Meme Engine


What I've been thinking about...

David Pearce
"Can a Machine Suffer?"
The Abolitionist Project

"A silicon robot can be programmed to avoid corrosive acids without experiencing agony if it’s damaged…"

A little setup may be required… this is another very short clip (45 seconds) from my current favorite lecture by philosopher and transhumanist David Pearce.  Just before this clip, he’s talking about whether humans freed from suffering - by either drugs or “Wireheading” - could conceivably offload all unpleasant tasks to robots or computers.

He takes a brief tangent wondering whether these robots or computers might be feeling suffering in our stead.  Whatever he is, Pearce is NOT species-centric… he wants to eliminate suffering from all creatures.

The quote above, about silicon robots avoiding acids without feeling pain at their touch, gave me pause.  I suspect that anything that can avoid damaging situations with as much versatility as a human, would have the “agony” built in as part of the avoidance strategy.  And maybe anxiety thrown in.  I’m not at all certain that our subjective experiences are seperable from the complicated algorithms determining our behaviour.

To his credit, Pearce aknowledges this point of view as an “unless” at the end of the clip.  The lecture from which I took this excerpt is 30 minutes, and can be found here.  To hear the other short clips I’ve posted so far (with analysis), check out this post, or this one.