David Pearce (transhumanist)
Pearce in 2013
|Alma mater||Brasenose College, Oxford|
|Known for||The Hedonistic Imperative (1995)|
|Website||The Hedonistic Imperative|
David Pearce is a prominent figure within the transhumanism movement and one of the co-founders of the World Transhumanist Association, currently rebranded and incorporated as Humanity+. He approaches ethical issues from a lexical negative utilitarian perspective.
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. His self-published 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". Pearce calls this the "abolitionist project".
In 1995, Pearce set up BLTC Research, a network of websites publishing texts about transhumanism and related topics in pharmacology and biopsychiatry. 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."
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. He defends a version of negative utilitarianism.
He outlines how drugs and technologies, including intracranial self-stimulation ("wireheading"), designer drugs and genetic engineering could end suffering for all sentient life. Mental suffering will be a relic of the past, just as physical suffering during surgery was eliminated by anaesthesia. The function of pain will be provided by some other signal, without the unpleasant experience.
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. He has argued in favour of a "cross-species global analogue of the welfare state", suggesting that humanity might eventually "reprogram predators" to limit predation, reducing the suffering of prey animals. Fertility regulation could maintain herbivore populations at sustainable levels, "a more civilised and compassionate policy option than famine, predation, and disease". The increasing number of vegans and vegetarians in the transhumanism movement has been attributed in part to Pearce's influence.
Humanity+ and other roles
Pearce is also a fellow of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, and sits on the futurist advisory board of the Lifeboat Foundation. Until 2013, he was on the editorial advisory board of the controversial and non-peer reviewed journal Medical Hypotheses. He has been interviewed by Vanity Fair (Germany) and on BBC Radio 4's The Moral Maze, among others.
- The Hedonistic Imperative. 1995. OCLC 44325836.
- "The Biointelligence Explosion: How Recursively Self-Improving Organic Robots will Modify their Own Source Code and Bootstrap Our Way to Full-Spectrum Superintelligence" in Eden, A. H.; Moor, J. H.; Soraker, J. H.; Steinhart, E., eds. (2012). Singularity Hypotheses: A Scientific and Philosophical Assessment. Heidelberg: Springer. pp. 199–238. ISBN 9783642325595. OCLC 915554031.
- "Notable Alumni - Brasenose College, Oxford". www.bnc.ox.ac.uk. Retrieved 22 October 2019.
- Bostrom, Nick (April 2005). "A history of transhumanist thought" (PDF). Journal of Evolution and Technology. 14 (1). 15–16.
- Brey, Philip; Søraker, Johnny Hartz (2009). "Philosophy of Computing and Information Technology", in Anthonie Meijers (ed.). Philosophy of Technology and Engineering Sciences. Elsevier, 1389.
- "Negative Utilitarianism FAQ". www.utilitarianism.com. Retrieved 14 September 2019.
- Power, Katherine (2006). "The End of Suffering". Philosophy Now.
- Hauskeller, Michael (January 2010). "Nietzsche, the Overhuman and the Posthuman: A Reply to Stefan Sorgner". Journal of Evolution and Technology. 21(1), 5–8.
- Bostrom (2005), 15.
- 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.
- Thweatt-Bates, Jeanine (2016). Cyborg Selves: A Theological Anthropology of the Posthuman. London: Routledge, 50–51 (first published 2012).
- DeMars, William Emile (2005). NGOs and Transnational Networks: Wild Cards in World Politics. Pluto Press. 171. ISBN 074531905X.
- 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
- 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.
- Bostrom (2005), 16.
- Thweatt-Bates (2016), 100–101.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Fairlie, Simon (2010). Meat: A Benign Extravagance. Chelsea Green Publishing. 230–231. ISBN 1603583254.
- "Advisors", Humanity+.
- "Fellows - IEET". Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.
- Advisory boards, Lifeboat Foundation.
- "Medical Hypotheses Editorial Advisory Board, 2013". Medical Hypotheses. Archived from the original on 26 June 2013.
- Niermann, Ingo (5 April 2007). "Mehr Rausch für alle". Vanity Fair.
- "The Pursuit of Happiness". The Moral Maze. BBC Radio 4. 7 August 2013. from 00:11:13.
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