The sensation of a speck of dust in the eye cannot be packed into cubits of suffering and amassed to outweigh hellish torture. Given the option of having a universe of 5 minutes of hellish torture or a universe that contains a speck of dust in the eye repeating on loop for 300000000000000000000 gazillion years to the power of Graham’s number, I would take the latter. That experience does not including boredom or anything else we might associate with living a long time: there is no memory, no complicated sense of me, just that isolated grain of slightly unpleasant experience on repeat. This is clearly the better option if one understands that pains cannot be reduced to basic units and then added with basic integers. Experiences must instead be considered akin to intricate structures, like the geometries of molecules composed of atoms.
This leads to serious conclusions that are perhaps depressing to some:
For the problem of finding a route from Arad to Bucharest, the search cost is the amount of time taken by the search and the solution cost is the total length of the path in kilometers. For the problem of finding a route from shrew-like mammal to planet-sized upload, the search cost is tens of millions of years and the solution cost is instances of torture and suboptimal qualia miscellanea that occurred throughout life’s history. Thus to compute the cost, we cannot add milliseconds to kilometers like in Arad to Bucharest –we would have to add tens of millions of years to “unforgivable integers.” Since the operation cannot be done, utilitarianism, as naively formulated, necessarily fails.
Some may dispute that there exist classes of sufferings so bad as to require unforgivable integers. A portion of the people who hold this view are making the dust speck fallacy. But we do not bleed cubits of infinitesimal hurt, we bleed complex structures in mindspace. The applications of calculus don’t work for phenomenology. The infamous little epsilon as the limit approaches infinity just doesn’t exist here in the physical state space identical to the qualia in question.
Whether we take an IIT view of consciousness or just a standard neuroscience mapping, there is no place for utilitarian reductionism of the contents of experience. The contents of experience in each subjective “slice of now” are determined by complex physical arrangements. If you wanted to reduce a “now slice” of valences derived from sensations, and sights, and sounds, and moods, and thoughts into a single value, this point would have to exist on a ridiculously multidimensional graph. And while I do think there is a suffering-to-thriving axis hiding there in a complex way, we cannot yet find it, much less perform additions.
I, for one, as witness to the tragic suffering of a single girl, would rather save her from this misery than perform any calculation. Could I have been there to set flames to the primordial soup in order to prevent the torture of a single girl, I would have done it… and then proceeded to anesthetize the stars, forever revoking the words “let there be light.”
I hold this unpopular view especially because I’m not a solipsist with regard to the direction of time, as most people are. Most people believe I exist just as much as they exist – that there is a frame in my inner movie just as there is a movie frame in the other person’s skull across the room, so long as we are only separated by distance in space. But they refuse to believe that someone in the past is experiencing. They believe that the past is deleted as the big platform of Now pushes everyone forward.
However, we do not exist in a Newtonian universe. Our universe is better described by Einstein’s theory of relativity. This means that past people exist just as much as present people and future people. There is no big now to which we all belong to in a room. And this is just a fact that has to be grappled with – the theory of relativity is not up for debate. We are not all riding on the same platform.
As we move, we bend the fabric of spacetime, changing the rates of our clock-ticks but never cheating our age. This produces a scramble out of our neatly packed intuitions of “past beings” and “future beings.” And it is especially noticeable at large distances and/or speeds based on who’s observer’s present we are dealing with. It’s a mess to wrap our heads around, but this is no reason to comfort ourselves in the delusion that physics is stuck in the early 18th century.
So given that torture is ever-present, even if paradise engineering was possible – where all matter is reconfigured into pure pleasure, happiness, and awe in a shockwave of benevolent nanotech spreading across the galaxies – I believe that it would be more morally appropriate to just shut off the universe.
If you still disagree, I guess the debate boils down to a Buddhist vs. a Christian, even if we are both atheists.
The Buddhist sees suffering, aging, and death, drops everything and develops an exit plan.
The Abrahamist sees suffering and convinces herself that the recompense is worth it in the end, no matter who else is damned.