Re: qualia, once and for all

From: Jef Allbright (
Date: Sun Jun 20 2004 - 11:15:14 MDT

Metaqualia wrote:

>It seems that accepting pain is an act of emotional strength, while it is
>actually an act of emotional weakness.
Accepting pain, as simply as you put it, would indicate a dysfunctional
state. But there is also the stoic virtue of accepting pain as part of
the current human condition and working through it to achieve greater
goals. This is the strength normally referred to. Please let's not
over-simplify here.

Accepting that pain is part of the current human condition and is useful
as an indicator of something needing correction, is wise. However, pain
is not the ideal indicating system. It can be misconstrued, it can be
distracting or disabling, it can be chronic, and it can become
demotivating. Overall, it is part of an evolved system that has worked,
but it could certainly be redesigned to work better for our human
purposes. We don't need pain, but I do think we want to keep a gradient
of feedback relative to internal goals. At least as long as we choose
to remain sentient.

Reducing pain is good, (moral value judgment there), because the process
of reducing pain drives growth.

> By Justifying and Rationalizing pain
>we manage to reduce the amount of pain we experience by a tiny speck. But if
>we do have a serious chance of dealing with the existence of Evil squarely,
I'm not sure we're going to be able to carry on this discussion if we're
back to introducing "the existence of Evil", but I observe that your
statement does fit rather naturally with viewing things in terms of qualia.

>and with nanotech and AI we do, then it is an act of moral cowardice to pass
>out on the opportunity. Screw present pain. Yeah, let's face it; shit
>happens and there isn't even a reason why!
Can we agree that shit happens and we just don't always *know* or
*understand* a reason why? Or could your statement be highlighting a
belief that there isn't much that can be done to understand and improve
the world we live in, therefore why not just go straight to the end
result and work on feeling good regardless of external conditions?

>I have a friend who is always happy. Everyone wants him around because he is
>just fun to be with. He jokes, honestly appreciates people, is empathic and
>euphoric. Shit happens to him. He gets well real soon. His basal dopamine
>level is very high; he's as happy as supermario in the bonus level.
It's significant that his well-being does vary, but "he gets well real
soon." Sounds healthy.

>Sometimes being too euphoric creates problems for him. For example he can't
>stand still and turns off some more serious people at work.
This may be an indicator of a dysfunction. You may also learn that
you're only exposed to a part of what he's actually feeling.

>But he has
>hundreds of friends. He is the living proof that we can be happier and enjoy
>it, and the lack of great suffering and depression does not diminish the
>value of life at all.
All of us believe we can be happier and enjoy it. You certainly won't
find anyone on a transhuman list objecting to that.

Depression is a dysfunctional and dangerous state and I don't think
you'll find anyone advocating it other than poets yearning to experience
it all. ;-)

Great suffering can be associated with great and worthy endeavors, so I
would not issue such a blanket statement as you did but certainly very
few people would say they are in favor of suffering for it's own sake.
There is also a case for "character-building" but let's not diverge
further from the central point.

To me, the central point of this discussion is this:

We all wish to improve the quality of our life experience. [This is not
a precise or complete statement, but I think it encompasses more of the
issue than "maximize positive qualia".] Therefore, do we best approach
this by (1) directly improving the subjective experience, or (2) working
to improve the processes that leads to the desired experience.

- Jef

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