[extropy-chat] Are ancestor simulations immoral?

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Mon May 29 14:15:21 UTC 2006

On 5/28/06, Anne-Marie Taylor <femmechakra at yahoo.ca> wrote:
> Jef Allbright <jef at jefallbright.net> wrote:
> When the Buddha said that all life is suffering, he was stating a more fundamental truth,
> that all life involves gradients that must be continuously overcome.  It would be a
> misunderstanding to think one could eliminate the gradients of life, but it is a great
> understanding to acknowledge and accept this and thus eliminate subjective suffering
> from the internal model while continuing to function in the world.
> I'm asking:
> Are you saying that Buddha's truth is based on his own mistakes and that based on
> those mistakes or his own truths,  he became wise?  (Wise meaning learning from his
> mistakes or truths and changing truths and ofcourse becoming a legend:)
> Very confused but still curious?
> Anna:)

Anna -

I don't clearly understand your question or the basis of your thinking
when you are asking it, but I will try to respond in a general way
that may help.  However, I don't want to promote discussion of
Buddhism or religion in this forum, except as it might relate to
extropian/transhumanist thinking.

I was trying to provide some depth and clarity to a popular but
oversimplified conception of  happiness and suffering.  There's plenty
of rather old and classical philosophical thinking on ideas such as
"maximizing happiness" as a moral good, and while this may seems like
an obvious truth to many of us, as we look further we find that this
thinking fails in the bigger picture.

There are several related topics which cause endless debate on these
lists due to differing viewpoints, and more significantly, depending
on how broad a context one seeks for understanding.  These
interrelated topics include the nature of "self", "good", "free-will"
and more.  I put these words in scare-quotes because these words are
often used as if their meaning were obvious (as to a child) and while
in fact they are very good words, their comprehension requires a more
encompassing model.

These topics are very relevent and important to
extropian/transhumanist thinking because they are key to our
understanding the nature of who we are, how we know what we want, and
how we can effective make progress in the growth of what matters to

When the Buddha said "all life is suffering" [or some words to that
effect--I wasn't there] he didn't mean the simple kind of suffering
that a child would think of, such as the kind of suffering coming from
a scaped knee.  He went on to say that all suffering is due to
wanting, or desire.  He saw that what all life has in common is the
appearance of agency. All life (as we generally define it) *wants*
something, which is directly or indirectly related to its
reproduction, or it wouldn't have evolved.  This characteristic
wanting is what I referred to earlier as the gradient, between what
the agent has now, and what it wants for the future.

In the broad sense meant by the Buddha, to be alive is to want, and
the nature of this wanting, this feeling of separation between
now-self and future-self, is the great understanding he wanted to
share.  By understanding this, we (as subjective agents) can clean up
our internal models of the world and proceed more effectively in our

Of course, as with all great thinking, layers of mystery and
decoration were added, so many people have many different ideas of
what it's all about.

"Before I had studied Zen for thirty years, I saw mountains as
mountains, and waters as waters. When I arrived at a more intimate
knowledge, I came to the point where I saw that mountains are not
mountains, and waters are not waters. But now that I have got its very
substance I am at rest. For it's just that I see mountains once again
as mountains, and waters once again as waters."
- Ch'uan Teng Lu (The Way of Zen 126)

- Jef

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