World Without Pain (Was: Commie Nonsense)

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Fri Jun 16 2000 - 12:41:21 MDT

Lee Daniel Crocker wrote:
> In a world where everyone is a trillionaire, the guy with ten trillion
> still gets the girl, the better spaceship, the asteroid in the better
> neighborhood, more friends, and more opportunities. The very concept
> of "enough" is ridiculous, with no place in Extropian thought. It is
> at odds with conservation of mass-energy and the desire to expand.

If intelligence remains voluntary, then those who choose to stay human
will never run out of ways to make themselves miserable. The
_Diaspora_-class uploads will compete for social status, snub each
other, and punish nonconformism; all the tension and fear that humans
now invest in money will simply be redirected, rather than destroyed.
The Amish will keep farming.

Perhaps there's some incredibly clever solution to even that problem,
one that doesn't involve coercion. Or perhaps the morality of
superintelligence is determined and will not allow for even voluntary
suffering, regardless of the programmer's suggestions.

I can still hope for a world in which good wins *completely* and
forever, by strictly ethical means, because there might well be some
blatantly obvious way to do it. That's the miracle of intelligence. I
can hope for a world that is totally without suffering, even the
suffering of existential ennui or boredom, because that is the Standard
Sentient Quest and there will be immense intelligence turned to making
it so.

Still, I would regard the _Diaspora_ scenario - in which pain, death,
coercion, and stupidity still exist, but are voluntary - as a "win".

It's tempting to say that voluntary suffering would no longer be my
concern, but suffering is suffering. Even as a posthuman, I'd probably
still care about the Amish. It's nice to think that theists must
necessarily have made a conscious choice to turn their back on
rationality and therefore deserve what they get, but that's just not the
way the world works. If you're raised with a particular set of beliefs,
it requires a mental action to modify them, not the other way around.

But the set of interventions permitted by the Sysop would be limited,
and could probably be implemented automatically, without conscious
attention on my part. Certainly, the interventions could be implemented
without expenditure of mental energy on my part - "mental energy" is a
concept that posthumans can do without.

At the end of my road lies a world in which suffering has either been
eliminated or decreased to the irreducible minimum, and in which those
who choose are completely free from suffering - free even from guilt
over the continued existence of that irreducible minimum.

--    Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

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