The Hedonistic Imperative outlines how genetic engineering and nanotechnology will abolish suffering in all sentient life.
The abolitionist project is hugely ambitious but technically feasible. It is also instrumentally rational and morally urgent. The metabolic pathways of pain and malaise evolved because they served the fitness of our genes in the ancestral environment. They will be replaced by a different sort of neural architecture – a motivational system based on heritable gradients of bliss. States of sublime well-being are destined to become the genetically pre-programmed norm of mental health. It is predicted that the world’s last unpleasant experience will be a precisely dateable event.
Pioneering transhumanist philosopher David Pearce wrote the above words in 1995 – before (as he points out) the human genome had been decoded. These paragraphs sit at the start of David’s online book The Hedonistic Imperative. The book continues as follows:
Two hundred years ago, powerful synthetic pain-killers and surgical anaesthetics were unknown. The notion that physical pain could be banished from most people’s lives would have seemed absurd. Today most of us in the technically advanced nations take its routine absence for granted. The prospect that what we describe as psychological pain, too, could ever be banished is equally counter-intuitive. The feasibility of its abolition turns its deliberate retention into an issue of social policy and ethical choice.
In the years since 1995, David’s newer articles have been collected into a number of additional publications, including The Biointelligence Explosion (2012) and Can Biotechnology Abolish Suffering? (2017). A brand new volume is being assembled, with the title The Biohappiness Revolution.
Humanity Unshackled hosts Rusty Burridge and David Wood recently caught up with David Pearce to hear how his vision has evolved and what is occupying his thoughts these days.
To listen to this episode, click on the audio player at the top of this page.
Alternatively, listen to this episode on Soundcloud, or see the corresponding Radio Hydrogen page.
To dig more deeply into some of the ideas in this episode, take a look at:
- The definition of “health” in the WHO constitution
- “Diseases CRISPR Could Cure: Latest Updates On Research Studies And Human Trials”
- “Population management using gene drive”
- “A world without pain” (New Yorker article about Jo Cameron)
- “The woman who doesn’t feel pain” (BBC Scotland article about Jo Cameron)
- “I do have a ridiculously high mood set point” (Anders Sandberg Q&A)
- Transhumanist UK campaigns to “move the Overton window”
- “Extend your life with cryonics… A fulfilling life doesn’t have to end”
- Answers by David Pearce on Quora (c. 600 questions)
- Adam Ford interview with David Pearce (6 Oct)
- David Pearce on U.S. Transhumanist Party Enlightenment Salon (7 Nov)
For a complete listing of Humanity Unshackled episodes, see the Future Surge Media page.
Music: “Far Away 6,” written and performed by Sean Anthony Brennan.
Radio Hydrogen Artwork: Eleanor O’ Donnell.
Technology, Admin, Australian FM Radio Network Liaison, Legals, and Social media: Chris John Doe.
Content Mining, Idea Generation and Reality Checks: Craig Bowles & Cynthia Leonard.
Radio Hydrogen Website: Sara Bowles & Chris Doe.
Originally published on 6 November 2021.