Passages from philosopher David Pearce’s answer to the question: How will the year 3000 look like?
Most passages belong to him word for word, others are edited for brevity and clarity. Justificatory mentions and links are present in his many online writings. All emphasis added by me.
By year 3000 new categories of conscious phenomena (types of senses, body sensations, emotions, ways of thinking, etc) have been discovered via genetic, pharmacological and technological experiment. Such novel faculties are intelligently implemented in the transhuman CNS so that overall experience remains coherent with the requirements of life. Today’s ordinary states of consciousness have been replaced by states that cannot be sustained by current Homo Sapiens physiology. Gene-editing tools wielded with the insight of AI and applied to the human organism have opened up modes of consciousness that make the weirdest DMT trip of today akin to watching paint dry. These diverse state-spaces do share one property: they are generically blissful. “Bad trips”, as known by today’s psychedelic users, are physically impossible because in the year 3000 the neuro-molecular signature of experience below ‘hedonic zero’ was made impossible.
The intensity of everyday experience surpasses today’s human imagination. Darwinian humans resemble sleepwalkers compared to our next millennium successors. Today, we don’t have any conception of what we’re missing, or names for our deficits. By analogy, imagine if you were congenitally blind, but didn’t know you were sightless, nor have any concept of visual experience. Now multiply this ignorance a billionfold.
Sentience is valued more than sapience, which remains the prerogative of classical digital zombies (AI’s). Everyday life is charged with a profound sense of meaning and significance. Everyone feels valuable and valued. Contrast this to the way twenty-first century depressives typically found life empty, absurd or meaningless; and how even “healthy” individuals were sometimes racked by existential angst or loss of meaning. Or conversely, compare how people with bipolar disorder experienced megalomania and messianic delusions when uncontrollably manic. The hyperthymic civilization of the year 3000 records no such pathologies of mind or deficits in meaning. Genetically preprogrammed gradients of invincible bliss ensure that all sentient beings find life self-evidently valuable. This will automatically imply a measure of ignorance — towards how nasty life could be and what life must of been for countless Darwinian beings.
Transhumans love themselves, love life, and love each other. Nasty human emotions have been retired — with (or sometimes without) the recruitment of new functional analogs to replace the former’s functional role. Novel emotions have been biologically synthesised. All emotion is beautiful. The ‘pleasure-pain’ axis has been replaced by the ‘pleasure’ axis as the engine of civilised life. Instead of having to escape negative states, you’re now moved by your pursuit of escaping lesser pleasurable states and achieve higher pleasurable states. Similarly to how we’re today moving between states of -10 (pain, suffering) to +10 (pleasure, happiness) always seeking to maximize our valence, our descendants will be motivated by the desire to go from low to high but this time on a scale that goes from +30 to +100. In such case the desire to go from +37 to +88 should be vastly greater then let’s say, the desire of a human today that wants to escape a -3 pain and experience a high pleasure of +7. If we let aside problems raised by the asymmetry between negative and positive states, the simple difference in magnitude between these two cases is 41. Even if the future individuals will feel good no matter what they would still be motivated to get off the couch — and vastly more so then we are today! Motivation and functionality are thus preserved. Critical judgement is retained. Transhumans are blissful but not “blissed out”.. or not all of them at least.
In 3000, everyone feels physically and psychologically “better than well”. Darwinian pathologies of the flesh such as fatigue and body malaise of any kind are inconceivable. Even the benign “low pain” alleles of the SCN9A gene that once replaced their nastier ancestral cousins have since been superseded, this time by AI-controlled nociception with optional manual overrides. Multi-sensory bodily “superpowers” are the norm. Everyone loves their body-images in both virtual reality and basement reality. Morphological freedom is effectively unbounded. “Gender” in the human sense is a thing of the past. We might call some transhuman minds hyper-masculine, others hyperfeminine, but transhuman cognitive styles transcend such crude dichotomies, and can be shifted almost at will via embedded AI. Many transhumans are asexual, others pan-sexual, a few hypersexual, others just sexually inquisitive. “The degree and kind of a man’s sexuality reach up into the ultimate pinnacle of his spirit”, said Nietzsche. Awesome robo-lovers, nights of superhuman sensual passion, 48-hour whole-body orgasms that leave one totally un-functional for the duration, and sexual practices that might raise eyebrows among prudish Darwinians have multiplied. Yet life isn’t a perpetual orgy. Academic subcultures pursue analogues of Mill’s “higher pleasures”. Paradise engineering has become a rigorous discipline. That said, a lot of transhumans are just hedonists who essentially want to have superhuman fun. And why not?
Some conflict-resolution procedures previously off-loaded to AI have now been superseded by diplomatic “mind-melds”. The ability to meld your mind with that of your “enemy” through inter-thalamic bridges, would open up a reciprocal understanding that would convert any sense of conflict. Our descendants will have windows into each other’s souls, so to speak. But perhaps the prophylaxis of conflict is even more important, which is achieved by the fact that transhumans are hyper-empathetic. They get off on each other’s joy.
Reproduction is uncommon in a post-aging society. Most transhumans originate as extra-uterine “designer babies”. Sexual reproduction had long appeared as an irresponsible act — reckless genetic experimentation. Early critics of “eugenics” and a “Brave New World” have discovered by experience that a “triple S” civilisation of superhappiness, superlongevity and superintelligence isn’t as bad as they supposed. Telecommunication, surgeries, painkillers, antibiotics, etc. were once deemed by some as “un-natural” and “menacing the human way of life”, but today pretty much everyone with a knee problem would opt for a knee-surgery.. and anaesthesia. Acceptance is similarly bound to happen with many things that today seem unacceptable.
Automated real-time translation between many languages has been replaced by a common tongue — spoken, written or “telepathically” communicated. Many Darwinian terms and concepts are effectively obsolete. In their place, active transhumanist vocabularies of millions of words are common (to be able to map the experiential richness).
Bioconservatives focus on promoting life animated by gradients of superintelligent bliss throughout the galaxy. Terraforming and 3D-bioprinting of post-Darwinian life on nearby solar systems is proceeding apace. Some transhuman utilitarian ethicists and policy-makers dream about creating a hypothetical utilitronium shockwave beyond the pale of civilisation to convert matter and energy into “pure pleasure”, getting rid of the threat of possible abiogenesis and subsequent evolution of Darwinian beings; hence preventing the possibility of negative states outside the Milky Way altoghether.
If you read a text and the author’s last words are “and then I woke up”, everything you’ve read must now be interpreted in a different light — semantic holism with a vengeance. So. By the year 3000, some earth-shattering revelation may have changed everything — some fundamental background assumption of earlier centuries being overturned, something that can’t be explicitly represented in our current conceptual scheme. If so, then I surely have no idea what this “unknown unknown” might be. Some believers in AI’s intelligence explosion speak delphically of “The Singularity”. Whatever. Shakespeare made the point more poetically, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”.
The greek sceptics guessed that they were ignorant in ways that transcended their conceptual capacity to articulate it. Human minds are terribly bad at representing their own ignorance — how can you know the degree of that which you don’t know? By the lights of the next millennium, what I’m writing here, and what you’re reading, may have already been nullified by something that myself (and humans in general) don’t know and can’t imagine.