[extropy-chat] limits of computer feeling

Stathis Papaioannou stathisp at gmail.com
Mon Mar 12 02:29:29 UTC 2007

On 3/12/07, John K Clark <jonkc at att.net> wrote:

: Stathis Papaioannou
> > you could arbitrarily reassign the pleasure to goal-directed activity
> Well sure you COULD, but WOULD you? Grand and glorious goals are difficult
> to achieve and take a long time; much easier to just turn a knob and
> immediately get a rush of pride and satisfaction in a job well done.

Suppose you have the choice between driving to work or riding a bicycle to
work. Normally, you would choose to drive, because even though the bicycle
has advantages, it gets you places slower and sweatier. However, if you had
access to the source code of your mind, you could simply adjust things so
that the pleasure you get from the bicycle outweighs the inconvenience.
Thus, everyone wins: you enjoy yourself more than driving the car, even
though it's more effort, and you get to exercise and help the environment in
the process. Sure, you could have got the same pleasure by staying at home,
but the extra work at least need not *detract* from pleasure. If it's just
as much fun doing nothing or achieving some goal, you could nudge up the
pleasure associated with achieving the goal. And if you are naturally lazy
and would prefer to do nothing, you could simply make yourself less lazy. To
defeat this process you would have to not only be lazy, but to have laziness
as a supergoal guiding your life.

> for example, you could simply decide to be a stoic
> Well sure you COULD, but WOULD you? After a while you might notice that
> being stoic isn't a lot of laughs.
> I'll crank up the happiness level just a tad, oh that's much better, maybe
> just  a little more, even better, just one more small increase won't hurt
> anything.....

You could alter your mind so that you don't want to do this. People deny
themselves pleasures all the time in pursuit of some supergoal, constantly
struggling against temptation. How much easier would it be if you could just
switch off a craving for cigarettes or sex or whatever? You could even set a
mental timer: I will indulge in ecstasy for 100 years, then abstain for 100
years, and while abstinent I will have no desire to indulge.

> Finally, what would be wrong with a life of continuous, undifferentiated
> > pleasure?
> I wasn't making a value judgment; I was simply observing that drug
> addiction
> could be the reason that the universe does not appear to have been
> engineered.

It's possible. I think the final common pathway for posthuman existence will
be eternal bliss in computer heaven. On the other hand, there will always be
some individuals who avoid this end, and there will always be subprocesses
whose job it is to tend the main computers, and perhaps also to explore the

Stathis Papaioannou
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