Thursday, November 24, 2016

Potential avenues for sentio-centric antinatalism

Sentio-centric antinatalism ("efilism") is, I take it, the belief that sentient life needs to end as swiftly, efficiently, and ethically as possible. Those currently alive may be allowed to live out the rest of their lives (although YouTube commentators continue to surprise me), but procreation is strictly out of the question. The purpose being, to minimize suffering by eliminating its source. Life just ain't worth it.

This belief is reasonable, I think, if one is honest and compassionate.

What is not reasonable are some of the methods commonly advocated to accomplish the sentio-centric antinatalist goal, which end up justifying harm impositions anyway: blowing up the world with thousands of nukes, putting chemicals in the water and air to sterilize organisms, altering the orbit of the Earth and smashing it into the Sun, etc. There are a couple of reasons why this is so, but in my opinion they all rest upon the aesthetically-displeasing or even downright scary nature of these options. How many of us would actually be willing to press the big red green button, and how many of us would "chicken out" so to speak and hesitate? How many of us would actually be able to explain our reasoning to other people:
"I'm sorry, but I have to kill you in order to ensure the prevention of future unrequested harm impositions."
Am I wrong with the above quote? Is this not what many of these antinatalist methods advocate, the imposition of harm to remove the possibility of a future greater amount of harm imposition?

For some reason this brings no joy to me.
Maybe I suffer from akrasia, and just don't have the guts to accept that annihilation of the world in a violent manner would be for the best. I mean, after all, I am a utilitarian. It would be pretty out of place for me to start utilizing terms like "intention" and "innocence".  But this highlights an important point, I think:

Previously I made a post about antinatalism's relatively poor PR problem. This is one of the problems I see with the future of antinatalism. I myself am an antinatalist and find some of these "solutions" to be repellent. As in, I am not sure if I could support someone who was publicly advocating blowing up the world for the sake of sentient welfare. For whatever reason it puts me off. If it puts me off, how many not-currently-antinatalists are going to be put off themselves?

Some antinatalists might see talk of blowing up the world as more tongue-in-cheek and hypothetical than a legitimate option. To which case I have to say a few things:
  1. Why is it tongue-in-cheek? Why are you not actually actively doing something about it? (Akrasia involves not just belief but action as well...)
  2. Why do you think this will never happen? (Presumably because the public will never accept blowing up the world as a legitimate path)
  3. If the public at large will be put off by talk of ethical Armageddon, then why are you advocating it?
Talking about blowing up the world is thus counter-productive and only satisfies the urge to express antinatalism, not communicate it. If destroying the world in a fiery explosion is what ought to happen, then we need to figure out a way of convincing people that this is what needs to happen and breaking down the emotional barricade that exists in probably most people. Simply telling other people to stay calm in the face of a proposition like this is unreasonable.

Rational self-preservation may be an instance of akrasia in utilitarian ethics. My experiences, in virtue of personal ownership alone, are no more important than anyone else's experiences. This ethical failure on each of our parts must be taken into account when we think about how we are to implement antinatalism. It may be for the greater good to destroy the world, but I doubt I'll be able to just stand idly by when my life is threatened like that. Call me a selfish pussy or whatever you want, that's not going to help. I already struggle with the guilt associated with the tension between rational self-interest and ethical altruism. It's in our nature to want to continue to live, and I'm considering seeing this as one of the excusable rights each one of us have when faced with an ethical dilemma. You cannot expect me to kill myself for the benefit of sentients at large, even if the overall outcome would be better. Maybe destroying the world isn't a problem for those who are suicidal, but considering I am not overtly suicidal (as of now), this is problematic.

So what would be the method I would like to see implemented for sentio-centric antinatalism? Here are a couple of chronological moves:
  1. First, there needs to be a gradual rise in awareness of suffering in nature by an enforced biology education in high school, the removal of censorship in nature documentaries, and the outlawing of zoos. This is the educational aspect, which fertilizes the soil for the next phases.
  2. Then, there must be a subsequent vocalization of antinatalism in various outlets and in various ways. The best way to convince people of anthropocentric antinatalism is to argue that long-lasting happiness is impossible (a "lighter" argument than the more straightforward and accurate, yet difficult to accept, LIFE SUCKS AND WE'RE ALL FUCKED)
  3. Next comes the side-lining of irrelevant and expensive activities in order to focus on the artificial intelligence (AI) research program. I have my doubts regarding strong AI, so the possibility of AI suffering may be null. 
  4. With the development of advanced AI comes the opportunity for all of us to peace out. We can program the AI to multiply themselves (non-harmful reproduction, as they will not feel) and gently lead the rest of the organic kingdom into extinction in a more refined manner than we could. Meanwhile human existence is phased out.
  5. The final result is an empty planet, populated by unfeeling AIs, who constantly stand vigilant in the case that sentient life emerges again. These AIs will also act as a method of communicating antinatalism to potential visiting extra-terrestrials after our own voluntary extinction, in the case E-Ts actually exist.
I think this is a far more reasonable, effective, and aesthetically-pleasing rough plan than many of the apocalyptic "alternatives" suggested by other antinatalists. If taken seriously and patiently, I think this could actually happen, and has certain advantages as well. All without the scary explosions.

14 comments:

  1. I think it's a mistake to infer that sentiocentric AN is just efilism by any other name, considering how efilism's founder is, at least according to my radar, the ultimate pro-mortalist of our time. Efil, being life spelled backwards, has its roots in deprivationalism-for-all-species much more than in the mere concern for non-human animals and negative axiology. And deprivationalist views on wellbeing necessarily treat the individual as nothing more than a repository of value. The question "does suffering matter or do people matter?" would be answered in a 100% one-sided way, if efilists are doing the answering. It's always about the suffering, it's never about the person. Sentiocentric ANs can disagree with this.

    You're no stranger to how little patience self-professed Efilists have for anti-mortalism. I recall the two of us discussing this problem in the past. I believe anti-mortalism can coexist with both humancentric AN and sentiocentric AN. For instance, I mentioned before how wrong it would be to painlessly mercy-kill a perfectly healthy & informed human adult whose existence impacts no sentient being other than himself. I also believe it would be at least mildly wrong to painlessly mercy-kill a domesticated cat that has its needs met and spends 99% of its time purring. Perhaps it can be painlessly killed once its prime has long passed, but not at its peak, on the grounds that "it's still running a deficit" or "only cleaning up 90% of the mess its feels create" or any such control-freak notions. This alone is enough to disqualify me from the efil cause.

    As for:

    "I'm sorry, but I have to kill you in order to ensure the prevention of future unrequested harm impositions."

    You ask if there's anything off with this, and I'd say yes because the future is not the whole story. It's also about the present. Victims are being held captive right now, many of them suffering through torture, and many would trade anything just to be put out of their miseries. Other scenarios abound. There's also justice, which is arguably backward-looking (I'm thinking about your post on pre-natal conditions and how no one really earns anything in the thick sense of the term).

    I continue to draw blanks on the PR issue. No original feedback there. I'm leaning toward irreverence with a non-hostile approach. Displaying zero conciliatory leeway toward conventional moral taboos, but also removing all brash deliveries/guilt-tripping.

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  2. Thanks for the comment.

    "The question "does suffering matter or do people matter?" would be answered in a 100% one-sided way, if efilists are doing the answering. It's always about the suffering, it's never about the person. Sentiocentric ANs can disagree with this."

    I can't help but wonder how coherent the efilist deprivationalist position actually is. Like, if I am about to prick my finger, would the efilist find it moral to painlessly kill me in order to prevent this from happening? Suffering is not this goopy "substance", it's a condition of sentient organisms. To ignore this would entail paternalism; apparently the efilist knows what is best for me. Instead of treating suffering as a condition of a person, they would treat a person as an enabler of suffering.

    In any case I think deprivationalism is wholly incoherent on the grounds that it seems to ignore the existence of moods. My welfare is not simply a matter of valenced sensation. An overarching stable mood effectively disables many of the unpleasant sensations we feel everyday.

    "For instance, I mentioned before how wrong it would be to painlessly mercy-kill a perfectly healthy & informed human adult whose existence impacts no sentient being other than himself."

    Remind me, you are a preference-based consequentialist, right? Personally I am a hedonic utilitarian, but preferences must be acknowledged in order to maximize hedonic value.

    "It's also about the present. Victims are being held captive right now, many of them suffering through torture, and many would trade anything just to be put out of their miseries."

    Very true, I can't believe I forgot to put that in the OP. I'm sure if I was being tortured, I wouldn't mind if the world suddenly blew up.

    But this willingness to sacrifice the entire world when one is being tortured is, in my opinion, equivalent to the unwillingness to sacrifice the world when one is not being tortured. In both cases we have rational self-interest at play. Neither side can be blamed for what they want. I can't expect you to continue to exist while being tortured for the benefit of everyone else, but neither can you expect me to literally kill myself (and everyone else) for your benefit. It is a situation of extreme inequality.

    So I am not necessarily affirming the immorality of blowing up the world as a course of action as much as I am denying that the failure to do so is something to feel guilty about. No one can be expected to do something that extreme. Only if there is a better course of action could blowing up the world actually be immoral. Which I think there might be better ways.

    "I'm leaning toward irreverence with a non-hostile approach. Displaying zero conciliatory leeway toward conventional moral taboos, but also removing all brash deliveries/guilt-tripping."

    Ideally, antinatalism would be accepted. If this cannot be accomplished, then some sort of compromise must be accepted (legalized abortions, population maximums, legalized euthanasia, etc).

    The trouble, at least for me, is reconciling my own antinatalism with everyday life. Some of my close friends are probably going to get married and have children of their own soon. How do I simultaneously promote antinatalism while not bitching to my friends about their poor life decisions? Decisions that may lead to unbearable suffering?

    I mean, if I knew someone was going to assassinate some other person, I would probably take measures to prevent this from happening. So why do I not feel overwhelmingly compelled to get involved with the births of new people? Might it be better if I secretly spiked their drinking water?

    I'm starting to ramble now, but rational self-interest and affirmative morality are so ingrained in our psyche that when faced with reasonable, yet negative moral claims, our flexibility of action is stretched to its breaking point. We are ethically disqualified.

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    1. "To ignore this would entail paternalism; apparently the efilist knows what is best for me"

      For your welfare, rather. You're just holding captive the preciousness of your experience. You're the menace, in that respect. Enter input/output rhetoric about "the fuel" not corresponding with "the engine". And I'm someone who is open to Soft Paternalism when you're certain that the subject will appreciate it in the long-term. Hard Paternalism is a different story; "It's best for you, regardless of whether you change your mind down the road".

      Thing is, even if we grant Hard Paternalism for all humans, the troubling lack of attention to detail about lexicality & individual thresholds, never ceases to amaze me. It's never even contemplated as a potential objection to a plain additive welfare calculus.

      I don't want my experiences straightforwardly aggregated with every plus/minus I endure, with the final score used to determine whether my life should've gone differently. I weigh my interests lexically. This could easily entail that I end up "burning more of my own fuel than I consume on balance" but get to avoid catastrophic-level negatives in the process. For me, it's about avoiding severe negatives, no matter how many tame negatives you pile up throughout my life in order to avoid the harsher stuff. Hedonism or Preferentism, this should always be the individual's decision. Give me a slight migraine lasting a minute on a daily basis & I'll take if it comes with the guarantee zero nervous breakdowns endured throughout my life. The final plus/minus score is secondary, for this reason.

      "I think deprivationalism is wholly incoherent on the grounds that it seems to ignore the existence of moods"

      yeah, & it's crystalized when postulating the domesticated cat whose existence predominantly consists of purring, but is still in the red, somehow. A non-purring domesticated cat that's warm and fed, then, cannot just be in a "non-neutral" slightly below average state. No, we are to believe it's suffering harshly. While one that purrs is still suffering, just less harshly.

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    2. 1/2
      "I don't want my experiences straightforwardly aggregated with every plus/minus I endure, with the final score used to determine whether my life should've gone differently. I weigh my interests lexically. This could easily entail that I end up "burning more of my own fuel than I consume on balance" but get to avoid catastrophic-level negatives in the process. For me, it's about avoiding severe negatives, no matter how many tame negatives you pile up throughout my life in order to avoid the harsher stuff. Hedonism or Preferentism, this should always be the individual's decision. Give me a slight migraine lasting a minute on a daily basis & I'll take if it comes with the guarantee zero nervous breakdowns endured throughout my life. The final plus/minus score is secondary, for this reason."

      I mostly agree with this. We should focus on reducing suffering, not just pain per se. I take it these two are different; one is condition and the other is a sensation.

      However when you say that for you, it's about avoiding severe negatives, if this is absolute/most important, it would seem to entail immediate suicide. Or at least carrying around cyanide for an easy way out. I'm not totally against this idea; for example, if the possibility of horrible brazen bull-like suffering makes a life not worth starting, then it's hard to see how life would be worth continuing (for the same reason). Especially if you get rid of the notion of a persisting self - perhaps every time you go to sleep, "you" die and a new you arrives on the scene the following day, only to get impaled. Current-you escapes this, while tomorrow-you isn't. How are we to interpret this? Tomorrow-you isn't guilty of anything, what did they do to deserve impalement?

      I'm going to do a new post fairly soon that summarizes an article on the psychology of good and bad valence. Essentially, bad is much more causally stronger than good, but with enough good the bad effectively is cancelled out (in most cases). Small pains here and there are not to be considered seriously, as they quite literally do not affect the overall axiological score.

      "yeah, & it's crystalized when postulating the domesticated cat whose existence predominantly consists of purring, but is still in the red, somehow. A non-purring domesticated cat that's warm and fed, then, cannot just be in a "non-neutral" slightly below average state. No, we are to believe it's suffering harshly. While one that purrs is still suffering, just less harshly."

      It strikes me as telling that the efilist community generally fails to appreciate pleasure as a legitimate, independent experience. Perhaps many of them have anhedonia. In any case, empathy goes both ways: I'm sad when someone is hurt, and I'm glad when they succeed in some goal.

      "I believe an experience-swap would tilt the scales on that. If the well-off must endure exactly what the worst-off continue to endure (often throughout their entire lives), the former camp will alter accordingly."

      Perhaps this is true. But say you must kill yourself in order to save a bunch of people being horribly tortured. How does your internal emotional torment compare to the torture of a larger population? At that threshold, you won't give a damn what other people are experiencing. Empathy can only work well when you yourself are not under extraordinary pressure.

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  3. 2/2

    "Neither side can be blamed for what they want"

    I believe an experience-swap would tilt the scales on that. If the well-off must endure exactly what the worst-off continue to endure (often throughout their entire lives), the former camp will alter accordingly. Whereas the worst-off suddenly getting to experience what the well-off habitually experience wouldn't erase horrific memories of what it was like for them to have been be tortured, starved, raped, etc... for decades prior to the swap.

    We often hear about one's "crippling past" getting in the way of a seemingly superior present. Therapy remains a thriving business, especially in the affluent West. So what's the opposite of this? Is there an analogously impactful reality regarding one's "glorious past" getting in the way of a mediocre present, to the point where it can be summarized as a "crippling glorious past"? I'm yet to see it. So I conclude the experience-swap would undermine all 'self-interest' false-equivalency talk. But it's technically speculative. No way to run the experiment, sadly.

    And yes, I believe most (or just many?) humans' interests are best captured by Preferentism ("Desire Theories" on SEP, Preferentism on LW). With non-human animals, it's plain hedonism.

    If A's hedonic interest clashes with B's non-hedonic interest, I can't think of many trade-offs where I'd side with the non-hedonic interest. Perhaps something in the way of hurt feelings (hedonic interest) stemming from the Right To Offend (preference-adjusted interest). But there's also a political long-term consideration there.

    I wouldn't sacrifice hedonic interests when it's a non-human animal having to pay the hedonic price. Freedom of expression be dammed. Still trying to figure out how to rank-order many of these. Certainly easy to pick holes in terms of my consistency. Why am I less concerned with the human's pain (for preferentism's gain) than I am with the animal's pain (for preferentism's gain)? I'm yet to fully figure it out, but the intuition is strong. The human/non-human distinction should be moot, even intuitively, considering my rejection of libertarian & compatibilist free-will. It's just brains doing brain stuff. But still, it's impossible for me to justify an animal's pain for a human's "freedom of expression" type gain, even when Human A suffers the same level of pain for the exact same preference of Human B. Like a devout Muslim's reaction when his prophet is caricatured. And there I'm totally fine with it.

    Tangent over.

    Thoughts? Is this ever on your list of concerns?

    Oh and I still need to find the time to comment on some of your older posts over the last couple of months. I mostly read blogs at work but then never manage to keep my thoughts organized for commenting by the time I'm back home, and I don't want to have to reread the post to comment on it.

    The leisure society can't come fast enough.

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    1. 2/2
      "Thoughts? Is this ever on your list of concerns?"

      Hopefully I understood what you were describing: Animal A is hurt due to a preference of Human A (Bad). Human A is hurt in the same way due to the same preference of Human B (irrelevant).

      If this is accurate, then indeed this might seem inconsistent.

      I agree with you on animal welfare; I focus far more on non-human animal welfare than I do on human welfare. I recently wrote a paper on interventionist policies regarding wild animal suffering for a composition class at uni; as soon as the semester is over I'll see if I can post it here.

      In any case, one of the points I brought up is that non-human animals, contrary to folk psychological notions, might suffer even more intensely than humans do in virtue of their inability to understand what is causing their suffering. They can only flee/endure.

      So to bring this full-circle, when we insult a devout Muslim, for example, we might expect them to suck it up. Welcome to the world. But what if we insulted a mentally-impaired individual? Suddenly it seems different. Innocence as well as the capability to take care of oneself seem to be important.

      "The leisure society can't come fast enough."

      Hear, hear.

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  4. Not sure if you know this but David Benatar's next book titled "The Human Predicament" will be coming out next year in May.

    Read here:

    https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-human-predicament-9780190633813?cc=us&lang=en&amp#

    And here is a review


    "What thinking person doesn't care about the (possible) meaning and quality of life, the nature and disvalue of death, and the option of suicide? David Benatar addresses these and other engaging and important topics in this well-argued book. The quality of the writing is about as high as any philosophy I can remember reading: short, clear sentences, with not a word wasted or misplaced. I do not see the human predicament as pessimistically as David Benatar does; but I found myself disagreeing less than I expected to -- for example, in his sensitive and probing discussion of suicide."

    --David DeGrazia, George Washington University


    Does this book interest you?

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    1. Yeah, that definitely looks interesting. I'm not sure what is different about this book and his previous book on the meaning of life. Perhaps its more argumentative and less anthology-like. At any rate, the price is fairly inexpensive; I'll probably end up purchasing it at some point in time.

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  5. Conclusion: darthbarracuda is the largest wet trash burnt in Jongam-dong this week.

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    1. If you actually met me you would realize that I am the most handsome, sexy and capable √úbermensch to ever grace the earth, and you would immediately grovel at my feet and offer to suck my dick.

      Fuck off.

      Delete
  6. I know that your mother is a prostitute. I fucked your mother.

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  7. Your accestors are slaves working for idiots.

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  8. Your ancestors are small dung heaps.

    ReplyDelete