The Philosophists

Ep 5 -- LP -- Towards Biohappiness with David Pearce (The End of Suffering)

February 02, 2022 The Philosophists | Declan McGrath, with special guest David Pearce Season 1 Episode 5
The Philosophists
Ep 5 -- LP -- Towards Biohappiness with David Pearce (The End of Suffering)
Show Notes Chapter Markers

Suffering is unavoidable. Or is that really the case? David Pearce, renowned transhumanist, author of the Hedonistic Imperative and cofounder of the World Transhumanist Association / Humanity+, has a vision that sees suffering abolished in all sentient life and replaced with "information-sensitive gradients of bliss". In this feature length episode, David gives an introduction to his abolitionist project and how we can achieve this remarkable goal using biotechnology, especially genetic engineering. Join us to hear David's fascinating insights into what has been dubbed the Biohappiness Revolution.

You can follow David Pearce on Twitter at @webmasterdave.

Note: As this episode tips over the hour mark into "Long Play" territory, if you are short on time, you are invited to use the "Chapters" feature of the web player (or in your podcast app or offline audio player if it supports chapters). We've put a little extra effort into indexing this conversation for your convenience and we hope you find it useful. Let us know!

Main Talking Points

  • Hedonic set-points and the hedonic threadmill
  • The Lottery Paradox
  • Problems associated with existing drug-based treatments for pain
  • Gene therapy and the role of certain genes, such as SCN9A, in pain
  • Hyperthymic people and the role of the FAAH and FAAH-OUT genes
  • Preimplantation genetic screening and CRISPR
  • Happier babies and whether suffering should be opt-in or opt-out
  • Holding genetic engineering to account and the sanctity of life
  • Contrasting software engineering techniques to genetic engineering

If you care about helping to bring an end to suffering,  please donate whatever you can afford to provide a life-saving mosquito net to someone who really needs it at

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  • "Bike, Bell Ding, Single, 01-01.wav" by InspectorJ ( of
  • Music and artwork by © 2022 Declan McGrath, All Rights Reserved
About David Pearce - from The Hedonistic Imperative to Transhumanism
The project to abolish suffering - from the historical origins of this idea to the World Health Organisation's (WHO's) definition of health and well-being. Then onto David's vision
Hedonic Set-points and The Hedonic Treadmill (including the Lottery Paradox example and an introduction to biotech approaches to recalibrating the hedonic treadmill)
The fallacy of pain as “just a useful signalling mechanism"
The potential pitfalls of increasing pain thresholds, but also the argument against the simplistic assumption that "more happiness leads to more risk-taking"
The distinction between economic inequality and future genetic disparities. Hedonic uplift's non-zero-sum nature
Who's going to pay for hedonic uplift? Comparison of the declining price of general online information and biological-genetic information
Involuntary, as opposed to voluntary, suffering is what needs to be phased out. But there is no need to commit to a particular ethical system or give up your existing values to get onboard the project
Traditional environmental socio-economic interventions alone don't seem to have radically shifted hedonic set-points since the Stone Age. We need to rewrite our genetic source code
Short-, medium- and long-term therapies currently available for depression (drugs, meditation, counselling) and why they are suboptimal
The case for therapies beyond drugs and how to effectively prevent future depressives - preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) & counselling; CRISPR and genome editing. "We now have an obligation to load the genetic dice."
What is preimplantation genetic screening?
Other effects of changing SCN9A
The case for controlled clinical trials of FAAH and FAAH-OUT genes involving CRISPR babies
Holding genetic interventions to account - upholding the sanctity of all sentient life in law. And how this melds with David's negative utilitarianism and “soft” anti-natalist positions
The most important action to reduce suffering - shutting slaughterhouses and factory farms; urgently accelerate progress in cultured meat and animal products
Summary of what was discussed in order to abolish suffering in humans and, briefly, how to abolish suffering across the biosphere
A reminder that it is involuntary suffering that is in the crosshairs of the abolitionist project (the end of all suffering is merely a tentative prediction)
What should be the default hedonic set-point setting for future children? Sans suffering from birth? Or a choice taken on their 18th birthday?
The distinction between permanent vs temporary changes to a genome - germline edits vs CRISPR
Can software deployment techniques (such as release rollbacks) be applied to genetic editing?
Having children is always a genetic experiment
Analogous to the development of the driverless car, society will see tragic accidents along the road to a genetically engineered future: how we can minimise and mitigate the risks
Keeping people safe in a pain-free society
To be (jealous) or not to be - should we seek to engineer the parameters for all types of emotion, even jealousy, as we transition to a less painful and negative society? Or are some emotions, e.g. jealousy, Schadenfreude, better simply abolished?