Nice review! I wonder about Pierce, has he read Huxley or Orwell? He and all should read the advice of Eric Hoffer, Frank Herbert and others, warning us of the dangers of trying to push utopias. More modern treatments include Philip Ball's "Critical Mass".
----- Original Message ----- From: "Stathis Papaioannou" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
To: <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>; <email@example.com>
Sent: Monday, May 16, 2005 10:57 PM
Subject: Re: Tipler Weighs In
David Pearce is a British philosopher with Utilitarian leanings, and his extensive "HedWeb" site has been around for many years. His main thesis is contained in a book-length article called "The Hedonistic Imperative", in which he argues that the aim of civilization should be the ultimate elimination of all suffering in sentient life. He proposes that this be done not primarily through traditional methods, such as banning animal cruelty (although he has much to say about that as well), but by directly accessing and altering the neural mechanisms responsible for suffering, through pharmacological and neurological means initially, and eventually through genetic engineering so that no organism is physically capable of experiencing suffering.
Pearce's thesis does not really address the next stage after neuroengineering often discussed on this list, namely living as uploaded minds on a computer network. The interesting question arises of how we would (or should) spend our time in this state. It would be a simple matter of programming to eliminate suffering and spend eternity (or however long it lasts) in a state of heavenly bliss. The obvious response to such a proposal is that perpetual bliss would be boring, and leave no room for motivation, curiosity, progress, etc. But boredom is just another adverse experience which could be simply eliminated if you have access to the source code. And if you think about it, even such tasks as participating in discussions such as the present one are only really motivated by anticipation of the complex pleasure gained from it; if you could get the same effect or better, directly, with no adverse consequences, why would you waste your time doing it the hard way?