Fostering Post-Darwinian Life
The case for paradise-engineering
by David Pearce
In the state-space of all possible minds, presumably only a tiny percentage can ever be physically realized – since matter, energy and information in the accessible universe are all finite. So we need to consider not just whether intuitively it is ethically good or bad for a sentient being – or species of sentient beings – to exist, but also the cost of such existence in terms of opportunities forgone. Some minds are clearly much more beautiful than others. For example, when the technology matures, would it be better if all our matter and energy were converted into different species of posthuman “smart angel”?
Our response to this question may depend at least in part on how it is posed. Thus if asked whether you’d take a wonderpill that overnight made you several orders of magnitude smarter, happier and more ethically sophisticated than you are now, then one might say yes. On the other hand, if asked whether you’d consent to having your brain reformatted and its matter reprogrammed into a different sentient being who was unimaginably more wonderful, then one might say no. For such a supermind wouldn’t be “me”.
More generally, a problem with being a classical utilitarian is that one is (apparently) obliged to seek the extinction of all existing species, including humans. This is because our matter and energy could be used more efficiently to produce utilitronium – whether in the guise of orgasmium, hedonium, pleasure plasma or Jupiter brains is still unclear. Critics might see this conclusion as a reductio of classical utilitarian ethics. Yet in a world run on utilitarian principles, it’s hard to see how such an outcome could be avoided, in the long run, on pain of inconsistency. True, the physical capacity to manufacture utilitronium is decades away at best, and perhaps centuries or more. So this argument might seem idle philosophizing. But the classical utilitarian is supposed to recognize that time-discounting at a rate different from zero is morally unacceptable too.
In this talk, I shall argue that we should strive for an impartial, “God”s-eye-view” in ethics, just as we do in natural science. Thus we should aim computationally to maximise the cosmic abundance of subjectively hypervaluable states in our Hubble volume. This entails fostering the emergence and spread of post-Darwinian life. I predict our descendants – and maybe our mature selves – will be wiser and happier beyond the bounds of normal human experience.
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