Taking a break from the Benatar reviews for a moment.
I’ve been reading yet another transhumanist outline for eventual human bliss over at http://www.repugnant-conclusion.com/ , and snagged the most salient section for your perusal...
1) radical enrichment of the pleasure centres. Irrespective of population density, suffering can in principle be abolished in all sentient life; and mind/brains motivated entirely by gradients of cerebral bliss. Ultimately, superintelligent posthumans may be animated by gradients of well-being that are billions of times richer than the range of hedonic tone adaptive for Homo sapiens in the ancestral environment.
2) a regime of global virtual reality, most memorably evoked in "The Matrix". The exponential growth of computer power (cf. Moore's Law) offers the prospect of lifelong immersive VR; a Matrix scenario minus its whimsical "Machines" dependent on pod-grown people for their bioelectrical energy. Most recently, Second Life and its cousins foreshadow what's possible. Next century's multimodal VR will be unimaginably more compelling.
On this "Paradise Matrix" scenario of reward circuitry enrichment plus immersive VR, the Earth's pain-ridden ecosystems can be progressively dismantled [though virtual wildlife safaris will be optional]. Each envatted mind/brain/virtual world can dine on genetically-engineered single-celled total nutrition mix, subjectively tasting (perhaps) like the ambrosial food of the gods. In mature vatworld Matrix models, the carrying capacity of the Earth runs to thousands of billions of interconnected (post-)humans. Each of these thousands of billions can enjoy lifelong well-being orders of magnitude richer than anything possible today. To maximise aggregate welfare on a cosmic scale, vatworlds could eventually be dispatched to seed and superpopulate other planets in our Local Group of galaxies - and indeed anywhere habitable or more-or-less terra-formable within our light-cone, saturating the universe with positive value.
I’m tempted to just fill up the rest of this post with the word ‘farfetched’, perhaps punctuated now and again with the phrase ‘geeks need women too’; but that would be overly pessimistic and unkind, methinks. Of course, beyond being highly speculative simply in terms of the logistics involved in paving this road to Nirvana, there are a lot of ad-hoc assumptions relative to the nature of happiness that strike me as extremely presumptuous. ‘Gradients of well-being that are billions of times richer’??? What the hell does it even mean to say that I could be a billion times happier than I am now? ‘Each of these thousands of billions can enjoy lifelong well-being orders of magnitude richer than anything possible today’. Assuming, of course, that there isn’t an as yet unperceived ceiling of hedonistic potential right above our heads. So far, I’ve seen no evidence to the contrary. And what if we discover that happiness is irrevocably relativistic in terms of both scope and degree. In other words, as Aquinas once postulated, enjoyment is enhanced in a field where suffering also exists, for comparison’s sake. If that’s so, our Matrix Heaven might require a Cyber Hell to be fully actualized. Come to think of it, the author might want to revisit the foundational film of his analogy, and listen to what Agent Smith had to say about the matter. The rose-colored hypothesizations exhibited in these masturbatory New Jerusalem scenarios really tickle me, sometimes.
But hey! Far be it from me to rain on little Poindexter’s sci-fi flights of fancy. After all, in the abstract world of all possibilities, anything becomes possible, right? However, in practical terms, all these transhumanist guys are gonna be dead long before any of this stuff ever becomes feasible, much less established across the board. So will their kids. And their kids. And THEIR kids. And here is where the term ‘billions’ really comes into play...BILLIONS of folks are going to suffer, and BILLIONS more will die before the culmination of this outrageously speculative scenario can even be hoped to be achieved. So what we actually have here are a few eggheads pumping up hope for a vicarious immortality as a justification to keep breeding, so that somewhere far down the line, some people who don’t even exist yet can play a TOTALLY AWESOME version of D & D, and maybe achieve a decent orgasm without ever having to touch a real woman. Once again, does the validity of the term ‘human sacrifice’ as applied to this situation escape everybody but me?
We are the future’s dirt, ladies and gentlemen; and whether the future kingdoms built upon that dirt are real or virtual makes very little difference to me.