Re: physical pain is bad (was Re: Dynamic ethics)

From: Michael Roy Ames (
Date: Mon Jan 23 2006 - 16:33:22 MST

Jeff Medina,

That the so called bioconservatives point to some aspects of the world
highly valued by most humans, then suggest that transhumanist are against
them, is simple libel. Loss of knowledge *is* a valid concern, so is loss
of diversity, and loss of beauty.

Please note that you misquoted me. I did not write "lose 'beautiful
pain/melancholy/heartache/etc.'" and neither did I intend to. I wrote
"[lose] the beauty we see in them". I was referring to the experience of
beauty we feel when exposed to natural settings in many of Earth's
ecosystems. This is a highly valued aspect of life for people the world
over, many of them 'city dwelling' people. I was also referring to the
beauty people often perceive when observing intricate ecosystems (seemingly)
unaffected by humans. These experiences, and the potential for them, are
valued by humans. They are also valued by transhumans. Anyone who suggests
otherwise surely hasn't met many transhumans, or parhaps has not understood

Your assumption is a little misstated. It is not "death and suffering are
unnecessary and must be defeated", it is "Eliminating involuntary death and
unnecessary suffering will greatly improve the human condition". As you
might see, the implications of the two statements are quite different.

As for drawing a line between "human-ish" wild animals and others that are
less so: I do not. That line was drawn at mammals (AFAICT) by Phillip
Huggan, and I disagree with him on this point. Two lines, probably fuzzy
ones, must be and should be drawn somewhere along the dimensions of
intelligence and biological maturity dividing those beings who are given the
ability to choose (to not die - line #1, to not suffer - line #2) from those
who are not. The ability to choose not to die being given to (I tentatively
suggest) beings who have grasped the concepts of life and death and some of
the main implications surrounding those states. The ability to choose not
to suffer being given to (again hesitantly suggested) beings who have
progressed to adulthood - a stage that can be defined socially,
biologically, and in many other ways. Of course the whole time I am talking
about humans here - the lines are *within* the human species, not outside
it. Humans should arrange for wild animals to remain wild - and continue
evolving - see my previous arguments for reasons. If we want to keep some
as pets, well... that is a different discussion.

Michael Roy Ames

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jeff Medina" <>
To: <>
Sent: Monday, January 23, 2006 14:31
Subject: Re: physical pain is bad (was Re: Dynamic ethics)

Michael Roy Ames said:
> The suffering of wild animals is not a problem that requires a
> solution. The obliteration of ecosystems along with the attendant loss of
> knowledge, of biodiversity, and of the beauty we see in them *is* a real
> and
> pressing problem.

This is an excellent summation of one of the 'bioconservative'
responses to transhumanism more generally. "The suffering of humans is
not a problem that requires a solution; we will disrupt society (i.e.
the human ecosystem), lose knowledge, lose diversity, lose 'beautiful

So, now, assuming you aren't against the whole H+/S'n "death and
suffering are unnecessary and must be defeated" deal, why in the world
are you drawing a line between wild animals that happen to be
human-ish and wild animals that are less so?

Jeff Medina
Community Director
Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence
Relationships & Community Fellow
Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies
School of Philosophy, Birkbeck, University of London

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