Imagine if we were to stumble upon an alien civilisation whose inhabitants are animated entirely by gradients of cerebral bliss. Should we try to persuade them to revert to the biology of pain and suffering of their ancestors? What exactly are they missing? And more to the point, what are we missing?
We investigate alien dietary practices. We discover they lack a food industry based on factory farming and industrialized killing. Instead, they dine on a delicious variety of cruelty-free cultured meat products. What arguments might we use to persuade them that in vitro meat is unnatural? How might we persuade them to revert to exploiting live animals?
Perhaps we visit their wildlife parks - elegantly bioengineered ecosystems where less sophisticated sentients live in harmony with each other. Should we urge the park guardians to scrap immunocontraception, undo centuries of domestication, and re-introduce suffering and predation? ["rewilding"] Wouldn't it be fun to watch animals hunting, asphyxiating, poisoning and disemboweling each other like their ancestors? Or instead might the creatures in need of uplifting be us?
Such a thought-experiment might seem fanciful. But the sci-fi scenario serves to undercut our normal status quo bias. Today, the prospect of a posthuman civilisation founded on the well-being of all sentience can sound like utopian dreaming. But it's both technically feasible and morally urgent.
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