Saturday, December 4, 2010

On the trappings of anti-natalism

1. Anti-natalism prevents future risk, but we exist, so not only do we have to prevent new lives from emerging (if the premise that such lives would not generate positive value or permanently solve a problem is true), we also have to improve ours while they last. Therefore, we must be pragmatic and society-oriented if we wish to avoid the trappings of preoccupation with a singular cause; otherwise, we'll become witch-hunters, too attached to our particular "problem" to see the bigger picture. Plugging a leak is more important than cleaning its resultant puddles, but once you really have plugged it, cleaning the puddles becomes essential! Plus, abstaining from the act of producing offspring is not a total solution to the problem.

2. The premise that humans should not reproduce, like any other premise, is conditional; therefore, whether something of greater value ever presents itself in the future should be taken into account before we decide to make such confident, absolute assertions as, "No one should ever reproduce." Remember: From a fundamental standpoint, absolute generalizations are part of the core problem of our existence -- namely, brain logic shortcomings, which descend from the process of purposeless and inefficient evolution, which descends from the lack of an overseer of that process. Any "ism" that I can think of is part of this problem, as it is necessarily self-limiting, forever impractical and ineffective by design. Want to make the world a better place? Don't create or promote mechanisms of memetic exclusion.


  1. I dont think antinatalism has any trappings. While human extinction would certainly not help the animals (although it would end their enslavement by humans), nor would it help any sentience that MIGHT exist (but most likely doesn't) in other parts of the universe, it certainly ends all the suffering on this planet.

    You are certainly not saying that we should reproduce just to plug the problems of someone who already exists elsewhere, then what are you saying? If people stop reproducing, sentience will die out by itself. The currently existing people can only help themselves and others to make the passing into nothingness less painful - that's it. Otherwise, you would have to concede that we would need to continue breeding to continue researching transhumanistic ways of spreading across all of the universe in search of putative sentience and help end their suffering too.

  2. My problem with "antinatalism" is not what it promotes, but the scope of what it promotes, for the above two reasons. To reiterate:

    1. If you join the "antinatalism" campaign and start handing out election stickers, you're missing the larger picture. Even so-called philanthropic antinatalism has a kind of one-dimensional preoccupation with simply not reproducing; it does this by propping up the myth that consent is an absolute value. I think that, in a conditional reality, there may ultimately be no absolute values. The real issue is not whether a value agent consents to what is impressed upon it, but whether said value agent is actively contributing to the physical problem of self-perpetuating negative sensation across biological systems -- whether by reproducing, or harming itself or other organisms directly or indirectly. In other words, the issue is not some simplistic socio-political conundrum centered around the myopic notions of "rights" and "freedoms" associated with archaic dogma; it's that value as experienced by sentient receptors is a measurable quantity which is in the interest of all sentient organisms to reduce by way of an equation, and it doesn't matter whether the value manifests in the form of the act of reproduction, the act of murder, or the act of merely giving someone a hard time. Reproduction is the immediate source, but there is more to consider than just the source.

    Given that the problem is broader than the mere act of reproduction, we have to concede that it would be irresponsible to perform a negative action (refrain from reproducing) and pretend as though we've done all that we can do. The pragmatic approach entails not only proactive measures, but retroactive measures, where that which we fail to prevent is "cleaned up." This is why it's far less lazy to promote infrastructural, memetic, and process-based improvements across all systems -- social, economic, political, biological, physical, information -- than to simply tell people to not have kids and call it a day.

    Most antinatalists also fail to realize that the extinction of humanity would probably be disastrous for the planet, for that would entail several billion more years of horrible suffering (including animals being eaten alive on an annual basis) -- far outweighing the kind of suffering capable by humans -- and extinction events. We are no more important than other sentient organisms; the ultimate problem is lack of intelligent management and regulation of physical phenomena, not present suffering. Without intelligence, suffering will continue to be a problem unsolved into the future in quantities far more massive than the suffering that has gone on since the inception of humanity.

    Is it silly to force people to suffer in order to look for suffering where it probably doesn't exist? Absolutely. Is it silly to look into developing automated, intelligent systems capable of reducing the number of consenting humans to a really small number (perhaps after integrating mechanisms capable of meta-analysis of its own processes), and THEN try to do something about sentient life as a phenomenon? I don't think it is.

    To understand this, we should be looking at biological evolution and its core components in order to get as broad an appreciation as possible for what life and the universe are; we cannot reduce a phenomenological, philosophical issue to a political or humanitarian one.

  3. 2. "You shouldn't reproduce" is an absolute assertion a la the Ten Commandments, and we should be skeptical of anything reminiscent of the Ten Commandments. I am greatly bothered by every new life that is brought into the world, and in this sense could be considered an "antinatalist," but I make no assumptions in life other than those born out of pragmatic necessity. The ethical implications of the self-replication of viruses, machines, artificial intelligences, or some modified form of sentience are currently unknown, just as the ultimate purpose of the universe, if there is one, is currently unknown. Right now, yes, we should do everything that we can to get people to realize the gravity of what they're doing when they have children, but we shouldn't become part of the problem by promoting empirical certainty, because that only invites hubris.

    There are few things worse in life than absolute assertions, and an "ism" cannot exist without them. I prefer to make irreducible statements subject to scrutiny over promoting clusters of prepackaged, prechewed information. I don't want to get caught up in a "movement" or take a side; I want to simply use logic scenarios and thought chains to "empirically" demonstrate the viability of everything that I think makes sense in life, while excluding associations with others of my "ilk," or other ideas "related" to mine by society.

    Do I think that we should continue to perpetuate humanity to the end of playing lifeguard for Earth and the rest of the universe? No. However, the important thing to realize, here, is that there are seven billion people on the planet, so even though "antinatalism" is almost entirely an excellent idea, we have a lot of time before we're anywhere close to successfully phasing out the human species. Why not use that time to conduct or endorse research into curing senescence (aging), developing simulated realities, constructing genuine artificial intelligences, finding life on other planets, improving euthanizing practices, or automating the labor force?

    Of course, in the case of curing aging or developing simulated "hallucinations" which mimic the good parts of sentient experience, consent should be, at the minimum, a consideration. If you don't want to stick around to try to figure out what to do about animals eating each other, then no one should force you to -- that is, unless you're some rare anomaly capable of doing something amazing that no one else can do, but that's unrealistic.

    The bottom line is that this post was intended to get people to shy away from any particular movement, regardless of what it is, before it swallows them in its dogma. If "science" utilizes at least one method in line with its overall methodology and objective to constantly improve itself, then why would any "ism" ever exist outside it? Why don't astrophysicists refer to any of their work as being part of some kind of "belief system"? We're here to do science, not join a team that reinforces our self-identities, and consequently, makes us feel important. Let's keep the limitations off and be as unbiased and considerate as we can be.