Source: Facebook, Quora, Twitter, blogs
Date: 2023
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paradise engineering

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ChatGPT, paradise engineering, the biohappiness revolution, transhumanism,
free-living animals, philosophy, mental health, suffering, happiness, consciousness, negative utilitarianism

JANUARY 2023 -

[on ChatGPT]
The answers to my prompts are cherry-picked, but verbatim:
ChatGPT on HI themes
Chat GPT on the Hedonistic Imperative
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 song written in style of Nick Cave
“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.”

[on Donald Hoffman]
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."
Thanks. A bold paper. My more conservative view is that mathematical physics describes patterns of qualia and phenomenally-bound agents are a late evolutionary novelty.

[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 a innovative designer drug - or maybe one of QRIs exotic new scents QRI scents. More seriously, it's tragic that modern medicine regards "euphoria" as a pathological state rather than the goal of mental health.

[on 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" 115
María Branyas Morera
Maximum human lifespan has peaked below 120 years.

[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.

[on effective altruism]
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.

[on exercise]
Keep moving
Exercise promotes youthfulness
("New research furthers case for exercise promoting youthfulness")

[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)

[on why anything exists at all]
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).

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.

[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 worse trips.

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

[on consciousness]
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 field 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?

"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” n 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?

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'tface 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.

[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 orginal HI - until now. Thank you. Kudos.

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

[on negative utilitarianism]
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.

futuristic pic

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David Pearce (2023)
dave@hedweb.com


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