fall/winter, '06-07 , no. 8
All We Need is Love?
by David Pearce
Grand meta-narratives currently aren't very fashionable. History can indeed seem like one damn thing after another. The nearest we get these days to some kind of plot or story about where life on earth is heading usually adds up to some simple-minded technological determinism. Nevertheless, a sketch of one possible route by which all sources of negative value will be purged from the world is set out here. And here's what I think will become of love:
Fragile self-esteem and shaky self-images will be beautified and recrystallised afresh. For the first time in their lives, in many cases, human beings will be able wholeheartedly to love both themselves and their own bodily self-images. Bruised and mutilated egos can thus be strengthened. They can be regenerated anew from the wreckage of the Darwinian past.
Love will take on new aspects and incarnations too. For instance, we will be able, not just to love everyone, but to be perpetually in love with everyone, as well; and perhaps we'll be far more worth loving than the corrupted minds our genes program today. It's been said that when in love we find it astonishing that it is possible to love someone else so much, because normally we love each other so little. This indifference, or at best mere diffuse benevolence, to the rest of the population is easily taken for granted amid the harsh social realities of competitive consumer capitalism. Yet our deficiencies in love are only another grim manifestation of selfish (in the technical sense) DNA. If humans had collectively shared the greater degree of genetic relatedness common to many of the social insects (haplodiploidy), then we might already have been "naturally" able to love each other with greater enthusiasm. Sociobiology, and its offspring evolutionary psychology, explains our relative coldness of heart.
Happily, in the future it will be possible to mimic, and then magnify out of all recognition, the kind of altruistic devotion to each other which might have arisen if were we all 100% genetically-related clones. We'll all be able to love each other to bits. A delicious cocktail mix of oxytocin, phenethylamines and mu receptor-selective opioids - or potent god's-own wonderbrews not yet genetically-coded - can be automatically triggered whenever anyone one knows is present or recollected. Darwinian man, by contrast, will be seen as a mean-minded crypto-psychopath. Our successors will be far kinder. They'll combine absolute, unconditional and uninhibited love for each other with a celebration of the diversity of genes and cultures. At present this prospect seems some way off.
Another aspect of post-Transition love may be found even more surprising. Individual personal relationships may at last be bonded truly securely, should we so desire. Throughout the ages, dreadful pain has been caused by the soul-destroying cruelties of traditional modes of love. We acknowledge, in the main, that we hurt the most those we love. Yet we often simply can't stop ourselves from doing so. Before very long, if we really care enough, we'll actually be able to do something about it. Whatever their proximate causes, the distal origins of so many relationship break-ups lie, once again, in the competing interests of rival coalitions of genes. Just to take one example, two lovers, perhaps, who years before professed they would rather die than hurt each other, later part in tears and acrimony. The woman may find that with the decline in her reproductive potential over time she is no longer sexually attractive to the man who pledged his undying love. Her partner, quite possibly hating himself for his treachery, finds himself deserting her and their teenage offspring for a younger, sexier woman, and then fathers another family. Lives are destroyed; inclusive genetic fitness is served. Nature is barbarous and futile beyond belief.
After the Transition, on the other hand, one will be able to love somebody more passionately than ever before. In the post-Darwinian era, one will be safe in the knowledge that one will never hurt them, nor be hurt by them in turn. True love really can last forever, though responsible couples should take precautions. If one desires a particular relationship to remain uniquely and enduringly special, then the mutually coordinated design of each other's neural weight spaces can ensure that a distinctively hill-topped plateau in the new hedonic landscape structurally guarantees that each other's presence is always uniquely fulfilling. Choosing how big a hit we get off each other's presence is not an exact science today. Of course, it is possible that, generations hence, exclusionary pair bonding may seem a quaint anachronism. It may be regarded as just one more vestige of the genetic past which is fated one day to pass away. The example above is recounted to show only how ill-defined worries that anything precious one wants to save will be somehow sacrificed in the post-Transition epoch can be discounted. We've nothing to lose.
References and further reading.
Interview with David Pearce.
David Pearce is a British philosopher who promotesthe use of biotechnology to abolish suffering. Pearce's views are most prominently presented in The Hedonistic Imperative, a manifesto in which he outlines how technologies such as genetic engineering, nanotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and neurosurgery could potentially eliminate all forms of unpleasant experience. Pearce was co-founder (with Nick Bostrom) of the World Transhumanist Association, as well as co-founder and honorary president of the Abolitionist Society. He is currently the director of BLTC Research.
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