David Pearce (philosopher)

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David Pearce
David Pearce (transhumanist), September 2013.jpg
Pearce in 2013
ResidenceBrighton, England[1]
Known forThe Hedonistic Imperative (1995)
MovementTranshumanism, Veganism
WebsiteThe Hedonistic Imperative
BLTC Research

David Pearce is co-founder of the World Transhumanist Association, currently rebranded and incorporated as Humanity+, Inc., and a prominent figure within the transhumanism movement.[2][3]

Based in Brighton, England, Pearce maintains a series of websites devoted to transhumanist topics and what he calls the "hedonistic imperative", a moral obligation to work towards the abolition of suffering in all sentient life.[4][5][6] His book-length internet manifesto, The Hedonistic Imperative (1995), outlines how pharmacology, genetic engineering, nanotechnology and neurosurgery could converge to eliminate all forms of unpleasant experience from human and non-human life, replacing suffering with "gradients of bliss".[7][8][9] Pearce calls this the "abolitionist project".[10]

Hedonistic transhumanism[edit]

In 1995, Pearce set up BLTC Research, a network of websites publishing texts about transhumanism and related topics in pharmacology and biopsychiatry.[11][12][13] (BLTC initially stood for Better Living Through Chemistry.)[14] He published The Hedonistic Imperative that year, arguing that "[o]ur post-human successors will rewrite the vertebrate genome, redesign the global ecosystem, and abolish suffering throughout the living world."[8][15][16]

Pearce's ideas inspired an abolitionist school of transhumanism, or "hedonistic transhumanism", based on his idea of "paradise engineering" and his argument that the abolition of suffering—which he calls the "abolitionist project"—is a moral imperative.[10][17][18] He defends a version of negative utilitarianism:

Ethical negative-utilitarianism ... attaches value in a distinctively moral sense of the term only to actions which tend to minimise or eliminate suffering. ... It stems from a deep sense of compassion at the sheer scale and intensity of suffering in the world. No amount of happiness or fun enjoyed by some organisms can notionally justify the indescribable horrors of Auschwitz. Nor can it outweigh the sporadic frightfulness of pain and despair that occurs every second of every day.[19]

Outlining how drugs and technologies, including intracranial self-stimulation ("wireheading"), designer drugs and genetic engineering, could end suffering for all sentient life,[10] Pearce believes that "over the next thousand years or so, the biological substrates of suffering will be eradicated completely."[20] Mental suffering will be a relic of the past, just as physical suffering during surgery was eliminated by anaesthesia.[4][21] The function of pain will be provided by some other signal, without the unpleasant experience.[10] Using paradise engineering, human beings will be "animated by gradients of genetically preprogrammed bliss orders of magnitude richer than anything physiologically accessible today."[22]

A vegan, Pearce argues that humans have a responsibility not only to avoid cruelty to animals within human society but also to redesign the global ecosystem so that animals do not suffer in the wild.[23][24][25][26] He has argued in favour of a "cross-species global analogue of the welfare state",[27] suggesting that humanity might eventually "reprogram predators" to limit predation, reducing the suffering of prey animals.[24][28] Fertility regulation could maintain herbivore populations at sustainable levels, "a more civilised and compassionate policy option than famine, predation, and disease".[29] The increasing number of vegans and vegetarians in the transhumanism movement has been attributed in part to Pearce's influence.[30]

Humanity+ and other roles[edit]

In 1998, Pearce co-founded the World Transhumanist Association, known from 2008 as Humanity+, with Nick Bostrom, now the director of the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford.[7] Humanity+ is an international nonprofit membership organization that "advocates the ethical use of technology to expand human capacities."[31] Pearce is a member of the board of advisors.[32]

Pearce is also a fellow of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies,[33] and sits on the futurist advisory board of the Lifeboat Foundation.[34] Until 2013 he was on the editorial advisory board of the controversial and non-peer reviewed journal Medical Hypotheses.[35] He has been interviewed by Vanity Fair (Germany) and on BBC Radio 4's The Moral Maze, among others.[36][37]


  1. ^ "David Pearce", about.me.
  2. ^ Bostrom, Nick (April 2005). "A history of transhumanist thought" (PDF). Journal of Evolution and Technology. 14 (1). 15–16.
  3. ^ Brey, Philip; Søraker, Johnny Hartz (2009). "Philosophy of Computing and Information Technology", in Anthonie Meijers (ed.). Philosophy of Technology and Engineering Sciences. Elsevier, 1389.
  4. ^ a b Power, Katherine (2006). "The End of Suffering". Philosophy Now.
  5. ^ "What currents are there within transhumanism?", Transhumanist FAQ 3.0, Humanity+
  6. ^ Hauskeller, Michael (January 2010). "Nietzsche, the Overhuman and the Posthuman: A Reply to Stefan Sorgner". Journal of Evolution and Technology. 21(1), 5–8.
  7. ^ a b Bostrom (2005), 15.
  8. ^ a b Pearce, David (1995). The Hedonistic Imperative. hedweb.com.
  9. ^ Pearce, David (2012). "The Biointelligence Explosion", in Amnon H. Eden, et al. (eds.). Singularity Hypotheses: A Scientific and Philosophical Assessment. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 199–236.
  10. ^ a b c d Thweatt-Bates, Jeanine (2016). Cyborg Selves: A Theological Anthropology of the Posthuman. London: Routledge, 50–51 (first published 2012).
  11. ^ "Mission Statement" and BLTC Research library, BLTC Research.
  12. ^ DeMars, William Emile (2005). NGOs and Transnational Networks: Wild Cards in World Politics. Pluto Press. 171. ISBN 074531905X.
  13. ^ Cass, Hyla (2002). Natural Highs: Supplements, Nutrition, and Mind-body Techniques to Help You Feel Good All the Time. Penguin. 323. ISBN 1583331336.
  14. ^ Pearce, David (2014). "Better Living Through Chemistry", YouTube (directed by Adam Ford).
  15. ^ Interview with David Pearce, interviewed by Stephen Euin Cobb, The Future and You, thefutureandyou.libsyn.com, 27 August 2008, from 00:08:00.
  16. ^ Adams, Nathan A. IV (2004). "An Unnatural Assault on Natural Law" in Colson, Charles W. and Nigel M. de S. Cameron (eds.). Human Dignity in the Biotech Century: A Christian Vision for Public Policy. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 167. ISBN 0830827838
  17. ^ Hughes, James J. (2007). "The Compatibility of Religious and Transhumanist Views of Metaphysics, Suffering, Virtue and Transcendence in an Enhanced Future", Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, 20.
  18. ^ Bostrom (2005), 16.
  19. ^ Pearce, David (1995). "Negative Utilitarianism: Why Be Negative?" The Hedonistic Imperative, hedweb.com, ch. 2.
  20. ^ Pearce, David (1995). "Introduction", The Hedonistic Imperative, hedweb.com.
  21. ^ Pearce, David (2007). "Utopian Surgery: Early Arguments Against Anesthesia in Surgery, Dentistry, and Childbirth". Lifeboat Foundation.
  22. ^ Pearce, David (21 June 2012). "Is Humanity Accelerating Towards Apocalypse? Or Utopia?", Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.
  23. ^ Thweatt-Bates (2016), 100–101.
  24. ^ a b Pearce, David (2015) [Originally published in 2009]. "Reprogramming Predators: the case for high-tech Jainism and a pan-species welfare state". HedWeb.com. Archived from the original on 4 March 2018. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  25. ^ https://www.hedweb.com/transhumanism/antispeciesist.html
  26. ^ https://www.gene-drives.com/
  27. ^ Pearce, David (16 September 2009). "The Genomic Bodhisattva". H+ Magazine (Interview). Interviewed by James Kent. Archived from the original on 4 March 2018. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
    Jewish Nobel Laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer described life for factory-farmed animals as 'an eternal Treblinka': a world of concentration camps extermination camps and industrialized mass-killing. Strip away our ingrained anthropocentric bias, and what we do to other sentient beings is barbaric. Combating great evil justifies heroic personal sacrifice; going vegan entails mild personal inconvenience. The non-human animals we factory-farm and kill are functionally akin to human babies and toddlers. Babies and toddlers need looking after, not liberating. As the master species we have a duty of care to lesser beings, just as we have a duty of care to vulnerable and handicapped humans. As our mastery of technology matures, I think we need to build a cross-species global analogue of the welfare state.
  28. ^ Verchot, Manon (30 September 2014). "Meet the people who want to turn predators into herbivores". TreeHugger. Archived from the original on 4 March 2018. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  29. ^ Pearce, David (30 July 2014). "The Radical Plan to Phase Out Earth's Predatory Species" (Interview). Interviewed by George Dvorsky. io9. Archived from the original on 4 March 2018. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
    Carnivorous predators keep populations of herbivores in check. Plasmodium-carrying species of the Anopheles mosquito keep human populations in check. In each case, a valuable ecological role is achieved at the price of immense suffering and the loss of hundreds of millions of lives. What's in question isn't the value of the parasite or predator's ecological role, but whether intelligent moral agents can perform that role better. On some fairly modest assumptions, fertility regulation via family planning or cross-species immunocontraception is a more civilised and compassionate policy option than famine, predation and disease. The biggest obstacle to a future of compassionate ecosystems is the ideology of traditional conservation biology—and unreflective status quo bias.
  30. ^ Fairlie, Simon (2010). Meat: A Benign Extravagance. Chelsea Green Publishing. 230–231. ISBN 1603583254.
  31. ^ "What we do" and "What is transhumanism?". Transhumanist FAQ 3.0, Humanity+.
  32. ^ "Advisors", Humanity+.
  33. ^ "David Pearce". Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.
  34. ^ Advisory boards, Lifeboat Foundation.
  35. ^ "Medical Hypotheses Editorial Advisory Board, 2013". Medical Hypotheses. Archived from the original on 26 June 2013.
  36. ^ Niermann, Ingo (5 April 2007). "Mehr Rausch für alle". Vanity Fair.
  37. ^ "The pursuit of happiness". The Moral Maze. BBC Radio 4. 7 August 2013. from 00:11:13.

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