Re: God's indifference to suffering?

From: Robert J. Bradbury (
Date: Wed Mar 08 2000 - 20:47:10 MST

On Wed, 8 Mar 2000, xllb wrote:

> I expect that, if there is intelligent intervention, it is not
> omnipotent. I think what we observe is a work in progress. Suffering
> is a natural product of our evolution.

If superintelligences do exist, we could easily be the subject of
an experiment, or simply be left to our own devices for the sake of
promoting diversity. As SIs would be much older than us, they
would have had much longer to explore the phase space of possible
architectures & purposes and would have witnessed almost everything
(good and bad).

If there is "active" intervention, then they are tuning things
to suit the criteria of the experiment. If there is no active
intervention, it is because that is what is "best". They may
be unable to prove they have explored all of the phase spaces
for existence, and so the best possible thing to do is to not
interfere with developing civilizations that might discover
an alternate path (assuming the phase spaces are like Godel's
mathematical systems).

There is no good/bad/luck/suffering! Its only your perception
of specific circumstances in the context of a system that either
has no purpose whatsoever or a purpose whose potential benefits
far exceeds any costs that might be imposed on any sub-sub-SIs.

> 2 questions for discussion: If pain and suffering did not exist, might
> complacency keep us from creating?

Huh? Why do you think suffering promotes creation? While I'm sure there
are "suffering" artists, there are those that are "joyful" as well.
A better questions would be whether the *really* creative are such
odd mental mixes (perhaps primarily genetic) that they are borderline
for survival? The mathematician Erdos being a case that comes to mind.

> Secondly, HOW MUCH pain and suffering would be the minimum that an
> intelligent species would need, to be motivated to create?

If we assume Dolphins are intelligent, they rarely have experiences
involving "pain and suffering" (most commonly accidentally imposed
by humans in one way or another), yet they would appear to be a
very creative species. I think intelligent species create for

> John, I think, wrote:
> >
> > So much of what I see in the world enrages me. When I study history I am
> > horrified by all the ignorance, poverty, war and disease that devastated
> > families and nations. Some of it people knowingly brought upon themselves
> > but much of it was out of their control. And right as of this moment in
> > time, to a great extent these evils still exist and inflict grievous
> > suffering on countless millions.
> >

I think the problem here is saying that "shit happening" is in some way "evil".
If an 10 km asteroid strikes the Earth tomorrow and sets us back a couple
of millennia, are you going to claim that it is *evil*??? Further, if
you invoke the desirability of a warm & cosy environment, you may be
constructing a recipe for us ending up like dolphins!! We would be
well fed, happy and masters of our environment *and* limited in our
abilities to shape the world around us. The dolphins, if they do
not evolve, are doomed to a lot of suffering in a billion or so
years when the oceans start evaporating. Could it be that the suffering
is what creates the curiosity that drives us to develop technologies
that shape the world and eventually reach for the stars? As the
saying goes, "Necessity is the mother of invention."

Take the fundamental "evil" of death itself -- Nature (and other
species) cannot evolve out of this box without creating conscious
intelligence that develops the ability to control its hardware.
[This is because long-lived individuals are either (a) always out
reproduced by their shorter-lived cousins, or (b) must continue
to produce ever-increasing quantities of offspring to maintain
the long-living fraction of the total gene pool which eventually
leads to resource exhaustion, a population collapse and possible
extinction.] Those species that do not "suffer" enough to
develop consciousness and the means for self-modification, never
escape from this trap.

The interesting thing about being an extropian/transhumanist in
these times, is that we will have the possibility of uplifting(?)
or downloading you into a dolphin-creature at some point. I look
forward to the nightly reports on the advantages and disadvantages
of that existence, particularly after you have explained to them
that their existence is doomed.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Jul 27 2000 - 14:04:44 MDT