Friday, August 18, 2006

Is suffering necessary?

In an article on the possibility of human biological enhancement, Henry T. Greely, professor of law and director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford University says

The idea that any plausible enhancements could end human suffering outstrips the wildest transhumanist fantasy. But what if it really happened? While it seems possible this may not be an unalloyed blessing, surely it is not clear that it would be a bad thing.

I am certainly not for unnecessary suffering, but I do not think it would be desirable to eliminate all suffering. As far as I have observed, people are usually (?always) unable to empathize with problems they have not themselves experienced. People would be likely to be even less inhibited about inflicting suffering on other creatures, human or otherwise, than they already are. Prolonged problem-free periods can lead to boredom, reducing the enjoyment of living. For some, this leads to depravities of various kinds. Of course, for some people, too much suffering deadens their capacity to empathize, and causes them to delight in tormenting others. As usual, a balance is needed.

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