Re: Ethical experimentation on AIs

From: Stathis Papaioannou (
Date: Sun Oct 21 2007 - 00:35:11 MDT

On 21/10/2007, Lee Corbin <> wrote:

> Yes, there is *very* good reason to suppose that the death throes
> of a fly exposed to insecticide are not associated with great pain.
> Evolution does not find it expedient to waste resources for no
> purpose; no complex behavior or module ever arose unless
> it aided the survival of the creature (its genes). The pain suffered
> by a fly cannot affect its future planning, nor can it be highly
> motivated to devise complicated plans, nor to write pamphlets
> agitating for the removal of that pain. Therefore flys simply
> have not been endowed much circuitry for pain.
> How do we know that trees don't feel pain? Because there
> is nothing that they would be able to *do* about a negative
> stimulus. The amount of pain a creature feels is in direct
> proportion to the degree of control it has over its environment,
> and the way that such control has in past evolutionary history
> paid for itself.

Your argument may be valid for trees, but I don't see why it should be
valid for flies. There are some environmental factors which are good
for flies which they actively seek and others which are bad for flies
which they actively avoid. We can't know for sure what flies feel but
a pleasure/pain response would be an effective evolutionary strategy
to bring about the right sort of behaviour. If anything, you could
make a case that while it might be appropriate for intelligent beings
such as us to have a mechanism for putting up with pain when we have
some ultimate goal in mind, in organisms without the ability to learn
or plan this would be dangerous. It would pay for a fly to suffer
terrible, unremitting pain until the noxious stimulus was removed.

Stathis Papaioannou

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