abolish suffering and guard against its re‑emergence
It's easy to convince oneself that things can't really be that terrible, that the horror I allude to is being overblown, that what is going on elsewhere in space-time is somehow less real than the here-and-now, or that the good in the world somehow offsets the bad. Yet however vividly one thinks one can imagine what agony, torture or suicidal despair must be like, the reality is inconceivably worse. The force of "inconceivably" is itself largely inconceivable here. The Hedonistic Imperative, Chapter 2
[...] some pockets of the universe are in a state of insufferable darkness — a state of black suffering. In my view, such suffering is like a black hole that sucks all light out of the world. [...] Yet, by extension, this also implies that there is a form of light whose value does compare to this darkness, and that is the kind of light we should aspire to become, namely the light that brightens and prevents this darkness. Effective Altruism: How Can We Best Help Others?, The Principle of Sympathy for Intense Suffering
we are the nascent compassionate force in the amoral universe. we exist to abolish suffering and guard against its re-appearance.
If humanity is to minimize suffering in the future, it must engage with the world, not opt out of it. Anti-Natalism and the Future of Suffering: Why Negative Utilitarians Should Not Aim For Extinction
Taking the abolitionist project to the rest of the galaxy and beyond sounds crazy today; but it's the application of technology to a very homely moral precept writ large, not the outgrowth of a revolutionary new ethical theory. So long as sentient beings suffer extraordinary unpleasantness - whether on Earth or perhaps elsewhere - there is a presumptive case to eradicate such suffering wherever it is found. The Hedonistic Imperative, Objections (Chapter 4)
We, sentience, find ourselves in the universe where inconceivably bad states of consciousness are possible, are bounded only by the physical laws and do happen - every moment just on this planet. Given intrinsic badness and urgency of unbearable suffering (or simply that unbearable suffering just is), not being proactive about the suffering problem is ethically unacceptable.
Nothing so far has risen to solve the suffering problem. Worse, pain, pleasure, and other feelings have been co-opted by evolution to optimize its sole “goal” of gene replication. Sentient beings are throwaway genetic vehicles in the unfolding of amoral physical forces, which evolution logically follows from.
Unbiased intelligence and (by extension) universal compassion are highly unlikely phenotypes in the Darwinian world - the world where minds capable and motivated to contemplate the nature of the “game” are too improbable, costly and maladaptive.
The modern civilization, while preventing many miseries of the wild Darwinian order, still is largely an inefficient puppet of humans’ baser wants and blind trends. (Just the fact that humanity perpetuates factory farming serves as a powerful reminder of that.)
The situation is dire since the meager compassion and intelligence that humanity can muster are evidently not enough to recognize, let alone start to address, the problem of suffering. Suffering is endemic to sentient Darwinian life and can only be hoped to be solved by unprecedented smart coordination...
[T]here's no forces stopping us from making [the world] better, from fixing it; and the only thing stopping us is the fact that we don't have right ideas in people's [...] heads. Inmendham
When in doubt, why not make the highest priority value explicit? Our current civilisation arguably suffers less from a lack of intelligence than from a lack of compassion. Jonathan Leighton
Guardians are a future society existing explicitly for the mission
(of abolishing and preventing suffering).
Potentially, we can use a convergence of biotech, nanorobotics and information technology to gain control over our emotions and become better (post-)human beings, to cultivate the virtues, strength of character, decency, to become kinder, friendlier, more compassionate: to become the type of (post)human beings that we might aspire to be, but aren't, and biologically couldn't be, with the neural machinery of unenriched minds. Given our Darwinian biology, too many forms of admirable behaviour simply aren't rewarding enough for us to practise them consistently: our second-order desires to live better lives as better people are often feeble echoes of our baser passions. Utopian Neuroscience
At present, we are a growing network of desperate / ambitious individuals exploring and promoting the mission (of abolishing / reducing and preventing suffering). Our goal is to bootstrap a guardian society.
Necessarily for any semblance of success, we seek solutions for the imposed limitations of the human mind and the hostile / indifferent environment. We see (certain versions of) transhumanism as the most promising approach to establishing a sustainable society of guardians.
If you endorse suffering-focused ethics, feel inspired by the guardian identity (you have great leeway imagining it ;) ) and want to help us develop the idea further, consider applying for joining our online community.
Potentially interested in contributing? Let us know by this short form.
You can also leave us your email in case of wide announcements about the project.
In the real world, maybe we're alone. The skies look empty. Cynics might point to the mess on Earth and echo C.S. Lewis: "Let's pray that the human race never escapes from Earth to spread its iniquity elsewhere." Yet our ethical responsibility is to discover whether other suffering sentients exist within our cosmological horizon; establish the theoretical upper bounds of rational agency; and assume responsible stewardship of our Hubble volume. Cosmic responsibility entails full-spectrum superintelligence: to be blissful but not "blissed out" - high-tech Jainism on a cosmological scale. We don't yet know whether the story of life has a happy ending. High-Tech Jainism