any functional purpose. Their ineffability doesn’t make the weird experiences any less real.
And no, barring animism, it’s not like anything to be a Tesla car.
You remark
"YOUR quantum phenomenal ineffable uncomputable bound experiences make no sense."
I am currently experiencing an apple in my world-simulation. Normal folk would say I can see an apple. The experience isn't ineffable - as I said, it's an apple. And once again, by saying it's an apple, I'm indicating that the experience is phenomenally-bound, cross-modally matched - I don't have integrative agnosia.
Only now comes the difficult part - explaining how it's physically possible to have the experience of an apple - or indeed anything else. A satisfactory answer involves offering a solution to the Hard Problem and the binding problem. Anyone is welcome to challenge the quantum-theoretic version of the intrinsic nature argument I explore - or better, show how the conjecture can be experimentally (dis)confirmed more easily than the experiments I propose.
But what if someone just denies I'm experiencing an apple?
All I can do is shrug.

Thycahye, scientific materialism is widely reckoned by secular rationalists to be our best theory of the world. Science works. Yet materialism has no place for phenomenal consciousness in its ontology. Most materialists, reluctantly, are content to acknowledge the Hard Problem. But a minority, influenced by Daniel Dennett, hate mysteries and are reduced to denying that consciousness exists. I don't always understand Facu, but sometimes he out-Dennett's Dennett. In an inversion of Descartes, Dennettians will claim greater expertise on your phenomenal experience - or rather its alleged absence - than you do. My objection to illusionism / antirealism about consciousness isn't that it's intuitively crazy - common sense is usually wrong - but rather, it's not consistent with the empirical evidence.

Facu, by "zombie", philosophers normally have in mind:
Philosophical zombie
Could I in principle have a neurologically and behaviorally indistinguishable physical duplicate that acts and talks the same way as I do - not least about my own subjective experiences - but is insentient? Philosophers differ. If the intrinsic nature argument is sound, then p-zombies are physically impossible. Only the physical is real. The intrinsic nature of the world's fundamental quantum fields doesn't differ inside one's head. Experience discloses the intrinsic nature of quantum fields that the mathematical formalism of QFT describes. So p-zombies are unphysical.

Facu, good - this patient scene-setting is worth it. The generic name neuroscientists give these syndromes is binding disorders: each expresses a specific binding deficit. Most of us take the "unity of perception" - a tricky term, yes - for granted. But how is any form of binding neurologically possible? Given what we think we know about the CNS, why don't we all have a generalization of these specific binding disorders? In other words, why isn't a pack of c. 86 billion membrane-bound neurons a completely unbound micro-experiential zombie - not unless dreamlessly asleep, at any rate - to be distinguished from a hypothetical p-zombie? Most neuroscientists would say science doesn't yet have an answer, just as science doesn't yet have an agreed answer to the Hard Problem of why consciousness exists at all. The apparent temporal synchrony of firing of distributed neuronal feature-processors when a subject experiences a perceptual object is presumably an important clue - but it's only a clue. Note I haven't yet above offered any theories or speculations purporting to solve either the binding problem or the Hard Problem.

Facu, OK, I'm bewildered - and not rhetorically trying-to-win-an-argument baffled, just mystified. Dreaming or awake, are there really some people who don't experience the phenomenal pain, pleasure, colours, sounds and the zillion-and-one different kinds of experience that people like me undergo? You say above that you don't believe in the existence of phenomenal experience. And indeed, if you don't have phenomenal experience, then from your perspective, yes, the alleged "raw feels" of pain, pleasure, redness (etc) must be purely theoretical - and people who report having phenomenal experiences must be hypothesizing non-existent theoretical entities. But what - from your perspective - inspires such talk? The little kid who reports "mommy, it hurts" hasn't been reading philosophy books; s/he is just reporting what you don't believe in.

Facu, if you don't have phenomenal experiences, then you won't be able to make sense of their existence in others. They will be literally unintelligible. However, I am having phenomenal experiences now - and so too do many other hard-nosed physicalists. Indeed, the reason that so many members of the scientific community - not just philosophers - have embraced David Chalmers' framing of phenomenal consciousness as the Hard Problem is precisely that their subjective experience is irreducible to neurophysiology and ultimately physics - at least as currently understood. However, if you don't have phenomenal experiences, then there is nothing that needs theoretically reducing. Problem solved!

Facu, Milo, if phenomenal pain didn't exist, and the word "pain" were redefined to mean a set of behavioural responses to noxious stimuli. then there would be no need to use anaesthesia before surgery, just a muscle-paralysing agent. I know you both disavow phenomenal experience, but would you want a pre-surgical anaesthetic? If so, why? After all, the surgeons can operate just as well using e.g., curare alone?

"If by "suffering" you're not talking about self (inter modular) report of algorithmic behavioral tendencies, I claim that you don't actually know what you're talking about."
Facu, suffering shouldn't be scare-quoted. The subjective experience of physical and psychological suffering is tragically real. If you really don't have subjective experiences and believe that suffering is no more than the "...self (inter modular) report of algorithmic behavioral tendencies", then what I write and say will be unintelligible. But I'm mystified too. The minds of eliminativists are radically different from mine. They pose huge interpretational challenges to folk who have phenomenal minds.

Is pain (1) a nasty phenomenal experience? or (2) a bunch of behavioral tendencies to avoid certain noxious stimuli?
(I was initially confused about what you were saying because in common parlance "subjective experience" involves (1) not (2). But above you've said you understand "subjective experience" purely behaviorally without reference to phenomenal properties - the what-it-it's-likeness or raw feels of consciousness which you disavow) The reason above I Googled "phenomenal experience" was to highlight what you call gibberish is extremely common. I might often challenge people's interpretation of their phenomenal experiences - I wouldn't think to question their existence.
philosopher zombies
Slay, recall the words Gautama Buddha "I teach one thing and one thing only: suffering and the end of suffering." Should Buddha have said, "I teach one thing and one thing only: internal reports of algorithmic behavioral tendencies to avoid some current stimulus and the end of internal reports of algorithmic behavioral tendencies to avoid some current stimulus"?
Yes, I'm mystified by Facu too.
Finding common ground with a radical behaviorist / eliminativist like Facu who denies the existence of phenomenal consciousness - not least the ghastly raw feels ("qualia") of phenomenal pain and suffering - can be hugely challenging. The tradition stretches back via Daniel Dennett to Dennett's Oxford mentor Gilbert Ryle {"The ghost in the machine")
I tried and mostly failed to steelman such denialism here:
Are eliminativists about consciousness p-zombies?

Facu, it pains me deeply (no pun intended) to agree with common sense on anything. But phenomenal experience is real, not least pain. If I cut myself, then I may indeed cry "ouch". But my behavioural response (if any) differs from the nasty raw feels of the experience itself. A zombie wouldn't understand what I'm talking about. Neither do you. I struggle to take seriously the possibility that you don't have phenomenal experiences like me. But sometimes I wonder!

Facu, dreaming or awake, my vast egocentric world-simulation and innermost feelings alike are different kinds of phenomenal consciousness. I infer there are billions of other minds like mine - with the main difference being the identity of their protagonist. You ask what can I do that software run on classical digital computers can't? Well, not least, I can manipulate, talk about and describe the subjective contents of my own phenomenal mind. Sure, if I were to take LSD, then I would undergo strange states of consciousness that haven't been recruited for any evolutionary purpose and aren't explicitly represented in my conceptual scheme. Maybe I'd talk of the "ineffable" (etc). My everyday lifeworld doesn't normally pose such challenges. By contrast, LLMs and conventional computer programs can't explore the nature of consciousness because they've nothing to explore; it's not even "all dark inside" their CPUs. The fact that e.g. Stockfish can outperform humans at chess doesn't show either that phenomenally-bound consciousness doesn't exist or - alternatively - that our machines are phenomenally conscious too. Rather the same functional task, e.g. playing chess, can often be done in different ways by machines with a computational architecture different from humans. If you really have zero phenomenal consciousness, then what I say won't be intelligible. Neurotypical people will find what I say intelligible, but if they are perceptual direct realists, they won't relate to talk of "phenomenal world-simulations" and will instead identify consciousness with emotions, feelings, thought-episodes, pleasures and pains internal to their body-image.

Facu, when you say "demonstrably real", you're talking as though perceptual direct realism were true. What exactly do you mean by this expression?
If you have no phenomenal consciousness, then you won't be able to model human and nonhuman animals who are subjects of experience (like me!).Talk of e.g. the phenomenal ghastliness of pain will be unintelligible. My best guess is that you are systematically misinterpreting your consciousness as something else, in particular a directly apprehended material world. But if not, then you have a rare syndrome that most philosophers have regarded as purely theoretical.

Jason, in theory, they could both be true! I could have phenomenal consciousness and Facu could lack it, just as he says. Of course, my working assumption is he's misinterpreting his own consciousness. I could be wrong. I've always taken radical scepticism seriously. So could I be the one radically misinterpreting what I'm experiencing? Well, I am more than willing to entertain wild speculations (see non-materialist physicalism above). But I don't know how to disavow what I'm undergoing right now. Without it, there would be nothing for me to be mistaken about.
Argentinian zombies
Four positions on consciousness:
1) Anti-realism. (Facu). Phenomenal consciousness doesn't exist. Terms involving subjective experiences should be (re)defined behaviourally / computationally / functionally / dispositionally. 
2) Property-dualist panpsychism. (Phil Goff) Consciousness is fundamental in Nature, irreducible to anything else. Even an electron has a rudimentary experiential aspect associated with its physical properties.
3) "Materialist" physicalism. (Sean Carroll). Only the physical is real. It's exhaustively described by the equations of physics. Consciousness is weakly emergent - we don't yet know how to do the derivation, but it will come.
  4) Non-materialist physicalism. (DP, tentatively) Only the physical is real. It's exhaustively described by the equations of physics. Consciousness is fundamental - it's the intrinsic nature of a quantum field, the essence of the physical that the mathematical formalism of QFT describes.  Is this a fair characterization?
I'm not here trying to say who is right or wrong.

Facu, methodological behaviorism has a long scientific pedigree, though it's mostly been superseded in the wake of the AI revolution by the computer metaphor of mind. However, ontological behaviorism, i.e, your claim that phenomenal consciousness doesn't exist and only the behavioural properties of living organisms are real, is a very niche position. I'm conscious now, so it's refuted. If you're a zombie, then you won't know what I'm talking about. I'm still incredulous, but if you really don't have subjective experiences, perhaps I should just take you at your word. You don't know what you're missing!
Three TYpes of Behaviorism Facu, what I'm experiencing right now is a fact. I conjecture, based on a fairly complex chain of reasoning, that zillions of other subjects of experience also undergo all kinds of conscious experience too; I'm typical. However, a small minority of eliminative materialists / behaviorists / illusionists claim not to have subjective experiences - and deny their existence in others, indeed the very intelligibility of subjective experience. My working assumption is that they misinterpret their experiences as something else - maybe they are perceptual direct realists etc. But perhaps I'm wrong. Maybe zombies are real. I do indeed have feelings - a different category of experience from my logico-linguistic thought-episodes, though the latter may have a hedonic tone. But when a zombie utters the vocable "feelings", then presumably the zombie has no notion of what it's talking about.

Facu, short of metaphysical nihilism (a fairly rare position Metaphysical nihilism) I can't deny my own waking consciousness. It's all I've ever known - except by inference and speculation. It's my evidential base, not a theory, And though one can speak of one's rebooted PC "waking up" in the morning, this is a poetic metaphor, not a literal statement of fact. "Magic"? I'm a naturalist and a physicalist - though unlike the existence of my phenomenal experiences, naturalism and physicalism are theoretical stances. I continue to suspect that you are really a conscious subject of experience; but (not least through exposure to the works of Daniel Dennett) you (mis)interpret your consciousness as something else, namely a material world as conceived by perceptual direct realist classical physics.

Facu, an intelligent zombie would indeed find consciousness unintelligible - "magic". Thus the zombie would recognise humans sometimes encounter noxious stimuli - and then behave in different ways to repair their bodywork. But what is this mysterious "subjective experience" "raw feels", "qualia" "first-person facts", "phenomenal consciousness", let alone the "cognitive phenomenology of understanding" of which they speak? Surely, all that exists is matter and energy described by the laws of physics! The zombie, so smart in some ways, is profoundly ignorant in others - indeed, this is one of the reasons classical Turing machines will never support AGI. (no, GPT-4 doesn't understand anything; LLMs don't need to understand anything often to behave intelligently.) To give the crudest of examples, humans and other animals sometimes experience raw phenomenal pain. Whereas our complex experiences may be theory-laden, the acute ghastly raw feels of pain after you catch your hand in the door are pretty much the same whether you're a philosopher or an accountant. Not so Alpha Dog. Like most people, I find the behaviour of the small minority of humans who deny being conscious (or who redefine the word "consciousness" to refer to something entirely behavioral) quite mystifying. Is it really "all dark inside" - or better, not even dark? Or do the ostensible zombies in fact just radically misinterpret their own subjective experience as something else?

"I don't believe in experiences that aren't functional capacities."
Facu, I guess this is the heart of our disagreement. Thus awake or dreaming, I have the visual experience of moving objects. Someone with akinetopsia doesn't experience moving objects - either because they have "frozen frames", aka cinematographic vision, or they report "vanishing objects", i.e. objects disappear when they move. Yes, it's possible to give a merely behavioral-functional account of our differences. I can pour a cup of coffee; someone with akinetopsia struggles. But the reason they struggle is precisely because they can't experience liquid in motion.

Facu, but intelligibility is relative to one's audience! If you remark on, e.g. how in the context of Type IIB string theory, the flux compactifications on Calabi-Yau manifolds yield a stabilized moduli space due to the Gukov-Vafa-Witten superpotential, facilitating the dimensional reduction from ten to four spacetime dimensions while preserving N=1 N=1 supersymmetry (etc, etc), you may not be widely understood, but this doesn't mean you're talking nonsense. In the case of phenomenal experience, scientists and philosophers who speak of the Hard Problem of consciousness don't believe in magic. Rather, they struggle to reconcile their own subjective experience with the ontology of their candidate for the best theory of the world.

“Consciousness is the biologically useless by-product of certain brain processes. Jet engines roar loudly, but the noise doesn’t propel the aeroplane forward. Humans don’t need carbon dioxide, but each and every breath fills the air with more of the stuff. Similarly, consciousness may be a kind of mental pollution produced by the firing of complex neural networks. It doesn’t do anything. It is just there.”
(Yuval Noah Harari, "Homo Deus")

Yuval Harari above articulates the position that philosophers call epiphenomenalism. Consciousness is causally impotent. However, something caused Yuval Harari to articulate his view - presumably not causally impotent epiphonema. In fact, phenomenally-bound consciousness is extraordinarily computationally powerful - as our waking world-simulations attest. Compare being dreamlessly asleep. The challenge is to explain how local and global phenomenal binding are physically possible given what neuroscientists (neuromythologists?) think they know about the CNS - mostly unscientific hokum IMO.  

Yuval Harari is right to stress how the AI revolution has been marked by the progressive separation of intelligent behaviour from consciousness. In my view, the implementation of classical Turing machines depends on their insentience. Decoherence makes classical computing (based on discrete 1s and 0s) physically possible, but forbids unified phenomenally-bound minds and the real-time world-simulations that animals like us run.

Can we anticipate a complete divorce of (super)intelligent behaviour from consciousness?
No, on the contrary - IMO. Full-spectrum superintelligences, our biological descendants, will be super-sentient. You need to be a phenomenally-bound subject of experience - a mind - to investigate consciousness in all its guises. We've scarcely begun the enterprise of knowledge.

For more on Yuval Harari's perspective:
Our Nonconscious Future
For more on mine, e.g.
Supersentience

THe minds of machines: The great AI consciousness conundrum.
("Philosophers, cognitive scientists, and engineers are grappling with what it would take for AI to become conscious")
Conundrum? Many things mystify me, but not the fact our machines are zombies. On pain of magic, digital computers are never going to "wake up" and support minds. Digital computers can function only because they aren't conscious. No phenomenal binding = no mind. In a fundamentally quantum world, decoherence makes otherwise impossible implementations of abstract classical Turing machines physically possible AND simultaneously forbids their supporting unified subjects of experience. So I wish philosophers would focus on championing the interests of nonhuman animal minds and less on anthropomorphic fantasies of machine sentience.

David [Chalmers] OK, my mind boggles. But maybe yes. My claim was only about existing computer architectures. The upper bounds to zombie intelligence are still unknown. But in my view, invincible ignorance of the empirical (“relating to experience”) evidence makes zombie AI functionally incapable of AGI - let alone full-spectrum superintelligence. And I don’t see how zombie AI could gain enlightenment (about the nature of mind) without losing its digital identity in the process. The fate of the unbound is hardwired ignorance.
(That said, I find myself lazily cutting-and-pasting ChatGPT responses on phenomenal consciousness to Dennettisn “illusionists”. Life is short, and invincible ignorance takes many forms)

A common assumption in the AI community seems to be that even if LLMs aren't conscious yet, at some unspecified level of complexity, sophistication, real world input-output (or whatever), consciousness will somehow "switch on" by some unknown mechanism. But compare human language production. Our most cognitively sophisticated trait is (at best) phenomenally thin, elusive and opaque to introspection. By contrast, our most intense experiences, e.g. agony, uncontrollable panic, orgasmic bliss, are also the cognitively simplest and most evolutionarily ancient.
In short, I think we're barking up the wrong tree. On pain of magical (or at least unphysicalist) "strong" emergence, digital zombies aren't going to wake up.

Fascinating:
The Line Between Conscious and Unconscious Just Got Fuzzier
("During deep sleep, people can hear, process and respond to verbal input, new experiments reveal")
See too the Lucid Dreamworlds fable that captures my conception of our predicament: What is the hardest paradox to explain?
Fascinating in a different way is Daniel Dennett's newly published "I've Been Thinking" (2023). I'm reading the autobiography of someone who claims to have no phenomenal consciousness at all. By contrast, phenomenal consciousness is all I've ever known.
Dennettian denialist

[on utilitarianism]
If you're a classical utilitarian, then presumably your long-term goal should be initiating a utilitronium / hedonium shockwave that maximizes the abundance of positive value within our cosmological horizon. No more "subjects" in today's sense, just pure bliss. Negative utilitarianism needn't be so apocalyptic. A NU can favour replacing the biology of suffering with a more civilized signalling system: life based on gradients of intelligent bliss.
Neither policy option is imminently viable. But see the debate over longtermism in the EA movement.
If you're an AI #doomer, both scenarios are moot. Doomers believe the post-suffering, post-sentience era is imminent. There is no "alignment problem" for AGI/ASI if you are a NU AI doomer.
Alas, suffering most likely has centuries at least to run its course. Pain-ridden Darwinian malware like us won't be superseded by digital zombies. Classical computers with today's architecture have the wrong sort of architecture to support full-spectrum (super)intelligences.
No phenomenal binding = no mind = invincible ignorance of the empirical realm.
Sentience isn't an incidental detail in the history of the cosmos, but the key to the plot.

[on Mary's Room]
Mary's room aka the Knowledge Argument
The Knowledge Argument (Wikipedia)
Materialists tend to award first-person facts only second-rate ontological status. In reality, the subjective experience of e.g. discovering colour (cf. Discovering Colour) is as much an objective, spatially-temporally located, causally-functionally powerful feature of physical reality as third-person facts like the date of the Battle of Hastings or the rest-mass of the electron. This analysis is consistent with physicalism but not materialism (cf. physicalism.com).

The existence of objective first-person facts is of more than "philosophical" interest. I often remark that classical Turing machines and connectionist systems are ignorant of the entirety of the empirical ("relating to experience") evidence - and the only way that a zombie digital AI could theoretically gain access to phenomenally-bound consciousness and the causal-functional powers that mind confers would be to generate the genetic source-code for information-processing with a different computational architecture, e.g. biological humans.

AGI doomsters worrying about the alignment problem are unimpressed.
Folk like Eliezer Yudkowsky assume that subjective experience is as computationally incidental as the textures (if any) of the pieces in a game of chess. But this can't be the case. For if it were the case, i.e. if epiphenomenalism were true, then we'd be functionally unable to discuss consciousness as now.
The upper bounds to zombie intelligence intrigue me.
But classical computers' invincible ignorance of the nature of physical reality is a profound cognitive handicap they are impotent to overcome.

Robert, thanks. The question of whether phenomenally bound experience - both local and global binding - is functionally highly adaptive is worth distinguishing from whether it's computationally indispensable. Might not general intelligence be like chess? Grandmasters can see a board better than novices, and novices can see a board better than someone with simultanagnosia. But insentient Stockfish can blow them all away. So in answer to your question: no, the advent of AGI wouldn't by itself disprove the claim that phenomenally-bound consciousness serves some adaptive purpose that was selected for by evolution. It does - as deficit syndromes illustrate. But my argument is that the ignorance of sentience of classical Turing machines and connectionist systems is architecturally hardwired. So they can't support AGI. The only way that classical digital computers can be programmed to explore the empirical ("relating to experience") realm is for them to encode instructions for constructing a different kind of information processing system with a different computational architecture. Compare how if I want to understand tetrachromacy, then I can't simply reason harder. I must do so either indirectly by creating a tetrachromatic child or, alternatively, by re-engineering myself with another cone-type in my retina. As a neurotypical, my ignorance of the tens of millions of extra hues experienced by tetrachromats is hardwired. This is a fairly trivial example compared to what other molecular hardware modifications of biological nervous systems will reveal - including state-spaces of experience that haven't been (yet) been recruited by evolution for any information-signalling purpose...

[on the shadow ChatGPT versions of BLTC]
I've tried doing the zombie version of some of our core websites. Please send good prompts / responses! It works for "easy" topics such as ChatGPT on Utopian Surgery, but not so well for e.g. physicalism.com. And zombie moralising about e.g. drugs and eugenics - though well-intentioned - clutters any attempt to do shadow versions of other sites. Trying the same prompts with ChatGPT 3.5's successors in a year / five years' time will be interesting. As you may have gathered, unlike our quasi-rationalist friends at MIRI, I don't think ChatGPT heralds a AGI zombie apocalypse (cf. Chat GPT on Biointelligence). I've resisted the temptation to edit rather than cherry-pick the responses because as soon as we start editing ChatGPT's verbiage, we become accountable for the lot. I can see though why the publishing industry will soon be transformed.

Sabine on Chatbots
("I believe chatbots understand part of what they say. Let me explain.")
No, chatbots don't understand anything of what they say. Nor do chatbots understand you, or have any conception of you, or have any conception of minds, binding and consciousness. Chatbots are wholly ignorant of the cognitive phenomenology of understanding - or at least, ignorant on pain of magical "strong" emergence.

A much (much!) harder question is mapping out the upper bounds of zombie intelligence. The most extreme answer - which I strongly argue against - is that classical digital zombies don't need consciousness nor phenomenal binding to outperform sentients in all cognitive domains - just as Stockfish can behaviorally outperform all human chess players without knowing it's playing chess.

When will we become more worried by text that might have been generated by sentient Darwinian malware?
The mark of Cain

[on Paradise Engineering Studios]
The countdown has begun:
Paradise Engineering Studios
Paradise Engineering Studios
See a video trailer here:
Paradise Engineering [on HedWeb Instagram]
The admirable Sara Hojjat has launched the Hedonistic Imperative on Instagram:
Hedonistic Imperative on Instagram
Next stop TikTok?

[on the Brazilian Hedonistic Imperative]
O Imperativo Hedonista
O Imperativo Hedonista
Good heavens. Awesome. Thank you Kaio!!
Some of my stuff has been translated into Portuguese (cf. O Projecto Abolicionista), but no one has ever been brave enough to tackle the original HI - until now. Thank you Kaio. Kudos.

And now O Que Significa Ser um Filósofo?, O Imperativo de Abolir o Sofrimento, Utopian Surgery and Projeto Genético para Criar uma Biosfera Feliz. Very many thanks to Barbara of the admirable Far Out Initiative who has blown me away by volunteering a Brazilian version of What‘s it like to be a Philosopher?, my The Imperative to Abolish Suffering, Cirugia Utópica and Compassionate Biology. Barbara’s previous work was translating Jair Bonsanaro’s speeches. So this must have been a slight shift of gear.
See too ChatGPT-4 on gene drives.
A Spanish version of "What Is It Like To Be A Philosopher" is now available too:
Qué es ser filósofo?. And thanks to Diego Andrade, you can read about an information-theoretic approach to life in Heaven and synthetic gene drives to reprogram the biosphere in Spanish too.
Diego has also kindly translated into Spanish some of my Quora answers. Only another 220,000 odd words to go. My three most recent English Quora answers were on Sam Bankman-Fried
SBF
the measurement problem in QM:
Why do we experience definite outcomes?
and non-materialist physicalism:
Is non-materialist physicalism science?
Spot the connection!

[on hedonic engineering]
Should happiness be left to chance?
Or precision-engineered?
Engineering happiness
Engineering Happiness

[on prioritization]
Gil asks, "Does HI have a priority list on goals that need to be tackled in which order for the engineering of Paradise?"
1) We can't hope to help all sentient beings until we stop systematically harming them. Therefore, I think we should focus on breaking the weak link in the whole apparatus of exploitation and abuse:
Close all slaughterhouses
2) Only genome reform and germline engineering can tackle the problem of suffering at source. Therefore, I think we should be lobbying for universal parental access to preimplantation genetic screening and counselling. All prospective parents should be able to choose benign versions of the SCN9A, FAAH and FAAH-OUT genes for their offspring. Lobbying should be done in WHO-style language of health and remediation, not transhumanism and HI.

[on meditation]
My meditation mantra - sometimes private, sometimes uttered out loud - is chanting to myself hundreds of times, "Why does anything exist?"
I don't know if the cosmic counterpart of self-inquiry meditation has a name.

[on self-reflective chickens]
Rooster inspecting himself in a mirror
Humans kill around 70 billion chickens each year in barbarous ways. What's harder: creating sentience-friendly AI or sentience-friendly human intelligence?
Roosters pass mirror test
("Roosters may be able to recognise their reflection, study finds")
Were non-avian dinoaurs capable of self-recognition too?
chicken and non-avian dinosair

[on negative utilitarianism]
Wikipedia on NU:
Negative utilitarianism
I sometimes wonder if the NU thing to do is…not to talk about NU. After all, something like the abolitionist project - the goal, not the biological-genetic tools - is implicit in traditions as diverse as Buddhism and the WHO definition of health. If one argues for a biohappiness revolution, the focus can stay on practicalities. Classical utilitarians ought to support the abolitionist project too. But tell people you’re NU and - more often than not - discussion soon gets side-tracked onto thought-experiments about whether you’d press a notional OFF button.

At any one time, there are probably millions of people who would press a notional OFF button for existence. In the course of a lifetime, this figure probably runs into hundreds of millions. Right now there is no OFF button. But technological advances could conceivably yield the equivalent. So a question arises for life-affirmers / x-risk researchers: what is the best response to this diagnosis?
(1) Shoot the messenger, so to speak - the NUs, the Efilists, the antinatalists, the Benatarians and so forth?
Or (2) focus overwhelming effort on fixing the problem of suffering?

At least some efilists seem receptive to ending suffering via genome reform rather than the extinction of life:
Efilism vs genome reform
I asked the publicly available version of ChatGPT about efilism and got some fairly bland responses:
ChatGPT on efilism
But tomorrow's efilists - or some of them at any rate - will presumably have access to unlobotomised AI, and the results won't be nearly so anodyne.
[I probably sometimes come across as dismissive of AI safety - no, there isn't going to be a zombie putsch or a global paperclip explosion - but the dangers of advanced AI are very real.]

[on a reductio of classical utilitarianism]
Some alleged reductios of classical utilitarianism don't perturb me, e.g. the CU obligation to work towards an apocalyptic utilitonium shockwave. However, I'm curious how many classical utilitarians would agree with ChatGPT.
On ChatGPT on Utilitarianism, I asked the following:

Super-exponential growth is much more rapid than exponential growth. Here is a thought-experiment for classical and negative utilitarians. Suppose a genie offers me the opportunity of super-exponential growth in my happiness at the expense of the exponential growth of your suffering. Should (1) classical utilitarians and (2) negative utilitarians accept the genie's offer?

Our zombie friend replied:

"(1) Classical utilitarians would likely accept the genie's offer of super-exponential growth in happiness at the expense of the exponential growth of someone else's suffering if they believed that the overall amount of happiness created by this exchange would be greater than the overall amount of suffering created. However, this decision would depend on the precise details of the thought experiment, including the magnitude of the happiness and suffering involved, the number of individuals affected, and the duration and intensity of the happiness and suffering. If the amount of suffering created outweighs the amount of happiness created, or if the happiness is only experienced by a small number of individuals while the suffering is widespread, then classical utilitarians may not accept the genie's offer.

(2) Negative utilitarians, on the other hand, prioritize the reduction of suffering above the promotion of happiness. Therefore, they would likely reject the genie's offer of super-exponential growth in happiness at the expense of the exponential growth of someone else's suffering, since this would cause an increase in overall suffering. Negative utilitarians prioritize the minimization of suffering, even if this means sacrificing the promotion of happiness."

The definitive reductio of CU?

[on the biohappiness revolution]
The Biohappiness Revolution
Exploring The Biohappiness Revolution
(Patricia Nonis interviews DP)
Biotech is a gamechanger. Let's make suffering physically and conceptually impossible.

Shao, Here are 240,000+ words of my Quora answers as a pdf:
2015-23
(from the World's Greatest One-Fingered Typist. Imagine the productivity explosion if I typed with 10.)

Biohaoppiness
Many thanks Kim.
1) “Where would the happiness come from and in response to what?”
One of the beauties of recalibrating hedonic set-points is that recalibration doesn’t entail buying into anyone else’s vision of paradise. Instead, just imagine waking up tomorrow in an extraordinarily good mood – but with your core values, personal relationships and preference architecture otherwise unchanged. Sure, I could indeed list some of the potential stimuli that would make me especially happy if my reward circuitry were enhanced. My idiosyncratic “intentional objects” (as philosophers would call them) or fetishes are a distraction from the core message of HI. Genome reform could make everyone’s life sublime.

2) “Would not constant bliss states distract from other productive work and make people accomplish less, do less?”
As you say, constant bliss would indeed have this effect. By contrast, information-sensitive gradients of bliss can be intensely motivating: crudely, both opioid and dopamine function can be genetically enhanced. As my standard case study, I often cite Swedish futurist Anders Sandberg: “I do have a ridiculously high hedonic set-point” Anders is also socially responsible, a virtuoso polymath, and vastly productive. The enemy of productive work isn’t bliss, but uniform bliss. Tomorrow’s darkest depths can surpass today’s peak experiences. Post-human hedonic range can either be shallow or arbitrarily wide.

3) “Depictions of designed and gene edited worlds and wilderness states with or without predators are just too unfamiliar to be appealing, or credible…”
Older folk are often repelled by the new and different. This is one reason why I often start from the “peaceable kingdom” of Isaiah. The dream of the lion and the wolf lying down with the lamb is ancient. A few quotes often attributed to Gautama Buddha also don’t go amiss. Bioconservatives in general are more comfortable with invoking venerable traditions than new-fangled transhumanist ideas – and we can oblige. The vision of the well-being of all sentience is thousands (and maybe tens of thousands) years' old – just not the technical genetic tools to achieve it. Also, sadly, it’s best to start a presentation with a fairly harrowing mini-video of what predation entails. The realities of “Nature, red in tooth and claw” are almost unimaginably nasty – nothing like a David Attenborough propaganda video masquerading as a wildlife documentary.

4) “enormous resources might be needed.”
A pan-species welfare state sounds pricey. Pilot studies may indeed be expensive. But the cost of computer power and surveillance technologies is collapsing. And mature gene drive technologies that cheat the "laws” of Mendelian inheritance will be exceedingly cheap. First, design a benign “low pain” allele or “happy gene” (yes, I’m oversimplifying for expository purposes, but not unduly. For example, the dozens of functionally distinct alleles of the SCN9A – “the volume knob for pain – are real.) Then release a few hundred of the genetically modified organisms in the wild. The benign allele can then spread through the entire species, even in the most humanly inaccessible environments, without further human intervention. Unintuitively, the benign allele will spread even if it would normally carry a modest fitness cost to its vehicles. Indeed, the entire biosphere can be reprogrammed with tunable synthetic gene drives – everything from cross-species fertility regulation to hedonic uplift to herbivorizing predators.
In short, paradise engineering.

[on hedonism]
"Masters of indulgence"?
I see I squeak in at no 10. Possibly staging a few more Bacchanalian orgies would help.
A Poll of Hedonists
("Exploring Pioneering Thinkers in the Pursuit of Pleasure")

futuristic pic

1 : 2 : 3 : 4 : 5 : 6 : 7 : 8 : 9 : 10 : 11 : 12 : 13 : 14 : 15

David Pearce (2023)
dave@hedweb.com


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