First ideas on Sentience Platonism
347 visits since 29/09/2016
Manu Herrán
Philosophy, Sentience

"Sentience platonism": that could be the name for the idea that I tried to explain in the "open mic" at sentience conference 2016. It's one type of dualism (well... to be more accurate... it's one type of non-monism, because could be compatible with dualism, trialism, cuatrialism...) and is close to "open individualism" but it's quite different.

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The idea is: experiences exist as platonic entities, and our subjective experiences are instantiations of this platonic things. Like the Redness of the things that are red, the tableness of all different tables, or the threeness of the things that are in sets of three (of course, if those platonic things do exist!). The point is that, if true, if we'd modify or remove the "redness", all red things changes immediately.

This is not necessary the case if we live in a simulation because sentience must emerge in our world, or in a laptop, and we don't need platonism to explain it. But the hypothesis that we are living in a simulation helps to explain some types of platonism in sentience. (Note: It's interesting that sometimes we consider existential alternatives like platonism, o monism vs. dualism as all-or-nothing hypotheses, while some of them could be combined and / or be true in fuzzy ways).

Imagine that we record the happiness of each being with 4 binary digits, where 0000 is the lowest value and 1111 is the highest. Changing this system using 3 bits instead of 4 will automatically make disappear some kinds of experiences. So, the 3 or 4 digits data struct is the platonic object for the sentient beings in the simulation. An that colud be our case, in our world.

In a "soft" way, something related is changing our genome, because with CRISPR-based "gene drives" we'd change our spectrum of sentience, and that's a good idea. But I'm talking about something even more "hard" (more platonic).

So, the idea is to consider that we live in a world where experiences are properties of the beings, and experiences are values of dimensions like spatial X and Y. In fact, atributes like "color" or "shape" could be still a dimension with a predefinite set of values. But X and Y are more intuitive. Beings are at some experience, as they are at some X position. And that place do exist. That's the idea I started to wrote about in 2013.

Is not necessary to assume that the values of dimensions are discrete instead of having infinitesimal precisson, but it will help to understand it.

If we are beings living in a simulation, like virtual ants in a 100x100 grid... what will happen if I remove some rows or columns? In any case, there will be no more beings in that "state" (row... column... hedonic state...). If true, we could remove some/all kinds of suffering for ever, and for everyone, removing some values of the dimension.

I don't mind if this metaphisical hypothesis has a small probability to be true: is not clear that we can discard it, and if true, it has a huge potential impact on reducing-suffering.

That's the analogy I explained at sentience conference:

Imagine some buckets of water with different temperatures.

Imagine some sponges in and out of the buckets. Sponges are beings, and temperatures are experiences. For instance, high temperatures are different pleasures and low temperatures are different pains.

The sponges are in and out in different buckets with different experiences, good or bad, depending on water temperature.

We are focused on help sponges, but may we should focus on increase temperature in buckets.

May be you consider this has a chance of 0.00000001% of be how the sentience works, but the stakes are so high that could be worth to think a little about it.

We are concerned about beings suffering. But in the platonic world, if exists, the situation could be even worst: with this hypothesis, if we modify the dimensión, then we'll make changes in the suffering for "everyone". But otherwise if we only help beings (to remove the instantation of suffering) its possible that we are doing nothing. Because maybe the pain remains "alive" somewhere in the platonic world although "nobody" seems to suffer it "here" in our world.

Ok, then, if we want to remove suffering, considering sentience platonism hypotesis. How we can do it?

Sentience platonism assumes at least two worlds, and the simulation colud be a good analogy to explain the relations among worlds.

If our reality is a huge simulation and we are living inside a "computer", I suggest something like trying to talk and convince / blackmail the programmer at the other side, to stop pain.

We talk about worlds that build simulations as complex as the original world. But what happens next? I mean, simulations could be more intelligent, and more sentient than its creators. Simultated worlds could become more powerful than its creators, and eventually modify and control its creators.

I think this is something that we need to do, as we are trapped in a jail of sentience and feelings we don’t decide to have.

Moreover, sounds very logical for us to build a simulation that help us to manage suffering: to build something smarter than us (IA singularity) to help us to reach our goals (and to reach our goals starts with reducing suffering).

In the same way, maybe we were built to help others (META-others) to manage their suffering. Maybe our world is a simulation trying to solve the suffering problem in the platonic world because we are in some way smarter that the platonic beings.

To solve the problem, we can build another simulation again and again, or fix it eventually in the chain, stopping the recursivity.

It's interesting that, smarter or not than us, the platonic beings will try to help us to get the solution, in the same way as we'd help our simulations to get what we want.

How they can help us? To find it we have to look for something that is not necessary in our universe (in evolutionary meaning).

If you think you are lucky and can't explain why, maybe the META-beings have some plans for you ;-)

But in my opinion, the amazing thing that is clearly not necessary in our universe (in evolutionary meaning), the strange thing that is "out of place", is the sentience itself.

Maybe our universe was programmed to fix something even stronger o harder than sentience "as we know it", and sentience is the thing that platonic beings put in our world to indicate us the path that our researches have to follow. Mandatory, because we're prisioners. Up to now.

Funny note: This article was written in my smartphone (notepad), during holidays, at the swimming pool, the 24-25 july of 2016.

Debate at "The Hedonistic Imperative":

Debate at "Sentience Conference 2016":

Debate at "Origins of Consciousness":



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