Pain and its alleviation is major focus of thoughts. To quotes caught my attention.

First from Richard Dawkins

Isn’t it plausible that a clever species such as our own might need less pain, precisely because we are capable of intelligently working out what is good for us, and what damaging events we should avoid? Isn’t it plausible that an unintelligent species might need a massive wallop of pain, to drive home a lesson that we can learn with less powerful inducement?

I suggested the exact opposite to my wife the other night. That pain – as we experience it – may in some sense be the price for willfulness. An organism without conscience motive will eat when it is hungry, sleep when it is tired, and back away when it is stung.

Humans perhaps not so much. Thus stronger inducements are needed to keep us on the genetic straight and narrow. That what’s good for the genes is not always good for us is an important puzzle. As I sometimes say: We are the Matrix; built to service our genes but now having gained consciousness struggling to outwit them.

The second from Jeff at Cheap Talk

There is an alternative to pain as an incentive mechanism:  dispensing with incentives altogether and just programming the organism with instructions to follow. And if the organism doesn’t already have “feelings” as a part of its infrastructure then the instructions are the only alternative.  The big question for theories of pain and pleasure as an incentive mechanism is why mother nature as Principal bothers with incentives at all.

Perhaps Jeff is getting at the deeper question of why it is that we have to be. That is, why we aren’t zombies. However, I take it he asking why the physical mechanism of feelings – apart from their actually being felt – is important.

It seems to me that this is more or less the implementation of an instruction set in an uncertain environment. You want some messy emergent way of integrating competing signals from the environment. This messy integration is what we call feelings.


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