Hedonistic Imperative (was Re: plant humans, see also Vegetarianism and Ethics)

Crosby_M (CrosbyM@po1.cpi.bls.gov)
Fri, 13 Dec 1996 14:55:02 -0500

I wrote:
<P.S. There was another hook in there which no one bit at. I'm sort
of glad because then I'd have to take the time to struggle with that
fish (and it's a big one!)>

J de Lyser asked:
<the way i see it there were many little hooks in there, if you'd like
to be more specific ?>

I originally quoted from Geoff Ryman's _The Child Garden_:
<Viruses made people cheerful and helpful and honest. Their manners
were impeccable, their conversation well-informed, their work speedy
and accurate. They believed the same things.>

And then I added:
<Hmmm, sounds alot like David Pearce's Hedonistic Imperative - only
much gentler!>

Here's the URL:

This reference has been mentioned several times on the list, but no
one has discussed it in any depth since the Extropians list moved to a
more open platform last August. It might have been 'discussed to
death' on the old list, but I wouldn't know.

Anyway, I don't have any problem with the basic premise of hedonism -
that it's OK to use nootropics and 'mechanical' enhancements for
intelligence augmentation, and psychopharmacology, or even *some
degree* of neuro-anatomical redesign for emotional

However, there's MUCH more to Pearce's Hedonistic Imperative than
Some snippets follow:
<The Hedonistic Imperative argues that within the next thousand years
or so the application of nanotechnology, eugenics, genetic engineering
and clinical psychopharmacology will *eliminate* the biological
substrates of suffering in *all* its varieties of indescribable
awfulness, *everywhere*....

In future, anyhow, the life-forms which exist on the planet will be
there *purely* because we allow them to do so, or choose to create

At some momentous and *exactly* datable time ... the *last* unpleasant
experience ever to occur on this planet will take place, possibly a
(purely comparatively) minor pain in some (to us) obscure marine

(*emphasis* mine)

This involves the ethical issues that David Musick is currently
attempting to raise in the Vegetarianism and Ethics thread. It also
involves the Spontaneous Order vs. Directed-Design memes that are
frequently raised in discussions of nanotechnology and various
permutations of The Great Filter thread and grey-goo scenarios.

Perhaps this is not discussed because, as Eliezer might say, it's a
post-Singularity issue that *only* the Powers can decide. I don't
have any problem with reconfiguring "the matter and energy of the
world in any way we so desire", *except* that 'matter' and 'energy'
are extremely simplistic ways of viewing the organic world. I
certainly don't have answers for these concerns; but, I don't consider
other 'conscious beings' to be *simply* units of matter and energy for
my own consumption and entertainment. I am fairly certain that we
(and our descendants) can never fully escape from evolutionary forces
and that there are likely to be serious problems with any human (or
>H) _plan_ to eliminate all aversive experience and *totally* control
all aspects of our environment. Perhaps the real problem here is that
it is impossible to *completely* define the boundaries of self apart
from the environment in which the self must exist.