Source: Facebook, Quora, Twitter("X"), blogs
Date: 2024
(see too: 1 : 2 : 3 : 4 : 5 : 6 : 7 : 8 : 9 : 10 : 11 : 12 : 13 : 14 : 15 : 16)

paradise engineering

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AI Art, ChatGPT, AGI, sentience, paradise engineering, transhumanism, antinatalism, free-living animals, philosophy,
mental health, suffering, happiness, consciousness, negative utilitarianism, the biohappiness revolution, the binding problem

JANUARY 2024

[on Facebook]
New year, new Dave?
A change of substrate can work wonders.
My updated Facebook profile pic:
Dave of Athens
Dave of Athens, author of "Imperativus Hedonisticus" (MCMXCV, editio prima)?
The old profile stood for almost 16 years. I did briefly consider something a little more contemporary. Alas "Poet" lacks a certain gravitas.
For more in this vein:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100
Another version of you?
HedWeb is a family page for a family audience, so for the Bacchanalian orgies, try tengr.ai
I lean to so-called "empty" indidividualsm. Some of the implications of Open Individualism are more philosophically disturbing.

[on AI art and paradise engineering]
I love AI art. These visions were created with DALL·E 3: Future life
paradise engineering
And 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
Compared to the messy practicalities of building transhumanist paradise, generating AI art takes seconds rather than centuries. Compare drugs of abuse. How can one avoid getting one's reward circuitry hijacked by simulacra of paradise when one should be researching it and banging the drum for the real thing?
But like (and ChatGPT), AI art is still jaw-dropping.

[on nonhuman animal sentience]
I'm not sure about the "legendary", but still relevant:
Eliezer vs DP on nonhuman animal sentience
Thanks Charbel. Actually, it drives me up the wall. Plenty of meat-eaters downplay nonhuman animal minds. But Eliezer sincerely believes that nonhumans [and human babies] are as insentient as, say, paperclips. So there is no ethical problem with using their biomass for something else, e.g. food.
Creating sentience-friendly biological intelligence is a bigger challenge than sentience-friendly AI.

As I understand it, Eliezer has lately undated his credence in the (in)sentience of GPT - but not alas chickens.
EY on (in)sentient ChatGPT-3 and chickens
some of whom are not "just" conscious, but reflectively self-aware - and who pass the mirror test:
Self-aware roosters

Unlike LLMs, people born with only a brainstem are conscious:
Brainstem consciousness
Nonhuman animals deserve just as much love and care as hydrocephalous Lily. The sentience and sapience of nonhumans in our factory-farms and slaughterhouses is comparable to "normal" human infants and toddlers.

Maarten, we have scientifically explained a phenomenon when we can derive its properties from - ultimately - physics. Compare biological life - now so explicable via molecular biology and quantum chemistry. No such explanation can currently be offered of conscious animal minds, whether human or nonhuman. If we assume (1) a standard "materialist" ontology, i.e. QFT describes fields of insentience, and (2) textbook neuroscience, i.e. the CNS consists of a pack of effectively decohered classical neurons, then we should all be either zombies (cf. the Hard Problem of consciousness) or micro-experiential zombies (cf. the binding problem). We're already in deep philosophical waters. Let's not lose sight of the original point. The nonhuman animals humans exploit and abuse are as sentient as small children. They deserve to be treated accordingly. Any failure to recognize their sentience is ethically catastrophic.

Thycahye, why should we care about the Etruscan shrew, with a tiny mind-brain of around 0.13 grams, and not (directly at least) the interests of the c 500 million neurons of a human enteric nervous system? The reason, presumably, is that the Etruscan shrew has a phenomenally-bound mind with a pleasure-pain axis, whereas (depending on one's theory of consciousness) the enteric nervous system just c. 500 million membrane-bound neuronal micro-pixels of experience - or completely insentient.
Binding matters. How we do it is another question.

Thycahye, the dimmer-switch metaphor for sentience and suffering is simplistic - as the relative intensity of our most cognitively advanced and phylogenetically "primitive" experiences illustrates. But the dimmer-switch metaphor isn't wholly ill-conceived. Thus a tick can (presumably) experience a pinprick-like intensity of distress. Fixing the problem of pinpricks is a task for our successors.

Thycahye, what makes the animal kingdom unique is the adaptation we call minds. The ability to run real-time world-simulations in almost real time is immensely fitness-enhancing in organisms with a capacity for rapid self-propelled motion. Sessile organisms like plants are able to detect and slowly respond to e.g. noxious stimuli. But plants aren't capable of phenomenal binding, the bedrock of mind and perception.

[on AI]
Great narrative:
Can Humanity Survive AI?
albeit anthropocentric (cf. "Can Aryans Survive AI?")
Abolitionists need storytellers to match it.

[on the future of sentience]
David Pearce on genome reform
YouTube & MP4
Preaching genome reform to a German audience always calls for a certain finesse. Naively, "post-Darwinian transition" suggests selection pressure will slacken; in reality, selection pressure will intensify. Alleles and allelic combinations "for" mental and physical pain have no more long-term future than alleles "for" cystic fibrosis.

Tim, possibly our purposes are different?! If I were battling Creationists, for instance, I wouldn't use a term like "Post-Darwinian Transition". But selection pressure in a Darwinian world of "blind" natural selection underpinned by (effectively) random genetic variations differs from a hypothetical future world where prospective parents design and preselect the genomes of their offspring in anticipation of the psychological and behavioral effects of their choices. That's all I meant by "Post-Darwinian" - not the suggestion that Darwin (or more strictly, Matthew https://early-evolution.oeb.harvard.edu/patrick-matthew) was wrong. See too
Singing the blues
How can we turn raising hedonic set-points / thymostats world-wide into a long-term biological-genetic goal of human civilization?

[on veganism]
Kudos to Leah, admin of veganism.com, for the first customised Vegan ChatGPT
Veganise Me
("Vegan Guide, Step by Step By veganism.com")
The most realistic way to end the horrors of animal agriculture may be cruelty-free cultured meat and farm-free animal products.
Alas the murderous meat "industry" is pushing back: The Murky Campaign to Discredit Lab-Grown Meat
("A new ad campaign is targeting the cultivated meat industry on TV and online. Industry supporters criticize it as unscientific.")

[on survivalism versus hedonism]
Tim Tyler's dichotomy:
Survivalism vs hedonism
Alternatively, could "hedonism" be the best form of "survivalism", to use your dichotomy? Today, the happiest folk live between 10 to 20 years longer than depressives. Happy people love life and ardently deserve to preserve it. They are more motivated. As germline editing becomes routine, "happy genes" will presumably be selected for over alleles and allelic combinations for pain-ridden depressives.

Aliens?
Well, the "thermodynamic miracle" (Eric Drexler) of life's genesis makes me suspect we're typical of life-supporting Hubble volumes in being alone. Hubble volumes where life arises more than once may be rare. Either way, convergent evolution strikes me as likely. Any species that gains mastery over its genetic source code and reward circuitry will presumably opt to get rid of suffering in favour of a more civilized signalling system.

[on the end of the world]
Efilists and "extinctionist" antinatalists may celebrate:
The End Is Nigh
("AI MAY DESTROY HUMANKIND IN JUST TWO YEARS, EXPERT SAYS 'WE HAVE A SHRED OF A CHANCE THAT HUMANITY SURVIVES.'")
I fear the biology of suffering has a long and inglorious future.

[on negative utilitarianism]
NU = compassion systematized. A NU slideshow (with thanks to Gabriel):
Slideshow
Strict NU may be rare, but NU is really just the codification of suffering-focused ethics with a (disturbing?) existential twist.
AlistairI'm a negative utilitarian who thinks we should create a world based entirely on gradients of bliss. Let's abolish even the faintest whiff of disappointment. May all your dreams come true - other things being equal. But one should always "walk away from Omelas", i.e. I'm not a prioritarian. Painism vs NU is harder. "More is different" - qualitatively different. Some trade-offs involving equal intensities of experience are straightforward. But a single instance of torture is morally worse than any number of pinpricks. Alas, I genuinely don't know how to deal with some scenarios involving qualitatively as well as quantitatively different amounts of suffering. What are your thoughts?
I find some thought-experiments upsetting to contemplate, which doesn't promote clear reasoning.

I know my agony and despair are disvaluable to me; their badness is self-intimating - not an open question. For evolutionary reasons, I feel my suffering matters more than anyone's else's. I also know, intellectually, this prioritization is false. Science aspires to the "view from nowhere". A full-spectrum superintelligence presumably wouldn't suffer from my epistemological limitations. A full-spectrum superintelligence could presumably access, and impartially weigh, all first-person perspectives and act accordingly.
But what does "act accordingly" entail? Alas Duncan Sabien has blocked me for idly lamenting the existence of Darwinian life. A failure of message discipline on my part, yes. But also a reminder that some topics are taboo the rationalist community. It's frustrating (and ironic) because I go to great pains to urge NUs not to get diverted by thoughts of omnicide:
What is High-Tech Jainism?
Hard Antinatalism vs Genome Reform

[on the opioid crisis]
Tim, yes, it's horrific. Unintentional overdoses of synthetic opioids cause some 75,000 deaths each year in the USA alone. The equivalent of a lifelong genetic vaccine against opioid abuse - and pain, anxiety and depression - may exist. Recall how Jo Cameron has a rare dual FAAH and FAAH-OUT mutation. She is never anxious, depressed or in pain. The only time in her life Jo ever felt physically sick was when she was given unsolicited morphine by doctors - presumably a function of her "natural" abnormally elevated opioid function, an indirect effect of her elevated endocannabinoid levels. Routine germline and somatic gene therapy would be a truly transformative technology that prevents unimaginable amounts of suffering. But the societal pressure against this kind of radical fix for the problem will be immense.
Cameron syndrome

[on ChatGPT]
Joshua, the minds of humans have more in common with the cephalic ganglion island-universe of a bumble bee, let alone archaic humans, than with ChatGPT. We share a pleasure-pain axis and phenomenally-bound virtual worlds of experience.
ChatGPT is a zombie - entirely ignorant of the empirical realm.

[on FAAH / FAAH-OUT]
Physical and psychological pain alike will probably be trivialised and then abolished over the next few centuries, but the pitfalls are hard to exaggerate.
Jo Cameron is never anxious or depressed - just naturally high on life. Critically, Jo’s dual FAAH / FAAH-OUT mutation confers an exceptionally high pain-threshold rather than total pain-insensitivity.
The problem of suffering is fixable - but only if we embrace genome reform.
It would be extraordinary if just a couple of genetic tweaks could effectively fix the problem of mental & physical pain. Jo Cameron’s late father seems to have shared her dual FAAH / FAAH-OUT mutation. Could the problem of suffering be fixed with a Hundred Year Plan? Minds underpinned entirely by information-sensitive gradients of well-being are theoretically feasible. But maybe even exceptional humans aren't wholly immune from experience below hedonic zero.

Most of us are familiar with high-functioning depressives who go through life animated almost entirely by information-sensitive gradients of ill-being. The idea one can go through life animated almost entirely by information-sensitive gradients of well-being is less familiar - indeed, some people think it's conceptually impossible because pain and pleasure are mostly relative.

Critically, this point is of more than philosophical interest. If we want to create an entire post-suffering civilization underpinned by gradients of intelligent bliss, then biotech promises the tools to make this happen. And sure, the number of potential pitfalls in building such a world is insane. But fixing the problem of suffering is the noblest cause I know.

A high hedonic set-point does make some people blind to suffering and the urgency of its prevention. But not Jo. Conversely, low mood and/or chronic pain make some people more empathetic. Yet suffering can also embitter.
Extremely happy, "hyperthymic" people (who aren't manic) are much less well-studied than depressives and bipolars. But if our goal as a species should be a hyperthymic civilisation - and indeed a hyperthymic biosphere - then today's hedonic outliers should be exhaustively researched. How, for instance, can we promote the happy person's functional equivalent of depressive realism?

Compare the chequered path to pain-free surgery. Until Jo Cameron's full genome has been sequenced, and until large well-controlled prospective trials have been conducted, we're still in the realm of theory. But genome reform will eventually fix the problem of suffering in human and nonhuman animals alike.
Gene editing can end most human suffering

Before suffering can be ended it must be mitigated - in humans and nonhumans alike. One way suffering can be mitigated in humans and nonhumans alike is via elevated pain thresholds and elevated hedonic set-points.
Pitfalls abound.

Anne, I find it [creating pain-free nonhumans] disgusting - like I find the idea of putting cameras in all slaughterhouses disgusting. We should be actively helping sentient beings - and herbivorizing predators - rather than treating them less inhumanely. But the question arises: what should we do until the last slaughterhouse is finally shut, and the last obligate predatory carnivore is genetically reprogrammed?

[on Technology, Religion and the Future]
DP fields questions.
Wide-ranging...
Technology, Religion and the Future

[on mathematics]
If one takes seriously the conjecture that mathematical physics encodes the values and interdependencies of qualia, then the discipline should be utterly fascinating. But just as biochemistry came alive (so to speak) to me only after I learned to associate particular chemicals with particular experiences, the same is true of maths/mathematical physics - with the difference that I doubt the epiphany / breakthrough will happen in my lifetime.

[on perception]
paradise engineering
I don't believe in perception in any conventional sense. The intermittent zombie avatar that bears my name in your phenomenal world-simulation is part of my extended phenotype, but not really me.

David Chalmers on Technophiloosphy and the Extended Mind
Listening now. Thanks. The expression “extended mind” means something vastly different to an avowed perceptual direct realist like Andy Clark (but not DC?) than to an inferential realist - who recognises that our minds run phenomenal world-simulations that masquerade as the external environment. Technology doesn’t literally enable our minds to leak into extra-cranial reality.

[on exercise]
Of the holy trinity of exercise, diet and sleep discipline, aerobic exercise was the last pillar of good health I belatedly got right:
Dopamine and exercise
Running vs Meds
When is the best time of the day to exercise?
Exercise promotes bigger brains

[on nutrition]
Thank you Róża! The title my err on the side of optimism, but there's very valuable info in:
How Not To Age by Michael Greger.

[on gene-editing treatment]
Gene therapy for angioedema
("World-first gene editing treatment to eliminate angioedema life changing, patient says")
Great news. Now imagine Jo Camerons were the norm, and gene-editing treatment became available to treat people born with the tragic syndrome of ADD (anandamide deficiency disorder): pdf

[on observers]
Maximilian, the concept of an "observer" makes various presuppositions and background assumptions. For a start, "observer" typically assumes a false direct realist theory of perception. But even without this false assumption, the existence of an "observer" - phenomenally-bound subject of experience - presupposes a unified subject. The existence of unified subjects shouldn't be possible if the CNS is just a pack of a decohered classical neurons.

For what it's worth, I entertain the conjecture that the binding problem in neuroscience and the measurement problem in QM are two facets of the same mystery - and share a solution:
Two mysteries

[on abolitionism]
One of my brothers treads a spiritual path. The other is a Deep Green. As a rule of thumb, IMO the project is best served by passing over biographical trivia about its advocates. But that said:
The abolitionist project
Thanks John. Negative utilitarians do indeed want to phase out all kinds of suffering in favour of a more civilized signalling system. But it's worth stressing that one can support the abolitionist project even if phasing out / preventing / minimizing involuntary suffering is only one of your ethical goals. Negative utilitarians (and some Buddhists, etc) are unusual insofar as we view fixing the problem of suffering as ethically all-important.
Until recently, this debate would have been purely philosophical. What so exciting about biotech is how fixing the problem of suffering will soon be a policy option. Genome reform is hugely controversial. But if we don't tackle the biological-genetic roots of suffering, then obscene levels of mental and physical pain will persist and proliferate indefinitely.

It's a sad fact that (to the best of my knowledge) there exists not a single novel, movie or other work of science fiction where suffering has been entirely abolished and replaced by life based on gradients of intelligent bliss. Thus one knows that if explorers stumble across an alien "utopian" world, it's sure to have a sinister underbelly.  And any attempt to build an ideal society will go horribly wrong. Indeed, even traditional Christian heaven had its dark side, i.e. Satan's rebellion and the fate of fallen angels. The one plot twist no author seems seriously to have considered is we encounter an blissful alien civilisation - and everyone lives happily ever after.

Dave, Andres and I tend to agree on most things. But I'm still much more cautious than QRI about the symmetry theory of valence. I suspect the textures ("what it feels like") of qualia are encoded in the solutions to the equations of QFT. If an informationless zero ontology is true, then in some sense these textures "cancel" to zero. But beyond this speculative constraint, I don't know why the textures of qualia take the values they do - including states of the pleasure-pain axis. Fortunately, HI doesn't depend on a deep understanding of qualia. Compare how if we want to abolish physical pain in humans, then we could simply ensure all kids are born with nonsense mutations of the SCN9A gene (in practice, choosing "low pain" alleles will be wisest for now). Likewise with Jo Cameron's dual FAAH and FAAH-OUT mutations. We can "ring fence" the Evil Zone without - yet - having any kind of proper understanding of its basis.

Thycahye, by all means opt to preserve your own (capacity to experience) pain. The big question is whether we should seek to conserve (a predisposition to) involuntary suffering in others.

[on human diversity]
Unlike fluid intelligence, vocabulary - and recognition of human diversity - may continue to increase until quite late in life:
List of paraphilias
What are the 72 other genders?

[on monistic idealism]
cosmopsychism
Bernardo Kastrup on Idealism
DP's non-materialist physicalism - and why decoherence threatens the prospect of cosmic mind - appears at 16:38.
Wonderful interview. Thank you. The Hard Problem of consciousness arises only if we make a metaphysical assumption, namely that the mysterious "fire" in the equations of QFT differs outside from inside one's head. If we drop the metaphysical assumption, then idealists may turn out to be the true physicalists - the ultimate irony. Transposing the mathematical apparatus of modern physics onto an idealist ontology yields non-materialist physicalism. Only the physical is real. Only the physical is causally effective. Materialists simply misunderstand the intrinsic nature of the physical.

However, here I want just to focus on the implications of decoherence for the possibility of a cosmic mind - or at least the idea that the universal wavefunction could have some kind of phenomenal unity (16: 38). Decoherence makes it desperately hard to understand how individual humans (and nonhuman animals) could have a unified mind, let alone the entire cosmos. For the bedrock of mind is phenomenal binding. Without binding, we'd be micro-experiential zombies. If our nervous systems were made up of billions of effectively classical, membrane-bound micropixels of experience - as suggested by textbook neuroscience - then we'd be mere aggregates of “mind dust”. As far as I can tell, phenomenal binding is non-classical. Unitary-only quantum mechanics suggests our heads are populated by ubiquitous individual "cat states". Neuronal superpositions of distributed feature-processors allow the experience of feature-bound perceptual objects and definite classical outcomes (“perception”). However, thermally-induced decoherence - the scrambling of phase angles of the components of individual neuronal superpositions – in the warm, wet CNS is insanely fast, presumably femtoseconds or less. Decoherence means information is (effectively) irreversibly lost to the environment. At larger scales and hotter temperatures than the CNS, the effective lifetimes of phenomenally-bound individual superpositions must be even shorter. In short, I can understand how to reconcile physicalism with idealism, but not with cosmopsychism - or not yet at any rate!

Andres has a much larger evidential base than most of us.
If the intrinsic nature of the physical is non-experiential, as common sense suggests, then quantum theory can't turn water into wine. However, if we transpose the mathematical apparatus of unitary-only quantum mechanics onto an idealist ontology, then the upshot is an empirically adequate theory of mind and reality of stunning explanatory and predictive power. Byproducts include an understanding of why AI using existing computer architectures can't "wake up" to a solution to the binding problem in neuroscience and the measurement problem in QM. Although I explore non-materialist physicalism
(cf. Non-materialist physicalism)
and quantum mind
(cf. Quantum mind) these ideas are the result of painful thought rather than drug-catalyzed epiphanies.
Also, I take seriously the likelihood that I'm completely wrong!

[on overcoming wild animal suffering]
Ahimsa...
paradise engineering
And in a more directly Biblical vein: The Peaceable Kingdom.
Thanks Jonathan. Of course, today it's fantasy. Maybe it's better to keep posting reminders to traditional conservation biologists of the sheer nastiness of real Darwinian life. Stick to gore. But when viewing the scenes of blissful harmony depicted above, you've got to be pretty mean-spirited not to acknowledge that a world without predation would be more civilized than today's horror-show. And the entire living world will soon be (re)programmable.

A vast discipline arose trying to reconcile the supposed goodness of God with the monstrous evils of the world:
Theodicy
I gave the presentation below to a religious audience: pdf The reaction was surprisingly positive. I pitched the herbivorization project essentially as the implementation details of the Book of Isaiah: The Peaceable Kingdom How else could the "peaceable kingdom" come to pass? Not all rationalists are willing to pander to religious sensibilities. But mercifully, none of the world's sacred texts say "Thou shalt not tamper with thy genetic source code". And perhaps CRISPR can be interpreted as a Gift of God to used wisely to make His creatures happy.

Burden of Dreams - The Birds Don't Sing, They Screech in Pain
"I don't see [the jungle] so much erotic. I see it more full of obscenity. It's just - Nature here is vile and base. I wouldn't see anything erotical here. I would see fornication and asphyxiation and choking and fighting for survival and... growing and... just rotting away. Of course, there's a lot of misery. But it is the same misery that is all around us. The trees here are in misery, and the birds are in misery. I don't think they - they sing. They just screech in pain[...]"
(Werner Herzog, from documentary, Burden of Dreams
Episode 1: The Birds Don't Sing, They Screech in Pain)
Nature is a monstrous snuff movie. Natural selection is an engine of unimaginable pain and suffering. So what should be done? The cleanest solution would be the (non-violent) retirement of Darwinian malware. This is too far outside the Overton window even to be worth considering. The alternative to retirement is the project of civilising Nature - a terrible irony for a species currently running death-factories. Although technically feasible, civilising Nature will be horrendously complicated and computationally intensive. By analogy, imagine the world’s computers have been infected by virulent polymorphic malware, and we aren’t permitted to eradicate it, just tweak the malware to make its code less pernicious.

Ray, sometimes state-direction works. During WW2, American GDP almost doubled. Either way, my worry is less the death in Nature ("Death may be the greatest of all human blessings." - Socrates), but rather, the horrific suffering that often precedes it. Nature lovers respond that we should focus on the good stuff. But you wouldn't say we had a fun day at the beach apart from the kid that died. In Nature, there are a lot of dead kids.

Maximilian, in the wild, death often comes as a "merciful" release from suffering. But then there are grieving mothers. To stress though: I favour high-tech Jainism and upholding the sanctity of life. The consequences of doing otherwise are typically worse.

Beata, you've highlighted a problem. Researchers don't use the terms "sentience" and "consciousness" in the same way. For example, I take seriously consciousness fundamentalism as a possible solution to the Hard Problem (non-materialist physicalism). But I'd use the term "sentient" to refer only to a phenomenally-bound subject of experience - ranging from a human to the cephalic ganglion of a bumble bee. Neither of us are "right": these are stipulative definitions, and the scientific and philosophical communities haven't yet arrived at a consensus view.

Rob, Life on Earth is beautiful if you're sitting in a comfortable armchair watching a David Attenborough propaganda video with soul-stirring mood-music to match. But most sentient beings die horribly at an early age, either through starvation or predation - or in slaughterhouses.From Tennyson's "Nature, red in tooth and claw" to even status quo apologists like David Attenborough ("You should see what we leave on the cutting-room floor") anyone who studies the living world will recognise that suffering is endemic. We should fix it.

Rob, many humans, including folk who wear clothes, equate the natural with the good. Therefore there are good ethical reasons for downplaying the extent to which a (conditionally activated) predisposition to sexual coercion has been adaptive in humans and nonhumans alike:
Sexual coercion
The living world contains atrocious suffering. Reference to the cruelties of Nature is an allusion to the fate of the victims, not the motives of the perpetrators. Indeed, in the case of starvation, the countless tragedies stem from an absence of fertility regulation.

Rob, one can't do the logically impossible, i.e., satisfy mutually inconsistent preferences, such a desire to harm and a desire not to be harmed. What we can do is actively respect the deep-seated wish that effectively all sentient beings have in common - the desire not to be harmed.

In a future pan-species welfare state, members of all sentient species will receive equivalent healthcare:
Fish undergoes CT scan due to swimming issue
Compare how Malthusian catastrophe was once thought "inevitable" for humans as well. Then came family planning. CRISPR and gene drives make the fertility of nonhumans regulable too. Should we opt for another few hundred million years of pain, suffering and ultra-violence? Why?

Sayuru, but humans increasingly do rule Nature. Our dominion will only grow as the Anthropocene epoch unfolds. The question to ask is what principles should govern our stewardship of the rest of the living world. What level of violence and suffering in the biosphere is ethically optimal? Nature hasn't been kind enough to allow nonhuman animals to choose whether they want to be pregnant. Hence the countless Malthusian tragedies. But "consent" is a red herring. If human infants & toddlers could get pregnant, we'd put them on birth control. Likewise future nonhumans. Suffering is ugly. Morality trumps aesthetics. But a world without suffering will be more vastly beautiful too. A peaceful, genetically reformed biosphere underpinned by information-sensitive gradients of well-being is not a "perfect" world. But it's vastly more civilized than the status quo. What's more, genome reform can make experience below hedonic zero physiologically impossible.

Carrie, any intellectual worth his salt will relish the label of Dangerous Thinker. But alternatively, the case for using biotech to fix the problem of suffering is… well, kinda obvious - just Buddhism (or Bentham) plus biotech?OK, I know our intemperate friend here will beg to differ. I can understand people who still think the cruelties of Nature are sad but inevitable. But well-fed, well-housed, well-clothed (etc) humans arguing from the comfort of their armchairs that Nature Should Be Left Alone show a lack of reflective self-awareness.

Fly larva aren't as cognitive sophisticated as mature flies, but they do have rudimentary sentience.
What do flies think about?
That said, we'd do well to focus on tractable problems like ending animal agriculture.
Darwinian life is sick stuff: focusing on the aesthetics is like complimenting the director of a snuff movie on the quality of the camerawork. Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Froglunch, You are focusing entirely on your aesthetic responses to Nature without trying to empathize with the perspectives of its suffering victims.
If you really believe aesthetics trumps all, then you should welcome biotech for its potential to create the molecular machinery of superhuman beauty.

[on ASI]
"Feeble"? But we have a superpower that classical digital computers lack - phenomenal binding. Binding is the bedrock of mind, sentience and the entire empirical realm. The ignorance of digital zombies is architecturally hardwired. The future belongs to full-spectrum superintelligences.

[on the alleged rediscovery of suffering]
Atilio, I've taken the liberty of reposting here:

"I just asked for an outline (of many possible ones) for a work of fiction based in your work. This is one answer: "Title: Blissful Horizons

In the year 2075, humanity achieved a monumental feat—a world without suffering. Decades of research and advancement in neuroscience, genetics, and artificial intelligence, guided by the principles laid out by philosopher David Pearce, culminated in the eradication of pain, both mental and physical. This achievement marked the dawn of a new era, where gradients of bliss replaced the darkness of suffering.

The story follows Maya, a young woman born in this utopian world, where suffering is but a distant memory. Maya has grown up immersed in a society where happiness is not just a fleeting emotion but a constant state of being. She lives in a bustling city filled with vibrant colors, melodious music, and people exuding a profound sense of contentment.

Maya's journey begins when she stumbles upon an ancient relic from the pre-bliss era—a dusty old book containing the works of David Pearce. As she delves into Pearce's philosophy, Maya becomes increasingly fascinated by the concept of suffering and its historical significance. Despite her society's emphasis on bliss, Maya finds herself drawn to the idea of understanding the human experience in all its complexities.

Driven by curiosity, Maya embarks on a quest to uncover the truth about suffering, despite warnings from her friends and family that such pursuits are unnecessary in their perfected world. Along the way, she encounters individuals who challenge her beliefs, including those who argue that the eradication of suffering has come at a cost—the loss of depth and meaning in human existence.

As Maya delves deeper into her exploration, she begins to experience glimpses of emotions that were once foreign to her—doubt, sadness, even anger. Yet, amidst these unfamiliar sensations, she also discovers moments of profound joy and connection, realizing that the human experience encompasses a spectrum of emotions beyond just bliss.

Ultimately, Maya's journey leads her to a pivotal realization—that true happiness cannot exist without the acknowledgment of suffering. In a world where pain has been eradicated, humanity risks losing its capacity for empathy, growth, and ultimately, its humanity. Armed with this newfound understanding, Maya sets out to challenge the status quo, advocating for a society that embraces the full range of human experiences, both joyful and challenging.

Blissful Horizons is a thought-provoking tale that explores the complexities of human emotion, the nature of happiness, and the importance of embracing the full spectrum of human experience. Through Maya's journey, readers are invited to question the very foundations of their beliefs and consider what it truly means to live in a world without suffering".

[on wavefunction monism]
Paul, There are technical reasons for supposing that the wavefunction of all reality takes priority over the wave functions of its notional parts - and we should be realists about configuration space [or Hilbert space].
I take seriously the intrinsic nature argument as a possible solution to the (otherwise insoluble) Hard Problem of consciousness. On this story, experience discloses the intrinsic nature of the physical that the universal wavefunction describes. Decoherence explains why the universal wavefunction isn't a psychotic mega-mind.
I also know of no classical explanation of the phenomenal binding of our minds and the phenomenally-bound world-simulations ("perception") we run.
BUT,
Alas, all such talk is uncomfortably evocative of Deepak Chopra:
Wisdom of Chopra


Dirac stressed the superposition principle is the fundamental principle of quantum theory. Does it explain:
1) the riddle of existence?
2) the binding problem in neuroscience?
3) the mystery of definite outcomes in the interpretation of QM?
Yes, crazy stuff!
If true, this explanatory unification of naively disparate domains would be an extraordinarily elegant result.
Alas I haven’t seen the conjecture explored in the academic literature.
So let’s just mark it as a Wild Idea - but not unmotivated.

Tim, I say: trust the formalism. Only the fact the superposition principle never breaks down enables you to experience a phenomenally-bound classical world-simulation where it does.
One principle to rule them all?
Maybe:
Ubiquitous "cat states"?

[on trade-offs]
How should negative utilitarians respond?:,br> Valuing Life
("People Value a Single Human Life Over Entire Species, Survey Reveal")
For evolutionary reasons, humans have all kinds of biases. How many people would value the life of their child over an entire Third World country, for example? I think we should aspire to an impartial God's-eye-view that impartially accesses and weighs all perspectives. No, we can never achieve such a God's-eye-view, but we should at least try.

[on quantum mind]
ubiquitous cat states
It's odd how infrequently scientists, let alone philosophers, ask "How would you experimentally (dis)confirm your theory of consciousness?" rather than exchange intuitions of (im)plausibility.
I've replied, but don't expect any rush to the laboratory...
How strong is the argument for quantum mind theory?
May I make a couple of general comments.
(1) If you don't believe that phenomenal binding is classically impossible, then none of my speculations on quantum mind will be remotely of interest nor worth experimentally falsifying. They are far-fetched. But given textbook neuroscience, phenomenal binding is mystifying. Assume that we are packs of effectively classical neurons. If so, then why aren't we (at most) just micro-experiential zombies, just patterns of membrane-bound neuronal “mind-dust”? How could 86 billion or so membrane-bound micro-pixels of experience create a mind, a phenomenally-bound subject of experience running a real-time world-simulation (what naive realists call “perception”) like the one you instantiate now?

(2) If you don't take seriously what philosophers call the intrinsic nature argument (cf. Non-materialist physicalism) as a possible solution to the Hard Problem of consciousness, then none of my speculations on quantum mind will remotely be of interest nor worth experimentally falsifying either. For if (as common sense suggests) the world's fundamental quantum fields are intrinsically non-experiential, then there is no experience phenomenally to bind in the first instance. Invoking quantum theory won’t help turn water into wine.

However, if you're still with me, then a “Schrödinger neurons" conjecture is worth experimentally (dis)confirming. As far as I can tell, “cat states” are all one ever knows. “Cat states” make the experience of definite outcomes possible (cf. The Measurement Problem). Note that what’s most counterintuitive about the conjecture isn't the proposed existence of neuronal superpositions - even individual superpositions of distributed neuronal feature-processors. For if neuronal superpositions were ever proven experimentally not to exist, then physics would be rocked to the core. Even the slightest departure from the unitary Schrödinger dynamics would involve some sort of a “dynamical collapse” theory, i.e. radically new physics. Here at least I’m boringly orthodox. Rather, the reason that most physicists would reject a “Schrödinger's neurons" conjecture out of hand - as likewise would educated laymen who understand decoherence - is simply that the effective lifetime of neuronal superpositions in the CNS is far too short - femtoseconds or less, i.e. irrelevant psychotic noise.
Well, maybe.
Let's use interferometry to find out!

Tim, if I weren’t convinced that phenomenal binding in four-dimensional space-time is classically impossible, I wouldn’t even consider quantum mind theories. But I can understand in principle - not in detail! - how a CNS of zillions of individual “cat states” could run a phenomenally-bound, subjectively classical world-simulation of the kind you’re experiencing right now. By contrast, I’ve not the slightest idea how a pack of decohered classical neurons could generate a subjectively classical world-simulation. At most, we should be patterns of “mind-dust”. [Usual disclaimer: reality baffles me. If my background assumptions are wrong - not least, unitary-only QM and the intrinsic nature argument to dissolve the Hard Problem - then the conjecture fails.]

Terra, thank you. I like to stress HI is dissociable from my highly speculative conjectures on quantum mind. But they aren't unrelated. For instance, if I'm right about the non-classicality of phenomenal binding, then we don't need to worry about LLMs, implementations of classical Turing machines and classical computers in general ever "waking up", let alone suffering. Digital mind is an oxymoron. But we need to make sure that we get our theory of consciousness - if not right - at least not catastrophically wrong.

First an apologetic note about terminology. The position I explore, non-materialist or idealist physicalism, has obvious affinities with Strawson's. "Strawsonian physicalism" also sounds more austere - particularly to the ears of older people who confuse Galen with his illustrious father, Sir Peter. But I subsequently discovered that Galen Strawson is a perceptual direct realist. IMO, direct realism is radically mistaken. So I now stick to "non-materialist physicalism".

You say, "Physics is a field of study, not an ontology". Indeed so. What is the mysterious "fire" in equations - the mathematical straitjacket of quantum physics? Does the intrinsic nature of the world's fundamental quantum fields differ outside from inside one's head? Intuitively, yes. But non-materialist physicalism just drops the metaphysical assumption that underlies materialism. So the notorious Hard Problem of consciousness doesn’t arise. Experience discloses the essence of the physical. We must still solve the binding problem. Enter quantum mind.

Before launching into quantum mind speculations, it's better (I now realize) to start with the mystery that provoked the second leg of my voyage into crazyland. Does phenomenal binding have a classical explanation? I can't see how: Is Phenomenal Binding Classically Impossible?
[The first leg of the journey was thinking about the implications of the intrinsic nature argument as the only physicalist solution I could think of to the Hard Problem of consciousness]

Eric, allow me to share a little intellectual background. For a very long time, I’ve assumed that physicalism - more specifically, unitary-only QM  - offers our best formal description of the world. Hence the technological success of science. The mystery is the existence of consciousness. My introduction to (what analytic philosophers call) the intrinsic nature argument was via the late Michael Lockwood (Mind, Brain and the Quantum (1991)). I explore the most “extreme” form of the intrinsic nature argument. If the intrinsic nature of the world’s fundamental quantum fields - i.e. the essence of the physical - is experiential, then the so-called Hard Problem doesn’t arise. Only the physical is real. Only the physical has causal efficacy. The Hard Problem arises only because materialists misunderstand the intrinsic nature of the physical, the "fire" in the equations. Organic minds are indeed special, but that's because of how consciousness is phenomenally bound, not its creation de novo. Anyhow, my "Schrödinger's Neurons" talk / paper was inspired by David Chalmers' "The Combination Problem for Panpsychism" (pdf). Some exceedingly smart people do and don't "get" the phenomenal binding / combination problem - not the question of whether classical digital computers can replicate functional capacities that in humans and non-animals require phenomenal binding, but rather, the mystery of why we aren't just some 86 billion membrane-bound micro-pixels of neuronal "mind dust".

I gather Mariven is confident that the phenomenal binding of organic minds has a classical explanation; and that phenomenally-bound digital minds are feasible too. This would be momentous if true. What's currently lacking is any kind of derivation. Textbook neuroscience, i.e. alluding to the synchronous firing of distributed neuronal feature-processors when we experience a perceptual object, just re-states the mystery rather than solves it. Worth noting too is that traditional formulations of the phenomenal binding / combination problem assume wholly decohered classical neurons and four-dimensional spacetime. As shown by Bell tests, quantum phenomena show non-local correlations in 4D-spacetime BUT up in Hilbert space or configuration space where the real drama unfolds, the quantum state evolves locally because it's governed by the Schrödinger equation, a local differential equation. The interferometry experiment I proposed in Schrödinger's Neurons is (too?) technically demanding. But there must be other, indirect tests too. For example, replace your V4 cortical neurons (destruction causes achromatopsia) with what would naively be called their silicon functional surrogates. On a classical, coarse-grained functionalist story, replacement by silicon surrogates allows perceptual objects to continue to seem colorful as before. If so, then my account is falsified! End of story. I predict instead total achromatopsia (cfQuantum mind)
I'm sure there must be easier experimental (dis)confirmations too.
Just to stress again, I don't believe this stuff. I just explore a conjecture...

Just as I know the only way you or I could understand tetrachromacy is to upgrade our biological hardwire, we can imagine a sufficiently advanced AI designing and manufacturing an information-processing system with the right kind of architecture to support phenomenal binding, hence mind. My claim is "just" that no classical digital computer can support sentience.

Zurek's "quantum Darwinism" is most fundamental of all:
Quantum Darwinism and the spreading of classical information in non-classical theories": QD (pdf)
Zurek ducks out of applying QD inside the skull; but as far as I can tell, our experience of phenomenally-bound classical worlds is mediated by entirely by "cat states":
Quantum Mind

[on melancholia]
I prefer my cartoon avatar to its organic counterpart:
A brief history of melancholy
by Courtney Stephens.
A brief history of melancholy
On a more serious note, I worry that "melancholia" and even "sadness" are terms with a vaguely romantic feel; they fail to convey the sheer nastiness of depression.

[on abolitionism]
Nothing else matters more:
abolitionism

[on pain]
What's more, the only time in her life Jo Cameron felt really sick was when she was given an unsolicited injection of morphine by well-meaning doctors. Presumably Jo native opioid function is already high. A world of Jo Camerons presumably wouldn't have an opioid use epidemic.
Can we envisage a world where all babies are engineered with Jo's dual FAAH and FAAH-OUT mutation, and existing beings are offered gene therapy?
The dawn of the post-suffering era?
(Beyond Humanism) Fantasy, alas - for now.

In the long run, we need a more civilised signalling system to deal with noxious stimuli than gradations of phenomenal pain. But until that happy era arrives, pain should be tamed. The other key player is the SCN9A gene.
A Scientific Breakthrough Has Unveiled the Ancient Source of Our Pain
Just as AI can now outperform humans at chess (etc), likewise future AI-powered neuroprostheses will be able to outperform humans (and other animals) at nociception.

[on antinatalism]
I've been told by hardliners I'm not a "true" antinatalist:
DP on genome reform
But I favour human extinction by the only route consistent with selection pressure. My "soft" antinatalism is also critiqued in Antinatalism, Extinction, and the End of Procreative Self-Corruption (pdf) by Matti Häyry and Amanda Sukenick.

[on the Biohappiness Revolution in Russian]
The word is spreading:
Biohappiness Revolution (Russian)

[on privacy]
Pimeyes:
Face Search Engine Reverse Image Search
I did a test. Not bad:
DP on the Net

[on physicalistic idealism]
Physicalism best explains the technological success story of science. Traditional forms of idealism are empirically adequate - but leave the success of science a miracle. But what if the intrinsic nature of the world's fundamental quantum fields doesn't differ outside from inside one's head? On this conjecture, experience is the essence of the physical, the mysterious "fire" in the equations of QFT. Physicalism entails(!) idealism. Biological minds are special, but not because we manufacture an unphysical consciousness, but rather, the way we phenomenally bind it into virtual worlds of experience like the egocentric world-simulation you're undergoing right now.
Yes, speculation. The truth is probably crazier.

Raymond, I take seriously the possibility that a single-celled organisms could have a primordial pleasure-pain axis with computational powers. But minds can arise only when - somehow - a bunch of neurons supports a unified subject of experience, typically a rudimentary world-simulation - what naive realists call perceiving your external environment. A living world of micro-experiential zombies would be a world in which nothing really mattered in anything but the most trivial sense. I speculate on how such phenomenal binding in nervous systems is physically possible. However, the conjecture that phenomenal binding is non-classical is highly controversial and should be flagged as such.
No one knows how we do it.

[on consciousness and physicalism]
Transposing the entire mathematical apparatus of modern physics onto an ontology of qualia (cf. Non-materialist physicalism) is consistent with the empirical evidence. Mathematical physics describes the values and interrelationships of experience.
Non-materialist physicalism also dissolves the Hard Problem of consciousness. Only the physical is real. And the problem of causal efficacy: only the physical has causal power. And the binding and measurement problems. In a slightly more speculative vein, the ubiquity of the superposition principle even hints at an explanation of why we're here: an informationless zero ontology.
Is non-materialist physicalism true?
I don't know.

Dan, Universal Turing machines = superidiot savants. Seriously. Regardless of substrate, any information processing system without the capacity for phenomenal binding can never generate a mind. All classical Turing machines are invincibly ignorant of the empirical (“relating to experience”) realm. Inconceivably vast state-spaces of consciousness await exploration by posthuman superminds. Zombie AI doesn’t know what it’s missing.

[on morphological freedom]
In some branches of the universal wave function?
DP
Like Rambo Dave, the RSI stretches credulity.

[on debating denialists (cont.)]
Facu, both materialist and non-materialist physicalists believe that the world is exhaustively described by the mathematical formalism of physics. None of us believe in “magic”. Evolution has harnessed some forms of phenomenal consciousness, for example pleasure and pain, to play, typically, a computational-functional role. But phenomenal pain with no functional role, for example phantom limb pain, is just as real. Also, the subjective experiences of people with Total Locked-in Syndrome (CLIS) who can't behave at all are just as real as the subjective experiences of the able-bodied. Have you ever considered the possibility that you have subjective experiences just like the rest of us, but you are interpreting them in behavioral - and behaviorist - ways?

Facu, my working hypothesis is that you have subjective experiences - both perceptual and non-perceptual - like me, but you interpret your subjective experiences as something else, such as bodily behaviours because you can find no place for phenomenal consciousness in your ontology of the world. But I freely acknowledge that your mind has a conceptual scheme I find quite alien. So I don’t don’t speak with any confidence.

Lance, by “pain”, most laypeople mean a nasty phenomenal experience of varying intensity - not a set of behavioural responses to noxious stimuli (or whatever). As far as I can tell, denialism about subjective experience springs from the immense challenge of reconciling the existence of one’s own consciousness with the ontology of our most successful(?) theory of the world, scientific materialism. Denialism is one response to the anomaly. Non-materialist physicalism is another. Both positions are intuitively absurd, but non-materialist physicalism has the advantage of consistency with the empirical evidence.

One shouldn’t make nasty, biting remarks about illusionists because illusionists have feelings that can be hurt. Illusionists may interpret their subjective experiences as something non-phenomenal. But that (mis)interpretation doesn’t make their feelings any less real.

Lance, if you ask the average person whether s/he believes in "qualia", you're right. Disbelief. But ask the average person whether their pain is (1) a set of behavioral responses to noxious or (2) an unpleasant inner experience, then - if they think you're being serious - they'll say 2.
You must have experienced the incredulity/indignation when most people realize what you're arguing?
A big complication is that some illusionists redefine the vocabulary of subjective experience in behavioral/behaviorist terms. So in other contexts, they'll say "of course" they believe in consciousness, pain and so forth. This redefinition is a source of endless confusion.

Facu, I don't like mysteries. I take science (very) seriously. But right now, I'm undergoing different subjective experiences within my phenomenal world-simulation. (Perpetual direct realists wouldn't express the problem in this way, but let's leave direct realism aside]. I don't know how to derive the properties of my subjective experience from (ultimately) physics in the way I can derive (in principle) everything else. So yes, the existence of my phenomenal consciousness is an anomaly. I explore ways to reconcile its existence with physicalism. But I don't disavow its existence. I can't. Denying my phenomenal consciousness is an option for you; it's not an option for me. It's the empirical evidence on which - and through which - I try to understand reality.

Lance, if a layperson tells his or her doctor s/he is in pain, s/he is reporting a distressing phenomenal experience. Sometimes the cause of pain may be obvious (e.g. catching one's hand in the door); the cause of other pains eludes diagnosis. I remain.... incredulous that illusionists suppose pain is anything other than a (sometimes very private) unpleasant conscious experience that human and nonhuman animals undergo. In other words, the ghastly subjective experience of pain isn't the product of bad philosophy, but a pre-theoretic given that should be fixed. As far as I can tell, consciousness antirealists trying to salvage physicalism have gone two routes. One is to claim all talk of phenomenal consciousness and folk psychology will be superseded by mature neuroscience (cf. Eliminative materialism). The other is some form of linguistic behaviorism - the recipe for endless confusion.
As you know, I think physicalism can be saved via the intrinsic nature argument. But not eliminativist materialism and its illusionist offshoots.

Lance, I'm more than willing to allow that ordinary people often conceive subjective experience differently from philosophers (as someone who takes seriously the idea experience discloses the essence of the physical, I could scarcely do otherwise!). But take what follows after e.g. catching one's hand in the door. Philosophers of all stripes and laypeople alike report an experience of pain. By the word "pain", they aren't alluding to a complex web of behaviors and behavioural responses to noxious stimuli etc., but to an intensely nasty subjective experience.

Lance, I won't claim to be entirely ordinary. But in my early twenties, I wrote up the draft for a book on Scepticism. I was more than willing to acknowledge I could be radically wrong about almost anything at all. The one thing I found I couldn't doubt was the raw phenomenology of my experience (yes, shades of Descartes' Cogito). Now I find there are people who claim that my phenomenal consciousness - the only thing I've ever directly known - doesn't exist.
I still struggle adequately to respond.

Lance, you probably know the old joke. Two behaviorists make love. One of them says afterwards, "That was great for you, darling. How was it for me?" Almost everyone "gets" the joke because we know there's more to life than behaviour and behavioral predispositions. I'm still puzzled that a few people say they have no phenomenal experience at all - and indeed find the notion unintelligible. Do aliens really dwell among us?!

[on phenomenal binding]
the binding problem
If (fancifully!) the pieces in a chess match had qualia, such "raw feels" would be functionally irrelevant to the gameplay. By contrast, phenomenally-bound qualia - such as the colorful, cross-modally matched, real-time world-simulation your CNS is running right now - are insanely computationally powerful. Compare partial deficit syndromes such as integrative agnosia. Minds and their egocentric world-simulations are highly fitness-enhancing. They've been selected for over the past half-billion years. By contrast, classical computer architectures can't support phenomenal binding. So there are no digital minds.

Yet what about us? If we believe in textbook neuroscience, i.e. the CNS is a pack of decohered classical neurons, then organic minds should be impossible too. At best we should be micro-experiential zombies. I think textbook "neuroscience" is wrong. I could happily talk about why. But until neuron replacement procedures are tried and fail, I doubt most researchers would find such speculations of interest - only folk who already grok the mystery of binding, its computational power, and its classical impossibility.

David, Transformer AI is awesome, but its ignorance of the empirical (“relating to experience”) realm is architecturally hardwired. No phenomenal binding = no mind = no understanding. Not everyone groks the binding problem. But in a fundamentally quantum world, decoherence both makes otherwise impossible classical computing physically feasible AND prevents classical information processors from supporting unified subjects of experience like human and nonhuman animal minds. I love zombie AI as much as anyone. But our current machines have the wrong sort of architecture to support full-spectrum (super)intelligence.

Martijn, Nobody lies like an eyewitness, as the old Russian saying goes. But the wonder is not that perceptual experience is sometimes unreliable, but that it's possible at all. The ability to run real-time cross-modally matched world-simulations ("perception") is vastly fitness-enhancing. How can a pack of classical membrane-bound neurons be anything other than a zombie (the Hard Problem) or a micro-experiential zombie (the binding problem). Science doesn't know. Philosophers speculate (cf. Non-materialist physicalism). Yet there's no risk of our "overrating this experience thing". Not least, it's the entirety of the empirical evidence. 

The mystery of why so many smart people don't "get" the binding problem continues to defeat me:
On Mental Subjects and Objects
("Pro and then Contra David Pearce")
Mariven, if you don't grok the phenomenal binding problem, then you won't be interested in fanciful solutions to non-existent mysteries. I'm surprised you persevered so far!
"And what is it all for? Dogmatic justification of what might very well be the single largest moral failure in human history."
He lost me at first, but the author is alluding to my failure to recognise that putative digital minds are real.

Mariven, Suggestion : you might want to explore in greater depth why philosophers and philosophically-inclined neuroscientists have been so exercised by the phenomenal binding or combination problem - and then do a steelman version. The issue isn’t whether functional workarounds for an inability to bind are possible. Neurotypical novices can always beat someone with simultanagnosia at chess, but Stockfish blows us all away. Rather, the mystery is how the phenomenology of local and global binding is physically possible given what we think we know about the CNS. Why aren’t we just aggregates of 86 billion membrane-bound “pixels” of experience, a micro-experiential zombie? If after further investigation you still think phenomenal binding is classical, then probably you’d do well just to give my stuff a miss!

Maximilian, indeed. I still know of no way to give a classical explanation of phenomenal binding. Here, however, just a terminological note. As rare phenomenal binding disorders illustrate, both local and global binding play a vital computational-functional role in biological minds. But non-classical accounts of phenomenal binding don't fall under the label of "computationalist" theories of consciousness as the term is normally understood. That said, phenomenal binding can confer immense computational power that classical digital zombies lack.

[on scientific knowledge]
On standard materialist assumptions, we face the Hard Problem. On standard neuroscientific assumptions, we face the binding problem. On standard QM postulates, we face the measurement problem. At a time of staggering advances in AI, saying something is rotten in the state of scientific knowledge might sound hollow rhetoric. But for what it's worth, I think my speculative solutions are most likely wrong, and my diagnosis is most likely correct.

[on classical utilitarianism]
No classical utilitarians are willing to accept all the implications of their own ethic. I’m not thinking of homely moral dilemmas like (variants of) the trolley problem, nor the obligation to obliterate even the most blissful advanced civilisation with a utilitronium shockwave. Rather, I’m thinking of tradeoffs involving suffering. For instance, a genie offers you the chance to create beings who enjoy two orders of magnitude more pleasure than anything existing humans can undergo - at the price of creating an equal number of beings who undergo suffering ”just” a single order of magnitude worse than any human has undergone. Horrific. Or a genie offers me a super-exponential growth in my pleasure at the price of an exponential growth in your suffering. Were I a classical rather than negative utilitarian, then I’d be obliged to accept. And so forth.

By contrast, negative utilitarians want to abolish even the faintest whiff of disappointment. Let’s build a world where all sentient beings are fabulously, superhumanly happy. This scenario doesn’t sound very NU. But NUs may favour superhuman bliss. We just wouldn’t accept it at anyone else’s expense.

Some utilitarian resources:
Utilitarian Resources

[on BLTC HQ]
If asked, my role model is Diogenes in his tub.
That said, designs for BLTC's new HQ still don't capture the spartan simplicity and austere lifestyle to which I aspire:
BLTC HQ
I shall of course be occupying the Diogenes room.
Distinguished visiting scholars may qualify for something more comfortable.
A guide to some of the amenities:
01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36
37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72
BLTC HQ

[on Brave New World critiqued in Spanish]
El Mundo Feliz
Many thanks to Chilean translator Diego Andrade.
My English original is now over a quarter of a century old: Critique of Brave New World (1998).
No, I don't write in quite the same exuberant style any more.
" Un Mundo Feliz

[on modern love]
Zombies increasingly make the best suitors:
This Guy Used ChatGPT to Talk to 5,000 Women on Tinder
("and Met His Wife. Aleksandr Zhadan built a program with ChatGPT to find love, and it worked.")
Soon zombies will also make the best conversationalists, friends and lovers. But the future belongs to hyper-sentient full-spectrum superintelligences, not digital idiots savants.

[on existence]
a Zero Ontology
It’s a pretty spooky coincidence. Why does physics suggest something analogous to our pre-theoretic conception may be the case? The key insight (?) for me came many years ago when (in some unrelated pop science book), I stumbled across something that was news to me, but not to information scientists. Zero information = all possible descriptions.
Ed Tyron plus Hugh Everett = an informationless zero ontology ???
Here’s my best short synopsis:
Why does anything exist?
ever since What form might the true explanation take? Would we even understand it? I've stuck with an informationless zero ontology because I can't think of any other explanation-space to explore. The principle that information can neither be created nor destroyed ("unitarity") is a cornerstone of modern physics. But I haven't yet seen in academic print the conjecture that the information content of reality might literally = zero, although Max Tegmark ("Does the universe in fact contain almost no information?", 1996, pdf) comes tantalisingly close.

[on the HI Customised ChatGPT]
Our wonderful Russian supporter Shao has been feeding more DP stuff to the HI-customised ChatGPT:
Customised ChatGPT
But for real Russian: DP

[on ENDPAIN]
From the admirable Sean Johnson:
ENDPAIN
Tiktok is where it's at:
ENDPAIN
Thanks for our little interview:
1 2 3 4 (TikTok) and : 1 2 3 4 (mp4)

paradise engineering

1 : 2 : 3 : 4 : 5 : 6 : 7 : 8 : 9 : 10 : 11 : 12 : 13 : 14 : 15 : 16

David Pearce (2024)
dave@hedweb.com


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