A world without pain?

You can train yourself to not feel pain. Anyone can learn to do it in about 15 minutes. There are youtube videos. 

You still experience a sensation that you can identify as pain, but without any of the subjective negative emotional urgency. You notice (or can ignore) pain just like warmth or pressure. You intentionally enter this state and it does take some some attention to stay in it- but no more than, say, forcing yourself to pay attention to a boring lecture.

Would you want to learn this trick?

If not, why?

How would torturers adapt their strategies?

What would be the big-picture impacts on society look like?


  1. davidegrayson

    Is this some sort of mindfulness technique? Sounds cool and I would want to learn it. I was pretty interested in that stuff when I first learned about it from Jonathan Blow in this hour-long video:

  2. ncrecc

    david, I think this is a hypothetical question/thought experiment. So this practice doesn’t actually exist yet, but the questions asked assume that it does.

  3. dirkw2002

    Wouldn’t one question be if torturers would really have to adapt their strategies?

    Not feeling pain is one thing – your desire for self-preservation would be another. (making it through the ordeal with all your senses still intact, all organs where they belong and all limbs still attached and functional)

    I still have to watch any videos on the technique, but depending on really how much effort and concentration it takes, could it be of use for people who suffer from chronic pain?

    • bigjosh2

      Not feeling pain is one thing – your desire for self-preservation would be another.

      The reason professional torturers torture rather than just murder is to get something that they can not get when the subject is dead. The subject presumably knows this, and so threatening to kill the subject would not be a effective strategy. Maybe you could progressively cut off parts of their bodies and threaten to cut off more, but if subject of the torture assumes he is going to not survive the torture anyway then this also becomes ineffective.

  4. Ken

    Arguably, pain serves two major purposes:
    1) To signal danger at an early age, and to trigger relevant automatic response (scream, fight, flight, etc..), to facilitate survival until reproductive maturity.
    2) To signal approach to a potentially dangerous limit, signalling that a change in course of action might be necessary. This is primarily understood at a later age, and/or developed mental maturity – given enough experience with pain and its outcomes.

    Thus, we have all already learned to mange various pain to various intensity. So, this ability to “ignore” pain must already be important and valuable since it allows us to filter out “false positives” of pain – tolerant conditions that are not ultimately harmful.

    Pushing our tolerance past the previously learned safe limits can be beneficial under conditions of duress. So, if as a society, we plan to enter an age of extreme duress (like war, or other calamity) it could help us overcome it easier since we would be able to ignore some pain, and our automatic self preservation response, in cases where we consciously felt that the benefits of our action outweigh the damage done to our bodies.

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