Arquivo da tag: transhumanism

Two Discussions About Spreading Vegetarianism as a Cost Effective Meme to Make The World a Better Place

Pablo Stafforini: It is really, really hard to produce a convincing argument against same-sex marriage–almost as hard as coming up with a credible defense of meat consumption.

Diego Coelho Caleiro: Pablo, as a long time follower of thy’s anarcotranshumanism I would expect you to accept eating meat on the basis of increasing the total ammount of conscious animals in the universe. If it were not for our meat consumption, there would be far fewer cow brains hanging around…..

Pablo Stafforini::Diego, there are three problems with this argument. First, it assumes that non-human animals raised for food have on average lives with a preponderance of happiness over suffering. This assumption is highly questionable in light of the ap…palling conditions present in modern factory farms. Secondly, it ignores that other sentient beings would likely exist if the land and resources currently allocated to factory farms was given a different use as a result of diminishing demand for animal products. Finally, it neglects the effects of vegetarianism in raising public awareness of the significance of non-human animal suffering. Because most people are not utilitarians and subscribe instead to a common-sense morality that regards edibles as things devoid of moral status, the interests of non-human animals currently raised for food are not going to be taken seriously until humans stop eating such animals altogether.

Diego Coelho Caleiro: Though smart, I think those are insufficient reasons for anti-consumptionists. First, most

countries that produce meat do not have particularly bad coditions for cattle’s life, at least no…t in Brazil, the main exporter. I would be shocked if Nozickian cows in Brazil would rather die… On the second, if there was no cattle, only a few tropical territories would comport other sentient beings, most grass farms would just be dedicated to agriculture. On the third, I think non-vegetarians build up a strong tribal hatred against vegetarians when they are confronted with the fanatical ones. People would be more friendly to primates if they didn’t connect that with having to abstain from their favorite chicken wing. Sure your arguments shifted my probability density distribution for “Against X For (meat-consumption)” but I do not think their strenght has tipped the balance.

Jonatas Müller Your second problem goes the opposite way for me: wild animals should in general have lives which, if not bad in average (they probably are), have some extremely bad parts, so I’d see their existence as a negative (and their destruction a g…ood/neutral side of cattle farming). Beef seems to be one of the least objectionable types (along with fish), while chickens and pigs have it much worse (both live in bad conditions, pigs may have more sentience and chickens more suffering per kg of meat). Raising public awareness to animal well-being seems to be the most important effect in avoiding meat.

Pablo Stafforini: The state of cattle is not representative of that of animals generally, since cows suffer less on average than do members of all the other major species raised for food:

On the second ob…jection, I refer you to the detailed investigation of Gaverick Matheny and Kai Chan:

I’m not persuaded by your reasoning regarding the final objection. Do you really think it’s possible for the man on the street –as distinct from the sophisticated utilitarian– to take the interests of all animals seriously while he continues to eat some of them?

Jonatas, I fully agree with your final point: I am myself a vegetarian primarily because of the effects that public advocacy of this diet has on other human beings (though I didn’t originally stop eating meat for that reason). Concerning t…he second objection, it is unclear to me whether the sort of animals that would exist if factory farms disappeared would on the whole suffer more or less than factory-farmed animals currently do. (See the paper cited above for further discussion.) Of course, things become quite complicated if we treat vegetarianism as part of a package deal including a general commitment to minimising suffering, since such a commitment would also require us to alleviate the pain of animals in the wild.

Diego Coelho Caleiro: Nice paper. “However, if chickens were made to have lives of reasonable worth, then as long as they had lives that were perhaps 10% as pleasant or valuable as the lives of wild animals, then chicken meat and egg purchases could increase the… net amount of moral value in the world.”
It tipped the balance against pork. I’m unpersuaded with chicken’s given their tiny brains, and if my position on consciousness were not based on this

maybe I’d be willing to tip it for industrial chicken.
So bye bye pork, and let’s go for wild chicken…

Thor Ribeiro: I can even see the cow wondering in proper Elisabethan english, “Would it have been better, had I not lived at all?”

Leah McKelvie: Assuming that the Jonatas and Pablo are talking about lacto ovo vegetarianism and not a vegan diet, I disagree. The interests of nonhuman animals who are raised for food are not going to be taken seriously by people who merely give up eating their… flesh. In fact, that’s an indication that they don’t take their interests seriously at all.

Promoting something that reinforces speciesism is not only a bad idea in the long run, it doesn’t even make sense in the short run. It sends the false message that vegetarianism makes a significant difference in actual animal suffering. It often doesn’t. It can even increase it, if someone goes from eating beef to loading up on eggs and dairy, or goes semi-vegetarian and starts eating chickens or fishes instead of beef.

Jonatas Müller It may also be an intermediary step which may increase the chance for taking further steps. Though what you said applies to the acts of eating or not some meat, there are also the close acts of talking to people about it, making publicity, …eventually convincing legislators to make animal conditions better (with support from other “semi-vegetarians” or whatever they are called), discouraging use of animal furs, inventing in vitro meat or other meat alternatives, etc. These are all hard to quantify individually, but I think that together the people who take these actions can have a considerable result.

This may be even more powerful than being completely vegan, because if a vegan person has a non-vegan child, then all the efforts are in vain in a global sense.

Diego Coelho Caleiro: Let me disagree with Jonatian hypothesis here. As natural selection taught us, it is NOT always the case that the intermediate incremental steps towards a value-peak are better than their immediate neighbours. This is true meme-wise as wel…l. Just like the best order of ammount of appendix to have is (best) none (Intermediate) small (worst) very small, the best order of how much animal originated stuff could be (best) 0 (medium) current standards minus pork and industrial chicken and (worst) vegetarian that eats dairy and eggs.

We all carry an appendix because evolution sucks as a designer, maybe utilitarians ought to consider the possibility that we should all maitain a meat-eating life even though there are better lives in an ideal world.

In any case, both issues will be corrected by transhumanist technologies, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology, in the unlikely event that we survive the 21st century.

There is WAY more value at stake in terms of catastrophic risks f…rom human technology and natural causes than there is for vegetarianism. We just feel like discussing vegetarianism because feeding habits occupy large space of our savannah brains (take Kosher and muslim anti-pork as tribe determining examples)
I’ve delved into the discussion because it was intelligent and with someone I admired for long (Stafforini), that is, for fun.
But a real utilitarian should know better than trying to argue people out of their feeding habits and work avoiding actual cataclysm that could destroy 80% of earth’s biodiversity


Two Years Later, another Discussion Unfolds…

G Diego Vichutilitarian How about we are a social species, therefore we’d better share eating rituals. Evil meme-clusters have always thrived through making their members unable to eat things that other groups eat. I would not like Effective Altruism community to do the same. What do you guys think about private vegetarianism?

Here’s a simple choice: eat some meat (at the very least, thereby consume about 10 times its weight in plant matter – that which it took to produce it [and don’t forget the water consumption that went into its production], require a sentien

t being to experience suffering for almost its entire life [factory farmed meat], and pollute the earth with excrement the animal produced while it was alive) or eat some non-animal-based food.

You make this choice EVERY TIME you eat.

Lukas Gloor 

  • That strikes me as a very weak argument, Diego, as the reasons for veganis(his)m aren’t arbitrary dogma but instead about the very thing Effective Altruism is about.

    Jenna Gatto 

How much plant matter does a person need to eat over its life time to get all of the nutrients it needs, especially when you cut meat out of the diet? And if you think about it that way, if for every ounce of meat you eat does that mean you

 need to eat 10 times that amount of plant matter to get the same nutrients, and what type of resources went into that before it got to your kitchen table?
Not all animals we eat have suffered, and I know I’m “lucky” that a large majority of my diet comes from animals either I, my father, or my family hunts and fishes for me to eat, but is that still not a question of economic stability to be able to afford those products in the grocery store that are not factory farmed.
Human and pet excrement can not be composted for organic farming due to the amount of chemicals that we eat on a regular basis. If it is not composted it goes into a sewer somewhere. And while in NJ we are lucky enough to have systems that have been updated since the 1970s, I now live in a place where combined sewer outflows still predominately exist and therefore flow into local waterbodies. So if people cannot eat organically, which is still something that has a lot to do with education and social standpoint, we too are polluting the earth regardless of whether or not we eat meat.
Essentially you need to give up anything that has gone through a factory, and eat only things you can grow and hunt yourself to be able to live in a way that can live up to the statement you have made. And while I too wish this was possible for everyone, this is a much bigger step then the choices people can make at a grocery store, especially if they are not financially able.

Adriano Mannino ‎”Private vegetarianism”? WTF. From a utilitarian point of view, it’s very clear that we must promote *public veganis(his)m*. If you can convince just two people to go vegan, this already has *twice* the impact of your own private veganism. So influencing others (in order to establish/via establishing social norms) is much more important than your private consumption.

G Diego Vichutilitarian 

  • Okay, I’ll try one last controversial idea, then I’m done: People have very strong opinions (not at all rational) about eating, and sharing food. Those, it seems to me, are inscribed in one’s head at some point in life, just like swear words. We allocate prejudices in an emotional part of us. This is why swearing in other languages doesn’t feel weird.

My guess is that being vegan is sufficiently disconforting for you and people around you that 1)You lose more influence in other Effective Altruist goals than you gain by eventually causing vegetarians 2) This one I claim strongly (90% conf

idence): You spend a lot of cognitive energy on finding food, and specially on discussing food. If this energy was spent on charity evaluation, donatable work, or technology research, it would benefit all sentient beings much more.

3) This is also true if it was used just to donate/develop in vitro meat, which fosters the same goals. I think it doesn’t feel the same because eating rituals, like swearing and politics, have highjacked part of our moral brain (safer for

 memes to be there). *META: this discussion is going to my old blog, if you’d like me to take off your name, please tell me now* 4) The timing doesn’t seem right to help farm animals yet. Too many humans suffering from Malaria, Schistosomosis, Tuberculosis, Ageing.

5) This one I claim mildly (50%): It seems to me that people who end up promoting eating rituals got stuck in the same way some atheists stop their intelectual life once they can forever battle against those who are not yet atheists. Sure 

you can spend a life vociferating against God, and sure, there is no God, but as Luke Muehlhauser said: “Atheism is just the beggining”. Becoming a vegan is awesome, it means you understand sooo much… but it seems to me to be just the

Adriano Mannino 

Diego, what’s your point? Opinions can be strong *and* absolutely rational and justified.
Do you have an argument against anti-speciesism? The issue has been debated for 40 years now and not a single halfway rational arg

ument in favor of speciesism has been produced.
Do you have an argument against consequentialism?
If not, then it’s obvious that “private vegetarianism” is utter nonsense.

Ah, now you’ve added a second and third comment. I’m afraid you are wrong. We are utilitarian anti-speciesists/vegans and not stupid. It’s totally false that we spend a lot of energy finding and discussing food. We don’t.

We do, of course, support in-vitro meat. But we believe that anti-speciesist meme-spreading has the greater marginal effect. And for psychosocial reasons, it’s very important to combine it with the spread of veg commitments. (Your “eating ritual” talk is totally misleading.) So long as people have no problem with continuing to eat food that causes unnecessary suffering to non-human animals, we have not succeeded in spreading anti-speciesism.

Read this: and this, for instance.

And this:

We have seen that there is a wide difference between the number of humans and the
number of those nonhumans who are harmed due to their use by humans. Of course some of
the figures and estimations that have been considered here are obviously approximate, but
they are based on real data and seem to be reasonable ones. Figures concerning well-being are
more speculative: obviously so, since we lack any data which could actually make
experiences accessible. However, they are plausible enough to allow us to consider the
question in a fairly realistic way. Given this, it seems we can draw some conclusions from the
line of reasoning presented above.
By now, the main one is likely to be expected. No human activity directly affects
negatively a so high number of individuals as humans’ consumption of nonhumans does. And
we all can make a change here. Hence, in as much as we accept any of the different normative
criteria mentioned above (maximization, additive equality, maximin, sufficiency concerning
outcomes, as well as responsibility and equality of means or lack of oppression) we will have
to give up the consumption nonhuman animals.
In fact, the reason why this practice harms
so many animals is simply that each of us as individuals contributes to it. And, as it has been
argued above, the gains we obtain out of that practice do not compensate the harm nonhumans
suffer. There is a huge asymmetry between the enjoyment humans get from being able to
experience some tastes and the harm that nonhuman animals suffer due to it at an individual
level. This can be assessed in a very simple way. Consider the life of a trout in some fish
factory. Suppose someone eats that trout in one meal. Two things must be weighted against
each other here: (a) The cost of the difference between the enjoyment that the one who eats
this trout gets from that meal and the enjoyment he could get from eating a meal without
animal products. (b) The suffering and the deprivation of enjoyment which death implies that
has been inflicted on that fish. Suppose, for instance, that the meal lasts twenty minutes (that
is, 1200 seconds) and that the animal has spent close to twenty months in the fish-farm (let us
say 600 days). Suppose, also, that this trout which could have lived for some six or seven
years. According to an intrinsic potential account, this means that this animal suffers a
deprivation of five years of life. This means that the difference between a minute of the
eater’s enjoyment of that meal and a minute of his possible enjoyment had he chosen a nonanimal meal is equal to almost one month of suffering for the fish, plus a deprivation of three
months of life (assuming the intrinsic potential account). Or, that such a difference during a
couple of seconds of tasting is equivalent to a day of suffering plus the deprivation of more
than three days of life for the fish. Of course, if we assume an account of the harm of death in
relation to the maximum level of happiness the results are still more asymmetric. Similar
equations can be considered for other animals and other meals.
But there is an even more significant consequence that is suggested by what we have
seen thus far, which may affect us not just as potential consumers of nonhuman animals but
also as agents with the ability to transform our surrounding reality. We may think that we not
only have negative duties not to engage in unjust practices. We may also accept that we
should do something to stop them. If so, we should note that the conclusions presented above
entail that spreading an animal-free lifestyle is a far more efficient way of improving the
world than working to improve the situation in which humans are. This conclusion seems at
first paradoxical. But it is far from being some odd consequence which we can infer from
some peculiar theory. Quite the opposite, it follows from a wide range of positions that are
commonly held. In fact, it seems to follow quite naturally once we set aside our speciesist assumptions. This also suggests that challenging speciesism might be the most useful task we
can assume if we want to make the world a better place.>>

Adriano Mannino 

Speciesism is false. If we accept that, and given the enormous amount of domesticated and especially also wild animal suffering there is in the world, it follows quite trivially that anti-speciesist meme-spreading is more important than the..

G Diego Vichutilitarian 

1) ($6000)/(917+238) = $5.19 to create a new vegetarian. *Terrible calculation which does not factor work-hours of the gigantic veg-crowd, and most important, opportunity cost due to disconfort caused (which I admit is not measurable)* 2)

 The paper you indicated has the same issue….. Also , it calculates based on obviously false assumptions, like that the life of a trout is one of suffering. Or that farm cows (which when a child I took care of often) are suffering all the time. They may suffer when dying, when being vaccinated (so do we), when being separated from children-cow (so do we). 3) We agree that factory farming sucks, and I don’t eat pigs on that basis (unless in discorforting situations) 4) Paper also uses “deprivation of years” as indicator of suffering, but clearly an animal does not suffer if it does not exist anymore, for this one, the Logic of the Larder argument works. 5) I’d suggest, as life advice not related to Veg, that one link is maximum one can send per discussion and expect being read, though I made an exception here 6) I am also in favor of being a vegetarian, say, twice a week, something which preserves some animals, does not activate neuro-triggers of morality, and spreads the word, without causing unconfortable discussions in which people feel attacked, and assassins, which sometimes happens with non-vegans in discussions. 7) You argue a good case, and if the facts you pointed out were true (if the paper was mostly true) I would follow to your conclusion. I suggest we agree on opinions of the form “If XYZ is the case, the world should do WFP” we are disagreeing over XYZ being or not the case. 🙂

Adriano Mannino 

Ad 1): The crucial figure, calculated in the above link, is this: We can prevent about 100d of suffering on a factory farm by donating a single dollar (!) to the Humane League or to Vegan Outreach (the actual number may be several times hig

her). Which human-related cause trumps this? Please tell me.
1.1) Most suffering (by *far*, see occurs in nature. That’s why anti-speciesist meme-spreading is likely to be extremely effective in the long run. Animal farming seems doomed anyway (in-vitro meat is just around the corner). But we have to hurry up and put anti-speciesist memes in place in order to ensure that we will abolish wild animal suffering when we have the technology to do so (this is an argument for targeting powerful people too). If we also factor in the urgent need to prevent future (Darwinian) panspermia and terraforming, we’ve got a good candidate for the title of the most important ethical issue.

Ad 2): The paper is not based on these assumptions. It does say that any kind of animal farming is based on/reinforces speciesism (which is true and which provides a strong reason to oppose it). Also, it’s a fact that *the vast majority* of farm animals are factory farmed and have terrible lives.

Ad 4): Whether we accept Logic of the Larder reasoning or not, animal farming should be abolished. Speciesism must go and we can’t credibly argue against it if we support slaughtering non-humans for trivial purposes because people wouldn’t even dream of subjecting humans to this kind of treatment. If we focus on suffering, then the Logic of the Larder does not apply; if, on the other hand, our focus is a happiness/suffering balance, then it does apply but the conclusion that we should abolish factory farming still stands: Opportunity costs. With the resources that go into animal farming we could be creating many more (and happier) sentient beings. And as I said, we absolutely need anti-speciesism in order to save the gazillions of animals that are suffering in nature. But we can’t promote it if we accept practices that people would never accept and would in fact consider most serious crimes (!) if done to mentally equivalent humans (“human farming”).

Ad 6): Why should we shy away from activating morality-triggers? Anti-speciesism is a very basic moral meme and it’s important that more and more people understand and accept it as that – and more and more people do, there’s some data suggesting that the number of vegans has been increasing exponentially. (By the way, if for whatever curious reason you’re not ready to join the cause, *at least* abstain from hurting it by describing what we’re about in terms of “eating rituals” etc.) An ethically similar historical struggle was anti-racism. Would you have suggested not activating morality-triggers there as well? And I hope you realize that it’s simply unavoidable that there will be uncomfortable discussions and that (some) people will feel attacked. I totally agree that we should try to minimize negative emotions, though, and my tone of voice is usually different from the one I’ve chosen here. But you’re a fellow rationalist and I was – quite frankly – shocked by the “private vegetarianism” proposal, which strikes me as extremely irrational and harmful (given utilitarianism, which, I take it, is a shared premise).

Ad 7): As far as I can see, you should follow to the conclusions. Or you should provide better arguments to block them and prove us wrong.

The Importance of Wild-Animal Suffering

Adriano Mannino 

Addendum to 1.1): Anti-speciesist meme-spreading is important for in-vitro meat as well. We shouldn’t underestimate the challenge of getting society to accept this “unnatural” product (compare the tragic fate of genetically modified food in

 Europe). If people accept that species-membership is no reason for discriminating against sentient beings and to consider their well-being less important, they will be much more willing to switch to in-vitro meat and promote it structurally. It’s extremely important to speed this process up.

G Diego Vichutilitarian 

1) On Wild-Suffering. Sure, wild suffering is awful, and I hope for less of it ASAP. I don’t think the best avenue for getting anti-speciesism is to start by changing to veto-this-food people’s eating habits, because I think that is pretty

 fucking hard. There must be lower hanging fruit out there. 2)If there is one thing I can claim being really immensely good at, it is dodging lone-bystander bias. I am the first transhumanist,immortalist, cryonicist, and perhaps singularitarian in my country (185 000 000 people), and I fought against accusations of crazyness and social stigma from a very early age.You should consider VERY INFORMATIVE *that means, a lot of bits, or the equivalent of a large N study* that despite having done all that, I have not managed to establish dietary restrictions under socially constraining situations (going out with friends, visiting girlfriends family etc…) This is not only non-pork or non-redmeat situations, but also trying to implement a kurzweil slow-carb diet. It is just massively, massively hard to summon the energy of fighting this battle every meal out. And I am, along with the science of positive psychology, and Shawn Achor, of the opinion that we have a single candle of willpower. When we burn it, it burns for all things we may need willpower to, and we are short of that amount. We have to learn to divide the candle wisely, for if it burns up we enter “what the hell mode” and if it doesn’t, there is only limited quantitites of it.

Adriano Mannino 

So that’s Brazil? What about the “gigantic veg-crowd” that you mentioned above? It should make veg life quite easy. I know some Brazilian vegetarians and vegans and they seem to be doing OK. 😉
Actually, there’s been a big debate within the

 animal rights movement about whether there is lower hanging fruit. One might think there is – but I have come to accept the conclusion that there is not. Animal welfare reforms are very costly and don’t do too much in the end (and my country – Switzerland – is the paradigm example). I don’t think we can avoid promoting veg eating (and an expansion of veg agriculture and the veg supply) if we are to promote anti-speciesism. (Incidentally, animal farming is also one of the primary causes of global warming, which might increase global catastrophic risks. And it probably also increases the planetary biomass and thus the amount of wild animal suffering – which might well be the main reason to fight it. Furthermore, animal farming is co-responsible for world-hunger: 1kg of meat = up to 10kg of soy and other plant food that could be eaten directly.) As I said, people who get the anti-speciesist meme *will want* to avoid products based on animal exploitation. Also, you shouldn’t underestimate the positive psychological and social effects of behavioral veg commitments – they greatly assist meme-spreading. Last but not least, veganism has become *very easy* to practise in many countries. In Switzerland it’s basically a matter of which shelf you go to in the store (and you can get veg food in every restaurant). As for social difficulties, I think there are easy ways to minimize them and to even make being veg a fun experience. For one thing, there is a growing consensus among young and rational people (i.e. within most of my social circles) that there’s an ethical imperative to go veg. Many of them can be converted very easily – and if you’re not the only one doing it, it’s fun (and psychologically positive!), you can try out new stuff, offer to cook for non-veg people etc. And I think it’s possible to talk about it in a friendly and non-antagonizing way to non-veg people. So is it really a “battle” that needs to be fought out every meal again? Not in my experience. And if you encounter people who don’t respect your dietary choices (!), why don’t you tell them that they should go fuck themselves? OK, let’s make an exception for the girlfriend’s family. But otherwise there’s really no reason to waste time with stupid people. (That’s bad quite independently of the veg question anyway.) And if you spend time with the right folks (namely young and intelligent people), the veg thing should be no problem and you should find many great and low-cost (in fact, almost free) anti-speciesist influencing opportunities.

I congratulate you on standing up for transhumanism etc. I agree with all those causes (though in part only for instrumental reasons, e.g. I don’t think that death per se is a problem, I think the abolition of suffering should be our focus: – so I’m with the Pearcean brand of transhumanism/transanimalism, not with Bostrom or the Singularitarians), but I believe that spreading anti-speciesist memes as fast as possible and making sure that technology will be used to abolish (wild) animal suffering too (which might well be the dominant factor in the utilitarian calculation!) is *even more important*.

I agree about willpower and the candle analogy. But as I said, it’s quite difficult for me to believe that it’s “so fucking hard”, socially. Also, I’m not sure whether you have granted the issue enough priority. We might disagree about what the most important thing is, overall, but I don’t think utilitarians can reasonably disagree on the fact that anti-speciesist/veg meme spreading and donating to animal charities is very important and cost-effective indeed. *At the very least*, I believe, one must admit that anti-speciesist meme-spreading is more important than the poverty-related causes that promotes. I wonder whether your assessment of how hard it is to be veg would be different if you had granted the issue higher priority? And if it does deserve higher priority, then it also has a greater claim to the willpower-candle.

Abolitionism (bioethics) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Abolitionism is the bioethical school and movement that endorses the use of biot…See More

Adriano Mannino 

One last point. You write: “Steering Transhumanists and Singularitarians as close as possible to their dreams…”
Unfortunately, there are many transhumanists who are speciesists or even egoists (they’re especially numerous among immortali

sts and cryonicists, a bit less so among singularitarians, but still to an alarming degree – see the irrational reactions of the Less Wrong crowd when confronted with anti-speciesist arguments or considerations in the philosophy of personal identity that undermine egoism). I’m not saying you are one of them, but the quote could certainly have been made by them: It’s about achieving “our dreams” etc. I am *deeply morally opposed* to those guys. It’s not about “our dreams”. It’s primarily (if not exclusively) about abolishing suffering in an impartial and objective way. So let me be frank: I wonder whether your opposition to prioritizing anti-speciesist/veg meme-spreading had anything to do with an understanding of “what it’s all about” in terms of “our/my dreams” rather than in terms of the best possible impartial minimization of suffering (and, maybe, the maximization of happiness).

David Pearce 

When are we ethically entitled to harm another sentient being? The Transhumanist Declaration (1998, 2009)
boldly expresses our commitment to the well-being of all sentience. Payi

ng for nonhuman animals to be factory-farmed, exploited and killed so we can eat their flesh is impossible to reconcile with such a commitment.

Of course we’re all prey to weakness of will. But does giving up meat and animal products really call for heroic self-sacrifice? Humans are not obligate carnivores. Our only excuse is not just lame but weak-minded: “But I like the taste!”

Transhumanist Declaration

G Diego Vichutilitarian 

I suggest we have a fundamental disagreement over what should be preserved. I think our values should be preserved. Values that can only be states in language, thus only formulatable by a species that commands language. I think that the values that should be preserved are some mix of Yudkwosky’s CEV: “That in which we would agree if we grew smarter and stronger togheter.” and David Lewis’s dispositional theory: “Lewis offers that X is a value to you (roughly) if and only if you would desire to desire X if you were perfectly acquainted with X and you were thinking and deliberating as clearly as possible about X.” I am doing a masters on what that would be. I do not think that negative utilitarianism is the best form of it. Personally,emotionally, I am a positive utilitarian, increasing positive feeling as I go about. I think some form of simple utilitarianism is probably the best pragmatic approach (for it maintains agreement among those fighting for the worlds good, without in-group out-group bias and stupid minor disagreements unworth fighting over). If new persons would arise whose commant of emotions, intelligence, cooperation, friendliness, and love are greater then our own (augmented humans, aliens, computers) I would gladly ascribe them the task of determining which values we would like to preserve. While this does not happen, I’ll do my best to understand things that we value, summarize them, and improve quality of CEV, or reduce the existential risk of permanently curtailing our values. Yudkwosky’s Fun Theory is very bad (probably his life lacked fun), Bostrom noticing that Flamboyant displays are great is very good. Richardson and Boyd noticing Double Inheritance in culture is very good, and Seligman and the Positive Psychology crowd have been assessing a lot of useful info, with PERMA being the summit of values we currently have. I’ll try to build on the shoulders of those giants, and output a serious well build, wide list of which values we should preserve, and why. Wish me luck! Thanks for the discussion. You too David!


It has Begun, Welcome to Human Enhancement

It is now the 11 of December, 2008, the day after the day when human enhancement has shown its face to the world.

Yesterday an article on Nature Magazine came about online.

The authors include Michal Gazzaniga, and are heretofore to be known as The Seven who began it all.

This is the article, with it, an age ends and another begins, in the following years, millions of hours, translations, and international effort will be put on the topic of cognitive enhancement. Priests and religious people will manifest, the military will abuse its power, nations will fight and argue.

Comunists will be angrier than ever, reunited with eco-devils with one purpose in mind,  “Search and Destroy”.

The american right will of course, respond with a strong sense of purpose, denying humanity of the right to Play God, but will once again conflict with the military, who could use some godlikeness to destroy others right to use it.

Latin america, as usual, will be far off the questions raised and will simply tacitly copy the behavior of the country they feel like.

Once cognitive enhancers start to be ubiquitous, there will be two teams, which will be called the “Alphas” a name exapted from brave new world, and the “Pures” who of course will not call themselves Betas.

The Alphas and the Pures will fight for centuries, just like have science and religion, it does not matter who will prevail, during the fight, everybody loses. Some of man’s humanity will be lost, not because people will become less human  once they are enhanced, but because humans will be less humane when their natural urge to fight the enemy tribe takes over their minds.

Soon researchers will show how much more intelligent, succesful and rich are the enhanced minds, and the tightness of the fight will increase.

Three of the Seven will be killed, made heroes by those that think they were saviors, that the new man, the transhuman, is the upcast and ultimate purpose of life in the universe.

When the age of doom is over, new policies to avoid akward forms of competition will come, and people will learn again to value what must be valued, by then, geniality will be ubiquitous, and not particularly considered an interesting trait, soon enough people will remember the importance of cuddling, they will once again bond with friends and family, value beauty and faith, and once and forever, merge with an unbiased cosmos in the seek of joy and adventure.

The End

This is a possible world of the future, and only Kripke knows if we are near or far from it. One thing is for certain, It has Begun.

Is there anything special about conciousness? Concerns about our posthuman future

Most of the atheists, most of the tranhumanists, extropians and neuroscientists would agree that no, there is nothing special about it.But I think it is time to take a carefull look at what do these people mean exactly with this no.

First of all, we must consider what does the word “special” mean in this sentence. Certainly among the “special” things would be souls, spirits, and all the metaphisical friends some people beleive they still carry inside them. And it is obvious that these inventions are not what I’m writing about here. My problem with the “there is nothing special about consciousness” phrase is not what the special includes, but what it does not.

None of us has a spirit. And whatever is responsible for consciousness and all its processes is necessarily in our material brains, not in an invented world. Yet there is still no final conclusion about what exactly in the matter that composes our brain is responsible for being conscious. Certainly the neurons and their electrical structure are involved on it. But there is no one who has said “ our consciousness is the calcium passing”, “our consciousness is the eletrons that move between the neurons” or “our consciousness is the electrical activity within the axon” and comproved it in a irrefutable sense.

Although this has not been done, it is fair to say that we know that consciousness is a property of matter. What we call consciousness is necessarily a property of a specific agregation of matter that happens in our brain. Just like flexibility or capacity to conduce electricity, consciousness depends on how matter is rearranged, and therefore may be called a property of matter.

We know with much certainty what are many of the properties of matter due to. Being solid, or being flexible are properties that we know from what they come from, and therefore we are able, at least theoretically to reproduce this property in another set amount of matter. We can make thousands of flexible pencils, because we have knowledge enough to change matter in a way that it adquires the property “flexibility”.

We could, for instance, build flexible pencils with many kinds of material, since we know that it is possible to adquire flexibility not only with a specific material. Also we could achieve flexibility with different stuctures and the same material, since we know that it is not just one specific structure that has flexibility, but there are several structural rearranges that do so.

But the same does not happen to consciousness, we are not exactly sure what in matter has the property consciousness, and this is of extreme importance to the future development of Artificial Intelligence.

Now onwards, I will make suppositions, I do not claim any of this suppositions to be true, neither am I trying to defend one specifically, my only purpose with them is to show what are the consequences of these suppositions to the posthuman world if they were true.

Suppose, for instance, that consciousness is all about information, in this case, anything that processes information in the same way that conscious thins do would also have the property consciousness, and would therefore be conscious. In this case, we could build aritificial digital computers that are extremely powerfull, powerfull enough to do all the computations that our minds do, and these computers, even being extremely different from our brains, would still be consciouss, since the particular thing about matter that produces consciousness would be in them. That has been the supposition that part of the enthusiasts of transhumanism I’ve talked to have. But it seems to me a very dangerous supposition. To show in what sense is this supposition very dangerous I will begin showing a different supposition.

Suppose now that consciousness only emerges from higly parallel, analogic, information. Then any sistem ( biological or not) that can make massive parallel connections to transport information would also have the property of being conscious. So if we created computers with these given properties, they would be conscious, and there would be no problem, for instance, to upload yourself to one of these. But what if this suppositions is right, and we only build the computers that I have mentioned in the first supposition. The binary ones. Then we would have computers who can behave exactly as our minds do, but they are not conscious, they are only zombies. Suppose then that everyone on earth uploads himself to this binary computers, then we would have a fantastic posthuman society, with no one to see it. It would be simply a zombies society, none of the computers would be concious, and all our effort for a great posthuman world would have been wasted. Note that these machines, if were asked, would behave exactly like a human, so they would answer that they are conscious, they would act as if they have feelings. From “outside” they would be indistinguishable from us. And they certainly would pass the Turing test.

Now, we are most likely to only be able to achieve the behavior of a mind doing massive parallel analogic computers, so the dystopic scenario of this second supposition is quite improbable to happen. But I have only given these two first suppositions because they represent what most of the transhumanists already suppose, now I will show how there are other suppositions that, if proved to be true, will generate a dystopic scenario that as far as I’m concerned, no one has yet predicted or worried about.

The third supposition is that consiousness is a property of the Biological matter trat composes neurons, or of the electical activity in the neurons. In this case, none of our both computers in the above scenarios would have the property of being concious. And therefore we would have two possible dystopic scenarios, one of posthumanity with binary and other of posthumanity with analogical unconcious computers. But then, there is still a chance that the computers we develop have or the same sort of electrical patterns or are made of neurons, and in this case, we would have a pleasant conscious posthuman world.

The point I’m trying to make here is that no matter what of the suppositions (these or any of the millions of other) is right, there are some scenarios in which we have conscious posthumanity and scenarios were we have unconscious posthumanity.

We are producing posthumanity the wrong way. When we choose to produce flexible pencils, first we learn what assures flexibility to matter, then we reproduce matter in order to achieve flexible pencils. But with consciousness, we are going the wrong way. First we are trying to reproduce Intelligence ( which is a different property of matter than consciousness) and we are faithfully beleiving that as soon as we learn how to produce intelligent matter, we will also be producing concious matter. Intelligence, as most tranhumanists and computer analists think, is a behavior. Things may behave intelligently, in the sense that they make the complex associations that we call intelligent associations. But this does not mean they make this associations conciously, they may simply compute this associations, and they would not feel anything while doing it.

Intelligence and consciousness are two different properties of matter, and we should take extreme care with ourselves if we do not want to become a society that has no conscious beings on it. Producing intelligence is very important, including to understand consciousness, but being able to produce intelligent matter does not mean we are able do produce concious matter, and I beleive that the most important thing for the transhumanist thinkers and developers should be to run away from the easy two suppositions (that say that consciousness is only about information), and admit that, as long as we are not exactly sure of what in matter generates conciousness, it is very risky and even undesirable to transport your “self” to a different agregation of matter that the one we already know that is conscious, the neural networks, composed of biological neurons.

I am not saying that we should stay like we are today, I’m just saying that we should first understand what is exactly, without a doubt, what is responsible for consciousness in matter, and then reproduce it in order to create or upload sentients. I’m just trying to prevent what I beleive that would be one of the catastrophes we usually call “human extinction scenarios”.

It is, of course, possible that consciousness is indeed only a structural property, and therefore anything with the same structure as the brain would necessarily be concious, even if the electricity travelled faster, even if made by nanotubes or silicon. But we should not blindly and faithfully expent all our efforts in a supposition. We have already ultrapassed 4 Singularities, and I do not feel like we should waste all this time and probability by simply assuming a supposition is right. Bertrand Russell said that “religion is what we invent, Science is what we know, and phlosophy is what we don’t know” The problem of consciousness has been for hundreds of years a matter of philosophy and religion, finally it has started to make its way through science, but as long as we don’t have a very good theory about it, it is not worth it to waste billions of years of hard effort in our egoistic necessity of saying “I was one of the producers of the singularity”.

It is rather improbable, but the problem of consciousness may still take a while to be completely solved, and I beleive that it is worth the effort to lose some posthuman time in not becoming posthuman sooner than that.

The science of AC, Artificial consciousness will probably run much faster than AI, since the evolutive processes are growing exponencially. If we have waited for AI, It won’t be that bad to also wait for AC in order to finally achieve the condition we have been seeking for so long, the posthuman condition.

In a conversation with Bill Gates, Ray Kurzweil has said that we now need a new faith, and in this new faith, from the sciences and arts, we should inherit the respect for knowledge, and from the tradition of religions, we should inherit the respect for conciousness, it was in order to acomplish this second task that I have written this text, and I hope it achieves the eye-opening objective that I have developed for it.