[extropy-chat] limits of computer feeling

Robert Picone rpicone at gmail.com
Mon Mar 12 03:19:48 UTC 2007

On 3/11/07, Stathis Papaioannou <stathisp at gmail.com> wrote:
> 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.

I think once we get to the point where one is altering one's own desire to
alter one's self, things get a bit dangerous.  The earlier feel of this
conversation was more of a feel that the alteration and the effect were
between two seperate entities, one's reasoning abilities and the pleasure or
pain one receives, or goals/desires (Plato's pathos rather than logos).
Once people start blocking out their ability to desire anything they may
reason out, such as realizing they'd be ultimately happier basking in
eternal pleasure, people can also block out other things that would be less
productive.  Do you honestly think most people would choose to block out
their desire to want pleasure before they block out their desire to care
about responsibility?  Regardless of what condition a human may be, moments
of relative weakness happen, and these are probably more common and more
tempting than the moments of relative strength.  I'd say your solution
brings about more problems than it solves, even ignoring the results of
making minor mistakes.

Sensations themselves aren't overly troublesome for people to meddle with,
as pressures not to become the "drug addict" could happen elsewhere, it's a
job society has always taken on, instilling people with a sense of
responsibility.  On the other hand, if one could erase all of the influence
of everything they've ever experienced on a whim (as long as this whim may
take to enact itself), there's not much that could keep people from this

> 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 universe.
> Stathis Papaioannou
I find this end a rather unpleasant one...  When someone one cares about
decides the pressures are too much and forever joins computer heaven, and
then other people dislike that and eventually join them, eventually the ones
who avoided this fate are left in a fairly desolate existence, with
progressively less conscious thought in the universe similar to their own
rather than more.
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