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Should we eliminate the human ability to feel pain?

George Dvorsky

January 12, 2013

Though pain has clearly served an important evolutionary purpose, not everyone is convinced that we still need it. A growing number of forward-looking thinkers are suggesting that we need to get rid of it — and that we’ll soon have the technological know-how to do this. But should we choose to embark on such a radical experiment, we’ll need to pay close attention to the risks and those aspects of humanity we might risk losing.


Complete entry


Posted by rmk948  on  01/12  at  05:32 PM

Great article, Mr. Dvorsky. As someone who has chronic arthritis pain, I would love to trade it for the equivalent of a “check oil” light on my car. Relevant reading: Cordwainer Smith’s “Scanners LIve in Vain.”

Posted by Christian Corralejo  on  01/12  at  06:02 PM

I’m up for eliminating pain if you can eliminate the problem causing the pain.  Otherwise it could get very dangerous for yourself.

Posted by Kyriazis  on  01/13  at  02:32 AM

The distinction between feeling pain and suffering is not clearly made here. Some people feel pain without too much suffering, others feel suffering without any physical pain. Eliminating pain will not necessarily eliminate suffering which may originate from psychological problems, loss of comfort, financial worries, physical weakness, sexual abuse and a host of other non-pain related reasons.

Posted by David Pearce  on  01/15  at  04:02 AM

Kyriazis, when does pain cross the threshold and become suffering? I guess the answer is in part conventional - which is not to say arbitrary. From an ethical perspective, clearly we want to prioritise the alleviation and prevention of suffering rather than pinpricks. You are right of course to stress how phasing out the horrors of physical suffering leaves many forms of psychogical distress untouched. Below I explore how we might phase out the biology of _all_ experience below hedonic zero:

Posted by Yissar  on  02/03  at  07:48 AM

I’ll start by saying that in principal I agree with David Pearce.
BUT, I believe that we must take into account a bigger picture of what I will call here the human mind or the human conditioning.
The current state of the human mind is bound by so many biases – behavioural, emotional, cultural and more.
The mind of an individual, as well as the collective mind is quite complex and have many aspects to it, intertwined.
IMHO, taking out pain without doing it as part a global mind change is doomed to fail.

Posted by David Pearce  on  02/03  at  02:41 PM

Yissar, essentially I agree with you. In the interview responses, I opted to focus on the technical aspects of phasing out physical suffering because many people are sceptical nociception without suffering is feasible - even in the narrowly technical sense. But delivering the well-being of all sentience will take both a technical and an ethical / sociological revolution.

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