– Suffering Abolitionism

Last update: 2024-05-15

Abolition or eradication of suffering is defined in Wikipedia as “the concept of using biotechnology to create a permanent absence of involuntary pain and suffering in all sentient beings”.


David Pearce and BLTC Research

David Pearce is a philosopher who champions the abolition of suffering. He also advocates a civilization of super-longevity, super-intelligence and super-happiness. In 1995, after founding BLTC Research, which seeks to abolish the biological substrates of suffering, he published on the internet The Hedonistic Imperative, which outlines how genetic engineering and nanotechnology will eradicate suffering. A related group on Facebook currently has some 7000 members, and another group has some 500 members. In a post dated July 20, 2023, David Pearce announced the receipt of a $1,000,000 donation that appears to us as a game-changer in the field of research about “suffering as such”, a field which, to our bewildered disappointment, did not previously appear to be funded in any way!

The Introduction to The Hedonistic Imperative states the following about the abolition of suffering:

“For as the genetic revolution in reproductive medicine unfolds, what might once have been the stuff of millennialist fantasy is set to become a scientifically feasible research program. Its adoption or rejection will become, ultimately, a social policy issue. Passively or actively, we will have to choose just how much unpleasantness we wish to create or conserve – if any – in eras to come.”

This is precisely in line with our goal to optimally minimize the occurrences of consciousness that we consider “too” unpleasant. So, let us ask a selection of public policy bodies to commission studies on the use of biotechnologies to manage suffering (to be followed). We will see how to proceed with this in the coming months (to be followed). Especially, see here below The Far Out Initiative, which has research programs that could be promoted.

David Pearce presents numerous arguments on the feasibility of abolishing suffering. A recent advances in knowledge lends a new particular weight to his argumentation: a few people have been identified as free from excessive suffering! We already knew that some individuals cannot feel any physical pain due to a rare condition called congenital insensitivity to pain (see also The Family That Feels Almost No Pain | Smithsonian Magazine). Now the case of Jo Cameron, because of her genetics, shows that psychological suffering might well be also an optional feature in our lives! It is worth reading the article devoted to her in The New Yorker to understand what this is all about: A World Without Pain. There is no doubt that a research program like the one we are asking for will take Cameron’s case into account.

The imperative to abolish suffering: an interview with David Pearce (on sentience-research.org, December 2019):

Sentience Research: Tell us something about the motivation that has led you to develop your work. What makes you get out of bed (if you ever sleep!) and try to save the world?

David Pearce: Selegiline, amineptine, nine or ten cups of black coffee laced with protein isolate and several cans of sugar-free Red Bull. This regimen would not suit everyone.

Seriously, I’m animated by the problem of suffering – and the need to tackle this unfathomable evil at source. As Thoreau remarked, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” I focus mainly on genetics. But despite sounding like a crude genetic determinist obsessed with rewriting our DNA, I’m well aware that socio-political reform is essential too. Social justice matters. Arms control matters. Universal basic income and healthcare reform matter.  Domestic violence, gender equality and LGBT rights matter. The list goes on. And right now, I think our most urgent priority is ending the non-human animal holocaust. Our victims are as sentient as small children. Let’s shut and outlaw factory-farms and slaughterhouses. (…)

Let us ask Pearce and others who agree on these matters to rally our plan, if it suits them, when it is properly prepared (to be followed).

Sentience Research: What non-profit organization is missing in the world?

David Pearce: An ambitious “One Hundred Year Plan” to eradicate suffering via biological-genetic interventions would be technically feasible using recognisable extensions of existing technologies – genome editing, gene drives, cultured meat, and preimplantation genetic screening and counselling for all prospective parents. A serious global organization to implement such a mega-project sounds fanciful. Amazingly, such an organization exists. The World Health Organization is dedicated to the promotion of good health for everyone as laid out in its founding constitution (1946). “What is the WHO definition of health? Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being”. Note the “complete”.  Complete well-being is an astonishingly bold definition of health. Compare the incomplete, information-sensitive dips in well-being urged by some supposedly wild-eyed transhumanists. Perhaps we need a Greta Thunberg to remind our politicians to live up to their responsibilities for public health – the abolition of suffering through medical science.

We are in the process of exploring what the WHO may contribute to Our Plan (to be followed).

Sentience Research: What should young aspirant abolitionists do to contribute?

David Pearce: First, do an audit of your strengths and weaknesses. Are you temperamentally best equipped for a career in medical science, bioethics or activism – or for pursuing a more conventional career while earning-to-give? Consider creating a YouTube channel and doing podcasts. Set up your own dedicated website. Tweet. Try Wikipedia editing. Join the HI Facebook group – community-building matters. Not least, speak to Manu Herrán and his colleagues at the Organisation for the Prevention of Intense Suffering – OPIS.

Great pieces of advice! Manu Herran is one of our Partners, and OPIS is a very similar organization to ours! In the future, some of us could perhaps work on a mentoring service for our young and not-so-young Participants (to be followed).

What Is It Like to Be a Philosopher? An interview with David Pearce  (on whatisitliketobeaphilosopher.com, January 2020):

(Question) Theoretically what, in your mind, are the biggest challenges to the views you outline in the Hedonistic Imperative?

(Answer) I’m here going to set aside my worries derived from the interpretation of quantum mechanics and the fear we may be living in an Everettian multiverse. Let’s consider just traditional space-time cosmology and our forward light-cone. I think the biggest obstacle to HI is traditional sexual reproduction. If the reproductive revolution of “designer babies” that I anticipate doesn’t come to pass, then pain and suffering will persist indefinitely – and indeed proliferate. This pessimistic worry would be ill-founded if pain and depression were widely recognised as heritable genetic disorders. If (a predisposition to) hedonically sub-zero states were regarded as akin to cystic fibrosis or the sickle cell disease, i.e. genetic disorders to be cured, then their genomic signature would be phased out over the next 100-150 years, perhaps sooner. Sadly, this isn’t the case.

About “traditional sexual reproduction” see Jean-Christophe Lurenbaum’s view on the ideology of life reproduction as the main competitor to the ethical priority of relieving suffering. It seems that a global management of suffering has to address this all-important idea of “putting life first”. We shall look into this  question, echoed by Andrés Gómez Emilsson’s view on replication, to see what role it plays in the “reproduction of suffering” (to be followed).

(Question) Biggest political and economic obstacles to the future you hope for?

(Answer) “Elon Musk says, ‘Let’s use biotechnology to abolish suffering!’” No, sadly, this headline isn’t (yet) a quote. But imagine the impact of such a breakthrough. The abolitionist project needs fame, wealth, charisma, and (dare one say it) a larger-than-life egomaniac to take the project forward. Action is needed rather than just my endless philosophical talk. As they say, “A man of words and not of deeds, is like a garden full of weeds.”

I don’t foresee insurmountable financial obstacles to paradise engineering. For one of the beauties of genome reform is that it’s cheap. Like computer power, the cost of genome sequencing and editing is crashing. Ubiquitous genome-editing will be highly cost-effective. Consider the global economic burden of depressive disorders. Likewise, tunable synthetic gene drives will save money by eradicating vector-borne disease in humans and non-humans alike. Compare scarce status goods, where the price can only rise. Mercifully, the source code for substrates of bliss won’t need to be rationed. True, pilot studies of self-contained blissful artificial biospheres will be pricey. Teething problems will need ironing out. But with the aid of artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and robotics, even a pan-species welfare state won’t be prohibitively expensive. Later this century and beyond, every cubic metre of the planet will be readily accessible to surveillance, micromanagement and control. For sure, such Orwellian language can set alarm-bells ringing. But non-human animals are akin to toddlers; their lives don’t raise the same privacy issues as the affairs of mature humans. (…)

Action-rather-than-just-talk and (micro)management are at the core of Our Plan! About financial or political obstacles, our Guide for Partners has these words that might be relevant: “A big difference compared with previous iterations of our project is that we no longer need to seek out people or solicit their participation: we simply do our work, talk about it, and let new Partners join us on their own, as they see fit.”

Other Initiatives

International Suffering Abolitionism (ISA)

Ruth (Nachname) is the main host and author at International Suffering Abolitionism, whose main inspiration is David Pearce’s work. Their website has two pages, Mechanisms and Causes of Suffering and Interventions against Suffering, that are relevant to our Part 1: Contributions from a Discipline Specialized in the Study of Suffering (to be followed).

Very importantly, Ruth periodically organizes online meetings for people interested in abolitionism, which are well worth attending by at least one of us among the Partners (DOING).

Invincible Wellbeing (IW)

Invincible Wellbeing is a non-profit organization focused on foundational research and applied work targeting the biological substrates of suffering. Jacob Shwartz-Lucas is the Executive Director, and David Pearce is the Director of Bioethics. Invincible Wellbeing manages the Joshua Cefalu Fund that “seeks to advance understanding of the biological basis for suffering, model its global distribution, and most effectively minimize it”. This information is taken from Invincible Wellbeing – EA Forum.

The organization’s Planetary Animal Welfare Survey (PAWS) project aims to estimate the global capacity for distress among all animal groups. See a first iteration of the Global Distribution of Suffering Tool. This is relevant to our chapter on How We Measure (to be followed).

The Far Out Initiative (TFOI)

The Far Out Initiative (see also Profile: The Far Out Initiative – by Scott Alexander) is a Public Benefit Biotechnology Company focused on developing technological solutions to the problem of involuntary suffering in human and non-human animals. Michael Sparks is Founder, Marcin Kowrygo is CEO, David Pearce is Director of Bioethics, and Manu Herran is President, among other team members.

The Far Out Initiative developed its Suffering Abolitionist research program after the publication of a paper from University College London: Molecular basis of FAAH-OUT-associated human pain insensitivity.  The “Feel Good Syndrome”, such as found in Jo Cameron, is caused by two simple genetic mutations affecting the FAAH Platform. This syndrome probably can be replicated using gene editing technologies like CRISPR in humans and animals. The Far Out Initiative has two special projects. One is the Ananda Lines research program, a plan to produce lines of gene-edited (“precision bred”) livestock animals with the profound resistance to physical and psychological suffering that comes with this newly discovered pain insensitivity syndrome. The other is the Metta Project, an effort to radically accelerate the arrival of the post-suffering era in humans through a multi-drug approach and direct genetic intervention.

See also above, under David Pearce and BLTC Research, our line saying: “So, let us ask a selection of public policy bodies to commission studies on the use of biotechnologies to manage suffering (to be followed).”

Michael Sparks, on May 9, 2024, has this Facebook post that may be of interest for us:

I prompted GPT4 to write a platform for a suffering abolitionist political party. I love it:
# Platform for the Suffering Abolitionist Party (SAP)
## Vision Statement
The Suffering Abolitionist Party envisions a future where societal structures, policies, and technologies are all aligned towards one fundamental goal: the abolition of suffering. Our party seeks to harness the potential of scientific progress, economic restructuring, and policy innovation to create a world where pain, distress, and deprivation are not just mitigated but eradicated.
## Core Philosophies
1. **Preventative Ethics**: Focusing on interventions that prevent suffering before it occurs.
2. **Scientific Empiricism**: Grounding decisions in the best available scientific evidence.
3. **Technological Humanitarianism**: Utilizing technology to alleviate suffering efficiently and comprehensively.
4. **Economic Redistribution**: Adjusting economic systems to prioritize well-being and minimize harm.
5. **Global and Cross-Species Compassion**: Recognizing and addressing suffering in all sentient beings, irrespective of species or nationality.
## Policy Proposals
### 1. Economic Restructuring for Suffering Reduction
– **Universal Basic Needs Guarantee**: Implement policies ensuring access to healthcare, housing, education, and food, recognizing these as fundamental rights to reduce life’s basic stresses and sufferings.
– **Incentives for Suffering-Minimizing Businesses**: Offer tax breaks and subsidies to companies that actively reduce suffering through their products, services, or business practices, such as mental health app developers, cruelty-free product manufacturers, and companies investing heavily in safe automation.
### 2. Automation and Labor
– **Ethical Automation Framework**: Promote the development and deployment of automation technologies in industries where they can significantly reduce human and animal suffering, such as hazardous work environments or large-scale animal farming.
– **Job Transition Programs**: Provide robust training and support for workers displaced by automation, focusing on roles that promote societal well-being, like caregiving and environmental management.
### 3. Social Justice and Legal Reform
– **Decriminalization of Poverty**: Abolish laws and practices that penalize poverty, such as cash bail and fines for inability to pay, which perpetuate cycles of suffering.
– **Reform of the Criminal Justice System**: Implement restorative justice practices aimed at rehabilitation and harm reduction rather than punitive measures.
### 4. Research and Development
– **Increased Funding for Well-Being Research**: Significantly increase the budget for research into mental health treatments, pain relief technologies, and life quality improvement methods.
– **Suffering Abolition Research Institutes**: Establish dedicated centers for the study and application of suffering-reduction technologies, from genetic engineering to AI in healthcare.
### 5. Healthcare Innovation
– **Mental Health**: Launch a national mental health initiative to dramatically improve access to quality mental health care and introduce preventative mental health education in schools and workplaces.
– **Pain Management**: Invest in advanced pain management solutions, including non-opioid painkillers, and innovative therapies such as virtual reality pain relief.
### 6. Environmental and Animal Welfare
– **Climate Action as Suffering Reduction**: Address climate change with urgency to prevent the vast human and animal suffering caused by environmental disasters and habitat loss.
– **Enhanced Animal Rights Legislation**: Extend legal protections to all animals, drastically reform farming practices, and promote plant-based diets to reduce animal suffering.
### 7. Global Cooperation
– **International Suffering Abolition Treaty**: Work towards global agreements that commit countries to prioritize suffering reduction in their domestic and foreign policies.
– **Support for Global Health Initiatives**: Fund and support international efforts that effectively reduce suffering, such as disease eradication programs, water sanitation projects, and emergency medical aid.
## Conclusion
The Suffering Abolitionist Party is dedicated to transforming society through a comprehensive, empirically-informed platform that spans economic, social, and technological domains. Our goal is to create systemic changes that not only alleviate suffering but prevent it at its source, paving the way for a future where all beings can live free from pain and distress. Join us in our mission to reshape the world into a sanctuary of well-being.


Our Action Plan About Suffering Copyright © by Partners for a Global Management of Suffering (Eds). All Rights Reserved.

Share This Book