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ds1973

Immortality, would you take it?

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The assumption here is that I haven't thought about the statement when in fact I have. And it doesn't bring "more" value to life, it establishes that life has value to begin with. If you reject that life is the ultimate source of value, that's fine with me, I have no qualms about that. But if you do then you must think about what that entails. I'm not assuming you haven't thought about, I just don't know what your standard of value is.

However, I don't think you have invalidate my main opposition. You can only evaluate the question of immortality from the perspective of someone who doesn't have it. Your entire frame of reference is centered around the inescapeable fact that you will die.

Life is not the ultimate source of value, i dont think anyone here actually feels that way, it is a pre-requisite however to having values and pursuing them, life is the mechanism by which that is accomplished. Consider the obvious example of Galt threatening to kill himself for Dagny. Clearly the mechanistic perpetution of the molecular process of life is not our highest value, because that implies we might betray everything else we value (friends, family, loved ones) in order to perpetuate that value, it means you are nothing but a non sentient process. My life is important to me because it allows me to pursue every other value, but I can recognize values may be perpetuated beyond my own existence. I would not choose to live in a perpetual state of tortue nor betray another thing I value very highly in order to merely ensure the perpetuation of the mechnistic process of life. Clearly you can value things more than life, but life must damn well be pretty high up there. Clearly, even for objectivist, life is not the *only* standard by which you judge the value of things, else you would immediately devolve into a nietzschean exploiter.

An indefinate life span would allow me to indefinately persue the things which I value, such as knowledge, heatlh and well being for the people I care about, intellectually or emotionally stimulating experiences, etc. Giving up all of those things in order to perpetuate the mechnistic process of life is a non-starter. Simaltaneouslly asserting the threat of life ending makes those things have more value is silly.

Again you should drop the use of the term "immortality" it is a metaphysical impossibility and has a whole plethora of baggage with it that is irrelevant (witness the desire to still have the choice to die) no real mechnism of achieving indefinate life spans will take away from you the option to die, you must still create and perpetuate purpose in your life, you must still make for yourself a life you actually desire to live.

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What is the definition of "value"
Okay, I see what there problem is here. Rand lays the groundwork in "The Objectivist Ethics", so if you are not familiar with Rand's writings, that's the essay of hers that I suggest starting with. Tara Smith in her book Viable Values then expands on that foundation, and I very highly recomment that work as an excellent statement of the relationship between life and value. I own Professor Smith very much for her expression "morgue avoidance" which dramatically clarifies the issued.

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You're confused about the ultimate source of value. The fact that your car take you where you want to go and gives you freedom isn't a rational standard of value -- that's really the whim-worshipper's standard. You can perhaps justify the car in terms of a short-term goal, namely the transportation function (sorry, I think the "give me freedom" argument is a complete non-starter except from the libertarian "freedom is the only moral absolute" perspective), but is "going where you want to go" really the ultimate moral measuring stick for you?

Please, directly answer the question -- acording to you, why is life intrinsically valuable? Alternatively, explain what your ultimate (final, irreducible) standard of value is. Especially in light of the fact that value for men only makes sense in terms of evaluating choices. What does it mean to evaluate a choice when the choice is metaphysically irrelevant? I think that you'll find that the concept of value only makes sense when there is a choice, meaning a mental discriminations between actions which relate to your ultimate purpose. If you cannot affect the outcome, then you have no rational basis for preferring one action over another, in terms of its efficacy in realizing that goal.

The poster was clearly giving some concrete examples why taking something away doesnt make it have more value to them. What is your ultimate source of value? Your life? As I said to Rational Biker, that implies that you would do absolutely anything and everything to merely perpetuate the mechanistic process of life, disregarding friend, family, loved ones, etc, if necessary, you would immediately devolve into a nietschean exploiter of persons. Also you would direct all of your time and money and efforts toward defeating aging and death, because nothing else is of higher value than your life, are you doing that? What is the goal that operates as your ultimate standard of value? Wealth? Health? Why? Because these things perpetuate the material ability to pursue the things you derive joy from. Can you explicitly state what your ultimate purpose is here on this forum and explain why an indefinate lifespan operates in contradiction to that? I assume you are leading us to the point that once your ultimate purpose is fulfilled, that your life would be meaningless? If so, why have any goals at all? Since achiving them would rob your life of value.

Okay, I see what there problem is here. Rand lays the groundwork in "The Objectivist Ethics", so if you are not familiar with Rand's writings, that's the essay of hers that I suggest starting with. Tara Smith in her book Viable Values then expands on that foundation, and I very highly recomment that work as an excellent statement of the relationship between life and value. I own Professor Smith very much for her expression "morgue avoidance" which dramatically clarifies the issued.

What is your definition of Value?

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Your life? As I said to Rational Biker, that implies that you would do absolutely anything and everything to merely perpetuate the mechanistic process of life, disregarding friend, family, loved ones, etc, if necessary, you would immediately devolve into a nietschean exploiter of persons.

Taking out of context everything else Objectivism builds on that, yes it might imply that. However, I'm speaking from the point of view of Objectivism, which is the focus of this forum, where that is distinctly not the case.

Aside from that, this argument really isn't anything I'm going to invest a lot of time in. What we are discussing is fantasy and I'm concerned with reality. I have no real stake in persuading anyone else anyway. You guys can be shocked, surprised, and astounded the opposing position if you so choose.

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Almost all of us here being athiests, the afterlife to us would be absolute oblivion; nothing, not even knowing of it (after death). In my opinion agonizing terror would be better than oblivion. When we die, ALL will be finished for us, Immortality (or no old age-death) would a no-brainer.....

Lifee would be what you made of it, but that's how it is already right? :thumbsup:

death giving life value?! It might give it a little more value, in that you would only have a limited time to cherish it, but without death there is more time to cherish, and more security. Hell, death isn't a finish line, your goals are the finish lines, death is your disqualification from the "race."

(this analogy can go pretty damn far....)

Edited by orangesiscool

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In my opinion agonizing terror would be better than oblivion.

I have to ask, how long do you think you would exist in a constant state of agnoizing terror? And by "you" I mean body and mind.

I have to admit, if I was interested in persuading anyone, this argument would be impossible to defeat no matter how reasonable the counter-argument. If you really believe your mind is strong enough to defeat a constant state of torture and agony and whatever in order to avoid "nothingness", more power to you.

I'll pass.

Edited by RationalBiker

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Taking out of context everything else Objectivism builds on that, yes it might imply that. However, I'm speaking from the point of view of Objectivism, which is the focus of this forum, where that is distinctly not the case.

Aside from that, this argument really isn't anything I'm going to invest a lot of time in. What we are discussing is fantasy and I'm concerned with reality. I have no real stake in persuading anyone else anyway. You guys can be shocked, surprised, and astounded the opposing position if you so choose.

That's an entirely reasonable judgement call for you to make and I respect that, my principle point though is that most people, even secular educated people, still strive to find some value in death in some twisted way or another, and are thus philosophically opposed to indefinate life spans. It's one thing to acknowledge you'd prefer an indefinate life span but do not see pursuing it as a worthwhile cause, its entirely different thing for a person to fool themselves into believing they actually want to die, so they won't be upset at the prospect and the realization of the full finality of the death of their friends and loved ones. We stand, possibly, on the technological cusp of an entirely different age of humanity, if humanity had actively pursued eradicating aging explicitly we likely would have all ready conquered it by now, but the fact that most people philosophically accept death obviously undermines any rational effort to combat aging and death in general. Most people oppose not only indefinate life spans for themselves, but for others as well.

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For the record, I would like to sharply distinguish myself from those arguing for "immortality" on the basis of disagreement with or lack of understanding of Ayn Rand's crucial, historic identification of life as the ultimate standard of value. This is the most fundamental and important of her many contributions to the field of ethics, and I am not interested in debating this point. The "indestructible robot" was a thought experiment designed to demonstrate that it is only the fact that we, as living beings, face an alternative between existence and non-existence that necessitates our taking only those actions that, given our identity and the nature of reality, will lead to the maintenance of a life proper to a rational being. Given the choice to live, that which supports the life of the individual is the good, that which destroys it is the evil.

The moral ideal is to live. And as long as you continue to exist, you will always face the fundamental alternative of life or death, and life will always be the ultimate end to be achieved. It follows from this fact that you should always continue to live (disregarding the side-issue of rare cases where continued life is actually intolerable).

Morality will not expire. The fact that you will have been around for a long time will not somehow negate your nature as a living entity and suddenly make death instead of life the goal of ethics.

In other words, achieving an indefinitely long and happy life is precisely the ultimate fulfillment of the Objectivist standard of value.

Achieving a state in which the risk of death is negligible and the expected lifespan is indefinite would not, by some contortion of logic, contradict the source of values and render happiness impossible.

This is akin to the idea that for a rich person, productive work could no longer be a value because he doesn't face the alternative of providing enough material goods or not any longer. Just as the overabundance of the values produced by productive work does not contradict the virtue of productiveness but is precisely the successful implementation of it--so too the "overabundance" of life itself is not a threat to the source of values but is rather the extraordinary and enduring acheivement of all your values.

That we could die is the fact of reality that gives rise to the phenomenon of value.

That we should die at some point in the future, after an arbitrary length of time has elapsed, is a sick and nihilistic view that only an utter rationalist could somehow extract from a sophomoric reading of Objectivism. The Objectivist ethics holds precisely that we should not die.

The possibility of death is the reason we need a morality--to enable us to live. This view that the actual occurance of death is desirable is radically opposed to the Objectivist theory of value on a fundamental level. Should anyone be under the impression that they are somehow defending Ayn Rand's morality of life on this earth by upholding this rampant deathism, they are grossly mistaken.

To repeat a crucial point--this question is of life or death importance because we are now at the threshold of the scientific conquest of aging. But whether the current scientific investigation of the aging process translates--in our lifetimes--into practical technological interventions allowing us to extend our lives is still very much in question. This research needs to be pursued, advanced, or supported vigorously by every individual with a stake in remaining on this earth for as long as they choose.

So the question of the propriety of seeking to radically extend the human lifespan is essential in determining whether and to what extent this research is pursued--and whether it will be stifled by its many philosophical opponents, thereby definitively ensuring all of our woefully imminent deaths.

It is only Objectivism that provides the full ethical validation for the individual's right to support and advance his own life, and it is only on this basis that the spectacular promise of modern biomedical science will be realized.

Edited by Spong

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That we should die at some point in the future, after an arbitrary length of time has elapsed, is a sick and nihilistic view that only an utter rationalist could somehow extract from a sophomoric reading of Objectivism.

(snip)

This view that the actual occurance of death is desirable is radically opposed to the Objectivist theory of value on a fundamental level.

If these comments are directed to anyone in particular in this thread, it would be fair to clarify to whom they are directed. To my knowledge no one has advanced these as arguments or ideas so you are attacking a strawman here.

If anything, the statements made are that we will die after an indeterminable (as opposed to arbitrary) amount of time. There is a 100% historical probability of that. When something happens to significantly alter that fact, perhaps we will have a new perspective under which to examine these the morality of near immortality.

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What is your definition of Value?
My definition of value is "that which one acts to keep or gain", which presupposes "for something". Value implies choice -- alternatives. Is any of this wording familiar? I've taken it from "The Objectivist Ethics".
Can you explicitly state what your ultimate purpose is here on this forum and explain why an indefinate lifespan operates in contradiction to that?
My ultimate choice is to exist (which then implies certain things, such as "living qua man"). If existence is guaranteed and actions cannot be judged according to their effect on realizing that goal, the notion "acting to keep or gain" is meaningless, because you have existence already, and you keep it regardless of how you act. Immortality contradicts the concept of value, by negating choice.

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Let's get clear on another point. The concept of "existence" without "identity" is not worth considering seriously. "Living indefinitely" at best means "being immortal", and at worst means nothing. It refers to existing for no specific period time, which isn't possible. If you live a million years, that is a definite period of time -- it isn't living indefinitely. If you live a trillion years, that is a definite period of time, not an indefinite period. In fact, I find the notion of "living indefinitely" to be worse than the notion of immortality, since the former additionally embraces the notion of pure existence, without a definite identity.

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Let's get clear on another point. The concept of "existence" without "identity" is not worth considering seriously. "Living indefinitely" at best means "being immortal", and at worst means nothing. It refers to existing for no specific period time, which isn't possible. If you live a million years, that is a definite period of time -- it isn't living indefinitely. If you live a trillion years, that is a definite period of time, not an indefinite period. In fact, I find the notion of "living indefinitely" to be worse than the notion of immortality, since the former additionally embraces the notion of pure existence, without a definite identity.

That is entirely wrong, and it explains why in your previous posts you were ignoring the distinction between "indefinite lifespan" and "literal immortality," i.e. indestructibility (see posts 27, 28, and 30, for one example of this).

The word indefinite can mean either not precisely determined (i.e. known) in advance, or not determinable (i.e. having no identity).

Given that the idea of indefinite lifespan has been repeatedly invoked explicitly to contrast to literal immortality, it should be breathtakingly obvious that what is meant is simply that in the former case, death could occur at some time, but it is not yet possible to predict at which time, because there is no intrinsic maximum lifespan due to aging.

If I tell you that there is an indeterminate number of fish in the sea, and you know I'm not a theoretical physicist, would you assume that I'm launching an attack on the law of identity, or that I just don't know how many fish there are?

The fact that we don't know in advance how long the lifespan will be, but that it could potentially be very very long because the risk of death would be small, would not cause a breakdown in the fabric of reality. You are conflating epistemological uncertainty with metaphysical non-identity.

Clearly you have been arguing that the idea of indefinitely long lifespan is incompatible with ethics and holding values as though there were no distinction between a long life with a negligible risk of death and actual indestructibility. (If you think this is not an accurate representation of your statements, I would invite you to explain why.)

This is precisely the view that I have been so adamantly opposed to.

Because to hold that it is not desirable to remain living continuously, into the indefinite future, is to hold that it is not desirable to continually achieve the ultimate end of the Objectivist ethics--that at some point morality will become outdated and we should then die. You can only hold this view by precisely the means you have used here--by ignoring the fact that we would always retain our nature as living entities and always face the alternative of existence or nonexistence, even as we successfully worked to ensure the existence side kept winning.

Simply put, the fact that death will happen at some indeterminate point in the future does not make the event of death necessary for morality.

Rather, it is the fact that death could happen at any particular time in your existence as a living being--and therefore specific actions are required in order to live--that gives rise to the need for values. But the whole point of those values is to ensure that death never happens--for as long as that is possible in reality.

It is simply a monumental fallacy to treat the issue of indefinitely long lifespan as though this were a case where you could rotely apply Ayn Rand's indestructible robot.

Edited by Spong

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Spong, we already live indefinitely by that definition if you're taking it to mean that we don't know in advance when we're going to die. So it might be better to say "not die from old age or disease and only from accidents of gradually increasing severity as medicine and protective mechanisms become better and better". That is what you're saying, right?

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That we could die is the fact of reality that gives rise to the phenomenon of value.

That we should die at some point in the future, after an arbitrary length of time has elapsed, is a sick and nihilistic view that only an utter rationalist could somehow extract from a sophomoric reading of Objectivism. The Objectivist ethics holds precisely that we should not die.

Very well said! And I think that sums it up quite nicely.

Why anyone would reject any technology that increases your lifespan and think it would be consistent with Objectivism is mind boggling. We were never meant to survive a whole mess of bacterial infections, but we take penicillin, a technology that extends our lifespan. If one is to be logically consistent, then one can't reject anti-aging technology yet embrace penicillin, anti-viral drugs, organ transplants, heart surgery and any other current life extension technology.

As far death giving life value is an absurd thought. Matus and others have already demonstrated the fallacy in this line of thought. Being rich is not of value only if you will one day eventaully become impoverished. Being free is not of value only if you one day become a slave. It is telling to see the naysayers to indefinite life spans not even address this counter argument. Why the evasion from some people?

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Spong, that was an excellent post. Every time longevity comes into discussion I have seen people immediately snap to the "indestructible robot" allegory when, in fact, that is not the issue at all. You explained very well why we should strive for extending human lifespan and ultimately eliminating all limits to it that can be eliminated.

Megan, we don't live indefinitely. We know, beyond doubt, that human life is bound by the natural degeneration of the body. We can't predict the exact time or way someone will die, we can be sure they will die before they are 150 years old. To live indefinitely would mean that life has no known limit.

There would still be statistics (people live an average of 465.38 years, the eldest human ever was 835 years 7 months and 2 days old when he died in a spaceship wreck, etc) but you could never say "I know no one will live past X years old". This means, of course, exactly what you said: "not die from old age or disease and only from accidents of gradually increasing severity as medicine and protective mechanisms become better and better".

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Why anyone would reject any technology that increases your lifespan and think it would be consistent with Objectivism is mind boggling.
Do you have any evidence at all that anyone has suggested that here?

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My definition of value is "that which one acts to keep or gain", which presupposes "for something". Value implies choice -- alternatives. Is any of this wording familiar? I've taken it from "The Objectivist Ethics".My ultimate choice is to exist (which then implies certain things, such as "living qua man"). If existence is guaranteed and actions cannot be judged according to their effect on realizing that goal, the notion "acting to keep or gain" is meaningless, because you have existence already, and you keep it regardless of how you act. Immortality contradicts the concept of value, by negating choice.

Which is almost exactly what I wrote in post 49

What is the definition of "value" What is Rand's Definition- Something that we seek to acquire or perpetuate? That seems a limited definition to me. Something of 'worth' to us, something 'useful' to us? The most important things to us that we strive to acquire or keep? If you have an answer to the above question, you must also have a working definition of "value" Feel free to share it.

Yes the wording is familiar, mr pretentious. I am not 'unfamiliar' with Rand's writings, and you have clearly not completely integrated life as your highest value.

If existence is guaranteed and actions cannot be judged according to their effect on realizing..Immortality contradicts the concept of value, by negating choice

This is a red herring, existence is never guranteed, nor is anyone here arguing that it ever is, except those people who take 'immortality' to mean its literal mystical metaphysically impossible sense. Indefinate life spans where one has the option to continue living and is not confined by natural biological limitations is not a magical indestructable robot, so stop arguing against a position no one is holding. An industructable robot can have no basis for values, but is also an impossible entity. If you are unfamiliar with even rudimentary topics regarding life extension perhaps you should examine the issue rationally before arguing against mystical red herrings.

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Do you have any evidence at all that anyone has suggested that here?

I'm sorry is the implication not apparent that some people on this thread do not think life can have value if our lifespans were indefinite? Wouldn't the implication then be one would reject an indefinite lifespan? Or is this merely a disingenous discussion?

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Sponge wrote:

For the record, I would like to sharply distinguish myself from those arguing for "immortality" on the basis of disagreement with or lack of understanding of Ayn Rand's crucial, historic identification of life as the ultimate standard of value.

I am not sure who you are referring to here, but I am certainly no advocate of abandoning life as the standard of value and morality. In fact the very logical implication of that is to desire to continue living as long as possible, including through science and technology.

But to say that you hold "life" as your highest standard of value is a grossly disengenous over simplificiation of objectivist ethics. It is not life, as in the mere mechanical process of life, but a certain kind of life, a good life. If Galt held life, literal life, the mechanistic process of sustaining existence, as his *only* and *highest* value, he would not have suggested it was rational and in his self interest to kill himself in order to prevent Dagny from being tortured. It is a particular kind of life he values, and any rational person ought to value. A person who values only his literal mechanistic process of life will readily give up things that contribute to a quality of life, in order to perpetuate his mere mechanical physical existence.

Life is *not* your highest value, it is a particular kind of life, a good life, that is your highest value. The literal mechanistic process of life is an extremely high value, because most other things you value require your existence to pursue and enjoy them. But in some cases, something you value more, a particular kind of life, exceeds the literal mechanistic process of life, as in Galt's clear example. A sentient rational being living an indefinate life span (indefinate is lacking pre-determined limites, people please expend 1/2 a second worths of time processing this idea and not arguing irrelevant semantics) could certainly have values even if it was extremely difficult to kill him.

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This is a red herring, existence is never guranteed, nor is anyone here arguing that it ever is, except those people who take 'immortality' to mean its literal mystical metaphysically impossible sense.
Then I take it that you did not understand the point of any of my posts. Immortality means exactly living forever, being an indestructable robot.
Indefinate life spans where one has the option to continue living and is not confined by natural biological limitations is not a magical indestructable robot, so stop arguing against a position no one is holding.
I see no philosophical problem arising from technological advances where, given some doable effort, a man can not only stave off disease and other forms of aging, but also a man can avoid most forms of death by destructive agent (bullets, poison). And I have not said anything whatsoever that could make you think otherwise. I have argued only that you have misidentified the concept. Death must be a possibility for the concept of value to me meaningful, and I cannot find anywhere in this thread where you acknowledged this elementary fact. Indefinite lifespan doesn't mean "the ability to continuously repair one's body". You should start by trying to understand the underlying philosophical point that I made, before you start flinging your own red herrings.

I will say, to your credit, that at least you didn't advance Spong's confused argument that "The word indefinite can mean either not precisely determined (i.e. known) in advance, or not determinable (i.e. having no identity)". Under the first meaning of "indefinite", i.e. "unknown", as Jennifer pointed out, we've got that already. It would therefore be ridiculous to assume that people here are saying "It would be great to not know when we are going to die". The second meaning is obviously wrong, i.e. "has no identity". That's why it should be breathtakingly obvious, since I've made this point too many times now, that "indefinite lifespan" is the wrong concept.

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I'm sorry is the implication not apparent that some people on this thread do not think life can have value if our lifespans were indefinite? Wouldn't the implication then be one would reject an indefinite lifespan? Or is this merely a disingenous discussion?

It is telling to see the naysayers to indefinite life spans not even address this counter argument. Why the evasion from some people?

This is the second time someone has levied a generalization (followed this time by a potential personal attack) without backing it up in quotes and being specific as to whom they were talking about. If you are addressing any person or person's on this forum, you had best back it up with an argument/quotes or retract this and stop making such statements. You are relying simply on "implications" and following that with a false alternative of being disingenuous.

This is a cowardly tactic at best as it doesn't make clear who the accused are such that they can provide counter-arguments or clarification.

Edited by RationalBiker

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This is the second time someone has levied a generalization (followed this time by a potential personal attack) without backing it up in quotes and being specific as to whom they were talking about. If you are addressing any person or person's on this forum, you had best back it up with an argument/quotes or retract this and stop making such statements. You are relying simply on "implications" and following that with a false alternative of being disingenuous.

This is a cowardly tactic at best as it doesn't make clear who the accused are such that they can provide counter-arguments or clarification.

So a potential personal attack is not calling someone a coward? Pot calling the kettle black?

QUOTE(Mimpy @ Feb 4 2007, 01:33 PM) *

Gosh, I would love to live indefinitely. There's so much I want to do!

To which David responded:

Okay, why would you want to do anything, if you were immortal? I mean, my whole understanding of value is based on benefits to my life.

Do you or do you not favor technologies that would indefinitely extend a person's lifespan? This may not always be an impossibility, reversing the aging process and conquering all disease while impossible today, considering today's advancement in bioscience it is reasonable to asses this will be a possibility in the future. Arguing over semantics like "immortality" and "indefintie lifespan" and "indestructable robots" are only confusing the issue unnecessarily. It's a simple question that doesn't need arguing against an impossible metaphysical concept which is pointless and which no one is advocating such a concept as "an indestructable robot" is possible.

To continue arguing against a point "an indestructable robot has no values" to which no one made, is disingenous and insincere. To then obfuscate what was said rather than take an honest and sincere assesment at the arguments made, is called being "disingenous" and is certainly in my view "dishonest".

Edited by Johnny

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So a potential personal attack is not calling someone a coward? Pot calling the kettle black?
Welcome to the forum Johnny. RB's point was simply: provide a quote to demonstrate your point. Let's not get into another loop.

Now that you've done that (in your post above), everyone knows what exactly you were referring to. That way, people reading your comments can look at the original text and see what you are referring to. Doing so, also allows the original poster to know you're talking about him, and he can respond more effectively.

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Do you or do you not favor technologies that would indefinitely extend a person's lifespan?
You've persuaded me now that you simply don't understand the importance of saying what you mean, so I see no point in engaging you on this topic. My meaning is perfectly clear, but if you'd like to continue evading the central philosophical question, you may, at your own expense. If you ever determine what your own position is about the nature of values, perhaps you could share with the group.

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Spong, that was an excellent post. Every time longevity comes into discussion I have seen people immediately snap to the "indestructible robot" allegory when, in fact, that is not the issue at all. You explained very well why we should strive for extending human lifespan and ultimately eliminating all limits to it that can be eliminated.

Megan, we don't live indefinitely. We know, beyond doubt, that human life is bound by the natural degeneration of the body. We can't predict the exact time or way someone will die, we can be sure they will die before they are 150 years old. To live indefinitely would mean that life has no known limit.

There would still be statistics (people live an average of 465.38 years, the eldest human ever was 835 years 7 months and 2 days old when he died in a spaceship wreck, etc) but you could never say "I know no one will live past X years old". This means, of course, exactly what you said: "not die from old age or disease and only from accidents of gradually increasing severity as medicine and protective mechanisms become better and better".

I couldn't put it better.

This claim that we already have indefinitely long lifespans is missing the point that we have certainty that we definitely will not naturally live past the maximim age imposed on us now by the aging process. I can tell you that your lifespan will definitely be X numbers of years, where X < 200.

The idea that this is unclear or that the concept of indefinitely long lifespan is using the wrong terms is sheer semantic obfuscation. The real issue of contention here is the relationship between a life with a negligible risk of death and no intrinsic biological limits on maximum lifespan, in which you have the potential to live for a radically long, presently indeterminate length of time and the fact that life is the standard of value--and that is the issue regardless of what term you choose to describe the scenario in italics.

And for the benefit of those not inclined to the use of a dictionary:

indefinite: "Not definite, especially: a. Unclear; vague. b. Lacking precise limits: an indefinite leave of absence. c. Uncertain; undecided: indefinite about their plans."

http://www.bartleby.com/61/76/I0097600.html

Now, was the "leave of absence" a violation of identity, or did we just not know how long it was in advance?

As it happens, there is already a large existing body of discussion out there on the issue of life-extension, and although it is well-recognized that the use of the word "immortality" can be misleading in this context, some commentators continue to unqualifiedly use the word immortality to describe what is in fact a radically long lifespan with a small risk of death (see the author cited by the opening post of this thread), and not literal indestructibility. Personally I would avoid this usage, though I think that the term "practical immortality" is perfectly acceptable. "Indefinitely long lifespan," however, is the preferable term. If anyone can provide me with a better term I'd be very interested.

That being said, I completely reject the idea that any of these distinctions in terminology are so seriously ambiguous as to lead to the kind of hostility toward the idea of indefinitely long lifespan displayed in this discussion.

The real source of conflict here is a rationalistic and superficial understanding of the actual import and applicability of Ayn Rand's indestructible robot allegory, and of the idea of life as the standard of value more broadly.

If anyone is interested in pursuing this issue with me further, please do so in a private message, as I will no longer be posting in this thread.

Edited by Spong

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