Assemble and tremble. Brian Tomasik talks suffering with us.
Brian Tomasik is a researcher at and co-founder of the Foundational Research Institute, a charity that examines the best ways to reduce suffering. We get into the nitty-gritty about what suffering is, whose suffering concerns us most, and how we can decrease or prevent suffering in the world and in the future. Many cans of worms are opened in this episode, though no worms harmed. Or eaten. Yet.
- Brian became a utilitarian in the process of reading the works of great Utilitarian Philosophers, particularly those of Peter Singer. (Can you remember or imagine how much harder it was to get material like this before the advent of the internet? At a minimum, you’d have to put on pants.)
- “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Check out Robert Nozick’s Experience Machine—the thought experiment, not the actual machine—and its reformulation by Joshua Greene.
- What was that condition Brian mentioned—the one where “pain” is experienced without unpleasantness? Pain asymbolia.
- Giulio Tononi talks dual consciousness in split-brain patients.
- A very short piece on the Global Workspace theory of consciousness by the theory’s author, Bernard Baars.
- Daniel Kahneman’s TED talk, “The Riddle of Experience vs. Memory.”
- A correction from Brian: he said “that a study found that eating meat made people less likely to attribute minds to farm animals. Actually, the study only made people think they were going to eat meat, without actually feeding them the meat.”
- Solaria, the planet featured in Asimov’s The Naked Sun, is mentioned once again. Mentioning Solaria is this year’s mentioning Diaspora.
- Compare these visions of the future: Nick Bostrom’s Future of Human Evolution; Robin Hanson’s Em scenario; and Scott Alexander’s Moloch.
- You know what’s fun? Fun Theory.