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PERSONAL RESEARCH ON SUFFERING
1948-1966 — I realize at age 17 the awful extent of suffering in the world. Extreme pain endured by innumerable beings in their march across life appears to me like a hopeless persecution perpetrated by inhuman forces which we must absolutely defeat. On a personal level, I have known as a child sufferings due to usual diseases (tonsillitis, appendicitis - complicated in my case, measles, whooping cough, mumps...), others due to my mother's death in 1951 (during five years I rarely see my father, my brother and my two sisters), and between 9 and 13 years old I experienced some difficulties when friends of my age were too scarce and when in the summer 1962 I had a manual job. As a teenager in the world of the 1960s, I am particularly distressed by the memory of the two world wars, the Great Depression, the Holocaust, by news of famines in India, China, Africa, and also by the nightmarish nuclear war threats. Soon, however, all sufferings come together into my head to form that epic vision: the march of beings who are assailed and who must organize themselves to resist attacks and gain their freedom. The suffering of all, I say to myself, is like mine or that of my loved ones. Its magnitude revolts me.
1967-1974 — That period is marked by depression, suicidal thoughts, sexual frustration, loss of faith, spiritual crisis, the absurd, the all is vanity, the life career conundrum... For a while, I seek to ease my desperation with thoughts such as these: each suffering is counterbalanced by a pleasure, pain is useful, fighting against it may hinder the development of a vigorous sensibility, every problem finds a solution when enough pains are taken (perhaps even the entire problem of suffering could thus come to a solution, said I to myself while I was elaborating, after Berkeley's idealism, a theory of conscious states in which any unpleasant problem, if someone suffers with it and endures it until the end of the pendulum swing, may be transformed in a pleasant solution!)… Then, I realize again that suffering is an unacceptable monstrosity in the lives of too many people and animals. I protest more and more against the prevalent social and political order. I look everywhere for a way out of our collective plight: in knowledge, in wisdom, in religion, in psychology, in art, in paranormal, in suicide, in refusing to think about dark problems, in attempting to live without money (source of so many ills)… During 1974, I try to conceive a synthetic program of action that would integrate the many revolutions to do. Then I imagine a "General Store of Services" where everybody could find information and collaboration to solve his or her problem(s).
1975 — From February to April, I attempt to implement the "General Store of Services" idea in a community center. Then, from September to December, I contemplate working in medicine. I take a blue-collar job in a hospital, and I examine the programs of study offered in health sciences. I wonder which of the many kinds of medicine I should choose as a profession. Besides, I learn that preventive activities are more effective than after-the-fact medical treatment: public hygiene measures, fight against poverty, biomedical research, prevention of accidents... To find an orientation, I take as a criterion the quantity of suffering that I could relieve, but then I must soon realize that there exists no large-scale inventory of sufferings, of their causes, or of their solutions! Could it be, after millennia of highly dramatic concerns about suffering, that no "central" place can be found in our societies to obtain information about it? From that moment on, I begin to dream of an enterprise that would look at human work concerning pain or suffering from a global, unified, systematic perspective. It seems to me of the utmost importance to create deliberately a theoretical discipline and a practical organization that would deal with the problem of suffering "as a whole". This idea of solution arouses my greatest hopes, but its high-sounding aspect prompts me to be extremely cautious.
1976-1977 — I begin to browse hundreds of documents in order to see how theorists and practitioners have dealt with the problem of suffering. I try to improve my conceptions and to present them in a text. I contemplate various ways to get involved in a global action against excessive pain in the world: working for the United Nations or the Red Cross; adhering to Buddhism; setting the example by getting involved in a fight against an eradicable problem such as leprosy; preaching for a new economic world order; dedicating myself to research in social or psychological sciences; managing a federation of humanitarian organizations; making a career as an engaged writer-journalist; becoming a flamboyant hero or an obscure practitioner of everyday charity… In September 1977, I find the Encyclopedia of Word Problems and Human Potential, a monumental work of the Union of International Associations. At last, here is a large-scale inventory of what goes wrong and of what can be done. This is the first significant reinforcement that I find for my ideas and projects. Thanks to heaven, I am not alone. However, after two years of surveys, it is clear to me that the specific idea of a global approach concerning suffering has never been realized yet.
1978-1985 — I try to see what I can do in the Mont-Laurier area, taking it as a microcosmic model of the whole wide world. As most other past and future attempts, I give this one up after a while. Back in Montreal, I think about a humanitarian periodical, about an "agency for humanitarian priorities", and about an antalgology, i.e. a scientific discipline concerned with suffering and its control, but I have no idea of how such things can be started by someone like me. I become involved for a time in Amnesty International, in the Société québécoise pour la défense des animaux, in Synthèse (a monthly serial concerned with the activities of nonprofit associations). I take temporarily under my roof some homeless people with mental health problems, and four refugees from the South. During all those years, I pursue an intense psycho-spiritual search for finding a key to my life and to my humanitarian commitment. I get to know, in 1984, the activities of the International Association for the Study of Pain: it is the second significant reinforcement in the perspective of my approach, though physical pain is only one among many forms of suffering.
1986-1996 — I produce in October 1986 a sixty-five page manuscript presenting my conceptions. It is entitled L'organisation générale contre les maux (A General Organization Against Ills), and it describes a conceptual framework in which can be organized theory, strategy, and practical action concerning suffering. I try afterwards to interest people to the manuscript or to the organization, but in vain. Between 1988 and 1991, I turn to the study of the nervous system in order to understand the neuropsychological basis of suffering. From 1988 to 1997, I participate to the Foster Parent Plan of Canada, with a child in Haiti. In August 1990, I put on the trade register an enterprise called OMNES (which became Algosphere in 2004), for providing a certain legal frame to my research activities. Between 1992 and 1997 I collaborate with a half dozen nonprofit organizations. I am particularly involved, as a trustee and a volunteer, with "Fondation NDA", an association created by people with chronic pain. I continue to make plans for a kind of "strategic center for humanitarian action" that would, among other things, publish a continuously updated handbook presenting a global strategy to win the war against excessive suffering.
1997-1998 — I get access to the Internet. I find on the Web, in April 1997 and then in January 1998, two new significant reinforcements, the third and fourth ones, in the perspective of my approach.
·BLTC Research advocates the abolition of the biological substrates of suffering. This is an organization formed under the initiative of David Pearce, author of The Hedonistic Imperative, an excellent manifesto on the end of suffering. However, the organization seems destined to remain a project for still a long time.
·The International Society for Panetics (ISP, it is no longer in existence) promotes a theoretical discipline concerned with the infliction and the reduction of infliction of human suffering by human beings. I become a member (officially in April 2000).
Eager to get into action on the Internet, I try from April to June 1997 to develop an interest group around the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential, but people who subscribe to it remain more passive than I expected. I take part then in an Internet discussion group at the New Civilization Network (July 1997 to April 1998), where I get to know Roan Carratu's conception of a "Geonet", a geodesic network of cooperators for transforming the world. Drawing my inspiration from this model, I imagine an "Algonet", a global program of direct actions to reduce systematically the number of cases of excessive suffering. I present the project to my correspondents and in a personal website (from November 1997 to April 1998). As always, people approve the idea but nobody wants to get involved! This time, I am determined to get to the bottom of the matter. From June to October 1998, I redesign the Algonet project to make it more attractive, and I present it to nearly twenty organizations in Montreal, under the name "Agence stratégique de service humanitaire". In vain. At the beginning of December 1998, I work at a "refugee camp" for homeless people, organized downtown by the group ATSA (Action terroriste socialement acceptable) in collaboration with the Canadian army.
1999 — Then, full time throughout 1999, I think hard. In the huge set of activities concerning suffering, can there be an alliance, a network that could acquire means of management and of communication, and that could develop and implement a universal strategy against excessive suffering, a universal strategy of direct action, of structural transformation, and of research?
2000-2001 — In March 2000, I create a permanent website (which will become algosphere.org in 2004) for contributing to develop the knowledge and control of suffering. I propose also many ideas or projects to various email correspondents, but reactions are mixed. In particular, I propose that the matters relating to suffering become the subject of a discipline that could be called algonomy (now called algoscience), and I work out an Introduction to the Systematic Study of Suffering. Besides, I present some documents on Quantification Research about Suffering at the International Society for Panetics. In August 2001, I am invited by the International Society for Panetics (ISP, it is no longer in existence) to take part in a three days workshop in Washington DC about the opportunity to create an annual report on the infliction of suffering in the world. It turns out that the ISP is not ready yet to undertake such a project.
2002 — I work out the project SOS-Network, in the vein of Algonet and Agence stratégique de service humanitaire (see 1997-1998). A related project is also thought up: Register for the Control and Prevention of Extreme Suffering Cases. Besides, I hope to form in Montreal, as a local chapter of the ISP, a group for research and action on suffering and pain. I intend also to create a chronicle on "What's new about suffering on the Internet" which would complement my Mediagraphy on Suffering. However, collaboration needed for all those projects remains impossible to find. I had thought that I would first find collaboration among ISP members or officers, but this organization seems paralyzed, as if it too, like me, was looking in vain for a way to realize its mission. I notice that since 1975 I failed not only in finding sufficient collaboration for my projects, but also in finding any "specialist" on suffering, in any field: medicine, psychology, politics, social service, charity, philosophy, religion... For instance, I'm looking in vain since years for a Buddhist scholar whose favorite subject would be dukkha, universal suffering, a subject which this religious doctrine presents as one of its basic concerns. I have the impression that there is in our societies a psychoanalytical resistance or a paradigmatic stumbling block that turns aside any endeavor seeking to tackle the problem of suffering "head-on". Terminologically, there is a problem with the word suffering, since it does not have a clear definition. For instance, it is identified with or opposed to the word pain. During a period that will have lasted from September 2002 to January 2004, I use the term "unpleasantness" to refer more precisely to the phenomenon with which I am concerned.
2003 — I try hard to start something in relation with the SOS-Network project (see 2002). I present a brief against cruelty to a commission on pork production in Quebec. I seek intensively how to deal, within one framework, with the four dimensions of my quest: theory, strategy, practical action and globality.
2004-2005 — I start up the Algosphere enterprise, which is put on the trade register in Quebec on August 18 2004. Here is the first version of the algosphere.org website in 2004. Algosphere's mission is to realize various projects in order to advance knowledge and action about suffering. A practical action project is considered at first, and I look for help from organizations such as Echoing Green, Synergie 50+, Howard Rheingold's Brainstorms. As a consequence of those endeavors, it appears that the first project cannot be focused on practice, or strategy, or even theory, but must necessarily be focused instead on the globality which is tied up with an algocentric approach: it is question, first and foremost, seemingly, of an idea that must be passed on... In November 2005, the work of Iain Wilkinson on a sociology of suffering is brought to my attention: this in the fifth significant reinforcement that I find in the perspective of my approach since 1975.
2006 — I take a university course on ethics and political philosophy. Afterwards I read books like The Body in Pain, The Culture of Pain, Suffering and Moral Responsibility, Suffering, Politics, Power, Souffrance et médecine, and texts on pain and suffering by philosopher Jean-Pierre Lalloz. I undertake to pass on my idea by addressing myself as much as I can to authors who speak about suffering. I start four blogs: http://aboutsuffering.blogspot.com/, http://sur-la-souffrance.over-blog.com/, http://algonomie.wordpress.com/, and http://algonomy.wordpress.com/. I also contribute to the article on Suffering in Wikipedia.
2007-2010 — I contribute substantially to the articles Suffering and Pain in Wikipedia, and occasionally I write articles in my four blogs. Daily, from then on, I read what I can find on the topic of suffering through news services (such as Google Alerts) and web feeds (RSS).
learning that the International Association for the Study of
Pain will have its congress in Montreal in 2010, I endeavor,
between June 2007 and March 2008, to interest specialists in a
proposition that would be presented at that congress with a
view to clarifying relationships between the terms pain,
suffering, and unpleasantness. I become a member of
the Canadian Pain
Society (for one year), and of the Association
québécoise de la douleur chronique. In September 2007, I
take part in the first Colloque francophone sur la douleur — Repenser la douleur. The
colloquium proceedings, page 102, mention that I advocate the
development of a work area for the knowledge and management of
suffering, and that I point out the necessity of finding a
common term for referring to all kinds of pain, suffering, or
Research and Management, the journal of the Canadian Pain Society,
publishes my Letter to the Editor in its Volume 14,
Number 2, March/April 2009, page 173. Here it is, for the main
Since a few years, I have passed on my idea to a lot of people. Approval or encouragement are not missing, but collaboration remains null. Even the Wikipedia articles Suffering and Pain, viewed respectively about 500 and 2,000 times daily, did not really attract any major contribution other than mines: this exemplifies the problem quite well (since September 2009, the situation has changed for the article Pain). The solution of course would be to come up with a first project that would be appealing enough to establish the algospheric approach on a long-term basis. For several months at the beginning of 2008, I have been keenly interested in the Millennium Development Goals, hoping to combine my perspective with them. Unfortunately, as I explained later that year in Les objectifs du millénaire pour le développement et l'algonomie (suite) (it is in French only but perhaps the gist of it can be found in Abolishing Pain through a Joyful Pursuit of Millennium Development Goals), that international grand plan for improving the world appears to preclude beforehand the possibility of any algospheric collaboration. Until an appropriate founding project takes shape, I bet on developing the algospheric approach by reviewing 'precursor works'. I have done that especially between October 2008 and March 2009 in Algoscience — Review of Precursor Works, where I began reviewing the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential, as well as other writings by Anthony Judge. During the last six months of 2009, I pursue about the founding project a reflection that reaches a conclusion in What the hell must be done, for heaven’s sake?. In 2010, I begin to frequent Facebook. That will allow me to take part in numerous discussions concerning the ideas of David Pearce, Brian Tomasik, and Effective Altruism. The International Association for the Study of Pain has its congress in Montreal, but attending costs 300 dollars per day, therefore I cannot participate. In the congress wake, however, the first International Pain Summit takes place: I pay 75 dollars, get in, and make a statement that results in a modified sentence about suffering in the Declaration of Montreal.
2011-2015 — In December 2010, Jean-Christophe Lurenbaum gets in touch with me, and we work together in 2011 for distributing his book Is “being born” in the best interest of the child?. The book mentions on page 6: "It is distributed in collaboration with Algosphere, to whom 60% of sales profits will be donated in order to create a first world organization solely dedicated to the study and alleviation of suffering." Thanks to Jean-Christophe's ideas, expertise, and efforts, the Algosphere Alliance is then launched, as it is told in the Alliance Archives. In May 2012, I make a rather unfruitful trip to Prague to attend a conference about pain (this website no longer exists) with my paper The Study and Management of Pain Require a New Discipline About Suffering. In 2013, the Algosphere Alliance website is created. I thought, in 1975, that it would take 2 weeks to set up the embryo of an organization for the global alleviation of suffering, but it will have taken, more realistically, 2,000 weeks.
2016-2022 — Various causes are addressed within the Algosphere Alliance, besides the management of the organization itself: I am involved in direct aid or mutual collaboration with a few persons who are refugees in Africa, France and Canada; I am particularly interested in universal income (for freedom from deprivation), circumcision (an under-recognized source of suffering), veganism (because contemporary animals are caught into an unprecedented hell), and a kind of femino-masculinism (an idea, not yet expressed elsewhere, that I would like to propose as a contribution to the promotion of gender equality, which has yet to be completed with the contribution of male pride in order to counteract the innumerable misfortunes related to sexual differences, especially all those misfortunes of which it is well known that masculinity is by far the most important source); a project for an Algonomy Hanbook is attempted, but remains in the pipeline; my main daily occupation is to do a monitoring of the term suffering in the media, which allows me to develop a bibliography and to feed the AlgoNews as well as the Algosphere group in Facebook. On Facebook, I participate in various interest groups concerning suffering such as Negative Utilitarianism and Suffering-Focused Ethics, The Hedonistic Imperative - Paradise Engineering, Effective Altruism, etc. Another growing interest of mine is the study of consciousness, in order to understand scientifically the phenomenon of suffering and the subject who suffers: my ideas are expressed in Consciousness is What it Feels Like to Be an Electromagnetic Field Modulated by Psychoneural Interrelationships. I regularly read and discuss the work of the Qualia Research Institute, as it appears to be on the cutting edge about consciousness in many aspects. In 2020, the folks at Sentience Research are kind enough to conduct this interview with me: The Systematic Approach to Suffering - An Interview with Robert Daoust. Around 2021 I am stepping away from the Algosphere Alliance a bit because I feel we are missing something that would accelerate the growth of the organization. We are thinking of a World Forum for the Alleviation of Suffering, somewhat along the lines of the World Economic Forum in Davos. I believe, however, that we first need a stepping stone, an institutional scientific base that could take the form of an Institute for the Study of Suffering funded at a level of at least ten million dollars for its first years of existence. I intend to devote myself essentially to the promotion of this Institute from 2022 on. Another project close to my heart is Action-Teams for an Organized Minimization of Unacceptable Suffering: a first team provided 396 US dollars during the period April 2021 to March 2022 by participating in Helen Keller International's vitamin A supplementation program (via GiveWell), which most likely prevented at least 12 individuals from otherwise suffering in an unacceptable way.
Track record at 73 years old. In my
twenties, I had three painfully obsessive concerns: finding
a woman, an occupation and God. I did not find a wife, but
was fortunate enough to know love well, thanks to a few
women and to one of them in particular. The occupation came
to me at the age of 27 (see late 1975): it was an
interesting career with no schedule or salary. God once
answered my quest by appearing to me, but left me alone some
time later with the impression that I had hallucinated. In
my thirties, I became a materialist atheist with a Daoist
tinge. I slowly shed my addiction to Christ, the hero of my
childhood and adolescence.The Buddha interested me a lot
with his ideas about suffering and the illusion of self, but
it didn't go beyond that. After the age of 27, my life
went on without too many physical, psychic or social
problems, except for a moment of too much loneliness at the
age of 44. I was poor until the age of 65, when the old age
pension came to me as if it was a fortune. Except for a few
brief episodes of hunger or homelessness, I have never been
deprived, and often felt middle class when I was in contact
with my relatives or friends. Since 2001, I have lived in a
housing cooperative, a kind of microcosm rich in lessons,
where the painful problems of cooperation between humans of
good will seem endless. In my life as a whole, it seems that
happiness is always close at hand, but also the disarray
that an illness, an accident, a bereavement, a regional or
global catastrophe could bring. The vast universe itself
holds us in a cosmic suspense between... I don't know what
exactly... the best, which makes us dream, and the worst,
the unspeakable horror that I don't even dare imagine for
more than a few seconds. To sum up what has happened so far,
I regret, besides the suffering I have inflicted on humans
and animals because of an all-too-common insensitivity, I
regret that I have accomplished so little in my career, but
at least I will have tried a lot and had a good time doing
All my writings, until then scattered, are finally gathered in February 2022 in a web publication: About Suffering in the World.
Last modification: 2022/02/20
French translation of this document: Notes biographiques