Re: Beating a dead horse?(Was: Transhumanist Principles)

Hal Finney (
Wed, 8 Apr 1998 17:03:56 -0700

Dan Fabulich, <>, writes:
> Hal Finney wrote:
> >Based on this rather cautious principle, I would tentatively classify
> >the above procedures as moral, as long as they were done carefully so
> >that suffering was minimized.
> I'm dubious of this conclusion... By this premise, all of the above would
> necessarily be moral if they were created in such a way that they were
> always (artificially) happy, no matter how difficult or otherwise painful
> their circumstances...

What is the difference between artificial happiness and the real thing?
Can someone be happy and still be in terribly difficult and painful
circumstances? That seems a bit contradictory.

Perhaps the real difficulty here is the difficulty of knowing what the
true mental state is. Obviously, creating someone with a fixed smile
on their face is no indication that they are actually happy. Even if we
have good general understanding of genetics it may be much longer before
we can say with confidence that a particular design will lead to a happy
being, one which does not suffer.

Still, in terms of judging morality, I'd say we have to use our best
understanding of these matters, just as in other areas of uncertainty.
We may want to err on the side of caution, in which case creating beings
with drastically new mental structures could be considered immoral,
since we might unknowingly create a being who was constantly in terrible
pain, and who (of course) never volunteered to undergo that experience.
This would obviously hinder the growth of understanding the mind and
brain, but it would be wrong to gain knowledge at the cost of involuntary
suffering by others.