Re: Ethical experimentation on AIs

From: Stathis Papaioannou (
Date: Sun Oct 21 2007 - 20:11:50 MDT

On 22/10/2007, Lee Corbin <> wrote:

> > since otherwise there would be pain "compression", with a lesser ability
> > to discriminate between stimuli on the basis of how pleasant or unpleasant
> > they are.
> I don't understand what you mean here.

There is more room for intermediate pain levels if the top level is
the highest possible and the lowest level is the lowest possible. This
would allow finer discrimination between stimuli. It would be a waste
not to have this range if the fly nervous system allowed it.

> > The other aspect of it is the unremitting nature of pain. Humans can
> > effectively reduce the severity of pain, or suffering in general, by
> > being able to reason about it. The experience of chest pain is worse
> > if you think you're having a heart attack than if you can be reassured
> > that it's just indigestion.
> But I would suppose that humans enhance the default level of pain
> from a heart attack by worrying about it. That is, people who don't
> know about such things---small children, say---wouldn't worry and
> so can't think that they're having a heart attack. What you are
> pointing out is a meta-level beyond that. In other words, a child
> would feel less pain, and an ordinary adult more, and an adult
> who was capable of reasoning about it the way you suggest.

My example was probably a bad one. On balance, I think cognitive
factors would diminish pain. As evidence for this, I cite the fact
that younger children seem to become more distressed with pain than
older children and adults.

> Moreover, wouldn't your basic argument here suggest that any small
> insult to my organism be accompanied by all the pain nature can
> inflict? I say that a small amount of pain has been measured out for
> those things that we relatively safely override. For example, stubbing
> my toe will not prevent me from perservering in a long march to
> extracate myself from a deadly desert. Even with a fly, a slightly
> unpleasant odor won't deter it from certain food.

Sure, but it would pay for the largest possible insult to cause the
largest possible amount of pain.

Stathis Papaioannou

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